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High IQ to be competitive in physics field?

  1. Jul 20, 2006 #1
    do you have to have an IQ well above average to have a chance at being a competitive physicist? and to do well, like complete a phD etc.
    question to professional physicist...what are your IQ's? if you dont mind.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2006 #2
    No, you do not need to have a high IQ, you have to work hard and complete a degree. Don't worry about such pointless "smartness-tests".
  4. Jul 20, 2006 #3


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    In all the numerous surveys that were given out to physicists, students of physics, etc., never ever was there any question asking about IQ's. GRE scores, SAT scores, etc... sure. But never IQ scores.

    If the professional physics organizations such as the APS and the AIP that send out a lot of surveys consider IQ to be a non-issue, I would put it to you that it shouldn't be an issue that you should even consider either.

  5. Jul 20, 2006 #4
    Really, who really goddamn care if you can A s the CRE general and GRE physic. Get a good gpa... None of these require high iq
  6. Jul 20, 2006 #5


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    think about what an IQ test asks. you have to see some questionable similarities among a group of words, but not be more subtle about it than the test writer expects.

    compare that to what you have to do to pass a physics test, or understand relativity. obviously IQ tests are less informative about your mental ability than is the work you do in science.
  7. Jul 20, 2006 #6


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    i used to like IQ tests in high school because the oens they gave us were so easy. But I became less enchanted in eleventh grade when they accidentally gave us the same one they ahd given us in tenth grade, and I got a lower score! than I had gotten the year before. I wondered how i could have peaked in intelligence at the age of 15, or less able to understand word analogies using the same words. I was so gullible I actually believed for along time I had gotten dumber. After all they call it an "intelligence test", so my score must measure my intelligence right?

    so yes, it helps to be smarter to be a physicist, but "smart" is not accurately measured by IQ tests, and does not even have just one meaning. You have to realize also that ability to remember long lists of unrelated words, or to quickly memorize facts, is not necesarily related to ability to understand puzzles, or visualize possibilities, or solve problems that require good intuition about physics.

    In my experience, top prizes like fields medals and so on, which specifically reward early achievement, do go to lightning quick brilliant people, but outstanding success is often the fruit of love for the topic and simple persistence. The tortoise wins more often than the hare, in science as in fables.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2006
  8. Jul 20, 2006 #7


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    and i had probably the same or lower IQ when I got my PhD in math at age 35, as I had when I flunked out of college at 19. But I was a lot more focused.
  9. Sep 26, 2006 #8
    I feel a lot better

    I was a physics major, but had some problems with math and dropped out before I flunked out (barely). Thank you for mentioning that you at one point failed out because, it gives me hope. Man, that sounds corny but, that was my first reaction.

    Oh, and on the IQ note, there have been studies that have shown that your IQ score flucuates dramatically, and can be influenced by hundreds of factors.
  10. Sep 27, 2006 #9


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    I would think that mathematicians and physicists show high in IQ tests because, usually, a lot of logic is involved.

    I did the national IQ test when it was run on the bbc the other month and scored pretty high. My girlfriend did the same with not as good results - ahe's just as smart, former grades say smarter :smile: , than me but specilises in English over Maths.

    IQ tests are a good money making ploy.
  11. Sep 29, 2006 #10
    I'd say if you study physics or math with any success at school then you already have a high IQ. And the more you study and solve problems the higher it will go. I like to look at it as an indicator of brain exercise.
  12. Sep 29, 2006 #11
    Let me go out on a limb and say that there is not a single field of human endeavor that requires a high IQ as much as dedication and hard work.
  13. Sep 29, 2006 #12
    :) im starting uni monday, im doing Mphysics, im going to put my all in it, although i have been feeling a bit low because I don't like the idea of lectures they seem so impersonal, i'd rather have a teacher i can build a rapport with and feel confident and comftable with and a classroom, instead of having changing teachers.
  14. Sep 30, 2006 #13


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    I don't know, it really helps to be a genius in physics.. Atm they're more or less the ones doing progress in the field, while the rest of us flush out material they innovate.

    Its really quite disheartening at times. To see a guy come in and more or less revolutionize something in 2 months, that you've spent countless hours and years working on.

    And the different types of geniuses walking around is really quite impressive. You have people with photographic memories, and encyclopedic knowledge of the state of the art. You have people with unbelievable dedication and problem solving skills, and lightning fast response times. And the really scary ones (imo) are the intuitive geniuses, who just 'get' the answer right off the top of their head, without going through the lengthy steps everyone else has too.

    Im in the field b/c I love it and have had moderate success with citation counts and so forth (mostly through hard work) but damn if I don't feel insignificant sometimes.
  15. Sep 30, 2006 #14


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    IQ tests only have a couple parts in them that a physicist/math person should do naturally well in.

    Other than that, there's a lot of english (which some physics professors don't even care about), political, economic, and pop culture questions that there's no reason a physicist would need to know (not to say it wouldn't be beneficial to know these things)
  16. Aug 20, 2010 #15
    I never seen so many inaccurate statements made about IQ tests! For one thing, IQ is 80% genetic and does not fluctuate over time. Real accurate IQ tests results will not vary from age to age, nor well any amount of practice improve your IQ test. An IQ test is not a jigsaw puzzle no amount of practice will improve an IQ. You already have to be intelligent to understand physics and math. Let me ask you a question, a mentally handicapped person with only 60 IQ could they win a nobel prize? No, no amount of practice and reading would able them to do so. It is a fact that the average IQ of a nobel prize winner is 150, and Newton had an IQ of 190 and Tesla possibly had around 160+ IQ. The average IQ of a physics Phd is 130 and the average IQ of a mathematician is 129. Richard Feynman has only 125 IQ and he won a nobel prize, which means with a lot of practice and hard work if your already consider bright by your peers you may have a slight chance of winning a nobel prize. The thing is, hard work only gets you so far or else everyone would be has smart as Einstein. IQ is a measure of how hard you have to work intellectually and also how far you can go intellectually. If you have average IQ, I'm afraid to tell you that it will be nearly impossible to get a Phd in Math or Physics. And if your not a genius, I'm afraid to tell you that your odds of winning a nobel prize are nearly 0. These are facts. If I could have it my way we'd all have 190 IQs, but it's not how nature works. Accept that your not as smart as you think you are. We can't all be geniuses.
  17. Aug 20, 2010 #16
    First of all, this thread it super old so I'm surprised you even bothered to post here.

    Second of all, I want you to think about the probability that any list of celebrity I.Q.s and lists of the I.Q.s of the "Greatest Geniuses" that you read online are genuine and accurate.

    I want you to consider the fact that Newton did two hundred years before the first normed I.Q. test was developed. Combine this with the fact that they extrapolated that '190' from his accomplishments and how subjectively difficult they would have been to achieve (along with some other questionable parameters). If they would have applied the same to Feynman I am absolutely certain they would have said his I.Q. was 170 or some other number totally out of line with his score on the test he took in high school. So your logic is inconsistent there, you're comparing apples (fake, extrapolated I.Q.s) and oranges ( real, tested I.Q.s).

    Feynman was not merely considered 'bright' by his peers, he was considered to be a genius of world class abilities in theoretical physics.

    I doubt that anyone has access to any documentation of the I.Q.s of every, or even most Nobel prize winners. I doubt that every Nobel prize winner has taken an I.Q. test (especially since, again, the Nobel prize preceded I.Q. testing). So again your logic is inconsistent with the facts. I highly doubt that there is enough data available to say that the average I.Q. of all physicists and mathematicians is 130. I've read of other questionable "surveys" claiming that the magic number for mathematicians is 140 (without presenting any evidence whatsoever, of course).

    Also, I want to point out that it is generally accepted by psychometricians (who I really have trouble taking seriously) a test really sets a baseline. You could still score higher because you had a bad day, a learning disability (such as ADHD, which would cause you to under perform due to lack of focus) etc.

    Telling someone who is interested in the sciences that hard work will only get them so far, that they wont be able to get a PhD in math or physics unless they are card carrying members of MENSA (the international society for pointless games, pizza dinners and mutual mental masturbation) when you clearly have no knowledge of what goes in to getting a PhD and can't even piece together a logically coherent argument, is shameful at best. Please stop doing it; please stop discouraging people who actually have the drive to get the work done.
  18. Aug 20, 2010 #17

    Math Is Hard

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    And with that excellent closing post from Bourbaki, I think this old thread can go back to sleep.
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