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In need of guidance from people with more physics experience

  1. Jan 31, 2006 #1
    I really really want to be able to understand as much physics as I can, I have the stupid feeling that the way I see the world is a bit "fuzzy", and everytime I understand something new about it its like Im relieving an itch, only a little bit at a time.

    Im generally interested in science and always have been, which is why I chose to study medicine from which I wish to specialize in biochemistry. I feel that that is the best in terms of multidisciplinized science because it contains Biology, Chemistry and Physics plus they all include math.

    My problem is that while Im pretty good at understanding things in terms of chemistry or biology, Im really not that good in math. Ive never really been good in math which I dont attribute to lack of intelligence and/or talent, but more to some bad coincidences and exposure to it from the beginning on. In first grade some tests said that I was better in math than around 70% of kids my age, but my math skils never really took of from there.

    Now Im 21 and have regained my interest in it, but its difficult, its like learning to ride a bike at 21, it doesnt matter what your talent may be or if your good a swimming, its just hard.

    Im asking for anyone who can help me by sharing experiences, making suggestions or recommending any material I should work through.

    I have been studying alot in the fields of math and science in the last months. Ive made good progress, but its still pretty tough. I can really feel how my mind isnt really good at it because I have to keep reviewing stuff and I think its hard for me to visualize alot of things, which is really half the rent.

    Thanks to anyone who can give me any advice at all.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2006 #2


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    21 is not to old to learn, if fact it is a prime age for it. The fact is that math and physics are difficult subjects, why do you suppose that 400yrs worth of accumlated knowldedge will be easy to learn? Do you have any formal education after High school?
  4. Jan 31, 2006 #3


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    Yeah, that is young.

    I'm 22 and have only been studying mathematics for two years. Before that, I failed mathematics in high school.

    I left high school not knowing what a matrix was, but now I'm a mathematics major and one of the top guns in class.

    I find mathematics beautiful, so I work hard at it.

    Note: My lack of experience in mathematics is noticeable within myself although others don't see it. Even though high school doesn't teach much, I know I could have atleast got some experience to playing with numbers and what not. I remember going to calculus and seeing review from high school. :surprised
  5. Jan 31, 2006 #4


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    I don't believe that everyone who is good at science and math is born with their talent. Of course there are the select few, but most have to train their mind to work scientifically(I believe everyone does this to a certain extent). There are methods to visuallizing, and modeling that are learned in a physics/ math class that are very important for everything down the road.

    If you really wish to learn math and physics, taking courses would be the best way. Nothing beats a teacher right there telling you how to model and visualize these scientific and mathmatical concepts. This is something I would have trouble learning just from a book alone.

    So, take courses at your level at a local university or community college. If this is completely out of the question for some reason. Buy a calculus(if your at this level) text and a calc-based physics text and begin self study. Your never to old to learn.
  6. Jan 31, 2006 #5


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    I think it's best to learn your own way of looking at things.

    The teacher (I recommend a professor) will give you ideas on how to look at it, but that's not always best for everyone.

    I have my own of way of thinking and I have taken advice from professors and even other students, but I only take them if it fits into my way of thinking.
  7. Feb 1, 2006 #6
    night classes or some sort of course is what you can take ,,, looking online for good math books ,,,even though your an adult ..a few kiddies maths books might help giving some valuable insights ...the best thing you can do is enjoy it ,,,and go back over the stuff you did in school ,,,u wont have any trouble ..learning math takes time and practise and motivation...and no matter how smart you are evreyone struggles at some point or another.---The way u learn it is important as well .

    here is a website i post alot --- gives a list of maths u need to know to understand physics at diffirent levels ,,dont rush and u dont need to know all of it --about 1/4 , http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2006
  8. Feb 1, 2006 #7
    the majority of students in my country is 23 when they start...

    anyway, to know math id recommand understanding what every operation you do does, (derivatives (grad, div, rot), integrals, determinants, tailor's series, coordiantes, diff eq, complex numbers, limits. ,etc. (well actually i got the order wrong... but i think most book got it right, i think limits should be at the start) ),

    after you know what everything does, find exercises with solutions and start trying to solve them, looking at the end at the solution to make sure you got it right.

    i find it the fastest way to practice math, i only need 3 days before the exam to get 90+ if i was present in class for 50% and 6 days if i wasnt in any lesson :tongue2:

    and of coures you can always post here your problems and wed help you solve them :biggrin:
    you can even ask what all those things i wrote above are and youd get pretty good explanations (though id recommand reading first)

    finally, www.matworld.com is a great site for quick reference and review.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2006
  9. Feb 1, 2006 #8
    I always HATED math and had a difficult time with it growing up. I got straight A's in every other subject, but math was always the bane of my academic existence. In fact, I majored in International Affairs in college at least partly because it involved no math beyond college algebra!

    However, in the last several years I have become very interested in physics and astronomy. I quickly came to the realization that if I really wanted to understand it beyond the pop-physics level, I'd have to understand the math behind it first.

    Just this semester, I've begun taking math classes at my local CC. Right now I'm starting out at a VERY basic level (trigonometry) as it has been many years since I've taken a college math class. The funny thing, and I certainly did not expect this, is that I really enjoy the class and am doing very well in it (though, admittedly, trig isn't that difficult a subject). Indeed (again unexpectedly) many of the younger students in the class actually ask ME to help explain things to them from time to time. I'm sure this kind of thing is common for many of the people on this forum, but for a guy who absolutely hated math in high school and did everything possible to avoid it in college, it is quite an odd experience.

    SO, the moral of the story is: if this is something you a) really want, b) are motivated to accomplish, and c) are willing to accept hard work, than you can do it.
  10. Feb 1, 2006 #9


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    I actually used one myself. :redface:
  11. Feb 1, 2006 #10
    Thanks very much to all of you guys, what you wrote really put some things in perspective for me. I have the feeling that there are two things that make my frustration.

    1) I tried too much, too fast. When I started studying a few months ago it was the basics of derivatives and integration, plus the main sentence of calculus. I think I felt sort of "over powerful" after that, because the next thing I attempted was Electromagnetics, from which I got the basics of fields, vector algebra, vector calculus, but not enough to have the feeling that im really "getting" the material, I havnt gotten past Poissons law. So now I found a pretty good calculus book on the internet, I has all the things Ive been needing to learn and has exercises, plus its written very nicely. Ill post the link here if anybody is interested, Im pretty sure its freeware.

    2) I underestimated the fact that math and physics is actually a huge and difficult field, yesterday I got frustrated because I was looking at a quantum mechanics book without getting anything. Its just sorta frustrating that its such a big and complecated subject, but maybe thats good also, Ill never run out of things to study then.

    Again thanks people.
  12. Feb 1, 2006 #11


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    This is why self-study is so such a difficult thing, but amongst the best skills to acquire.

    I had the same problems. Trying to do too much too fast and I was becoming overwhelmed quickly.

    I'm much much better now, and I take things slowly and digest everything. So far, everything has been great. The trials and error of self-study were worth it.
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