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Intuitive perspective of physics , good or bad ?

  1. Aug 27, 2013 #1
    is it a good thing to understand physics by intuition ? or is it a bad thing ? lots of people told me that sometimes i have to take things as they are , but i really cant do that .
    i mean , yea i understand mathematical relations , but i dont really understand anything just by its math . being able to understand its mathematical equations and apply them is not enough for me .
    i to be honest struggle alot with almost everything in physics , not that i dont understand them , but i keep building up questions , i have a bad habit of not being able to take things as they are
    is it a good thing ? will it help me on the road of studying physics ?
    or is it as they say something that will lead me eventually to a dead end and it will make me want to leave the field ? to be honest lots of times i feel disappointed and hopeless , but then when i understand this thing whatever it is i feel euphoric about it .

    i apologize if this is the wrong forum.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2013 #2

    ehild

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    Yours is a good habit. To understand is better than blindly accept . And Physics develops in that way, through simple models. We try to connect something we know well to more complicated systems and phenomena. We set up a model, and we refine it again and again, or discard it.

    In the old times, people thought that the Sun and the stars are fixed on crystal shells which rotate around the Earth and made complicate calculations about the rotations so as to reproduce the real motion of the Sun, planets and stars. And then it was discarded by the new model, considering the Earth orbiting around the Sun...
    When we determine the orbit of a planet around the Sun, we treat both of them as point masses...
    The success of the model for the planets and Sun gave the hint to Bohr to model the hydrogen atom as a little planetary system: the electron orbiting around it Sun, the nucleus.

    Newton understood the projectile motion, and then imagined the Moon as projected so fast it can not fall on the Earth because of the finite size of Earth.

    You can imagine electrons in a metal as particles of a gas, and you get quite acceptable results with that model.

    Your models can lead you to unexpected results. While they were derived correctly, and correspond to observations, you need to accept them. There is a limit of our imagination, because of the nature of our mind. We still can imagine things on our scale: not too small and not too fast...


    ehild
     
  4. Aug 28, 2013 #3

    nsaspook

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    A general comment:
    Intuition (about any task) is IMO the process of mental pattern matching new ideas, concepts and their possible outcomes with tried and true data from past experience. "Intuition" requires hard work to build those patterns in your head. The trick is to develop the correct base to build on but that process usually involves a lot of rote learning by taking facts at face value and moving on to the next fact in a sometimes repetitive manner that at first seems a waste of time that every newbie in any profession has to wade through.

    You seem to be doing just fine.
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=buck up
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
  5. Aug 28, 2013 #4

    sophiecentaur

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    Imo, 'intuition' can only be relied upon when there is a lot of solid experience to base it on. Baseless intuition is as likely to harm your understanding as it is to help it. The problem with Physics is that it is seriously counter-intuitive to the uninformed. This has been true over the years - since before Galileo's time and right up to today.
    As nsaspook says, your intuitions needs a lot of rote learning first, before you can rely on them. People so often ask PF for a "physical explanation" for things, as if the kitchen table is an adequate platform for QM matters. This, in fact, is debasing the whole subject of Physics.
     
  6. Aug 28, 2013 #5

    Akaisora

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    I tend to conceptualize physics and imagine them.
     
  7. Aug 28, 2013 #6

    sophiecentaur

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    That's nice to do. Have you tried to see how much your personal view is able to make accurate (quantitative) predictions about real-world Science? That's the acid test for proper valid Science ideas. If you can manage that, then you have 'cracked it'.
     
  8. Aug 28, 2013 #7

    Akaisora

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    I am still inexperienced in modern and advanced physics, however, I have always thought that scientists conceptualize and imagine their theories/thesis and try to translate that through mathematics; numbers and constants are mostly from experiments.

    When I read what you said about making accurate (quantitative) predictions, I thought of Einstein "imagining" the speed of light :rolleyes: and trying to predict accurate measurement.
     
  9. Aug 28, 2013 #8

    sophiecentaur

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    I am sure that's what he did. But but but only 'conceptualised' after an awful lot of hard grind, book work, Maths and reading. That is to say, on a very sound basis and after he had exhausted the possibilities that Physics, up to that point, had to offer.

    You may think my attitude is very 'pedestrian' but I have found, after a lot of experience, that you can get there a lot faster if you use the work others have done first. I have had the occasional flash of inspiration and managed to jump a few steps but it seldom takes things beyond what 'they' have already told me.
     
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