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Does anyone ever feel dumb?

  1. Sep 9, 2008 #1
    How do you cope with this feeling? I'm sure it permeates physics departments everywhere. I keep stumbling across problems I've seen before, but can't remember how to solve anymore. What if I never get better - maybe my head just can't handle this stuff!

    Or does everyone feel that way, and after enough years, you just know all the basics about everything in math and physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2008 #2
    I feel that way all the time, I have alot of pressure on me to try to be better than everyone else, but it's hard to do. You will do just fine, stress might get to you sometime, I still struggle with that.

    To cope with it........try to get time by yourself to just relax and find time to hang with your friends and family to get your mind free from working and schooling for a bit. It helps alot, that's how I tend to cope with it all, though I'm sure some people will have better ways :smile:
  4. Sep 9, 2008 #3


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    It don't know what kind of things you forget but in general I thikn it's completely normal to not remember all details, unless you keep using it regularly. Like if you can a math course, then at the time of exam you probably know the standard proof lineouts of all the majors theorems, so you could reproduce it on the test. That level of detail is not something I would remember some years. The poitn with exams is that there is rarely time for creative processes, so one would have to memorize all the lineouts for the common "standard problems". Set aside exams, it's not the end of the world if you forget some detail, either sit down and perhaps you can remember, or go look it up.

    What I hopefully learn, and will not forget is the skill of how to structure and analyze problems, meaning that in principle given some time you could reproduce what you have forgotten, or at least you should know where to get the answers.

    So as long as you throughly understand things, it's not the end of the world if you forget details as long as you know where to look it up to refresh your memory, and then ideally if you learned it once, refreshing your memory might be quick.

    I wouldn't feel "dumb" because I forgot something. I don't think the deepest lesson of physics is to memorize things. I would probably feel more "dumb" to remember something out of memory, but not be able to motivate it. If you understand the reasoning, but forget the conclusion you can always reproduce it, but if you forget the reasoning and just recall a conclusion then I'd be more worried.

  5. Sep 9, 2008 #4
    Thanks everyone :smile:

    I am feeling much better now. I think we are in a field where it is far too easy to get sucked into the competitive aspects - where you are suddenly more concerned about your performance versus your peers. It really shouldn't be about the competition, or getting ahead (at least not for me). Sometimes I just have to smack myself and remind myself that I'm not doing physics to try to become the smartest, I'm doing it because I love it, and if I don't ever win a Nobel Prize or get into a good graduate program, well, I'll still be doing what I want to.

    What else could I ever ask for? :biggrin:
  6. Sep 9, 2008 #5
    I remember when I started college, I thought I knew everything. Now the more I learn the more I realize how very little I actually know. The trick is not to be dumb or stupid, but to be ignorant. Ignorance is just not knowing, stupidity is more of a personality trait.

    If you ever feel REALLY dumb, go talk to a communications major.
  7. Sep 9, 2008 #6
    I do feel so quite often, in fact one might say it's the default state of my mind. I seek comfort in a German saying: Dummheit tut nicht weh - Stupidity does not cause you pain :biggrin:
  8. Sep 9, 2008 #7
    Welcome to my world. I feel dumb all the time :)
  9. Sep 9, 2008 #8
    I also often have this feeling. There's an excuse. It's the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Nature just wants you to forget everything. Ironically, it's against the nature to learn about nature, but we try our best, because it's in our nature :))
  10. Sep 9, 2008 #9


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    I'm sure everyone feels that way to a certain degree. Just make sure you are really are comprehending the concepts and not just memorizing how to solve different problems. If you really get the concept, then you can use that to solve other problems and not have to memorize how to solve every type of problem.

  11. Sep 9, 2008 #10
    Specialization of other majors sometimes gets me to thumb-twiddling and feeling like a sell-out. Being an Engineering major, I'll get a little bit of Physics, a touch of Chemistry, dash of Biology, a hint of Computer Science, lower level Mathematics, stripped down Business theory, the dry parts of Economics, a splattering of general education classes, and then a bunch of Engineering courses (in my area of choice).

    I often look at the junior/senior/grad classes in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Comp-Science, Mathematics, Business, Economics, Philosophy, etc., and kinda wish I was a part of those. But then I rationalize my choice by remembering that I give up a depth of focus in one of these fields for the chance to take introductory classes in all of them - and then learning to connect them all and apply that knowledge to design.

    I always ease my desire to dive into these fields individually by telling myself that I can always pursue them on my own time given that I've had 3+ introductory classes in all of them.
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