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I'd like to completely teach myself Physics -- Am I Nuts?

  1. Dec 16, 2015 #1
    I'm 19 (female) but left school when I was 16 due to a number of horrible reasons. Lost someone close to me, then went through severe Anorexia up until last year. I've finally got my life back on track and feeling good about the future.

    In School I always gravitated towards English/History because I always excelled in Writing. I had no interest in math whatsoever, in fact I dreaded it a little. I was never bad at (didn't excel either) but if I had really applied myself I would have excelled.

    As cheesy as it sounds but last year I truly found myself. Who I see myself as, who I am friends with and so on.
    2014 was also the year I become completely obsessed with the Universe. It's not just looking up at the stars but I seriously have a burning desire (as many of you do too) to learn as much as I can about the Universe and hopefully discover something new.

    So here's my dilemma:
    I have NO background in physics whatsoever. I know some calculus + algebra but will learn as much as I can.
    I'm the type of person where if I have a burning desire for it I will give it my all, kind of obsessive too.
    I'd like to maybe pursue physics at University but that won't be possible until at least mid 2017. I've been living in another country and won't be eligible for citizenship util 2017 which means university is a no-no until then.

    My Goal is to learn as much as I can until mid 2017 where then i can enter university. Also it gives me time to learn this stuff because going to university now, i would look stupid having little knowledge.

    So from what I have told you, is it possible to completely self-study as much as I can from having little knowledge on maths/physics then after a period of time enter university with hopefully a wealth of knowledge?

    Sorry for the life story.


    Forgot to mention, I don't hate math anymore.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2015 #2


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    It will be difficult, but certainly not impossible, depending of course on exactly what you mean. Determination is the key and you seem to have that. You'll need to get some good advice on just what you should study. I'm assuming that what you mean is that you want to teach yourself as much as you can without being in a formal setting, not that you intend to conquer an undergraduate degree's worth of physics by yourself.

    The big thing is to just jump into it. Go somewhere like Kahn Academy (others here can probably give you better specific advice) and find an entry level physics course and start it. You'll quickly learn what areas of math you need to study to catch up.
  4. Dec 16, 2015 #3
    A math background is essential. You can do through pre-calc via Kahn Academy or ALEKS online. I prefer ALEKS. You can do Calculus through Coursera. I like the Ohio State courses.

    The key to any study is feedback and accountability so you know you are really learning.
  5. Dec 16, 2015 #4


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    In my opinion, it's never late to learn new things and there is enough time for a career in your case, as long as you keep the faith. Truth is that you have a long way to go in math and physics, starting almost from the beginning, but you know there are no simple things in real life nor scientists that made it through shortcuts. So, if you really want to do it then roll up your sleeves and go for it!
  6. Dec 16, 2015 #5
    Thank you for all your feedback :) Much appreciated.
  7. Dec 16, 2015 #6


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    There are several things here that I don't quite understand:

    1. Why is there a "citizenship" connection to when you can enroll in a university?

    2. How do you plan on showing your ability to major in physics once you apply to a university when all you will be doing is a self-study? Do you expect to be able to enroll in a physics program simply by telling the university admission office that you self-studied math and physics?

    3. How do you plan to evaluate your knowledge and that you are up to par with others who are entering the physics program?

  8. Dec 16, 2015 #7


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    That depends on the country where she lives now.
    In my country, Belgium, any student who has graduated from high school can enroll for a physics major.(Actually for almost any major. For Medicine there is an entry exam, maybe there are also entry conditions for some engineering schools).
  9. Dec 16, 2015 #8

    George Jones

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    Foreign student fees certainly can be a financial deterrent.
  10. Dec 16, 2015 #9
    Well without citizenship I will have to be an unrealistic amount of money, which would be about 6x my life's savings right now. When I get citizenship I can apply for a student loan.

    What do you mean "How do you plan on showing your ability to major in physics"? In the Country I am in, you apply for admission but to apply you need to have the necessary requirements (NCEA Leve 3) which is what you complete in your last year of High School or in my case I had to go back to university in my old country last year which took me 7 months (because i didn't finish high school). Anyway I'm thinking that if I have at least the minimum amount of knowledge required I will learn the rest along the way because I'll be starting for the bottom.

    The only way to evaluate my knowledge would be to ask around on forums and ask professional help which I may get a tutor later on.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2015
  11. Dec 17, 2015 #10


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    To the OP:

    I think it would help if you could tell us what country you are in, and if you are planning on attending university in the US (or some other country).
  12. Dec 17, 2015 #11
    Australia, Originally from New Zealand
  13. Dec 17, 2015 #12


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    Have you considered returning to NZ to study? Loans for course fees are relatively low and interest free, the living allowance does not need to be paid back. I'm not sure how this compares to Australia, a degree is a significant financial investment and you should be weighing up all options and going in with eyes wide open. the Auckland University is ranked top 100, better than most Aus universities. If you apply now you could be studying by late feb/march next year.

    The current political climate between Aus and NZ is rather tense with regards to NZ'er rights, they have declined recently IIRC and may continue to do so. I wouldn't bet my life on guaranteed citizenship and access to student loans in the future. Though, I'm far from an expert.
  14. Dec 18, 2015 #13
    I'm sorry to hear what happened to you! I hope things are going ok now. If you want to learn as much as you can but 2017, I'd suggest, if you really want to start learning about it, finding articles online and watching videos.

    See, about 2 years ago, I started doing the same thing. I didn't make the right choices in which physics videos I watched, because I watched video which I did not understand at all. Rather than watching videos like "Easy explanation for Special Relativity", or "Relativity Explained", I went straight to watching "Einstein's Field Equations", "Quantum Entanglement", and "Hawking radiation." If you're going to start learning, start out simple. As simple as it sounds, it's efficient. Starting out by reading crazy advanced guides only gives a headache and a night of confusion!

    I'd suggest...

    1. Simply google searching online. Find some articles which interest you (But make sure it's a reliable source!)
    2. Find youtube tutorials from educational channels, or channels who know about the topic. (For instance, if you're wondering about relativity, you can look up something like "Relativity Explained". Once you keep watching these types of videos, you can get a simple idea for the big one.
    3. Ask on The Physics Forum! Even though I'm new, and not nearly as smart as some of these other users, the forum is a place for you to ask questions if you're curious. Not sure about how something works? Find something on TPF or ask yourself.
    4. And finally, don't get too ahead of yourself. Start out simple :)

    Have a great day!
  15. Dec 18, 2015 #14
    Thank you for your feed back. I would like to go back to NZ but it isn't suitable right now as my whole immediate family live here now. I know i'm old enough to live by myself but I'd like to be with family as a family member has Liver Cancer and we'd like to spend as much time as possible.

    I may wait to see what happens and move back to NZ but for now I'd like to self study as much as I can possible.
  16. Dec 18, 2015 #15
    Thank you very much for your advice :)
  17. Dec 18, 2015 #16
    Any time! Have a great day :)
  18. Dec 19, 2015 #17


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    The title to this thread is a bit misleading, you aren't looking to "completely teach yourself physics", instead you're looking to obtain the requisite level of knowledge to major in physics.

    How do you know you'd even get accepted into an Australian university? You don't sound like an overly strong candidate to get into a decent program.

    Does Australia have the equivalent to US community colleges? Guaranteed admissions, low tuition costs, placement exams, transfer agreements with local universities, etc. ? That may be something you want to look into rather than self study.

    Otherwise you should just focus on mathematics, Trig/Algebra/Geometry and single variable calculus. If you have time you might want to begin working problems from a basic CM text.
  19. Dec 19, 2015 #18


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  20. Dec 20, 2015 #19
    I appreciate your reply.

    First of all, I agree that the title is a bit misleading although I would like to self-teach myself as much Maths then physics possible. I agree that won't even be a fraction of what is taught formally.

    I don't sound like an "Overly Strong Candidate", that's a bit insulting. You don't me nor do you know how capable I am of doing things for myself. If I need a tutor or professional help, I will do so. I haven't yet made my mind up of what university I will attend, maybe New Zealand.

    I may be moving back to New Zealand in 2017, so Auckland University may be an option. I would have to do a Tertiary Foundation course which prepares me to Study Physics, which isn't a problem if I have know a sufficient amount of knowledge to back me up. Then after that I would begin a Bachelor of Science/Physics.

    So basically my plan is:

    Learn as much mathematics possible then basic physics myself
    When things get a lot difficult I plan to hopefully get a well educated tutor
    Once I have enough basic knowledge, I plan to do a foundation course which prepares you for you bachelor of science/physics
    After that begin a bachelor of science and the rest is history
  21. Dec 20, 2015 #20
    I've taken several physics classes at the Universe level. Everything I learned was available online or in a book. Probably there's a point where advanced knowledge is trapped in Universities, but I think you'd have to go quite a ways to get beyond what's available in a library.
  22. Dec 20, 2015 #21
    Thanks for your apply, that makes me hopeful.
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