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I'm 28 and wanting to make a start in physics studies.

  1. Sep 24, 2012 #1
    I'm trying to figure out how to pursue this interest in physics though I have not spent a great deal of time dedicated to learning any area of any one thing in life. I have an obsessive personality though, so have managed to create a profession as an Artist just making things and people purchasing what I make.

    I do find I have a lot of free time, so spend a lot of time thinking, and also get to listen to audiobooks whilst I work on various projects, as a lot of thought is only in the initial set up of the work. I love the thought of so much knowledge that we have in our time that i have access to, but am squandering the chance to learn so much of it.

    More and more I am remembering the feeling that I had as a child of the interest in the sciences, I used to say when younger i wanted to be a scientist, but the schools I went to and my inability with the use of the English language + low self esteem drove me to thinking I could never pursue a career in any science field, so I obsessed myself in the arts, an area I found I was reasonable at.

    Now i'm facing a struggle, with the years of not being very studious, not paying particular interest in maths, i've started from the beginning. Its not that at this moment in time i would like to pursue a career in physics. I just need to figure out the best ways to study the matter in my free time, to at least get to a level that i might be able to do a course at some point.

    Any links to forums on here, or other things about this topic, or tips, and hints would be most welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2012 #2
    It depends on where you live to find an available first course in physics, but many of them are offered in such a way as to omit calculus and differential equations.

    You basically should be good at algebra and trigonometry to make it through introductory physics courses easily. That's like 2 textbooks worth of studying, and you should do lots of practice problems. You could also take math courses in this level. It all depends on your interest level and effort for how fast you could self study through that math, but it shouldn't be too difficult and should take only a few months of effort.
  4. Sep 24, 2012 #3

    Those are NOT physics courses then. You can't even get past day one, page one if you don't understand the basic concepts of calculus and differential equations. (F=ma)

    Telling someone they should take physics courses without learning calculus is like telling someone they should learn to draw without ever learning what perspective is.

    To the OP: If you want to learn some basic physics, start with a calculus textbook (there are hundreds of these things and you can get some dirt cheap or free, look in the textbook section for suggestions). Lots of the examples you'll find in there are related to physical problems. Once you get the grasp of integral and differential calculus, then you should go on to an introductory physics textbook, and refer back often to your calculus book when you need to.
  5. Sep 24, 2012 #4
    http://www.khanacademy.org/ is a good resource to relearn a lot of different subjects. I also like it because as you learn one subject, if you have a question about a similar subject, you can usually find a tutorial on that too. The whole curriculum is fairly well organized.

    I agree that you should strengthen your fundamentals in trig and algebra before trying to get into basic physics ideas. You can learn calculus and physics at the same time.
  6. Sep 24, 2012 #5
    There's lots of physics you can learn without needing calculus. And I think it would be better to learn the algebra way of doing physics before taking a course where they teach you the calculus way. I think I would have done better in physics 1 and 2 if I had done that.
  7. Sep 24, 2012 #6


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    Well, you're at the right place to start. My suggestion here; read, read, read.
  8. Sep 24, 2012 #7
    I often find old physics texts at the swap meet for a dollar. Hard to pass that up, so I have samples going back to the 1920's. No intro to college physics book I've found published before the 1960's has any calculus in it. It's all algebra. Starting in the 1960's I start running across texts where everything is stated in calculus terms. (The couple I've found like this seem to be published under the aegis of technical institutes whose students are all dedicated to a technical career.) After that, and the more recent the book, the more likely you can't be introduced to a simple mechanics concept like F = ma without it being completely treated in calculus terms. There was some kind of general shift in assumptions, but I don't know what it was.
  9. Sep 25, 2012 #8
    Go on any local high school's website and look at their course catalog. See what books they're teaching for physics classes and math classes such as AP Physics B and AP Calculus AB. You do NOT need calculus to learn physics. I had a one year long physics class in high school in which I learned Kinematics, Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, basic Astronomy, Electricity and Magnetism, and Modern Physics. All without a single idea of what an integral/derivative was.
    After you're done reading learning the high school physics materials go on to MIT course catalog and look at what textbooks they teach physics/calculus with. MIT also has Open Courseware which has a lot of classes available to take online with lectures/homework. And I think they give you a certificate upon completion of a class or degree, not sure which.
  10. Sep 27, 2012 #9
    I can't believe I found a person who is in the exact same situation as me (except for the fact that I am 29)!! I, too, have always been fascinated by sciences! Since I was a kid, I would think about time and space, and got headaches for thinking about things that never had an answer, such as when time has begun... etc... when I was 6 or 7... I was a good student in general, got good grades w/o trying hard... and I moved to the States when I was a teenager, like you, I had low self-esteem because my English was so bad and I lost interest in learning anything because I couldn't understand a word the teacher was saying. I was devastated because obviously I couldn't handle the dramatic change in my life -- from a perfect student to a complete failure. Actually, I didn't have the "luxury" to focus on learning like other kids did, without having to worry whether I would be bullied by others every day. I started ditching school during high school, I didn't enjoy learning, but I loved physics. And surprisingly I was good at it. Forget about SAT forget about getting into good colleges... the thought of getting into a good college didn't even cross my mind. I completely forgot that I actually love math/science. During college, life was getting at least more normal for me, I guess people are generally nicer as they mature lol. However I majored in art, it's the only thing I feel proud of... but also partly because I still felt English was not my first language, I hesitated getting into any other majors.

    Now after working for several years, I tend to be more mature and less "timid" or ashamed of myself... and I suddenly wondered, what if I didn't come to the US, and what if English wasn't my second language, would I choose to major in physics and would I be really good at it?? More and more I find myself asking these questions in my head and lately it has become more like a regret.

    I know there's no what-ifs in life, and everyone should be responsible for their own actions and choices, but I am just unhappy and hurt as I know so darn well I was never a lazy student, and I am definitely not someone stupid, but just because of FEAR I didn't make the right decision. AND I feel it's a bit late for me to pursue another degree in Physics, because as far as I know, one should probably pursue at least a Masters in Physics in order to land a decent job? But, I just know if I don't take any actions now I would regret later in life... I would be willing to do whatever it takes... however money is a big concern... I still have to support my family. I didn't really do so well during high school so that means I will probably need another 6-7 years to have all the coursework done?! It's not about the time or assignments, but more about $$$. I have been thinking to study some math on my own now, as I haven't done any math for such a looong time, so I am very thankful to have found this forum and this specific thread, I think I have an idea where to start first, at least to test myself and see whether this is something that is worth investing in or something that I am capable of. Any advice is appreciated!! Thanks in advance!
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