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Guidance for a summer self study program?

  1. May 12, 2009 #1
    Hello all,

    Let me first say, "Hello PF."

    This is what I'm trying to decide: I'd like to spend this summer by self studying a range of topics. The problem is, I really don't know what I should study as I honestly have no clue what I want to do in college, etc.

    I started working through two textbooks so far, Trigonometry 6th edition by Charles P. Mckeague and Mark D. Turner and the other book being General Chemistry by Kenneth W. Whitten. I'm currently 14 and will be entering high school this coming academic year. I already have a vast knowledge of computer programming languages and methodologies.

    My question basically is, where should I go from here? I want to cover the most amount possible this summer and am willing to work my butt off so I can start physics or the like in June. I don't really do a whole lot, so I can work very hard at this as I'm extremely motivated to do this. Another thing, I'm intrigued by physics which is one of my motivations for doing this, what path should I take from Trig to get there?

    If you have any recommendations on what I should be studying, what textbooks to be using, etc, it'd be much appreciated. If you need any more information, just ask.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2009 #2


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    Hi lase,

    Are you comfortable with algebra?
  4. May 12, 2009 #3
    To what extent? I'm quite comfortable with the Algebra that comes before Trig so Alg 2 and Alg 1.
  5. May 12, 2009 #4


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    Ok. If your aim is to study physics, then I think the best thing for you to do next would be calculus.
  6. May 12, 2009 #5
    Alright, but what about after chemistry and along side of all of these? Cosmology intrigues me, when do you think a good time to start that would be?
  7. May 12, 2009 #6


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    You won't be able to get into the technical details of cosmology quite yet, but if you're interested you can start by reading one of the many excellent descriptive books on astronomy and cosmology.
  8. May 12, 2009 #7
    Alright. What do you think a good track would be for Chemistry? I started Chemistry so I could dive into Biology soon. I'm thinking of doing organic chemistry after this general chemistry textbook. Can anyone recommend a path or track to follow for a chemistry side with a possible goal of getting into possibly astrochemistry or something later on?
  9. May 12, 2009 #8
    the kind of chemistry you learn from a textbook are really useless. balancing reaction equations, working with molarities, molalities, etc. I would advise against wasting your time. find a good precalc textbook and do that. then go on to calculus. you can study an algebra based physics textbook at the same time.
  10. May 12, 2009 #9


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    A book I wish someone would have told me about in highschool is Courant's What is Mathematics.


    This isn't a book you'll master in a summer. I'd say it's definitely accessible to a well-motivated high school student. You might want to finish with trig before exploring the book in depth, but just skimming the pages and reading bits and pieces provides a lot of interesting insight and a look at university level mathematics. The section on Calculus may be a bit confusing until you take a computational oriented high school class, but there is a lot of good exposition there to get an idea of things.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. May 12, 2009 #10
    Don't worry about not knowing exactly what you want to be....it's only when you're a junior in college and you haven't figured out what to major in, should you start to worry.

    For me, actually experiencing the sciences, helped me out on what I want to do. Doing chemistry experiments and physics experiments, among other things, helped a lot. Since you're just going into high school,you'll get plenty of exposure to all of the sciences.

    EDIT: ....And welcome to PF!
  12. May 12, 2009 #11
    Alright, but what should I do in terms of chemistry then? Would you advise doing precalculus and trigonometry simultaneously?

    @Vid: I'll take a look at that book.
  13. May 12, 2009 #12
    If you want to get started on cosmology, then I definitely recommend Gravity from the Ground Up. I bought it on recommendation from these forums 2 years ago. The real cosmology parts only start towards the back, but the whole book is incredibly interesting. It only uses algebra, which was perfect for me at the time.

    It teaches you most of the physics from scratch, starting from basic d = vt, towards the equations you see near the back of the book. If you learn the material thoroughly, then it will make high school physics a breeze.

    Just don't go around thinking that after completing the text, that you've already covered university physics. While it is difficult, mainly towards the ending chapters, it's barely scratching the surface. There's also a hell of a lot of reading to do. But I was in your position, and I'm incredibly glad I read it. It's part of the reason I'm now studying physics, instead of engineering :D
  14. May 12, 2009 #13
    there's nothing from chemistry that i've used in physics ever.

    just precalculus.
  15. May 13, 2009 #14
    I doubt you'd get much benefit from studying chemistry on your own, it benefits much from the guidance of a teacher even just to point out the kind of material that will be covered in courses. Much better is to prepare generally, which can be done as many have already said, by studying pre/calc.

    Having a great handle on math makes physics go far easier - you can spend time thinking about the problem rather than getting caught up in the math.

    As for cosmology, it's far too early for you to consider any form of study - stick to a recreational side for subjects like that! :) What I mean to say is it's worth even getting some popular science books, they will give you an idea of what types of things are deemed interesting.
  16. May 13, 2009 #15
    Alright, so only work through the precalculus textbook and not the trigonometry one?

    Taking a look at that book now!

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a precalculus textbook? Also, can anyone recommend a good algebra based physics book to begin working at?
    Last edited: May 13, 2009
  17. May 15, 2009 #16
    I've been thinking,

    I'd like to also get a very good grasp of Chemistry and Biology this summer as well. I don't just want to get into physics, I want to have a great understanding of these sciences as well so that I may have a greater understanding of various focuses in the sciences.

    The books that I'm currently looking at for Chem and Bio are, General Chemistry by Whitten, and Biology by Campbell. Could you possibly make a recommendation and critique that I'm currently looking at as well as explaining where I should go from here?

    I also know that a previous poster had suggested against the idea of learning chemistry myself, but I'd much prefer to do it this way as I don't really see what I'd be missing other than hands on experience.

    Ultimately, one of my goals is to be able to learn some astrochemistry/astrobiology eventually.
  18. May 15, 2009 #17
    Don't want to discourage you by saying 'you may be biting of more than you can chew', as you could prove me wrong. But you already have a whole heap of courses recommended, you will probably be short on time to finish even those. I'd say starting thinking about more after you've completed maths/physics ones.
  19. May 15, 2009 #18
    That might be a good idea. I do have more than 7 hours a day to spend over the summer on studying these. Do you think that's enough time to do all of them?
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