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Math Math or physics: which of that shoul I pursue?

  1. Dec 10, 2008 #1

    I am a high school student that will enter the university in a year. I am really worried with the choice I have to do.

    I am very interested in math and doing proofs, especially in geometry. But I only like those proofs that seem "natural". This doesn't mean simple proofs, just those that don't require a magic substitution/construction/lemma that comes from nowhere and magically does the proof. I don't like number theory, I see a bunch of difficult theorems that don't say any interesting (for me, it's only my opinion). It's totally different with geometry, or even combinactorics. Seeing how a function works also is fine (I loved the parts of Spivak's Calculus that I've read).

    On the other side I am also very interested in physics. I love to see how the concepts are built up, and the equations emerging naturally. I like mechanics very much, and also thermodynamics, the balance of energy, etc. I like astronomy, with some restrictions. Don't like observation or data analysis (I had some contact with data analysis in the astronomy olympiads and found it BORING). I like celestial mechanics, how one can derive from one simple equation a bunch of laws that describe the orbits.

    So I simply don't know what I do. I am always oscillating between the math and the physics. During some weeks I study math and lack interest in physics but after those weeks I begin to like physics again and find pure math too abstract. While I like math and physics very much, I don't think I have a truly passion for them, to spend all my free time studying and thinking. I have other interests as well, like politics, philosophy, music, books, games, all that stuff.

    And I feel very fear if I can do well on research. As I am in high school I've never worked on any research project, and I do pretty bad in math olympiads. How do I do to know if I am suited for research or not?

    Hope tou can help guide me!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2008 #2


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    obafgkm, your description seems consistant with a strong interest in Physics. Just realize that there is a difference between studying Mathematics as a subject and using Mathematics as a tool. You are too underdeveloped and still immature to know for sure what you will study for a major field; you will have clearer decisions about that in one or two years through your college education. Much of mathematical proving is not so natural as you like to find it and your feeling about this may change. A good possible beginning choice is to start college as both Mathematics and Physics major student. Also realize that other fields rely on Mathematics & Physics: Engineering(gigantic diverse "field"), Chemistry, Geology.

    Your fear of research is premature. Searching for and studying background information(journal articles, other publications) is probably the most frustrating part. Some part in your studies, you will likely be asked to perform one or more independant projects from a selection each of which is expected to be 3 to 4 weeks in length. Such assignments are meant as intermediary steps at gaining a sense of conducting research. Just do not worry now about how you will deal with research. The time is too early.
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