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From the Humanities to Physics: Please dissuade me

  1. Sep 26, 2012 #1


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    First of all, I know you guys get these questions all the time. Yes, I've read ZapperZ's wonderful account. Yes, I've tried to solve old Physics GREs and Qual exams. No, that hasn't been enough to discourage me. Please try harder.

    I have a BA in the humanities and a MSc in humanities too and a ridiculous need for Physics. First I did what anyone would have done and imagined I was just burnt out from writing my Master's thesis and figured I could audit an entry-level class and quench it and move on with my PhD on almost-humanities. So I audited that one class. It only left me wanting more.

    So I decided to go on a quest to find the minimum possible amount of Physics I could have in my life and still feel happy. First I covered the material equivalent to Calculus in one variable and Physics I and II on my own. Then, I audited calculus in several variables, linear algebra, vector calculus, mathematical methods (thank god for Boas), quantum physics (not QM yet), theoretical mechanics and astrophysics. My plan to oversaturate myself so that I would happily go back to my career failed. Plus, it still doesn't feel like I'm getting enough Physics in my life.

    Now my little experiment has backfired and I catch myself daydreaming of ways I could make a lateral career move, while the other half of my brain is shouting that I have no solid background and enjoying learning about Physics does not necessarily translate into any ability for actually doing research in Physics and why can't I just dream of opening a cupcake bakery like normal people. I spend weeks alternatively focusing all my energy on my "real" job and getting results that make my lab happy but make me feel dead inside and weeks poring over Physics books because I just need to understand one more thing about the world while my productivity goes like e^-x.

    So, please, dissuade me. And if you can't, I would really appreciate some advice, deep down I feel really lost. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2012 #2
    I used to love physics. Try doing 4 problems from Jackson's E&M book a week. If it's making me hate physics, I'm sure it'll work on you.
  4. Sep 26, 2012 #3
    Well, you can help me on my homework for my quantum mechanics class too. I can PM it to you if you want.
  5. Sep 27, 2012 #4


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    Gold Member

    This is what seperates the (wo)men from the boys(girls).
  6. Sep 27, 2012 #5
    Or maybe not. People have all sorts of weird perverted masochistic tendencies. Some people like getting tied up and whipped. Other people getting problems in Jackson thrown at them.
  7. Sep 27, 2012 #6
    First of all, try to find some sort of research internship. That will tell you quickly if you like doing research or not.

    What will *really* get you going is if you realize that you can't make get a permanent career in physics and decide to go for it anyway. The good part about physics is that you become "real" before you get your degree. As a physics graduate student, you'll be exploited as cheap grunt labor to do physics research. It's a sweet deal if you like doing physics research.

    Well, I can just tell you what the facts are. If you figure out a way of getting into graduate school, you'll be used and abused as a academic serf that plows the fields, and does all of the grunt, painful, aching work that goes into understand the universe. Afterwards, you'll likely find that that what you learned in graduate school is going not be directly applicable to any permanent position, so you'll end up doing more or less what you were doing before you got your doctorate.

    Now for any sane person, that will keep you out of the field. Every now and then you'll find an crazy masochist that actually gets some perverse pleasure out of getting mentally whipped.
  8. Sep 27, 2012 #7
    OP go for it.

    That doesn't sound elitist at all.
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