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Educational alternatives for a beginner (Theoretical physics)

  1. Jun 11, 2014 #1
    Hello phycisists,

    I'm a sophomore high school student that recently finished the first grade and I have a question or two relating to physics.

    I have been tested by a licensed psychologist that evaluated my cognitive functions and came to the conclusion that my overall intelligence quotient is around 87 because they fluctated a lot. Should this be a logical reason to not to become a phycisist in your honest opinion? I have the capability of understanding advanced sciences if we are excluding the mathematical part of it, especially geometry.

    I want to become a theoretical astrophycisist (maybe quantum phycisist, still a high probability of occuring) but what should I study at this age (16, soon to be 17) in order to be mentally prepared of what that might appear during my course takings in the university? I can understand the concepts and every fact based information as long as I am reading it, but the mathematics might cause some tremendous problematic situations for me which are predictable and I need help.

    What quantum physical/astrophysical book can you recommend me to get? I already know the mathematical topics that I need to understand before getting a book, but I just wanna be prepared.

    My last question: Is a theoretical phycisist working with the principles concerning both astrophysics and quantum physics or is it simply put classical physics? I would preferably work with both but I'm not sure what it's called.

    Thank you for your time and have a good day.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2014 #2


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    IQ tests are not predictors of success in anything - except perhaps IQ tests. If you're interested in physics, pursue it. Read about it. Take classes in it. It can open up so many more fields that you're probably not even aware of. You might find that you excel in it. You might find that you struggle with it. But let the proof remain in the pudding... the only thing that will tell you if you're cut out for physics, is taking physics courses. If you find you're really struggling and learning physics is no longer enjoyable, then it probably isn't for you.

    It's probably best to get a hold of a first year university textbook and start working your way through it. Starting with an introductory QM text like Griffiths isn't likely to be of much use unless you're familiar with the physics of waves.

    "Theoretical physics" refers more to the approach to doing physics. So you'll find theoretical physicists working on astronomical problems, quantum-level problems and classical problems. None of these realms are completely exclusive. To be a good physicist you need to have a sound understanding of all of them. You really begin to choose your sub-field when you enter graduate school. Before that, it's best to focus on building a foundation.
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