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Is it possible to learn physics by myself?

  1. Aug 7, 2013 #1
    I'm a Japanese student in correspondence course in a university.
    I'm a philosophy of science major. I want to leran physics , but ,in my faculty, there are few science course and I can't learn physics enough. So, I want to learn physics by myself. Then I have a first question, is it possible to learn physics by myself? I want to study physics from basic level to advanced level and finally be able to deal with theoretical physics especially dealing with space, time, universe system. I really want to do so. But, there is any help in Japan.So, second question, which books are recommended well to learning physics from early level?
    To study physics is my strong desire and passion. please, help me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2013 #2
    It depends on what you mean by "deal with theoretical physics".

    If you mean can you study on your own enough to read research papers and generally understand what is going on in the field, I believe the answer is "yes".

    If you mean can you study on your own enough to do publishable research and work in the field, I believe the answer is "no".

    As for what books, I'd suggest Serway or Halliday and Resnick and then work through Griffiths' books on quantum mechanics and electrodynamics as a start. DO THE PROBLEMS! :smile:
  4. Aug 7, 2013 #3
    Like TMFKAN64 said, I think it depends on what the end goal is. But I think if you work hard and ask questions here on PF, you can learn a lot of physics.

    You can't go wrong with the Halliday and Resnick books for introductory physics.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2013
  5. Aug 7, 2013 #4
    thank you for advising me. then, there are next questions

    Thank you for advising me. Then, I have another questions. In my situation, I have a mental illness and autistic-spectrum. So I can't move from correspondence course. But, I want to study physics and then I think I'll deal with it in my graduation thesis. "Physics " I mentioned in a former sentence means early level physics ,not advanced level. I know it difficult to study top level physics in undergraduate. I see it difficult to study enough to do publish research and work in the field. But, my desire is just that. I think that I'll study physics as possible in my present situation, then after graduate my university I want to enroll physics faculty and study it there.
    A professor said to me " it's just like a dream which is imposible", and "this process is useless".
    Do you think is it true? I can't move from this situation, so for me, there is no way which is different from this process. Do you think philosophy of science have nothing to do with physics?
    Do you think my dream is impossible? I have strong desire and I am ready to study hard even I have illness and disorder. How do you think about my idea?
  6. Aug 7, 2013 #5
    No dream is impossible....some just take more work than others. This one though is almost too hard...but possible. The only advice I can give is don't have a goal like publishing papers, you can go do that when the time comes, for now however just have fun.Physics is fun; a lot of fun. As far as the books are concerned I used Halliday Resnick Walker---it is a good book and I would prefer the extended edition as it has a few chapters on basics of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
    Serway Jewett is a good book too though. And of course I would also recommend the Feynman lectures after you've gone through Halliday. But I don't know about Griffith-it certainly is a great book but I would prefer Shankar for a more wholesome approach...[But what do I know? I bought them just last week...] the main thing that worries me about your case is the language barrier--all I can say is that use PF as much as possible. I know Micromass suggested a few books for math and you should probably start with them to get the hang of calculus used in Halliday.
    I wish you strength,
    Edit: there is a website called khan academy which you may feel useful
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2013
  7. Aug 7, 2013 #6


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    Based on what I've read so far and my understanding of your situation and your eventual goal, I will give you my honest opinion: it is NOT possible.

  8. Aug 8, 2013 #7
    however it is hard or impossible, my desire Don't change

    Thank you for advising me. However it is hard or impossible , I will try it. Who can know it's really impossible? It is true that my academic skill is poor. But, I'll train hard. No one can know the future even theirselves. I've had a mental illness since I was a high school student. I couldn't study enough. Now I'm also fighting against this illness. But I'll never give up. I think to try something for my goal is better than don't do anything. If I don't do anything, yes it is impossible ,but do something some hope will appear even it will tiny. I hope you would advise me how to study physics and mathematics. Thank you.
  9. Aug 8, 2013 #8
    Thank you for advising me. I know it really hard to achieve my goal. But, I'll try to study. To tell the truth I have no job, one reason is now I'm a student another is I have a mental illness and autistic-spectrum. My autistic-spectrum is proved recent year, but to know my real feature, my life has changed. I could find why I can't do things like other people and I relieaved. I have some test to examine my autistic-spectrum, then it was proved , but also something was founded. My brain has some feature. Some part has really poor function,other has exceed ordinary standard. So, my brain is really mysterious. I can't controll this. But, I can feel there is something in my brain. I know it will be long way to learn physics, but something will happen I feel. I don't have any idea about any job. In my brain there is only about studying, there is no idea like job,money,events around me except about science. And I have some switch that move me extraordinary. When this switch get to be on , I work really hard and I can't control that. I don't sleep some day well. On the other hand, I can't understand feelings of other person. I have lack of some communication skills though I can write. When you read my message, would you feel something happen to me really? I hope this " something" will be a good thing.Thank you.
  10. Feb 6, 2014 #9
    I started to learn physics

    I'm really want to be a theoretical physicist. But, I am a student of correspondence course of Keio university in Japan and I am a philosophy of sciense major now. I have autistic-spectrum and it caused me a mental illness. So, I can't move other university so far or for a long time.
    But, I'm curious about physics, universe, time,and space. I really want to study them. I am decided to study by myself as much as I can. And I want to study at U.K. in the future. So, I need advise for texbook of Britsh exam like A level. But, I think it is better to start GCES level. Do you know how to prepare for these exam? And is it possible to be a theoretical physicist bymyself? Then how to study each subject? Would you give me some advice?
  11. Feb 6, 2014 #10
    As you like correspondence courses & the UK, why not take courses with the British "Open University"?


    You might be able to count the courses you have already done at Keio as part of a BSc degree, which you can complete with the Open University. You can start at a level "somewhere between" GCSE and A level, and build up to courses that will be a foundation for doing a PhD in theoretical physics.
  12. Feb 6, 2014 #11
    thank you for advice

    Thank you for advice. I saw The open university web site. But, I couldn't understand it system. Does this university give me degree after getting all credits? To study from GCES level what kind of book shoul I use? Please give me some advice.
  13. Feb 6, 2014 #12
    Yes, the Open University leads to a degree. The earliest starting course for you would be S104 Exploring Science. You can see if you are ready for this by taking this test:


    If you can do this test you don't need to do a GCSE.

    This might also be of interest:


    If you want to be a theoretical physicist you need to be doing physics courses, together with the advanced mathematics associated with those courses. No serious physicist would accept you to do a graduation thesis in theoretical physics without passing such courses.

    So if you are *really* serious about being a theoretical physicist, you will start doing physics courses, and drop the philosophy. If there are not enough physics courses at your current university then you need to find another university.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014
  14. Feb 6, 2014 #13
    Thank you for nice advice

    Thank you for helpful advice. I looked at the open university web site. I am poor at seeing web site because my autistic-spectrum feature can't deals with alot of informatuon. So when I see web site I am always confused and sometimes my brain crashes. So, I need simple infprmation. After searching this web site, I found it might not be able to take physics course from Japan. I send a e-mail to this university for some question so far. But, if really I can't learn physics at this universuty ,I am so disappointed.Then how should I do? People who doesn't have enough money and have disorder mental ilness like me can't learn physics? It is unfair! I have strong passion to be atheoretical physicist. No one can be over my passion. I am serious. But, no one advice simply and kindly.( you answered kindly) How should I do? Is it possible to learn by myself? But no one gude me maybe in such situation. Please help me. Please undestand how I want to study physics an want to know the way to learn. I really need help. Yes, if I really want to be a physicist, I have to drop out philosophy,I understand that. But, I can't move now. Because of my family's no understanding me. And my condition. But, I shall drop out present university, the time comes. How should I do then? Is there any good idea? Please help me.
  15. Feb 6, 2014 #14
    It takes a very, very, very special person to self study a subject like physics and have what could be considered a successful career. Whether you are one of these rare people I do not know, but the odds are against it. Study it because you enjoy it and see if it bears fruit.
  16. Feb 6, 2014 #15


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    Look at saylor.org. They cannot yet confer a degree, but it's a good structured program for learning. They do not yet have a physics program, but you can start with their math program and an individual physics course or two. This will give you a good idea as to whether you are prepared and whether you still like the field as it gets to be more work. Some useful links:
    saylor.org FAQ
    Introduction to Mechanics
    Open Source Physics textbook (sizable download!)
    University Mathematics courses

    If I were you I wouldn't worry too much about getting a degree at this point. Aim for "I'm doing physics at a university level so now how do I get credit for it?" That's a big enough challenge and it will be a fine problem to have and solve at a later time.
  17. Feb 6, 2014 #16
    Thank you very much for advice and kind words

    Thank you for advice and kind word. I looked at each links. There are really attractive. Especially, online book is amazing. Thank you very much. About the open university, it will cost me so much money. I can't pay that. The last way , I think is ,to study by myself. And I am considering study abroad like U.K. Because Japanese university cost me too much money and has few scholarship. And they don't support autistic-spectrum. If I spend money, it is better to study abroad. But, this is the future thing. I must prepare for that. I need to study physics and mathematics in English at first. My aim is to study for from GCES to A or AS level. But, I don't know good books for that. Would you have recommended books? Please tell me. But about my present university, how should I do? Shold I give up? My family absolutely deny it. But, I really want to be a theoretical physicist. I' ll try by myself so far. And research how to study it well. Please tell me recommended books. I'll be grateful if you advise me. please.
  18. Feb 6, 2014 #17


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    You learned Japanese by yourself, why not physics? Fear is the motivation in classrooms. Fear of competing poorly, fear of a bad grade, etc. With a good text book, motivation. and discipline, you can succeed without the fear whip. Once you can solve all the review problems in the book without 'cheating', it safe to say you have mastered the material. The problem is competing interests. If you try to do this while taking formal classes, or having a life, expect it to take longer; not that it is unachievable. Here is a book recommended by Chris Hillman that I second - Ray A. d'Inverno, Introducing Einstein's Relativity
  19. Feb 6, 2014 #18
    Thank you for recommending book

    Thank you for advice. But, I want to know more basic books like which is use as textbook or reference books at school in U.K. Would you advise me more about books? I need to study physics and mathematics from very early step. Please help me.
  20. Feb 7, 2014 #19


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    Allow me to recommend another book - Paul A. Dirac, General Theory of Relativity. It requires a bit of advanced math to comprehend.
  21. Feb 7, 2014 #20


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    I suggest you look around at The Student Room. Giving advice about such things is what that web site is all about.
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