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Physics Help with my future in Physics

  1. Oct 1, 2011 #1
    Hello all,

    I'm new to the PF and although I made my account sometime in the summer, I haven't yet posted on here. I have a bit of a testimony when it comes to physics and mathematics. I'm fifteen now, and only about a year ago, I thought that science and mathematics were the stupidest things in the world. I could care less in my science and math classes if I played any attention in them, and never did my work. But one day I came across a little book called "Surely you're Joking Mr. Feynman" and it completely changed my whole mindset of thinking. I would say 85% of all of my studies, whether they be personal or for school, are about physics and mathematics, and I now plan to major in physics and eventually get my Ph.D in it. I have several questions;

    one, I'm still disputing what branch of the military I want to go into (officer), which I have down to 90% Marine Corps and 10% Air Force. I'm sure there are no opprutinities in the Marines for a phyics major to do any progressive research on the topic because I have researched it my whole life. But what about the Air Force? What are some topics and problems I will be working on in the Air Force? I'm interested in QED/Quantum Mechanics and atomic/subatomic/nuclear physics, will these be used in the Air Force?

    Two, How do I prepare for College? I plan on going to Texas A&M and dual majoring in History and Physics. The biggest reason I'm not going to a physics specialty school (i.e. Caltech, MIT, etc.) is because I plan on joining the Corps of Cadets to help with my military career, and beause I believe it will be a good school for a history major (which was my passion LONG before I even considered phyics.) What I mean by preparing, is what all should I learn before I go in? Should I read numerous books, watch a plethera of videos, and do a lot of expiriments now, or wait for a true education? (History will be a breeze, my history teacher already exclaimed she didn't care for teaching me because of my vast knowlege of numerous years studying, lol)

    Three, where do I go after the military? Will a university be a wise descision? Where are the best places to get my post-graduate in physics? By the way, I plan to become a politician as well (a passion of mine even before history was) so would physics hurt or help me in my quest for becoming a political leader?

    It would be much appreciated to have many of you well respected scientists in the physics field to mentor and guide me to the right descisions!

    God Bless,
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2011 #2
    I think you should fix your user information when it comes to degrees first. I highly doubt you are currently pursuing a Political Science+Economics degree, a masters in History and a PhD in Physics.

    If you want a PhD in physics than get a physics undergraduate degree first.

    And if you can't pay attention and do well in your Science and Math classes in High-school than forget about attempting to get a PhD in physics.

    You want to become a politician ? Wrong forum. This is about Science/Math/Eng. related careers.
  4. Oct 1, 2011 #3
    I believe there is a bit of a misunderstanding here.

    When I was filling out the degree section, I was putting degrees I plan on fulfilling, and if what you are saying is it is highly unlikely that I will ever earn ALL of those, challenge accepted.

    If you paid any attention to what I wrote, it stated I USED to have no interest in paying attention in math and science, and now 85% of all of my studies are about science and math. I'm at the top of my class when it comes down to those subjects after my turn around.

    I plan on becomiong a politician later in life, after a career in physics, and was wondering if there are parts of physics that I could use everyday after my career in physics.

    Thanks for the WARM welcoming to the Physics Forums.

    God Bless,
  5. Oct 1, 2011 #4
    Really the main thing you should be doing right now is studying math. Take the most advanced classes you can in HS, and learn as much as you can outside of school. I have no idea what level of math you are at now, but if you can leave HS with a solid understanding of calculus that will give you a good start.

    Self study is an important skill, and it becomes much more important when you get to college. Luckily in this day and age, there are a dazzling array of choices.
    http://www.khanacademy.org/" [Broken] offers 10 minute lectures on a wide range of science/math topics. He's a great teacher, and the videos are addictive. I highly recommend watching some now.
    http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm" [Broken]. This gives a nice high level overview of calculus. I recommend watching them just before you are ready to begin your calculus studies.
    If you want a physical book, go to http://www.half.ebay.com/" and find college text books. Buy a few editions old and you can often find them for under $10. Get a calculus book, and a calculus based physics book (aka physics for scientists). If you search this forum, there are lots of recommendations for good versions of these textbooks.

    Keep in mind that math builds on past math. You need to excel at algebra and trig if you want to do well at calculus. You need to have a solid grasp on all three to do well in physics. In order to excel at math and physics you have to do lot of problems. Simply reading through (or watching) a lesson and 'understanding' it isn't enough. You need to practice it over and over again. Most textbooks have challenge problems you can do if you are breezing through the regular problems.

    It's still too early to be planning on PhD, particularly if you just gained an interest in math/science less than a year ago. Also, keep in mind that a lot of your goals are in very different directions. A history degree and physics degree will share very few classes. You may feel you can do this now, and you probably can if properly motivated. However, it will consume a lot of time and money. Luckily, it is also quite early, and you have plenty of time to think about it. Your goal now should be to do as much math as possible. This can't be overstated. No one has ever wished they had done less math preparation during a physics/math test.

    Some questions that will help give better advice:
    What level math are you at now?
    Why are you planning on joining the military?
    What actual career are you planning on?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Oct 1, 2011 #5
    FXF...if you're definitely wanting to become a politician later in life, then obtaining a law degree is the typical route that most politicians do. It's not required, but just the norm for them. I supose you could get a BS in Physics, and then pursue your law degree...but most law schools want students with BA degrees. Talk to a law school and see what they say.

    As far as having good grades in math and science, and being at the top of the class...that's great. But just make sure they interest you. If they don't, you may find it boring/noninteresting again one day. There's a big difference in being just good at something (good grades), and being good at something and interested in it as well. Just make sure you know the difference.

    I wish I was 15 again with all of this potential advice on the internet. Good luck in whatever you choose.
  7. Oct 1, 2011 #6
    You're right, there is a bit of a misunderstanding here. You don't put degrees you dream of obtaining in the degree section of your profile.

    If you think getting a Master's in History is going to be a breeze perhaps you should be a bit more ambitious.
  8. Oct 2, 2011 #7
    Not necessarily. I think the US would be better off if we had more politicians with technical backgrounds. One reason that Germany and China seem be a bit more "geek friendly" when it comes to public policy is that they have politicians with science and engineering backgrounds. (Merkel started as a chemist. Hu Jintao got his start as a hydrologist.) For that matter, Margaret Thatcher got her start as a research chemist.
  9. Oct 3, 2011 #8
    I find it pretty sad really, it seems like in the US and other countries like mine(Brazil) only lawyers have any chance of becoming politicians, and the general public think engineers and scientists are idiots that can only do math, but in no way lead a country, because they lack the human skills to do so.

    I would risk to say that one of the reasons China is doing well economically, and let me repeat, only one of the reasons, is that they have very able administrators with mathematical and scientific backgrounds, instead of the usual demagogue lawyer that can write and speak very well but doesn't really have a clue on what's going on with the economy.
  10. Oct 3, 2011 #9
    I totally agree with both of you. Taiwan has had two lawyer presidents for the past 11 years, and the country's been drifting in useless debates for 11 years.

    I don't think the public is wrong to think engineers and scientists are idiots in human skills. Most of the time we try to make things out of nothing at all, but lawyers mostly argue things to their favor. It so happens that you don't "make" political power out of nothing, since it's a zero-sum game; you must persuade people to give it to you. That's why I also think that scientist/engineers really should take history/economics/politics more seriously. In my college years these were in a state of total neglect. But once I completed undergrad, I had to start persuading people to give me power and money, and I felt woefully unprepared.
  11. Oct 3, 2011 #10
    True, that's one of the reasons once I finished my undergrad I started studying economics. I always loved history so I already knew something, but I learned a lot more by studying economics.
    I'm now trying to get an MBA, or the equivalent of it here, and I'm liking it because it not only teaches me the humanities but I'm able to use a little bit of math.
    It also helps me because I work at administering my family business.
    But a pure law degree seems so pointless in my mind, I know it's useful in practice, it doesn't really follow a logic, it seems all human invention. You can learn about every law in the USA or Brazil and then you go to China and it's all meaningless. In contrast to physics, where the laws are the same in every "frame of reference".

    If I could give an word of advice to everyone on a technical field it would be to study history. Not to get a degree, but read a lot about the past and you may understand a bit about people, the world and the future. Many engineers I met are totally alienated to the world around them.
  12. Oct 3, 2011 #11
    That's a bit misleading. The next generation of Chinese leaders are lawyers, and the reason that the last generation of leaders weren't lawyers or MBA's was that China didn't have lawyers or MBA's. If you look at Hu Jintao and the members of the Politburo, they started off as engineers, but very quickly went into management,

    Don't get me wrong. I don't think that it's a bad thing for lawyers to be politicians. I do think it is a bad thing if you are in a situation where scientists and engineers *can't* be politicians. I also would think that a world in which all politicians were physicists and mathematicians would be a bad one, but that's not a problem that we have.
  13. Oct 3, 2011 #12
    Actually it's not. One thing that is a big topic of discussion is how you make different systems of law compatible with each other so that if you have a business transaction that occurs both in USA, Brazil, and China, that something sensible happens.

    One way of doing that is to look for "deeper logic" in the law. For example, the way that contracts work in the US is fundamentally different from the way they work in China. However, then you try to think deeply about "what is the purpose of a contract" at which point physics intuition helps you figure out what needs to be done.

    The other thing that you'll find is that different legal rules give rise to somewhat different equations, and modelling that is something that physics Ph.D.'s get hired to do.
  14. Oct 3, 2011 #13
    I don't think this has much to do with being a lawyer. The one before him was an agronomist, and this didn't make much difference.

    Personally, I don't think that physicists are smarter than lawyers or are more suitable to be political leaders. It's just that I think it's a bad thing if there isn't a diversity of backgrounds among leaders.
  15. Oct 3, 2011 #14
    Most people that create these sorts of weapons systems are civilian scientists that work for the Department of Energy or some defense contractor. One area in which there is a lot of engineering work that is directly controlled by the military is the Navy since the US navy runs on nuclear power.

    Your education starts when where ever you are. Just surf the internet and find interesting things.

    Lots of good schools.

    One thing that you'll find about political leaders is that they end up changing their environment rather than passively accepting what is given them. If it hurts you, then change reality so that it doesn't.
  16. Oct 3, 2011 #15


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    Staff: Mentor

    Actually, she started out studying physics for five years at the University of Leipzig. Then she studied and worked in physical chemistry, and got her doctorate in quantum chemistry.
  17. Oct 3, 2011 #16
    I have an Air Force friend doing a master's in Physics. He told me he'll most likely be the person coordinating/communicating with civilian contractors. Don't know about his topics, though.
  18. Oct 3, 2011 #17
    I understand and I know the reasons that China had no lawyers. But it seems like in some places, scientists and engineers can't be politicians.
    I also don't have a problem at all with MBA's being politicians, since they do have some mathematical intuition, unlike many lawyers. Although I also don't care that there are lawyers in politics, they're needed, but as I said, it seems like everyone is a lawyer nowadays in politics, they're not even MBA's. In the USA for example, the only president to be a Master in Business was George w. Bush.

    Interesting, but do you think the average lawyer is able to do that, I mean, understand the deeper logic in the law?
    Because from what you said, it seems like physicists with some law background are more able to do so.
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