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Leaving physics

  1. Feb 7, 2006 #1
    I don't know if this should be posted here, and I doubt if anyone can actually write anything genuinely illuminating, but I'll post it anyway, as self-treatment at least. To me it is a career question, and a very fundamental one too.

    Most of you probably don't have these kind of problems, as usually there's at least some correlation between how skilled/able one is and how much he/she enjoys the topic.
    But not for me. While I don't suck at physics, I am not too good either. In particular I have problems with mathematics (both as a physicist's tool and as a science of its own). And I have never really grasped things like electric circuits or certain topics in mechanics. I can usually, but not always, solve the exercises we're given, but this feels like a mechanical procedure, and I too often feel I don't have that real insight I'd wanted to have. I feel uncertain, constantly thinking whether I've got it right or wrong. And I never feel my solution is correct unless I get to see the right result. My uncertainty is probably just an offshoot from the fact that I don't really understand many things in physics, so that it is justified or rational uncertainty.

    I am no more than an undergraduate at the moment. As long as I have understood anything about real physics, I have wanted to be a physicist.

    And while I don't have what it takes, physics is the target of all my affection :!!)

    But no matter how much I daydream, my brain cortex won't double. Now matter how much a person with a wooden leg exercises, he will never win gold in hurdles in Olympics. Now matter how much a blind person studies, he can never become a surgeon (hopefully?). That is not to say that there's as much hurdles gold metalists as there are physicists, but to say that to want something badly just may not be enough.

    So, is there anyone else like me on the forum, or do you know anyone? What to do? What have you done? Continuing physics as a hobby? I don't think so. I'd never get over the fact that I'm an amateur, so it would probably be better to leave physics completely.

    Well. I think I have already answered myself, but I'd gladly hear, if there are other with similar but possibly milder feelings about physics. And I don't expect for you to write anything unrealistically encouraging. I know not everybody get what they want.

    Thanks for your comments (and flames, too) in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 7, 2006 #2
    I often share your frustration.
    Many times during classes and course and even at exam time feel that I dont have a solid clue what Im doing. I have many times learned how to solve problems without knowing exactly what Im doing and I still get good grades. But its not satisfying like you say.

    But I have noticed one thing, after some time it falls into place. I can suddenly one day think back at that mechanics problem and realise "ohh THATS why it worked". At other times I realise that I have to take the more advanced course to know why the methodes used in the earlier ones worked.

    I talked some with my favorite professor about this and he told me not to worry that I dont understand everything. He said its quite impossible to realy understand everything.
    Undergrad education is just to get a feel for everything there is imo, not to understand all there is to understand.
    Therre is no need to understand everything. The real understanding comes in when you become a grad student or start working with the knoweledge you gained.

    I also have troubble with the maths classes. But even though I passed the classes I took the time afterwards to go through it more strictly and that helped ALOT!!

    Often I also find myself searching for understanding that just do not exist. Sometimes I have to remind myself of what Feynman said "shut up and calculate". Many times the mathematical relationships cant be expressed in words and the understanding IS knowing the calculations.

    Remeber this is hundrads of years of knoweledge, much of it very weird. that we try to cram into our heads in 4-5 short years often under alot of pressure. Dont be to harsh on yourself.
  4. Feb 7, 2006 #3


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    This makes me feel so much better.

    I agree with the idea that you don't need to understand everything at first.

    Totally normal, but makes me feel better for not being alone.
  5. Feb 7, 2006 #4
    My thoughts exactly.
  6. Feb 9, 2006 #5
    yea thats interesting i AGREE AS WELL
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