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Getting into Physics

  1. Nov 24, 2007 #1
    I generally try to avoid posting threads like this but this isn't exactly something one can Google. How, at sixteen and with very little math knowledge, can I get started in astrophysics? I read about physics and have a grasp on some concepts but I don't know anything about the math involved and can't even begin to understand it having only algebra one knowledge and very limited geometry knowledge.

    I don't know where to begin and the thought of having to wait another two years to take the classes required to understand the math behind astrophysics kills me. I apologize if this is too vague of a question but I don't really know where else to go.

    And I did read the "So you want to be a physicist" page, but pretty much all I got out of it was to make sure I have a handle on all of my high school math classes. Call me impatient but basically what I'm asking is if there is any way for me to get started a little early.

    Thanks for any help.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 24, 2007 #2


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    You could always try to learn the math on your own. There are plenty of textbooks out there. Find one that works for you and work through it. If you're studious you can learn a lot of math relatively fast this way.
  4. Nov 24, 2007 #3

    George Jones

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    You could learn about special relativity. Much of special relativity can be learned using nothing more mathematically sophisticated than the Pythagorean theorem.

    I recommend two books:


    I purposely gave a link to an old edition of Spacetime Physics, as this is the edition that most physicists prefer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  5. Nov 24, 2007 #4
    You could probably teach yourself enough trig and calculus in several months to understand a significant part of a text like Resnick & Halliday or the Feynman Lectures. It wouldn't hurt to get those out of the library to see what kind of unfamiliar math they have in them.

    Pop-sci books (Gamow, Asimov, etc) are useful for getting a feel for terminology, history, and the "culture" of Physics. See the book review section for more ideas.

    George's suggestion is a good one as you don't need any more math than you already have to understand special relativity completely. I'd add the book It's About Time by N. David Mermin to his list.

    And you can learn a lot of physics from working the problems in Spacetime Physics (the red paperback, not the newer one). You'll need some trig for that one, though.
  6. Nov 24, 2007 #5
    I agree with the advice others gave about teaching yourself.

    Often overlooked but also important: Keep up with the news. Reports and articles (written for laypeople as well as for the scientific community) give you a good idea of what research is going on right now, what the most recent discoveries are, and what the next telescopes/observatories will look for. No advanced math is required.
  7. Nov 24, 2007 #6
    Thanks a lot for all the help, I really appreciate it.
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