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Is it possible to double major in Astro & Quantum Physics?

  1. Aug 6, 2010 #1
    I want to double major in AstroPhysics and Quantum Mechanics. But considering the two work on different scales (Sizes of matter- One Celestial, the other, Sub Atomic), is it an unrealistic goal? The two fields are at odds at the moment, so I'm starting to have doubts as to whether or not it's a plausible idea.
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  3. Aug 6, 2010 #2
    Are you in high school? If not, what level are you at?

    At undergraduate level, quantum mechanics will be no more than a couple of courses - you can't 'major' in quantum mechanics. You major in physics. It isn't possible to understand any quantum mechanics without first taking lots of other courses.

    I also feel the same about 'astrophysics' - for me the way the term is used nowadays is a bit of a misnomer. The way I have always dealt with the field is having things like orbital dynamics as 'astrophysics' and things like 'stellar' or, say, 'galactic physics' as astronomy but not astrophysics. Astrophysics is a sub-section of astronomy. Astronomy would be the major. Though distinguishing between the two doesn't really matter.

    It is possible to double major in physics and astronomy.

    Also the 'sizes of matter' thing doesn't really work like you seem to think it does. Quantum mechanics has plenty of uses in astronomy.

    What do you mean 'the two fields are at odds at the moment'? I also would avoid thinking of quantum mechanics as a 'field' - it has been studied, and is now a very old theory.
  4. Aug 6, 2010 #3
    You didn't think I meant majoring in Astrophysics and QM literally, did you? I know they're sub-divisions. But, Astrophysics (So far as I know) mainly deals with GR. And GR & QM are at odds. Hence the main need for M Theory to work. So, I didn't know if it would be an...... "Intelligent" decision to dabble in both ends of the physics spectrum, simultaneously considering GR and QM disagree so strongly (In certain situations). QM is a field. Old or not, it's still considered a field of science. I meant double major in Astronomy and Physics with the sub-divisions of Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics.

    And yes, I still am in High School. I'm 18, and a senior.
  5. Aug 6, 2010 #4
    Well it doesn't really matter what you want to say you're studying.. for astrophysics you need a physics degree, for particle physics (quantum level) you need a physics degree. Point is, it doesn't really matter much since you don't specialize in undergraduate.
  6. Aug 6, 2010 #5
    At an undergraduate level they are essentially the same. Astronomy and Physics have essentially the same degree requirements minus the few (2-3) classes that don't overlap. So yes you can do it.

    Also you would not really be focusing on QM and Astrophysics since at the undergraduate level they are all introductory courses. However you could always supplement the regular coursework with research of graduate level classes (I'd recommend research) once you've gotten down the basics.

    Your time in college is what you make it.
  7. Aug 6, 2010 #6


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    It's quite common to simulataneously take classes that study the world at different scales. For example I took in the mechanics of planetary motion at the same time as statistical mechanics (where you learn to derive thermodynamics equations by treating atoms as if they are "billiard balls").

    The material in each class is different of course, but I wouldn't say they are 'at odds', they're just different scales. It won't make your head explode, I promise :smile:.
  8. Aug 6, 2010 #7
    Well, that's what you said - more than once. I don't see why I should make assumptions about what you're asking. I would try not to be so arrogant in your tone: you are the student here, remember and you're the one asking for advice. I am not obligated to share my experience and expertise with you.

    This is too much of a popular science look at things. The 'conflict' doesn't come up as much as you might think - though there are quite a few areas where it would certainly be helpful to have a 'theory of everything' the science and data are so complicated that it isn't always the limiting factor.

    If you can take both classes, go for it. GR was one of the best classes I ever took, I loved it.

    It's a theory. It's as much of a field as 'F=ma' is. In the way I had mentioned 'not a field' in my previous post I was more referring to the fact that QM doesn't exist as a research entity any more.

    At undergraduate, you don't have to worry about anything like this - nor will you get the chance to. Just take whatever courses interest you and, as I like to advise, take plenty of math courses. If, at the end of your degree, you turn out to be interested in something like string theory, then you will have the option (well, as much as anyone else does - these fields are very small just now, and there's no sign of any productive output on the horizon). For the most part, the undergrad curriculum is spelled out - you will need to cover mechanics, electromagnetism, solid state, optics, thermodynamics, etc etc. No good undergrad program will have any sort of specialisation. 'physics' is specialised enough a topic at this stage.

    Finally, in undergraduate degrees, QM features regularly - every curriculum will have some QM component. The same can't be said for GR - it's mainly a graduate level course, for a few different reasons. You won't miss out if you don't manage to take GR at undergraduate - you'll always have the option later. This is why I recommend keeping your math as solid as possible - it will always make the physics easier.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  9. Aug 6, 2010 #8
    Well, astrophysics doesn't necessarily deal with GR. For example, I do research in particle astrophysics, and I never have really had to deal with GR. Obviously I use particle physics a lot, which is based in quantum mechanics. I know one guy who does stellar astrophysics who was studying an object that exhibited microlensing. But he didn't actually have to think too much about the general relativity. If you want to do GR, I think you've got to go into cosmology or something.

    Actually, cosmology is really the only field I can think of which merges QM and GR. So that's one way you could do astrophysics and QM at the same time. Though for some reason people who do PhDs in cosmology always get their PhD in physics rather than astronomy or astrophysics (granted, I'm getting my PhD in physics too...).
  10. Aug 6, 2010 #9
    Firstly I would like to convey to you that current research in Quantum Mechanics: Quantum Field Theory, Gauge Theory, Quantum Information, Quantum Gravity (LQG and Superstring Theory/M-Theory) essentially all require a basic understanding or university study in General Relativity (with the exception of Quantum Information). With that fact established it is almost inevitable that you'll learn Special Relativity/General Relativity if you study Quantum Mechanics. Astrophysics also incorporates particle physics (neutrino oscillations, cosmic ray bursts, Black Holes) and General Relativity.
  11. Aug 9, 2010 #10
    Plus atomic physics (Bose-Einstein condensate etc.), condensed matter physics (semiconductors, superconductors etc.), and (low energy) nuclear physics.
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