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Guidance please...How to learn more about Physics

  1. Nov 14, 2016 #1
    Hi folks!

    I am formally uneducated past the age of 16, but I have always had a fascination for Physics, mainly from a need to understand reality.

    I am not religious but I am fascinated by all forms or philosophy and the study or existence and reality.

    I have read A brief history of time and James Kakalious book on quantum physics.

    I can no longer just work at this fairly basic understanding and I want to know where to start to really get an idea of what's actually going on.

    This is mainly so I can put to bed these many claims of quantum happenings showing that reality is holographical/consciousness affects matter/or does observation change it?/multiverse?/is consciousness an irriducable part of reality/solipsism???!/backwards causality?/ Orch or?....

    Man, I want to know! I have pursued philosophical and reason based self study for years but I can not comment on things I don't understand, and I don't trust the charlatans but also don't trust many dogmatic nihilistic scientists either. Many fall in between!

    Can you tell me where to start with getting a better understanding? What books to read? Can you comments on above? Can you point me to any genuinely credible quantum based theory which fundamentally challenges what we know? I can't find the truly amazing stuff amongst all the mcphysicists on you tube!

    Many many thanks if you can help.

    Peace, and may both the strong and weak force be with you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2016 #2
    Ditch philosophy and popular science. Buy a decent text book like Griffith's. Solve all the problems. Take courses in linear algebra and differential equations.
  4. Nov 14, 2016 #3


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    I agree w/ houlahound on ditching the philosopy and pop-sci but if you have no formal education beyond high school you'll likely need to review algebra then study calculus THEN study further math topics such as diffeq. As far as putting to bed these many claims of quantum happenings showing that reality is <insert nonsense of your choice>, you're a ways off from that.
  5. Nov 14, 2016 #4
    If you follow the above responses, you will get Griffiths and begin working through it, only to be frustrated by tedious problems... stick with it. Learn the concepts to the best of your ability, and you'll find that the beauty of truly understanding quantum mechanics is far more than any pop-sci book can convey. Once you begin to grasp the concepts, you'll see that some of the super fascinating quantum principles just show up in the math!

    My love for physics also came from pop-sci books, and though I was first frustrated by "dry" problems (I thought QM would be so much cooler than textbook problems), now I love it more than Hawking or Michio Kaku could express. My advice is to stick with it. Because once you have derived in mathematical form the fact that everything is a wave, or that multiple realities are possible until something is observed... you'll never go back :)
  6. Nov 14, 2016 #5
    Follow your heart.

    loved philosophy: plato, socrates, descartes, bible - read them all.

    Play with the blocks - not with the books
  7. Nov 15, 2016 #6
    Can I ask, do you actually gain understanding or is it just a case of explaining?
    How can people in the same field have such hugely differing views on it.

    I came to have an ametuer interest due to having my tiny mind blown apart by some of the concepts.

    Most people in the field are very much "so what. It's how it works. Once you know it you will see there is no magic"

    I then start thinking that just because you can describe what is happening, does that provide an answer? It's all a matter of perception.

    I've already had a post removed for moving into philosophy but I can't see how you can divorce the two. Perhaps you shouldn't have opinions unless you understand fully, but that narrows it down to a handful of people.

    Pleasing to see that some people involved are doing so from an angle of greater understanding of the whole picture. It would vastly increase funding and public interest of philosophical speculation was "allowed in" so to speak, otherwise it comes off as a bit autistic, and slaps down anyone who isn't able to devote a life of study or does not have the requisite intelligence. We pay our chemists and biologists to come back with things which medically cure us. They don't tell us we can only have the medicine if we have a doctorate in medical science.

    It's about time physics played ball with philosophy, as it keeps telling us completely bizzare things which we are assured are normal on account of the fact that it exist.
  8. Nov 15, 2016 #7
    Physics gave you the computer you just ranted about physics with, and nobody said you need a doctorate to own a computer or car or fly in a plane or use electricity or have a doctor look inside your body with opening you up or use a cell phone or use the internet.....

    Less than 100 years ago you would have been burned at the stake for having any of those things. Now you can have all of it and much more for less than a few bucks and no one will ask you to produce a doctorate first.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
  9. Nov 15, 2016 #8


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    Physics has no skin in philosophy or the truth of reality. Those are strictly personal concerns, that are sometimes mingled in despite sciences complete lack of concern with "why."

    If you're interested in philosophy, study that. I'm sure there is a "philosophy forums" someplace.

    When you actually learn QM it isn't weird at all, unless you bring baggage to the table with you.
  10. Nov 15, 2016 #9
    Ok. Pop physics tells me.

    Over 99.9% of matter is empty space
    Most of the world is made of dark matter - we don't know what it is but we think it's there.
    We had a creation event which Is best described as a Big Bang.
    Darwinism tells us that at some point, rocks and water self animated and eventually made Labradors and humans.
    All of the elements which make up your body were forged in gigantic explosions aons ago.
    Things at the smallest level can exist in different places at once. Everything is a wave function.
    It appears there are limits on what we can determine is happening at the quantum scale and we need to use probabilities.

    Didn't Einsten get told to not study physics because it had mainly been totally explained?

    I don't understand this "it is because it is" way of looking at things.

    Don't forget also that physics also incinerated 180,000 people in 1945, perhaps that's what happens when you count beans and don't look for a deeper meaning in things.
  11. Nov 15, 2016 #10


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    I won't go into deep here for obvious reasons, but I want to disagree. The separation isn't by far as sharp as you claim it to be: historical, by the work of great physicists and mathematicians, at the anthropic principle, the various attempts to grasp QM or GR, Hilbert's program, Russell's logic and Goedel's incompleteness theorems. In the end both fields are driven by the question "why" which they deal with by admittedly different means. And as far as it concerns my experience, both, physicists and mathematicians are generally well interested in philosophical questions - although usually more at dinner tables and cocktail parties than in front of a blackboard.
  12. Nov 15, 2016 #11


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    Empty space doesn't exist. There is "something occupying that empty space."

    The world is made of ordinary matter with some trace amounts of antimatter possibly in some labs at any given time. In the observable universe it is hypothesized WIMPS exists (dark matter) and account for some of the data we observe. There are other groups that are looking into other kinds of hypothesis.

    It wasn't a creation event, or at least science can't make that claim. We simply don't know what existed before.
    It says no such thing.

    Not all, just the heavy elements.

    For the first part, no, they can't. They exist with no definite location, or position eginstate. Now you can peel back this onion further, but I don't think it'd be useful here.

    Second, that's one interpretation of QM, there are others, and none of the major ones are actually testable right now ( or maybe ever) to determine which is the right one. Wave functions don't need to actually exist.

    We can determine experimentally pretty well what's happening at the quantum scale, that's why it is often called our most successful theory. It also still incomplete.

    I don't know, and really don't care. No one has said physics is complete, such a thing will never happen. Trying to marry physics with philosophy is bad. Trying to marry pop physics with philosophy is disastrous.

    That's the way science has done business since Bacon. You can describe how the sky is blue with science, but not why it is. Those questions don't fit into science.

    No it didn't. A plane dropping a bomb did.
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