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Getting into Physics

  1. Mar 17, 2012 #1
    Hi guys I'm new to this forum. Not sure if there's a place for introductions but heres a little background
    -I'm in 9th grade, aged 14.
    -Interested in computer science & developed applications in the C++ language before
    -Interested in various sciences

    Anyway I'm looking to get into physics. Would you guys recommend any good text books? My maths is not so great, I'm like an average student but I am willing to learn any per-requisites.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2012 #2
    Math is SO important at this state. You shouldn't go into physics until you have reached a decent level in math.

    I'm not saying you need to study calculus right now. There's plenty of physics you can do without calculus (even though calculus makes it easier and more fun).
    But you should really master algebra, trig, geometry and precalc.

    I always recommend the book "basic mathematics" by Lang. It's a good book. Perhaps a little advanced for your age, but you should try it out.
    Once you've conquered that book, you can go look in to physics.
  4. Mar 18, 2012 #3


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    Hey 1337Boss and welcome to the forums.

    As an Australian myself who is in my final year of undergraduate (mathematics not physics), I can tell you that the important thing for physics (especially for first year physics) is having a good mathematical foundation.

    To get this you need to take the highest mathematics classes possible. If your are in NSW take advanced mathematics up to year 10, then take 3 unit mathematics in year 11 and 4 unit mathematics in year twelve. You might even want to accelerate your whole 2U in year 11: this is the most important thing because university physics is going to be math based from the get go and if you don't have enough intuition about mathematics, then you'll really struggle.

    Aside from that take the usual physics electives in high school and think about doing chemistry as an optional subject.

    Having programming experience is definitely a great thing because in engineering, science, mathematics and its applications we have to use computers a lot. If you have this background I also think that you'll find the mathematics and interpreting what it means easier as well if you understand how processes in computers work then you can take that perspective and apply it to your physics.

    You will also find the modelling subjects that you do (like mathematics subjects) easier when you have to use a package to calculate things and when you have to write some simple functions and custom code to do what you need to do.

    Finally, I want to say that when you have gotten an intuitive idea of the mathematics then you get an intuitive idea of the physics. You won't have to do what a pure mathematician does, but you'll need to understand what an equation means intuitively when you're thinking about its consequence in three-dimensional space. Physics like general relativity will deal with higher dimensional spaces, but that's a long time away so don't worry about that.

    When you have the mathematics background, then you should probably read if you are really keen the Feynmann lectures. I have these myself and they are a very good read. When you get to university you will be spending a lot of time working on problems, but before that I don't see how reading the Feynmann lectures in physics would be detrimental: just keep in mind that actively having to solve problems is not quite the same as reading about things.

    In other words, think about the difference between writing computer programs and reading about code: that should give you a good idea of what I mean.
  5. Mar 18, 2012 #4
    Thank you so much @Chiro that was really helpful insight. I guess I'll be needing to study a lot and focus on maths for a while. Thank you :)

    @micromass - I'll look into more maths and unfortunately I cannot buy the book as it's unavailable where I am.

    Would anyone recommend any sites/ other books for maths?
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  6. Mar 19, 2012 #5

    I'm studying physics and mathematics at mq in Sydney,

    Halliday, Resnick, Walker: Fundamentals of Physics

    Is a really good book, if you sit down and read it from the beginning you might be able to get through the first few chapters which are pretty much high school physics anyway.

    For math notes, there are thoaasssandddss of online video tutorials, online university course work notes and plenty of free books for high school level + math.

    I think in the first few weeks of my first semester of math we ran through alot of the year 11 and 12 math so send me a PM if you would like me to link you to those notes.

    I did chemistry and physics in high school as well which did help a little, but honestly I mainly started to properly understand things when I started uni (but that's most likely just because of my attitude during high school). I stuck with chemistry until I completed a minor and a bunch of chemical analysis units for a job to fall back on if physics goes south, if you do a little chem you will get a lot more practical skills and experience with data analysis. Like in one of the chemical analysis classes we were employed part time in an actual chemical analysis lab and spent a few days at CSIRO. In physics the labs are a little less practical and more directed towards thinking.

    I wish I spent some time back then learning something useful in my spare time.. I had some good times on CS though haha
  7. Mar 19, 2012 #6
  8. Mar 21, 2012 #7
    @Daniiel Thanks for the reply :) Sent you a PM!

    @Titaniumpen Thank you will check both those books and materials out !
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