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Programs From law to physics? Questions for physics students...

Hi I am a yr 1 undergraduate law student (LLB) considering transferring to physics.

Physics was my favorite subject in high school.

My worries:
  1. not sure if I can master uni math. High school math is okay but I was not the smartest student in math.
  2. I am not reading physics in my free time. I mostly read about psychology to understand people including myself. Is it an indication that it isn't my real passion?????
  3. I am interested in many topics (psychology, AI). This again made me question if I will change my mind later.
So my questions :
  1. what are some of the qualities that make a good/poor physics student?
  2. For those who hv multiple interests, what made me realize that physics is your passion (but not the others)?
  3. How to know if one is interested in physics just for curiosity vs passionate enough to pursue it?
  4. Do you study physics in your free time? If yes, do u think not studying it in my free time indicates my lack of passion?
  5. Any way to find out if I am smart enough to study physics? (I hv watched some lectures online, introductory courses seem manageable so far). I worry abt the more advanced courses. (High school physics was easy for me but they say uni is a diff lvl)
Any suggestions or experience sharing is welcomed:partytime:
(
I know I probably worry too much, but quitting law is a big deal for me😣)


FYI Why I want to quit law:
mundane, boring, too detail-oriented, too much reading, not mentally stimulating.
 
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Take calculus next semester. I don't know what undergrad law is like where you are, but certainly you should be able to take a few courses of your own choosing. If you hate calculus, you will probably need to satisfy your physics curiosity as a hobby, reading popular books.
 
Take calculus next semester. I don't know what undergrad law is like where you are, but certainly you should be able to take a few courses of your own choosing. If you hate calculus, you will probably need to satisfy your physics curiosity as a hobby, reading popular books.
Hi thank you for the insight.
I had alr studied some introductory uni calculus on my own during high school (from Khan Academy)(cos I don't like using a math formula when I don't understand how it is derived)and i don't hate it.

I will definitely take a look at more advanced calculus to see how I feel abt it.
Thanks again(^_^)
 
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Well then, take the intro physics course. There are usually two intro physics classes, one with no calculus, and one that uses calculus. Take the one that uses calculus, it is much more about understanding rather than memorizing formulas.

The only way to find out if you like it, is to try. And even if you don't continue with more physics, it can't hurt your law studies. Just don't let it drag your grade average down.
 
Well then, take the intro physics course. There are usually two intro physics classes, one with no calculus, and one that uses calculus. Take the one that uses calculus, it is much more about understanding rather than memorizing formulas.

The only way to find out if you like it, is to try. And even if you don't continue with more physics, it can't hurt your law studies. Just don't let it drag your grade average down.
Thx for the info(^_^).
And thank u for pointing out the importance of trying-I probably play the scenario in my head too much with too little experimenting. I will try taking the course first before deciding then.
Hv a nice day:)
 

Dr. Courtney

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Last edited:
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My worries:
  1. not sure if I can master uni math. High school math is okay but I was not the smartest student in math.
  2. I am not reading physics in my free time. I mostly read about psychology to understand people including myself. Is it an indication that it isn't my real passion?????
  3. I am interested in many topics (psychology, AI). This again made me question if I will change my mind later.
So my questions :
  1. what are some of the qualities that make a good/poor physics student?
  2. For those who hv multiple interests, what made me realize that physics is your passion (but not the others)?
  3. How to know if one is interested in physics just for curiosity vs passionate enough to pursue it?
  4. Do you study physics in your free time? If yes, do u think not studying it in my free time indicates my lack of passion?
  5. Any way to find out if I am smart enough to study physics? (I hv watched some lectures online, introductory courses seem manageable so far). I worry abt the more advanced courses. (High school physics was easy for me but they say uni is a diff lvl
Worries:
1. I got a 2.0 in intermediate algebra in 2010 with a decent effort (before I wanted to do physics), now I do physics. If physics is your goal then your motivation to really grasp math will increase tremendously as it's now relevant to your aspirations. It can be done.
2. It depends on what you mean by "reading physics". You aren't expected to sit and digest published papers early on, it's only after you've built up a background where you can even do that. The kind of reading you should be doing now is more of the curiosity-driven wikipedia type approach where you wonder "where is the biggest black hole?" or "what kinds of particles have we discovered and what do they do?" If you're into those kinds of questions then reading in your spare time is a pleasure as you build a picture of our place in nature in your mind.
3. What types of topics do you investigate in your mind outside of school? What are cool things you have conversations or debates about with others online or in person? Those are good indications of what you're passionate about.

Questions:
1. Open-minded, loves understanding the world around them, knows physics beyond strictly the course material, enjoys seeing how math can be manipulated to describe natural phenomena, isn't afraid of struggling because it leads to growth, isn't in physics for ego-driven reasons, respects the work that built the field to what it is today, etc.
2. I chose physics because it is fundamental and my brain isn't comfortable not understanding how nature works. I also want to learn if there's any possibility for me to contribute in some way to help enable future work for others.
3. I think it comes down to where your mind leads you when you're left to your own devices, plus what you get personally out of discussing topics with others. How exhilarated do you get when you make profound connections with phenomena around you, or when you solve difficult problems that months or years prior you would have thought to be impossible for you?
4. Yes, along with many other topics like math, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, politics, history, video games, etc. If you don't ask questions in your mind about physics when you're alone then it's tough to justify that it's a field you want to pursue. What mental safety net do you have to get you through the guaranteed rigor coming your way in a physics program if you aren't intrigued enough to think about physics when you aren't forced to? You have to have a spark you can't ignore. Perhaps you're just new to thinking about the world so it could still take time to develop. It took me until my late teens and early twenties to really get the ball rolling on my personal drive to understand nature.
5. Being scared of difficult classes looming is natural, but everything is a progression so you build your skill set in a logical way to prepare you for your next courses. It comes down to whether or not you want to do it. If you can get good at something, you can make that something physics. All skill sets get built the same way, repetitive effort and a mind that thirsts for growth and creativity with that skill. I was intimidated at first with university but you get over it very quickly when you're working with everyone else who struggle the same as you do. You struggle as a group and you grow as a group. Everyone at school is there to help you in any way possible.

Best of luck.

<3
 
Worries:
1. I got a 2.0 in intermediate algebra in 2010 with a decent effort (before I wanted to do physics), now I do physics. If physics is your goal then your motivation to really grasp math will increase tremendously as it's now relevant to your aspirations. It can be done.
2. It depends on what you mean by "reading physics". You aren't expected to sit and digest published papers early on, it's only after you've built up a background where you can even do that. The kind of reading you should be doing now is more of the curiosity-driven wikipedia type approach where you wonder "where is the biggest black hole?" or "what kinds of particles have we discovered and what do they do?" If you're into those kinds of questions then reading in your spare time is a pleasure as you build a picture of our place in nature in your mind.
3. What types of topics do you investigate in your mind outside of school? What are cool things you have conversations or debates about with others online or in person? Those are good indications of what you're passionate about.

Questions:
1. Open-minded, loves understanding the world around them, knows physics beyond strictly the course material, enjoys seeing how math can be manipulated to describe natural phenomena, isn't afraid of struggling because it leads to growth, isn't in physics for ego-driven reasons, respects the work that built the field to what it is today, etc.
2. I chose physics because it is fundamental and my brain isn't comfortable not understanding how nature works. I also want to learn if there's any possibility for me to contribute in some way to help enable future work for others.
3. I think it comes down to where your mind leads you when you're left to your own devices, plus what you get personally out of discussing topics with others. How exhilarated do you get when you make profound connections with phenomena around you, or when you solve difficult problems that months or years prior you would have thought to be impossible for you?
4. Yes, along with many other topics like math, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, politics, history, video games, etc. If you don't ask questions in your mind about physics when you're alone then it's tough to justify that it's a field you want to pursue. What mental safety net do you have to get you through the guaranteed rigor coming your way in a physics program if you aren't intrigued enough to think about physics when you aren't forced to? You have to have a spark you can't ignore. Perhaps you're just new to thinking about the world so it could still take time to develop. It took me until my late teens and early twenties to really get the ball rolling on my personal drive to understand nature.
5. Being scared of difficult classes looming is natural, but everything is a progression so you build your skill set in a logical way to prepare you for your next courses. It comes down to whether or not you want to do it. If you can get good at something, you can make that something physics. All skill sets get built the same way, repetitive effort and a mind that thirsts for growth and creativity with that skill. I was intimidated at first with university but you get over it very quickly when you're working with everyone else who struggle the same as you do. You struggle as a group and you grow as a group. Everyone at school is there to help you in any way possible.

Best of luck.

<3
Hi Marisa,
Thank u so much for such a thoughtful & thorough response.:heart:

You just described what I l love most abt physics but couldn't put down in words: the profound connection with the universe. I was in awe when I first learnt abt new concepts like relativity : the theory is beautiful.

To me learning physics is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle for the brain but at the same time a resonance with the mind: after understanding it feels like I am gaining insight that ought to be revealed to me.

Abt reading Physics I was referring to more technical books (those on relativity/fluid mechanics). Yes I read wiki pages. But I haven't read more advanced books after I gave up one on relativity halfway in frustration 3yrs ago. Now after reading your repsonse I realize I was probably too ambitious then (๑>؂<๑).

Thx for quelling my worries abt Math etc. I rlly enjoy reading such inspiring anecdote abt having the drive to pursue what one is passionate abt. And I am glad there r future Physicists with such a wide range of interests.

Thx again for such a wonderful repsonse(^_^). And all the best for your future study as well(。・ω・。)ノ♡. I will look into the things U described and examine myself more closely.

Atb٩( 'ω' )و
 
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Hi Marisa,
Thank u so much for such a thoughtful & thorough response.:heart:

You just described what I l love most abt physics but couldn't put down in words: the profound connection with the universe. I was in awe when I first learnt abt new concepts like relativity : the theory is beautiful.

To me learning physics is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle for the brain but at the same time a resonance with the mind: after understanding it feels like I am gaining insight that ought to be revealed to me.

Abt reading Physics I was referring to more technical books (those on relativity/fluid mechanics). Yes I read wiki pages. But I haven't read more advanced books after I gave up one on relativity halfway in frustration 3yrs ago. Now after reading your repsonse I realize I was probably too ambitious then (๑>؂<๑).

Thx for quelling my worries abt Math etc. I rlly enjoy reading such inspiring anecdote abt having the drive to pursue what one is passionate abt. And I am glad there r future Physicists with such a wide range of interests.

Thx again for such a wonderful repsonse(^_^). And all the best for your future study as well(。・ω・。)ノ♡. I will look into the things U described and examine myself more closely.

Atb٩( 'ω' )و
It's possible, although very difficult, to understand undergrad and graduate textbooks without an undergrad background in physics. Towards the end of your undergrad in physics, you'll have developed a stronger ability to follow textbooks without an instructor lecturing out of them, meaning you have to tools to begin self-learning complex topics on your own. I have a very difficult time seeing how somebody without the math and physics background could pick up a classical mechanics or electrodynamics textbook and truly get anything useful out of it, much less a book on relativity that requires many levels of math and physics to access. You should look at what the undergrad physics curriculum entails to get an idea for the sequence of material required before digging into graduate textbooks on relativity (to my knowledge there aren't any undergrad textbooks unless you're talking special relativity, which is taught in modern physics and electromagnetism). Your primary goal should be building your skill set up from where it exists now, which will require working problems on paper to see what all the different tools actually do, giving context to the principles picked up along the way.

Take care.

<3
 
It's possible, although very difficult, to understand undergrad and graduate textbooks without an undergrad background in physics. Towards the end of your undergrad in physics, you'll have developed a stronger ability to follow textbooks without an instructor lecturing out of them, meaning you have to tools to begin self-learning complex topics on your own. I have a very difficult time seeing how somebody without the math and physics background could pick up a classical mechanics or electrodynamics textbook and truly get anything useful out of it, much less a book on relativity that requires many levels of math and physics to access. You should look at what the undergrad physics curriculum entails to get an idea for the sequence of material required before digging into graduate textbooks on relativity (to my knowledge there aren't any undergrad textbooks unless you're talking special relativity, which is taught in modern physics and electromagnetism). Your primary goal should be building your skill set up from where it exists now, which will require working problems on paper to see what all the different tools actually do, giving context to the principles picked up along the way.

Take care.

<3
Hi Marisa, thank you for your kind advice and info(^_^). I will focus on building the basics before digging into those concepts.

The book I mentioned is not a textbook-it's a popular science book on relativity of time. I wishfully thought that I could somehow had a grasp of the ideas without digging into the maths(Talking abt naive and overconfident teenage years).

Thx for pointing out it is normal to fail to understand just by self-learning haha. And now I appreciate more the importance of learning the tools including maths. Thanks again for reminding me what to focus on.

Have a nice day(^_^)
 

Choppy

Science Advisor
Education Advisor
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what are some of the qualities that make a good/poor physics student?
I think a passion for physics and science in general is a big one. The most successful physics students that I know are the ones who go out of their way to learn as much at they can about physics. They read about it, they have little side projects, take the time to sit in on public lectures, they're active with their undergraduate physics society, join the astronomy club, etc. These students aren't so much the ones that try to get involved in research as an undergrad because someone told them that's what you have to do to get into grad school, rather they're the students you can't keep out of the labs.

For those who hv multiple interests, what made me realize that physics is your passion (but not the others)?
Just about everyone has multiple interests. And I don't think there's a single thing where something "clicks" and all of a sudden you're aware of the single thing that you want to do with the rest of your life. Instead, you make a decision that physics (or whatever) is what you want to pursue and commit to that decision. Physics is not something you're always going to be passionate about, even it is an overall highest passion. You'll have days when it's just a tough slog. The material will be boring. You'll question your intelligence. You'll feel disillusioned with your choice. But this is true for just about every academic field. Self-discipline gets you through.

How to know if one is interested in physics just for curiosity vs passionate enough to pursue it?
There's no litmus test. But see above.

Do you study physics in your free time? If yes, do u think not studying it in my free time indicates my lack of passion?
You might still be able to earn a degree in physics if you only do the assigned material, but if you're not passionate enough to spend your own "free" time on a subject, that doesn't bode well for a successful long term career in that direction. As a student you will certainly have days where you've just been jumping from assignment to assignment to exams and when you finally have some free time the last thing you'll want to do is read more physics. That's fine. Everyone needs a break. But when you're not exhausted, where do you choose to spend your time?

Any way to find out if I am smart enough to study physics? (I hv watched some lectures online, introductory courses seem manageable so far). I worry abt the more advanced courses. (High school physics was easy for me but they say uni is a diff lvl)
The only way to know is to try and find out. There's a *threshold* for the necessary intelligence, but that's only one factor you need to be successful. Other factors include self-discipline, passion, a certain amount of soft-social skills, the ability to pick up peripheral technical skills as needed (coding, electronics, machining, 3D printing, etc.)
 
I think a passion for physics and science in general is a big one. The most successful physics students that I know are the ones who go out of their way to learn as much at they can about physics. They read about it, they have little side projects, take the time to sit in on public lectures, they're active with their undergraduate physics society, join the astronomy club, etc. These students aren't so much the ones that try to get involved in research as an undergrad because someone told them that's what you have to do to get into grad school, rather they're the students you can't keep out of the labs.


Just about everyone has multiple interests. And I don't think there's a single thing where something "clicks" and all of a sudden you're aware of the single thing that you want to do with the rest of your life. Instead, you make a decision that physics (or whatever) is what you want to pursue and commit to that decision. Physics is not something you're always going to be passionate about, even it is an overall highest passion. You'll have days when it's just a tough slog. The material will be boring. You'll question your intelligence. You'll feel disillusioned with your choice. But this is true for just about every academic field. Self-discipline gets you through.


There's no litmus test. But see above.


You might still be able to earn a degree in physics if you only do the assigned material, but if you're not passionate enough to spend your own "free" time on a subject, that doesn't bode well for a successful long term career in that direction. As a student you will certainly have days where you've just been jumping from assignment to assignment to exams and when you finally have some free time the last thing you'll want to do is read more physics. That's fine. Everyone needs a break. But when you're not exhausted, where do you choose to spend your time?


The only way to know is to try and find out. There's a *threshold* for the necessary intelligence, but that's only one factor you need to be successful. Other factors include self-discipline, passion, a certain amount of soft-social skills, the ability to pick up peripheral technical skills as needed (coding, electronics, machining, 3D printing, etc.)
Hi Choppy, thank you for your reply:)
Yup I agree that many hv multiple interest, it is just that some ppl r really confident abt what they want to do (esp those who love coding), I kinda envy them cos I had difficulty choosing last yr when deciding program and now I am questioning myself again😅.

Yeah I agree that there won't be a single "click" moment, but I guess your first paragraph abt passion would be a good sign🤔. My free time is shared btw reading abt psychology & watching physics documentaries.

I think the mistake I made was to choose law on the basis that lawyer seem a cool career, while disregarding the fact that I am not very into legal study per se. I kinda convinced myself that I will just make my degree a means to an end---should hv questioned whether I really enjoy learning law before thinking abt the desirability of the career.

Thx for pointing out the importance of commitment, I will keep that in mind. Hv to admit that I sometimes idealize😂, so thx for laying out the potential challenges.

The only way to know is to try and find out. There's a *threshold* for the necessary intelligence, but that's only one factor you need to be successful. Other factors include self-discipline, passion, a certain amount of soft-social skills, the ability to pick up peripheral technical skills as needed (coding, electronics, machining, 3D printing, etc.)
I will definitely try and find it out. Other factors sound manageable to me (except for coding hahaha I would look into it). Thanks again for your information and advice. (Y'all are really amazing ppl☺)

Hv a nice day😄
 

StatGuy2000

Education Advisor
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To the OP:

Just as an aside, you mentioned you are an undergraduate law student. Are you from the UK, by any chance? In Canada (where I am located) and in the US, law is a post-graduate program (i.e. a program one applies to after completing a full 4-year undergraduate degree, or in certain cases in the US, after completing a minimum of 3 years of a pre-law program).

My understanding was that in the UK, law is an undergraduate degree.
 
To the OP:

Just as an aside, you mentioned you are an undergraduate law student. Are you from the UK, by any chance? In Canada (where I am located) and in the US, law is a post-graduate program (i.e. a program one applies to after completing a full 4-year undergraduate degree, or in certain cases in the US, after completing a minimum of 3 years of a pre-law program).

My understanding was that in the UK, law is an undergraduate degree.
Hi I am in Hong Kong and the system is similar to UK. I am doing a 4-year LLB (Bachelor of Laws). From what I know US no longer offers this undergrad degree.
In Hong Kong we need 1 yr of PCLL after graduation to get the license.
Universities also offer JD to graduate students (mostly with degrees other than LLB), similar to JD in the US&Canada.
 

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