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I Want To Become A Physicist!

  1. Mar 15, 2013 #1
    I am a 23yr old high-school dropout.

    Ahh! Wait!

    Before you roll your eyes and say, "sorry, pal, not a snowball's chance in hell," let me elaborate a bit.

    A few years ago, I discovered that I have an affinity for math. Since then I have learned the following topics through self-study:

    Intermediate Algebra
    College Algebra
    Basic Statistics
    "College Mathematics" (precalculus stuff)
    Calculus (limits, continuity, differentiation, applications of the derivative, exponential, logarithmic and hyperbolic functions, infinite sequences and series, vectors, functions of several variables, partial derivatives and multiple integration)

    I plan on attempting an introductory text to discrete mathematics, and if I manage that, I'll then attempt linear algebra.

    Up until a few days ago, I had absolutely no reason for learning mathematics other than simple curiosity. But then I thought to myself, "well, living in a crummy apartment with a dead-end job sucks."

    How does one go to college -- especially if said person is a dirt poor high school dropout?

    And for the record, this post is NOT trolling. My purpose in describing my mathematical knowledge is not to brag, but to show that I am serious about the goals that I set for myself.

    Since I have no recourse to physicists in real life, I am hoping somebody here can enlighten me.

    Does it also matter that I am not one of those genius types that physics students are protrayed to be in popular culture? I can fully grasp all of the mathematical concepts I've learned thus far (at least, I like to believe I can), but I am most definitely NOT one of those whizzes who can crunch a bunch of numbers off the top of their head.

    I just want an honest opinion: do I have ANY hope of becoming a physicist? Or am I too old/unorthodox?
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    You're a high school dropout. Did you get your GED?
  4. Mar 15, 2013 #3


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    Education Advisor

    Well, the odds for anyone to become a Physicist is low for anyone, but that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't study physics if you enjoy it.

    As for how to start college, then the most simple and cheapest route would be to go to a community college for two years, maybe three to get the prereq out of the way. Then transfer to a 4 year university and finish your degree. If you do well enough, and are in financial need, you should be able to get scholarships/grants.

    Some people here may say that only the best and talented will ever become physicist. Other will say it's all about hard work. And then some others will say it's a combination of smarts, hard work, and timing. I have no personal experience trying to be one, but nevertheless, if you enjoy it then go for it. Even if the job you end up with after graduation isn't physics related, it probably will, at the very least, open up doors to a career that sucks a bit less than the one you have now.

    Or become a statistician and roll in money :D.

    EDIT: I'm assuming you have a GED
  5. Mar 15, 2013 #4
    I do have a GED.

    For what it's worth, I am good at abstract thinking.

    I only got one wrong on this test:

    http://www.fibonicci.com/abstract-reasoning/test/hard/ [Broken]

    (It's pretty fun, if you want to try it. In each question, you look at the top row from left to right, then choose the one from the bottom row whichyou think is next in the sequence.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Mar 15, 2013 #5


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    Gold Member

    I don't want to burst your bubble, but it's not that much fun as the media depicts it.
  7. Mar 15, 2013 #6
    Well, the media doesn't show you the hard "dry" bits of it.

    It's a lot of work, and you may be in love with the fantasy of being a scientist (in other words, you may find that you don't like science). Get a taste of it of it at a CC before spending lots of money at a university.
  8. Mar 15, 2013 #7
    I don't have any glamorous views about science or scientists. In fact, I don't even want to be a scientist.
  9. Mar 15, 2013 #8
    Well, the title is "I want to be a Physicist". Anyway, give it a shot at a CC, as others have said.
  10. Mar 15, 2013 #9


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Education Advisor

    What do you think a "physicist" is? You labelled this thread as "I want to be a physicist". A physicist is a scientist.

    This is getting to be rather puzzling.

  11. Mar 15, 2013 #10
    Then why did you post this???
  12. Mar 15, 2013 #11
    Maybe he's trolling? If that's the case then it has been a waste of our time.
  13. Mar 15, 2013 #12
    I wasn't clear in the title. I meant that I would like to knowledgable in physics.

    Honestly, I've just been bouncing possible career directions around in my head for a while.

    I really want to study something that involves lots of mathematics and abstract thinking. (My approach to calculus was very proof-based, and I loved it.)

    I wouldn't mind doing low-level work, either. I doubt I am smart enough for grad school, so a BS will have to do.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  14. Mar 15, 2013 #13


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    Education Advisor

    Ok, since we now know that what you wrote is not necessarily what you mean, please explain what you mean by being "knowledgable" in physics. This is vague. At what level are you aiming for, and how do you intend to determine if you have reached that level?

  15. Mar 15, 2013 #14
    I'm not even sure what I mean.

    Maybe I'll do a philosophy degree and continue doing math as a hobby. (I hope that philosophy factory downtown will be hiring when I graduate.)

    Thanks for the advice, everyone.

    Can a person with high-functioning autism even go to college?
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  16. Mar 15, 2013 #15
    Sounds like a crackpot.
    Are you sure you're not trolling?
  17. Mar 16, 2013 #16
    The university I live near has a "3+2" agreement with Penn State: three years at the first university and then two years at Penn State would mean a BA in Physics (from the first school) and a BS in engineering (from Penn State).

    That sounds interesting, but also a bit intimidating. (Math comes naturally for me, so that's a plus. I might take a class in calculus-based physics at my local community college and see how I fare.)
  18. Mar 16, 2013 #17

    Nope -- I never tried a cigarette, let alone crack. From age five to seventeen I was forced into piano lessons, which meant no social life/opportunity to experiment with drugs.

    If I come across as weird, it's because I have autism. (The truth is that I am a high-functioning autistic, which means that I have autism but am 100% independent. For example, I can talk to people, but if I make eye contact with somebody for too long, my mind ponders things like, "how long do I stare at one eye before focusing on the other?" or "is it possible to look at both eyes at once?" and similar questions. By the time the person is done talking, I'm like, "huh?")

    And no, I'm not trolling.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013
  19. Mar 16, 2013 #18
    Don't mention philosophy in this forum. Philosophy is hated/taboo in this forum. Your joke about the philosophy factory makes it seem like you're trolling.

    Your autism isn't going to prevent you from going to college. If you self-studied, then you obviously know that physics isn't as glamorous as the media makes it seem.

    A physicist is a scientist. If you're looking for money/employment, I recommend engineering (application of science; not scientists).

    Why did you drop out in the first place?
  20. Mar 16, 2013 #19
    I dropped out because of the bullying I faced everyday. (It sounds sort of cliche to say that, I know.)

    Why is philosophy hated on this forum?

    What about the philosophy of mathematics?

    In my opinion, philosophy is very much like mathematics, especially formal logic:

    http://www.gregcaughill.com/philosophy-wiki/philosophy-course-notes/65-introduction-to-formal-logic.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  21. Mar 16, 2013 #20
    I think philosophy is good for law school. Well the ethics side. I think most people on this forum are not into pseudoscience like metaphysics that often violates laws in science. A very popular one that violates the second law of thermodynamics is not allowed in this forum along within many others.
  22. Mar 16, 2013 #21
    Very cool you taught yourself all that, is there a particular question in this thread that you would like answered?

    Also, I taught myself all of that by age 15, it's cool to see someone with similar ambitions.
  23. Mar 17, 2013 #22
    Could you elaborate, or are such discussions censored by the moderators?

    And, for that matter, what exactly is pseudoscience? Would music theory be considered pseudoscience? Or the laws of grammar?
  24. Mar 17, 2013 #23
    The average age for college freshman in the early 19th century was aroung 16, and the average workload was about three times what it is today. (I can't recall the exact article in which I read this.)

    And if you look at the number of college freshman who are not adequately prepared for studies (especially in math and writing), and compare it to just thiry years ago, you'll notice a steady decline.

    My crystal ball tells me that the college freshman in 2100 will be age 20 and that the bachelor degree will take maybe five or more years complete.

    This is all under the assumption that China isn't the main superpower by then.
  25. Mar 17, 2013 #24
    Pseudoscience is something that claims to be science but does not follow the scientific method. Astrology and mysticism are examples. I think any further discussion is not allowed because of forum rules. There are good articles online. Wikepedia has a decent general explanation.
  26. Mar 18, 2013 #25
    My sister is a high-functioning woman with autism.

    She also dropped out of high school.

    She is now a University Professor (not in science) and mom to twins.

    You can do it! The community college route is excellent advice. That's what my sister did.
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