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High school sophomore interested in Astrophysics

  1. Nov 18, 2007 #1
    Hi, uhh, well I dont exactly know how to start here. Im a sophomore in high school and Im really interested in astronomy and physics, so obviously this was the first place for me to look. The thing is though, I dont know that much about neither astronomy or physics (due to my counselor not letting me take physics)..So since I cant take it in my high school courses right now I study astronomy books and physics books at home, and try to teach myself the eqautions and such involved in some aspects of physics. Anyways, I figure it would be much easier to learn with help from other people so thats why Ive joined this site.

    If anybody doesnt mind, I need to talk to someone about some of these things because lately I havent been motivated to pick up the book and take notes. The only time I do is between classes at school and I dont get much time, but when I come home I dont feel like doing it anymore. Ive been studying vectors, particularly velocity vectors, and now Im learning about gravity and the pull of gravity on objects and all that...I dont know very much so excuse me if I may sound like an idiot.

    But if anybody wouldnt mind talking to me about the subject and introduce me to physics then please do.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2007 #2


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    Welcome. People here love to talk physics and astronomy. Vectors and gravity are very important to astronomy, so continue reading your books. Ask any questions or make any comments you might have here, and you'll get some good responses. You can also browse the existing threads (I get the feeling you've thought of that).
  4. Nov 19, 2007 #3
    Ok, well heres a question for you...is beginning physics supposed to be hard to an 'average' person? I've always excelled in math and just about everything else and it was a breeze, and now I start studying physics and Im kinda stumped. Maybe its the book Im reading or maybe its the fact that I dont have enough simple math under my belt or forgot some math rules that apply in physics. Any idea how to make it easier? Haha I feel like an uneducated fool in here because as I read these posts I see all this stuff and I dont understand anything the least bit. Haha.
  5. Nov 19, 2007 #4
    Oh, and if anybody wouldnt mind, could you refer me to some physics books to help me learn? Im not really pleased with the one Im working with right now...
  6. Nov 19, 2007 #5


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    depends on what level you are and what you want to learn. You should also try to get tutorials and exercises with soultions.

    Reading astrophysics, you must know "every bit" of physics out there. general gravity, special relativity, fluid dynamics, gas dynamics, thermodynamics, statistical physics, atomic physics, nuclear physics etc.

    But it depends on what you wanna do with astrophysics of course, beeing member in a amateur astronomy club or similar dont go so deep if you know what iam saying:)
  7. Nov 19, 2007 #6


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    Physics and some advanced math can become involved in some rather abstract ideas, in the sense that we do not encounter them in everyday existence.

    How hard it is depends on one's background, and unfortunately there seems to be a great disparity in math and science education.

    As other have pointed out, this forum is devoted to discussions of math and physics (as well as other sciences) from the introductory level all the way the latest experimental and theoretical work.

    Welcome to PF!
  8. Nov 19, 2007 #7


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    Welcome to PF Z Factor! I removed your e-mail address since the purpose of PF is to share information online, also just a reminder that although I like to think of PF as a safe place, you never know who might come here and contact you, so we do not encourage this for your own safety.
  9. Nov 19, 2007 #8
    Oh ok, sorry about that, if I had known I wouldnt have posted it, wont happen again.
  10. Nov 19, 2007 #9

    Chris Hillman

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    Hi, Z, and welcome to PF!

    Put it this way: physics has the reputation of being a demanding subject.

    You say you are sophomore in HS? Have you studied calculus yet? If not, physics relies heavily on differential equations, which relies on differential and integral calculus, so it wouldn't be surprising if you find some of the more technical posts hard to follow!

    Well, you shouldn't feel at all foolish if you don't understand everything you see at PF right way. People typically spend at least ten years mastering sufficient math/physics to understand the research literature. (Eight years of primary education plus four years of high school plus four years of college plus five or six years of graduate school plus several years of postdoctoral study... that makes ten, right? :wink: Well, there's a rule of thumb in pop psychology that it takes ten years to master anything challenging. Regardless, no matter how much you know, there's always more to learn.)

    So what book are you reading? I wouldn't want to recommend a book only to find that it is the very book you don't like! Individual styles vary greatly so its not uncommon for person A to dislike a book which person B likes.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2007
  11. Nov 19, 2007 #10
    So what book are you reading? I wouldn't want to recommend a book only to find that it is the very book you don't like! Individual styles vary greatly so its not uncommon for person A to dislike a book which person B likes.[/QUOTE]

    Well right now Im reading a book I found in the library called Physics the Easy Way. Its a moderately large green cover book by Robert Lehrman. Its not necessarily a bad book it gives many examples and explains the equations, but it doesnt exactly go into detail. I think its mostly for students who are actually taking physics and need a bit of guidance, because I think if this was a 'self-teaching' book it would be more detailed, rather than just going through problems and equations which is what it does, which is why I'm struggling a bit. Perhaps another factor is that Ive forgotten some simple math I learned in algebra 1 haha so Im probably going to study up on that a bit as well.

    As for your other question involving calculus, I haven't studied calculus yet, but Im starting now, reading a book that Ive seen suggested by many people which is Calculus Made Easy by Thompson. Its probably the best self teaching book Ive read so far, and I havent gotten that far into it, either. So, probably by the end of January I'll have it finished, and move on to hopefully more complex calculus, and then once Im a junior I'll take some calculus and more advanced math courses to get an even better grip on the subject.
  12. Nov 19, 2007 #11

    Chris Hillman

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    Suggest some good books

    Well, you might try Feynman, Lectures on Physics, Vol. I, which does assume calculus but is written with such verve you'd probably enjoy it even if you don't understand it all immediately. You can also try Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, which is a popular book.

    Since love of physics requires love of math, you probably want some good math books too. One math book with few prerequisites which I really like is Rademacher and Toeplitz, The Enjoyment of Mathematics, which is older but if you are lucky you might be able to find it in your public library. Same comments for Frechet and Fan, Initiation to Combinatorial Topology. One you are sure to find is Kac and Ulam, Mathematics and Logic, which has been reprinted by Dover and might be in some local bookstores, or if not can surely be obtained from on-line booksellers. The topics covered in these books might not seem applicable to physics, but from Feynman you will get some hints why basically all mathematics ultimately seems to wind up being applied to physics :smile:
  13. Dec 3, 2007 #12
    Hey there, I'm in a similar position to you. I'm taking physics and calculus in my final year of high school, but understanding anything on this forum seems a long way of. But, you can skip the calculus and w/e (or, better yet, do this alongside your self study, for extra motivation), and get a book which goes into basic astrophysics, without any of the calculus. All you need is junior high trigonometry and algebra (although the equations are a lot more complicated then what you have probably seen before, you get used to them).


    I'm working my way through it now. It really keeps you motivated to keep going in the subject. Needless to say, it wont help you understand all the stuff on the forum, or even the concepts themselves will only be partially explained. But if you think you might be interested anyway, go for it. Its beautifully written. A tad expensive though.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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