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How to acquire a physics education by self-effort

  1. Sep 29, 2012 #1
    Hello, I live in an area where the local university does not have any night classes. I want to restart my education and any courses in physics are not available when I am not working. I am posting this message here in order to test the feasibility of acquiring the text books, notes, lab assignments and equipment to conduct the work myself. In short, I am willing to spend the money to self-teach myself a sophmore course in physics. Does anyone have any suggestions about this? Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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  4. Sep 29, 2012 #3


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  5. Sep 29, 2012 #4
    Also there are two missing things that you need to figure out how to get:

    1) a study group. Learning physics is an interactive process, and so you need a study group of people that are serious about studying phyiscs.

    2) a way of turning learning into cash. One of the things that universities do is that they hand you a piece of paper which you can use to convert your learning into cash. This is important because cash let's you learn more stuff.

    The good news is that all of the raw material you need to learn physics is online and it's not too difficult to find. The problem is that you'll have to figure out how to 1) get a social network and 2) turn learning to cash.

    Also if you can talk with someone at the local university to mentor you, that will help a lot.
  6. Sep 29, 2012 #5
    I think it will require a lot of dedication on your part but it's certainly possible.

    I'd pickup an old cheap copy of Halliday & Resnick's Physics Vol. 1 & 2 from Amazon and one of those "2500 solved problems in Physics" texts from your local bookstore (to make sure it's not for high schoolers).

    As far as a lab manual, you should be able to go onto the websites of most colleges and universities and order the required lab manuals for their physics classes. Usually there are two physics curriculums in academia and they will be termed as such e.g. "college physics" being the light version and "university physics" being the heavy one.

    As far as a study group, the internet should be fine for this level of material. Chances are if you have a question, someone somewhere has already asked it on the web.
  7. Sep 30, 2012 #6

    Simon Bridge

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    In NZ, we improvise a lot of the freshman undergrad equipment ... you can build a good-enough air track without spending the money for one of those for eg.

    Not just undergrad though - I remember needing a very flat table for graduate optics and not having the budget for a state of the art optics table. Turned out that the monumental masons down the road could cut a slab of granite even flatter than the "proper" table for a tenth of the price so we used that.

    The best practice, as has been mentioned, is to find others who would like to do the same thing. Even in the old days when physics was a pass-time for rich people ("look at me I'm so rich I can afford to do science for fun!") you had to have collaborators, and people to skite to of course.

    It is also possible to do physics entirely theoretically ... though this is to be strongly discouraged.
  8. Oct 1, 2012 #7
    To all of you, thank you for your responses. I like the link at PASCO and the <a href="http://www.pasco.com/family/structures-systems/index.cfm"> [Broken] Structures-Systems</a> kit is amazing. I will follow up on your suggestions.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  9. Oct 3, 2012 #8
    As far as experiments go, I think that you can set up trying to build the experiment to be half the challenge. For example, you are trying to show that a baseball follows a parabola. How do you go about doing that?

    One of the easier ways that I can think of is to just record a baseball with a webcam. But then in order to figure out the angles and velocities involved is non-trivial and part of the fun of doing the experiment.
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