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Mathematics has ruined science for me

  1. Sep 23, 2008 #1
    If anyone remembers, I switched from mathematical physics to business as well as some biology (to keep medical sciences open). I was doing well in the former, but it was the career prospects that promted the switch. Now that I'm here, I'm extremely bored...

    Business is very slow and uninteresting. They try to make it scientific and I laugh at their attempt to make it come off as a serious study. In fact, I was laughing through an entire lecture and got kicked out (this was a microeconomics course) - and I wasn't even embarassed.

    Biology is just as bad. All this crap about proteins and cells isn't interesting nor convincing. Mainly because no one shows me where the results are derived. They are just pasted there on a diagram and I have to remember them. The fact that the lecturer tells us many of the results are undergoing change isn't all that appealing either.

    I've done chemistry before so I'm surprised it is somewhat boring too. Its not how I remembered it when I did orgo+analytical back in the day. Its like playing with legos and electrostatics(minus the math). The arguments are extremely hand waving and anything rigorous is often refered to in "more advanced texts".

    I'm thinking its withdrawal syndrome from the rigors of math and physics. So hopefully it will pass. But what if its not... I don't want to miserable. Math keeps popping up in my head. Results from real analysis I'm surprised I remember. Will this pass with time? I really need to know because in a few days I won't be able to change courses.

    (advise to scientists: never enrol in pure math. it will get you accustomed to precision and rigor no science will ever reproduce)
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2008 #2
    I did a year in chemistry and thought it was all a bit ad hoc. Not enough maths in it! I've had some experience of pure maths (real analysis mainly) and find it interesting but realised now I don't have the time to learn it all in such depth. Straight physics, then, turns out to be a good compromise...

    I'm not sure that you're going to get rid of the withdrawals if you continue to take your biology course, not after exposure to something so lovely and rigorous and a priori!

    Course, I would say that, but unless you find some particular discipline which interests you (i'd have settled down in physical chemistry had I not switched courses) it's gonna be tough.
  4. Sep 23, 2008 #3
    Google "Michael Faraday".

    He hated mathematics, yet was an excellent researcher.

    I'm a pure mathematics student. I hate science. When people ask me what kind of engineer I am, I simply laugh and say "I'm not; I'm a mathematician."

    I am curious why you think that career options for a BS in Physics (math, csc, and other major sciences) are not what you want. That might be helpful to know.
  5. Sep 23, 2008 #4
    What does a mathematician do?
  6. Sep 23, 2008 #5


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    In all seriousness, I think you should reconsider a degree in Physics, with a focus on experiment or engineering physics.

    While not as rigorous as pure math,at least that's what my math buddies tell me:rolleyes:, a career in experimental/ engineering physics may be what your looking for. It is still very mathematical science, even in experimental areas. And if you go into the right fields, it has good job prospects.
  7. Sep 24, 2008 #6
    How about Biophysics?
    I seems like it would add more math to your interest of biology.
  8. Sep 24, 2008 #7
    I never said I hated math. I said it ruined science for me because I have become acustomed to pure logic that no other course seems to reproduce. So biophysics and exerimental physics is out of the question, unless there is a career out of it.

    The reason I left physics is because I have become humbled by some of the geniuses that go here, and I stand absolutely no chance in competing with them. The fact that the job market for physical scientists is tight only makes matters worse. Other than that I love math and physics. Its just that everything bores me... so I am wondering if this will fade with time. Or should I look into more mathematical careers instead of business/biology. Math is addictive, and the terse textbooks intended it that way!
  9. Sep 24, 2008 #8
    If you like pure logic, I might recommend philosophy, at least, if you have a trust fund (or your wife does).
  10. Sep 24, 2008 #9
    Yes, Ive enjoyed philosphical courses. Unfortunately, they don't solve the career problems I mentioned :)

    And I'm too young to be married hehe.
  11. Sep 24, 2008 #10


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    All the best science is handwaving. Isn't it nice to understand a result intuitively (unless the mystery is of the quality of Euler or Ramanujan's visionary formulas)? Actually, having an intuitive understanding is necessary for making good approximations, which is the most important thing in science, unless you believe the physics myth that all of chemistry can be derived from quantum mechanics.

    The most important bit of mathematics is statistics. I believe that Student's t-test is every bit, and perhaps even more important than Einstein's General Relativity. The latter is simply a good approximation in some domain, the t-test is about the scientific method itself.
  12. Sep 24, 2008 #11


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    I have news for you this is not 1808. The past 200yrs have changed the face of physics a lot. What you needed then is MUCH different from what you need NOW.
  13. Sep 24, 2008 #12
    Seems like the logical choice if you're not enjoying bio/business and do enjoy math. Don't force yourself into liking something you don't like.
  14. Sep 24, 2008 #13
    At least with math, there are a lot of employers looking to hire mathematicians. Other than college and university faculty, I do not think I have seen a want-ad for a philosopher.
  15. Sep 24, 2008 #14
    Im facing a similar situation in engineering. After 3 semesters of EE, I'm in my last math course (Applied Math 3), and its not pure math that we're studying. Its now I think that I should have gone for Math rather than engineering.

    On the plus side, Im still not sure if I want to go for an MS in EE or an MBA, but if I go for an MBA, the course should seem a lot easier...
  16. Sep 24, 2008 #15
    for pure math? really?
  17. Sep 24, 2008 #16
    There are a significant number of jobs in the private sector where employers are specifically seeking mathematicians, at least compared to employers specifically seeking philosophers, yes. It is kind of like physics or chemistry jobs. They exist in the private sector, although they are not quite as well paid as engineering jobs, which there are a lot more of.

    Mathematicians also have the lowest starting salary compared to engineers and graduates with bachlor's in quantitative science (I believe that Computer Science was the most highly-paid undergradate degree in the sciences).

    If you look here (http://physics.ucsd.edu/students/salaries.shtml [Broken]), the information is somewhat old, but you can see that mathematicians are probably one of the lowest paid people in the private sector based on the difficulty of the degree (at least, in my opinion, I think a math degree is about on par with chemistry, physics, civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering)

    It also shows that you are better off (salary wise) as an engineer than a scientist and that you can make almost as much money with a social science or liberal arts degree as with a math degree.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  18. Sep 24, 2008 #17


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    I always believed that I would be able to understand Physical Chemistry and therefore have a much better insight into Chemistry if I was more proficient at the maths. All of those Eigenfunctions and quantum math - in reference to Schrodinger's book - was beyond me.

    Mathematics defines reality ... science is a part of this reality. Both aren't separate realms as you put it. However as Integral had put it , the science of yesteryear is not the same as the " science " of today.
  19. Sep 24, 2008 #18


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    FWIW, I'm going through a similar experience. I thought it might be a good idea to go into Bioinformatics or Biomathematics, primarily because I thought those would be better careers but still having opportunities to solve interesting mathematical problems.

    So I'm taking General Biology I this semester, and I'm working in a Bioinformatics research lab.

    I absolutely cannot stand the class. In math, you need to remember a relatively few key "facts" (definitions, axioms, whatever), but know them extremely well (know their consequences, theorems, etc). In this class, you need to remember an absolutely insane overwhelming amount of facts, but you don't really know much at all about them. You may not even know anything beyond the words. For instance I now know that a strand of DNA is held together by phosphodiester bonds. But what exactly a phosphodiester bond might be, I have no idea. So have I really learned anything at all? No. I just know the name of something.

    I will probably be withdrawing from the course in the next few days. It's just a distraction from what I really want to do. I hate to let down the prof in the research lab, but this is not for me.
  20. Sep 24, 2008 #19
    Please for the love of God don't drop out of Biology after only taking Gen Bio. Biology is a vast study and unless you can fully appreciate the fact that Gen Bio allows people the sample the various flavors of Biology and is meant to provide a introduction to the logic and understanding that comes with the science, you will be miserable. What I see in Math and Physics is a very generalized knowledge for undergrad, whereas Biology has more specialization in a certain direction.

    As to what a phosphodiester bond is, why is this not covered in your textbook? It's a C-O-P-O-C bond which joins two nucleotides on 5' to 3' parts of the sugar. In most textbooks, this is covered; maybe looking at different materials will pique your interest.
  21. Sep 24, 2008 #20
    If you understand the phosphodiester bond, it will help pinpoint the relationship between amino acids where you can learn to cut the bonds via some special substances, this is what biologists know best. I don't think you can let down the profs, only they do it on you. Someone will take your place in the lab.
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