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Do you get frustrated when you don't understand something?

  1. Aug 25, 2016 #1
    So for quite a while now I've been trying to dig deep to understand what I thought I understood, as well as what I didn't.

    I've read the Mentor's Bio thread just now, and some of them talk about Mentors doing poorly in grade school but excelling in physics/engineering in university. It seems like there was an untapped genius, which makes average me feel a bit discouraged.

    When I look at what I want to learn, they just seem so complex (which they are), and I get the feeling that I won't ever get to understanding them.

    In short, the stuff of genius is what I'd like to understand, but it feels like I can't.

    How about you guys?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2016 #2
    Where are you at in your education?
  4. Aug 26, 2016 #3


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    It is a useful skill in itself to be comfortable with confusion, to be OK with it (or even enjoy it) when you know you don't understand something. It took me a long time to develop this ability. Now I do research, and trying to discover new things means catapulting oneself into a sea of confusion willingly - the frontier of knowledge is inherently a confusing place.

    Frustration comes when you are trying to do something and meet an obstacle, like not understanding something. When that happens, there are some things that you can do. First remind yourself that, for worthwhile things, understanding comes slowly and that you need to be patient. Second, re-frame the situation a little differently. Instead of saying to yourself "I'm confused and stuck", look at the situation as a piece that fits into a challenging puzzle. You don't know where the piece goes yet, so set it aside for now and work on the rest of the puzzle. When you find out where it goes, you will feel very satisfied!

    Finally, you certainly do not need to be a genius to do well in physics or engineering in university. Mostly you need a lot of hard work. So the best thing you can do is work on being organized and not procrastinating on the items you have set for yourself to do. That way, you can spend an adequate amount of time studying, which is really the most important thing in college.
  5. Aug 26, 2016 #4
    I don't exactly get frustrated by not understanding something per se. I do get frustrated when a sincere and dedicated effort on my part to understand something ends up being fruitless. In short: the Chinese have got to learn to hire native English speakers to write the instruction manuals for their products.
  6. Aug 26, 2016 #5
    I realize I'm a dolt, so no, I don't get frustrated when I don't understand something. I do get frustrated at underestimating the power of stupid people in large numbers.
  7. Aug 27, 2016 #6
    Just graduated from UCR with a B.S. in Bioengineering.

    I want to learn quantum mechanics, but I feel like I should learn the classical physics before diving into this. I only had a brief stint with thermodynamics, and none with electromagnetics outside of General Physics.

    Thanks, this gives me hope!
  8. Aug 27, 2016 #7
    Quantum Mechanics is not a self contained subject . So I can understand your difficulty in trying to understand it. You really do need classical mechanics up to Hamiltonian formalism, at least intermediate electrodynamics, some partial differential equations and linear algebra to navigate through even an intro to QM.
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