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Other Interested in learning physics after graduating college

  1. Apr 30, 2017 #1

    Early in my college career I switched around majors pretty often, and it eventually came down to Computer Science and Physics. The first year of each major aligned very well with each other so much so that I was able to knock out the first year of each major in the same year. That summer I thought very carefully about which major I would proceed with, and I decided computer science because I liked it more at the time. I tried to minor in physics but once I got into my core computer science classes it became very difficult because of the workload.

    Fast forward 4 years... and I now have a degree in computer science and have been working in industry since January. Before anyone asks, I do not regret my decision to get a degree in computer science! I love it, and I'm currently really loving the work I get to do in industry! However, I have what seems to be an undeniable curiosity to learn about the universe and how the world around me works, so much so that when I look up at the night sky, I am inspired.

    Relevant courses I have taken (that might be useful to know):
    • Calculus I-III
    • Linear Algebra
    • Discrete Structures (set theory, logic, combinatorics, probability, some other stuff haha)
    • Statistics for engineers
    • Intro to Mechanics
    • Intro to Electricity and Magnetism
    • Modern Physics
    • Cryptography (modular arithmetic, not sure this is relevant)
    • I am good at programming and am starting to get good at data science (which might be useful for analyzing and visualizing data)
    Basically I'd like to self teach myself through what an undergraduate physics student learns while getting their degree. I want to start from the beginning and if I keep up with it maybe one day take the physics GRE.

    There is so much information on the internet in regards to what approaches I can take, what textbooks I should read for my learning, and what videos/lectures I should watch that it becomes difficult for an outsider to sift through it all. For instance, the information in the blog post seems really useful https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2016/8/13/so-you-want-to-learn-physics but the person who wrote it only has a BA in physics. Would that blog be a good start? What books/links to lists of books would be a good start for my physics education?

    Thank you so much for the help.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2017 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    You've probably used your university's web site during the past four years, to look up degree requirements, course descriptions, prerequisites, etc. for your computer science degree. It probably has information about their physics degree, too. :oldwink:

    Most universities have an introductory sequence including modern physics (which you've already taken), and then a core group of required upper-division (a.k.a. intermediate level) courses which usually includes:
    • classical mechanics (again!)
    • electromagnetism (again!)
    • quantum mechanics
    • thermodynamics and statistical mechanics
    Other courses usually depend on your interests: nuclear physics, atomic & molecular physics, solid state physics, optics, general relativity, particle physics...

    You already have most of the math courses that a physics major usually requires. You should also study differential equations, and work through a "math methods" book like Boas, or just pick up individual topics from it as needed for other courses.

    Next door in our "Science and Math Textbooks" forum, you'll find discussions about textbooks for probably every subject in the undergraduate physics curriculum. Warning: some people are rather opinionated about textbooks, so consider all viewpoints and don't stress out too much over the choice. If you find you don't like a certain book, just switch to a different one.

    The book recommendations in the blog post that you linked to seem reasonable to me. Lots of familiar names. (Personally, I like Schroeder for upper-division thermo / stat mech.) Don't even think about grad school level books yet.
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  4. May 1, 2017 #3
    Thank you for the response! I'll definitely look into this! So do you think it is safe for me to skip what would be the introductory courses and go straight to classical mechanics?
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