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How to learn physics on my own

  1. Jan 12, 2016 #1
    I am currently a high school senior. I've been admitted for university to study electrical engineering and possibly nuclear engineering. I also enjoy learning about topics including quantum mechanics and special relativity. I would major in physics except it's not a career I want to pursue. How could I go about learning these topics on my own?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2016 #2


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You must improve your math skills, especially Calculus and Algebra. You can start with some lectures for Theoretical Physics and some good introductory books on Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
  4. Jan 12, 2016 #3
    Wait until you've got a decent background in physics and calculus and then pick up a standard "modern physics" textbook (e.g. Modern Physics - Serway, or Modern Physics - Ohanian, or any other textbook like those).

    Alternately, take extra courses (modern physics, QM, electrodynamics) from your school's physics department as electives or just as extra courses (it's difficult but can be enriching), depending on whether your department allows them as electives. I will note that it's not completely unreasonable to use quantum mechanics in engineering. While most engineers will never need quantum mechanics, and while most electrical engineers even don't need quantum mechanics, as an electrical engineering student, you will likely end up taking a course on semiconductor devices. These usually focus on a semi-classical approach to the physics of semiconductors, but if you chose to pursue it further and if you plan on going to graduate school, you may end up taking a few graduate QM and solid state physics courses, so there's that. Of course, the ultimate focus is on the engineering.

    Special relativity is fairly easy to pick up on your own given enough time.
  5. Jan 12, 2016 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    That's what I would suggest also, for starters. Courses that use these books generally assume that you've completed a standard two-semester calculus based intro physics sequence. In fact, they're sometimes taught as the third course in a three-semester intro physics sequence. My first teaching job after graduate school was at a college where all electrical engineering majors had to take an intro modern course, so we had many students in it.
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