# How to self study physics lab?

## Main Question or Discussion Point

To self study the theoretical part of general physics is as "easy" as going through a textbook, but how could a person self study the experimental part of general physics at home? Any ideas? (Should be easier than to self study chemistry lab hahaha)

Orodruin
Staff Emeritus
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Physics is a broad subject. For classical mechanics and basic thermodynamics you can certainly do some home experiments, but when it comes to most quantum mechanics and electromagnetism this will start to require more expensive equipment and certainly not be ”easier” than some chemistry labs. (You can do basic chemistry labs in your kitchen as well.)

BvU
Homework Helper
2019 Award

Some of these are as good as the formal ones I did at university. Point is 'self study' on your own doesn't teach you as much and not as effciently as picking up experimental methods, know-how and do-how in a lab environment.

Having said that, you could study Kohlrausch Praktische Physik to acquire theoretical experimental expertise ....

hilbert2
Gold Member
I remember a physics lab experiment where we made a pendulum from a small metal weight and a long string attached to the ceiling and calculated a value for the gravitational acceleration from the measured period of oscillation. That should be possible to do at home, especially as nowadays you can record the pendulum motion with a smartphone and then measure the oscillation frequency from the recorded .avi video file.

Klystron
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
To self study the theoretical part of general physics is as "easy" as going through a textbook, but how could a person self study the experimental part of general physics at home? Any ideas? (Should be easier than to self study chemistry lab hahaha)
I am not exactly sure what you mean by "self study the experimental part".

Remember, you can read everything you can get your hands on on how to ride a bicycle, but you'll never master it until you actually try and ride a bicycle, and falling a few times. This is a skill which can only be acquired, rather than being taught.

You can help yourself by trying to understand the procedure that you will be asked to do, and using your knowledge of the theory, figure out why you have to measure certain quantities. But you will have to actually do the experiment itself to gain the physical skills and insight into performing an experiment. It isn't something that you can "study".

Zz.

BvU
Dr. Courtney
Gold Member
To self study the theoretical part of general physics is as "easy" as going through a textbook, but how could a person self study the experimental part of general physics at home? Any ideas? (Should be easier than to self study chemistry lab hahaha)
My home schooled teenagers have done both self-study chemistry and physics labs at home - through 1st year college level for chemistry and through 12th grade level in physics. Both are workable. The approach tends to depend on one's budget and available equipment. You can do a lot more on a $1000 budget than you can on a$100 budget. Some lab curricula emphasize broad topical coverage - they try and provide lab experiments for just about every chapter in the textbook. I prefer an approach that favors quantitative measurements, accuracy and good technique, and rigorous adherence to the scientific method.

If you have a video camera (even a cell phone camera) and a computer, you can do several kinematics labs with little more than a meter stick and a marble or other similar small sphere. But if you are cost limited, labs in every new topic area are going to depend on what materials you already have. If you have a decent thermometer and electronic balance, you can do several heat and thermodynamics labs with little more than a few styrofoam cups and household objects. And so on. But a good "General Physics" lab sequence has 20-30 experiments in total. Since eack lab depends on your resources, it is hard to map the whole thing out for you in a brief internet post.

BvU
Joshy
Gold Member
Some of the at home projects you can find online are pretty good.

Maybe a nearby university might allow you to use some of the equipment for the stuff that can't easily be done at home? I know many are quickly doubting it, but I have a friend who simply asked a few professors and they allowed it. It never hurts to ask. I'm sure your odds aren't too great when it comes to using a beam line on one of the synchrotrons - oh darn - but you could probably get your hands on an oscilloscope or something.

Apply to an internship or volunteer for one? I was doing an internship at one place and they had a few volunteers getting their hands on the equipment and instruments.