Is it possible to become a theoretical physicist with a 120 IQ?

In summary: But now I'm trying to get my undergraduate degree in physics and I'm going to be a graduate student soon.
  • #1
Joel_Entrup
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An IQ of 120 is plenty good, but the average IQ of Physics and Astronomy majors is higher. It's even higher for brilliant theoretical physicists and Physics PhD holders. So is it possible, with enough hard work and dedication, that someone with a 120 IQ could become a theoretical physicist? Or is it a ceiling they would never reach, no matter how hard they tried.
 
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  • #2
Joel_Entrup said:
An IQ of 120 is plenty good, but the average IQ of Physics and Astronomy majors is higher. It's even higher for brilliant theoretical physicists and Physics PhD holders. So is it possible, with enough hard work and dedication, that someone with a 120 IQ could become a theoretical physicist? Or is it a ceiling they would never reach, no matter how hard they tried.
I think so. I doubt if doctoral students are required to take an IQ test and I assume most don't know their actual number anyway. Also, I think lower scores in some cases are probably not proof of a lack of intelligence but only of a lack of skill at taking an IQ test. My father tested "genius" three times and they did not believe it. He did not believe it. He was very gifted in mechanical relationships which were emphasized on the old tests and he could design complex machines and circuits in his head. He was not mathematically brilliant though.
 
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  • #3
Thank you, I dream of becoming a theoretical physicist, but it has been said that you must be a genius to do so. But I agree, hard work and dedication will get you further than IQ will. I probably just needed some motivation, which I lacked at first.
 
  • #4
IQ is just a number. It does not determine your life and possible life choices. Being a physicist is much more than a single number on a paper. Do you also look only on the times to go from 0-100 kph when comparing race cars? A fast acceleration clearly doesn’t hurt, but it is not the only relevant feature.
 
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  • #5
Greatly appreciated! As I mentioned earlier, I lacked motivation and self esteem. I always thought it was possible, but I have often been told it was not. I appreciate your answer, I dream of becoming a theoretical physicist.
 
  • #6
Joel_Entrup said:
Thank you, I dream of becoming a theoretical physicist, but it has been said that you must be a genius to do so. But I agree, hard work and dedication will get you further than IQ will. I probably just needed some motivation, which I lacked at first.
It would be a real shame to let others talk you out of your dream. I was told by a well meaning teacher in high school to drop physics. It was actually more of a physics for poets class so you can imagine he must have thought I had no aptitude for physics at all. Well, later I ended up getting a degree in physics and going to grad school at a top ten university.
 
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  • #7
bob012345 said:
I think so. I doubt if doctoral students are required to take an IQ test and I assume most don't know their actual number anyway. Also, I think lower scores in some cases are probably not proof of a lack of intelligence but only of a lack of skill at taking an IQ test. My father tested "genius" three times and they did not believe it. He did not believe it. He was very gifted in mechanical relationships which were emphasized on the old tests and he could design complex machines and circuits in his head. He was not mathematically brilliant though.

bob012345 said:
It would be a real shame to let others talk you out of your dream.
Yes, I just need to believe in myself and have more self esteem. Things I have lacked my entire life.
 
  • #8
Joel_Entrup said:
Yes, I just need to believe in myself and have more self esteem. Things I have lacked my entire life.
I think we all have limits but we won't know them until we try at something and run into a brick wall. We might find a way around that wall. I don't think anyone can do anything they want but we do tend to sell ourselves short sometimes. I've always told myself I can't build anything. This year I'm working on that.
 
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  • #9
Joel_Entrup said:
Yes, I just need to believe in myself and have more self esteem. Things I have lacked my entire life.
Where are you in your educational development?
 
  • #10
Apparently, Richard Feynman had an IQ of only 125. I wouldn't worry about your IQ score if you work hard and have a strong interest in theoretical physics.
 
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  • #11
scompi said:
Apparently, Richard Feynman had an IQ of only 125. I wouldn't worry about your IQ score if you work hard and have a strong interest in theoretical physics.
Exactly!
 
  • #12
PeroK said:
Where are you in your educational development?
Not very high, because I used to not try at all in school. So I’m currently trying to claw my way out of the math before calculus.
 
  • #13
https://www.medicaldaily.com/iq-test-accurate-way-measure-intelligence-or-are-mental-abilities-something-you-cant-put-297244 said:

Is An IQ Test An Accurate Way To Measure Intelligence Or Are Mental Abilities Something You Can’t Put A Number On?​

[...] But in the new millennium, is the IQ test still an effective means of measuring general intelligence? According to the general consensus, the answer is "no."

[...]

Intelligence is defined as general cognitive problem-solving skills. Since the days of Binet, psychologists have agreed that intelligence is much more complex than a single number and may be in fact divided into many subcategories. This is where the IQ test falls short. A Canadian study published online in the journal Neuron concluded that the IQ test is “fundamentally flawed,” seeing that its questions “grossly oversimplify the abilities of the human brain.” The report identified three indications of human intelligence: short term memory, reasoning skills, and verbal ability. None of these skills are at all accurately measured in the traditional IQ test. So what does the IQ test accurately measure? Well according to Laci Green, host of DNews, “What the IQ test did measured was how well Westerners might do in Western schools.”

While the IQ test may give an indication of general intelligence, it can't measure the entire complexity of the human thought process. Creativity, emotional sensitivity, social understanding, and various acquired skills such as music or art, are excluded from test’s measurements of intelligence. If you’d like to get an idea of your IQ take this test, but just remember that whatever your score be, it doesn’t necessarily define how smart you really are.
 
  • #14
Orodruin said:
IQ is just a number. It does not determine your life and possible life choices. Being a physicist is much more than a single number on a paper. Do you also look only on the times to go from 0-100 kph when comparing race cars? A fast acceleration clearly doesn’t hurt, but it is not the only relevant feature.
I should add though: Becoming a physicist, as in ”earning your living by doing physics research and teaching”, is hard and requires a lot of work, dedication, and luck. If this is your aim, you should be prepared for this.
 
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  • #15
I know they define "rocket scientist" as and aerospace engineer, but this study (It's nor Rocket Science...) (might me relevant to the discussion.

Apparently neurosurgeons and rocket scientists aren't all that different from the general population across a broad range of cognitive testing.
 
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  • #16
Choppy said:
Apparently neurosurgeons and rocket scientists aren't all that difference from the general population across a broad range of cognitive testing.
Is that really what that study found?

From the introduction:

School aged children perceive STEM to be “masculine” and “clever.” This perception is heavily influenced by gender, class, and race, and deters females, people from lower socioeconomic groups, and people of non-white ethnicity from pursuing STEM careers.

IMO, this makes the study the opposite of science. It's simply an exercise in finding data to confirm preconcieved political beliefs.
 
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  • #17
Choppy said:
Apparently neurosurgeons and rocket scientists aren't all that difference from the general population across a broad range of cognitive testing.
This somehow comes to mind ...
 
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  • #18
scompi said:
Apparently, Richard Feynman had an IQ of only 125.
But Feynman could "fix radios just by thinking".

I think it would be nearer the truth to say that Feynman was one of the smartest guys that ever lived.
 
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  • #19
PeroK said:
But Feynman could "fix radios just by thinking".

I think it would be nearer the truth to say that Feynman was one of the smartest guys that ever lived.
125 is actually pretty high. Not astronomical, but something like 95th percentile. You should be fine.
 
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  • #20
PeroK said:
Is that really what that study found?

From the introduction:

School aged children perceive STEM to be “masculine” and “clever.” This perception is heavily influenced by gender, class, and race, and deters females, people from lower socioeconomic groups, and people of non-white ethnicity from pursuing STEM careers.

IMO, this makes the study the opposite of science. It's simply an exercise in finding data to confirm preconcieved political beliefs.
It was in the Christmas issue of the BMJ which does tend to favor more "light-hearted" studies, which I think this was intended to be. And there are a lot of details to consider once you really get into the study... were samples from the populations really random (do most successful neurosurgeons/aerospace engineers have time to volunteer for cognitive testing?), over half of the control group also had university degrees, are a subject's cognitive abilities at the time of testing an accurate reflection of what they were at the decisive points in their educational/career trajectories? etc. So I agree we can take the conclusions with a grain of salt.

In the bigger picture however, this is evidence that getting into these high-profile "intellectual" professions is not really a result of individuals being significantly better in their various cognitive capacities than the general population.
 
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  • #21
PeroK said:
Is that really what that study found?

From the introduction:

School aged children perceive STEM to be “masculine” and “clever.” This perception is heavily influenced by gender, class, and race, and deters females, people from lower socioeconomic groups, and people of non-white ethnicity from pursuing STEM careers.

IMO, this makes the study the opposite of science. It's simply an exercise in finding data to confirm preconcieved political beliefs.
The first year ('75) that my HS offered an Electronics class, over 40 kids signed up ##-## all boys. One kid looked around and remarked with a chuckle, "chicks don't dig electronics". The next year, one.girl (daughter of a math professor) signed up, and the following year, the gender distribution was about even.
 
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  • #22
This question saddens me some. Our capabilities cannot be consolidated into a single number.
For instance I recall my IQ being tested at 149 and yet I live in a van down by the river
:Don't be limited by other people's opinons even if "scientific". Listen to them but it is up to you
 
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  • #23
PeroK said:
But Feynman could "fix radios just by thinking".

I think it would be nearer the truth to say that Feynman was one of the smartest guys that ever lived.

That's my point. He was one of the smartest guys that ever lived, yet his IQ alone wouldn't have you believe that.
 
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  • #24
scompi said:
That's my point. He was one of the smartest guys that ever lived, yet his IQ alone wouldn't have you believe that.
I don't believe for one minute that Feynman wouldn't cruise those IQ questions if he was trying. I found this, which seem highly plausible:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/...t-richard-feynmans-low-iq-and-finding-another

Is it true Feynman's IQ score was only 125?

Feynman was universally regarded as one of the fastest-thinking and most creative theorists in his generation. Yet, it has been reported-including by Feynman himself-that he only obtained a score of 125 on a school IQ test.

I suspect that this test emphasized verbal, as opposed to mathematical, ability. Feynman received the highest score in the country by a large margin on the notoriously difficult Putnam mathematics competition exam, although he joined the MIT team on short notice and did not prepare for the test. He also reportedly had the highest scores on record on the math/physics graduate admission exams at Princeton.

It seems quite possible to me that Feynman's cognitive abilities might have been a bit lopsided — his vocabulary and verbal ability were well above average, but perhaps not as great as his mathematical abilities.


And, there are two sides to every coin. If you persuade people that they could be the next Feynman and really talk them up, then it's a long way down if they discover that they are no more than average.
 
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  • #25
Paraphrasing an earlier discussion I read elsewhere:

If you are wondering whether you have the intellectual capacity to do theoretical physics -- you don't find out the answer by taking an IQ test, you find out the answer by studying physics and doing the best you can.

I think that's a pretty good answer, though I can't take credit for it.
 
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  • #26
Joel_Entrup said:
Thank you, I dream of becoming a theoretical physicist, but it has been said that you must be a genius to do so. But I agree, hard work and dedication will get you further than IQ will. I probably just needed some motivation, which I lacked at first.
NO NO NO !
A few people in Physics with PhD's are geniuses but not most of them.
 
  • #27
gmax137 said:
Paraphrasing an earlier discussion I read elsewhere:

If you are wondering whether you have the intellectual capacity to do theoretical physics -- you don't find out the answer by taking an IQ test, you find out the answer by studying physics and doing the best you can.

I think that's a pretty good answer, though I can't take credit for it.

And with this helpful post, this thread is now done.

And @Joel_Entrup -- We generally do not let discussions go on for very long when the main subject is IQ testing. It can be a problematic method of measuring a person's abilities and capacity to do well in life.
 
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1. Can someone with an IQ of 120 become a theoretical physicist?

Yes, it is possible for someone with an IQ of 120 to become a theoretical physicist. While a high IQ can certainly be beneficial in the field of physics, it is not the only determining factor for success. Other important qualities such as curiosity, creativity, and dedication are also crucial for a career in theoretical physics.

2. Is a high IQ necessary to become a theoretical physicist?

No, a high IQ is not a requirement for becoming a theoretical physicist. While it can be helpful, there are many successful physicists with average or even below average IQs. As mentioned before, qualities like passion, perseverance, and critical thinking skills are more important in this field.

3. What other skills are important for a career in theoretical physics?

Apart from a strong interest in physics and a good understanding of mathematics, other important skills for a theoretical physicist include problem-solving, analytical thinking, and the ability to think abstractly. Strong communication skills and the ability to work well in a team are also valuable in this field.

4. Can someone with a lower IQ excel in a specific area of theoretical physics?

Yes, it is possible for someone with a lower IQ to excel in a specific area of theoretical physics. In fact, some individuals may have a natural aptitude for a particular aspect of physics, such as quantum mechanics or cosmology, despite having a lower IQ. It is important to focus on developing one's strengths and interests in order to succeed in any field.

5. Are there any famous theoretical physicists with a lower IQ?

There are many famous theoretical physicists who have made significant contributions to the field with IQs that may be considered average or even below average. For example, Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman had an IQ of 125, while Albert Einstein's IQ was estimated to be around 160. However, both of these physicists were known for their exceptional creativity and problem-solving abilities, rather than just their IQ.

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