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I am interested in physics yet my history and confidence prevents me.

  1. Sep 4, 2013 #1
    I do not have the best GCSE's, no-ones fault but my own, I slacked and daydreamed a lot where I even had to go to the hospital to see if something was "wrong".

    I made it up via BTEC and got DD, could of been an extra D but through choosing an apprenticeship, I had to sacrifice the extended diploma and unknowingly, a statistical mark. Work experience and pay or no pay and work experience but instead an extra grade, wasn't an easy choice.

    I got my BTEC diploma and went on to my HNC, I did not do well. My confidence was low due to my grades and I decided to skip college instead so I failed, but I got a firm at university for biomedical engineering which I was confident what I wanted to do,until now.

    Now I got my firm, I'm leaving my HNC after one year, that's classed as a fail and when I did my apprenticeship, I also "failed" my BTEC so I have left two statistical fails on the college reputation, which makes me an unreliable student so I won't be able to return. I was even told this in person.

    I have now had a change of heart and want to do physics with an extra year (foundation) but I'm worried I will struggle to cope. I don't like maths but I enjoyed physics as I knew what I was learning about etc in Engineering physics, we learned about the movement of gears, the size needed for the job, number of teeth and type of gear. If you want ammunition to mock me, you could say It was the pictures that helped my interest.

    Physics seems a lot more interesting to me, especially quantum mechanics. So my question is, has anyone here struggled academically but succeeded anyway? I feel lost at the moment. I'm interested definitely in physics, I'm just worried I'm not smart enough and that I will fail. I don't need another humiliation.

    I know physics isn't a walk in the park but I'm willing to buckle down.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2013 #2
    Is this where I laugh?
  4. Sep 4, 2013 #3
    I don't understand most of the terms you used, you must not be in US and you have a complete different system.

    You don't like math, physics is not for you. Just that simple. You need so much math for physics.....All the calculus, differential equations, partial differential equation, linear algebra as a starter.

    What you described about gear and all is more mechanical engineer.
  5. Sep 4, 2013 #4
    So even with starting from a foundation degree you'd think I'll fail?
  6. Sep 4, 2013 #5
    No, I did not say that. You can Ace them, but if you hate math, why?

    Physics, and even mechanical and electrical engineering degree require lots of math. When you get up to the upper division like the electromagnetics, it's like an extension of multi variables calculus ( calculus III). The lessons are mostly explained in calculus. I don't know mechanical engineering degree, but for BSEE, you need a lot of math. Question is can you suffer through the 4 years?
  7. Sep 4, 2013 #6


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    Without knowing what a "foundation degree" is, the fundamental problem remains, which is your ability to do mathematics. Being good at it is not negotiable, as far as majoring in physics is concerned. There is just no way around it. You don't have to be a master at it, but you must have the knack for it. If not, you will simply not have the tools to be able to do physics. Period!

    You mentioned your liking of Quantum Mechanics. This, of all subject, is fundamentally based on mathematics. You hear about people having arguments about the interpretation of QM, such as the meaning of wave function collapse, the Schrodinger cat, etc... These are argument about the conceptual aspects of QM, but the mathematical formalism is never under question. We all agree on the mathematical description. We just want to know conceptually what those mathematics are saying in ways that we can understand. So QM is essentially established mathematically first and foremost! Not knowing the mathematics mean that you are only understanding QM superficially, and in ways that are not very useful either!

    Physics is more than just saying "What goes up, must come down". Physics must also say when and where it will come down. That requires mathematics.

  8. Sep 4, 2013 #7
    Can't say it any better. I kind of know this, but I am not a physic major and only studied QM in physical chemistry, so I don't dare to say this. I only relate calculus to electromagnetics as I studied that.

    To OP

    Math is the language of science.....just like English for everything else. You can't go very far without knowing the language, can't you? Advanced physics are mostly explained in the language of science......math. You don't understand the language, how are you going to get far?

    QM is in Chapter 11 in my partial differential equation book......the chapter before Green's Function that is for advanced electromagnetics!!! If you don't like the basic math like Calculus I and II, you are really going to have fun with partial differential equations!!!
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013
  9. Sep 5, 2013 #8
    Hate is the wrong word, I'm just not good at it. I did well in some, did horrible in others. I enjoyed science and it is the only subject I actually like.

    A foundation year is there to help people get into uni, prepare them even or if you didn't get the right grades then it helps bring you to level for your chosen degree. Standard degree is 3 years, but the foundation year adds an extra year before you do the standard 3 years.
  10. Sep 5, 2013 #9


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    Then do it as a hobby. Majoring and working in science isn't as fun and easy as it has been romanticized. And if you are not good in math, you will just struggle through everything.

    Take note that the mathematics you encounter so far are, to put it bluntly, trivial! Intro physics barely even use calculus extensive. When you start doing advanced undergraduate E&M and QM, your lack of skill in mathematics will make your life miserable.

    Do yourself a favor. Pick up this text and see if you want to go through the mathematics in it: Mary Boas "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Science". That is the type of mathematics you will NEED to know to be a physics major.

  11. Sep 5, 2013 #10
    Like Zapper said, you really have to know math to study physics and engineering. Have you taken the first year calculus? IIf so, and if you said you did bad in it and if you want to go into physics or engineering, I strongly suggest you to review it on your own or retake the class. Those are really the basics only. Or else you'll be really struggling with multi-variable calculus. When you go to Ordinary Differential Equation ( second year), it will be shocking, shocking how difficult it is even if you are good with the basic calculus.
  12. Sep 5, 2013 #11


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    The math you find in introductory QM texts (e.g. Griffiths) can often be dull, tedious, and unbearably computational but it gives you a good taste of just how unromantic the subject actually is when it comes down to the nitty gritty of solving physical problems. Thankfully however more advanced texts will make use of (much) more abstract mathematics but you can't really get to the more abstract material (in any practical sense) without first going through the down to Earth computational problems (by which I mean physical problems as well as assigned problem sets). The same goes for theories like GR; open up pretty much any comprehensive GR text and you will find a sea of index calculations and/or a plethora of local coordinate computations both in text and in the assigned problem sets.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  13. Sep 6, 2013 #12
    I flunked high school math (IB Higher level) because I was a lazy twat, now I am amongst my the best in math of my class at the third year in physics, and loving the math in itself.

    If you have been lazy beforehand you do not actually know if you are smart enough or not. But you will need to explain carefully to yourself what has changed and why it will be different this time around.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  14. Sep 6, 2013 #13
    Try to solve a hydrogen atom. Once you have done that, it may bring you some confidence
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
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