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  1. Feb 3, 2016 #1
    Shall I cut to the chase? Definitely. Alright. I'm in need of assistance. I wish to become a physicist. Sure, in the past few years, I've switched career options left and right, as any fifteen year-old surely must experience, but I'm pretty sure this is the one. Ever since I discovered the gravitational lensing effect of black holes (I realize any massive object bends light, but I saw it on black holes specifically) about two years ago, I have been absolutely fascinated by the world of physics. So much so that I now regret not delving into it sooner!

    I am in ninth grade. In my country, the system works a bit differently. Here, you have nine years of primary school, after which you apply for a high school (four year education). You can only get in if you pass a specific exam. A very tough exam. Mathematics and grammar (Czech grammar is horrible), probably not my best subjects...

    So! I've been going through some trouble lately. Physics and chemistry are likely my favorite subjects (and mathematics, once I force the formula down my throat), and I don't have much trouble with them (though memorizing the representative letters of different physical... What's the word, entities? No. Forces? No. Y'know, temperature, time, current, etc.. Yes, remembering those was difficult). Still, I find my knowledge and intellect quite lacking. My chances of succeeding in these exams, and making it through high school are apparently quite grim, according to my 'expert' school counselor. It has been bugging me for quite some time. Lately, it's made me so depressed, I even thought of shooting myself every single day, but that's beside the point.

    What else? Well, I tried understanding relativity and quantum theory... I sort of succeeded with relativity, but failed miserably with quantum theory. I can understand the premise of relativity. Space shrinks and time dilates to compensate for velocity difference between a moving object and the speed of light, so that the speed of light remains the same no matter how fast you're moving? That's basically how I understand it, but I don't get the mathematics. I just don't know what a vector is, and all the other stuff just confuses me beyond any reasonable measure.

    Quantum theory! Well, I read Marcus Chown's book three times over, never really got it. I understood it all up until wave function, interference and the principle of uncertainty, all of which I simply cannot imagine in my head. Yeah, quantum theory isn't my thing... I'll stick to black holes, thank you. Don't even get me started on String Theory, just gave me a headache immediately.

    Well, to the question, I guess... What were you like? The physicists or physics students amongst you? Were you this afraid? Tempted to take your own life at times? I just want to know whether or not I have a chance, or if I should become a carpenter or something instead. Sorry if I seem to be ranting, I really am not, all this information is crucial in order to understand my concern.

    Sorry for the bother,

    Greek Letter (Lambda)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2016 #2
    What is your question? You are afraid of studying physics? Why? Because you don't understand it already?

    Everyone should have a fascination for physics, for nature, for the world around us. Doesn't mean we should all be physicists. Being fascinated by black holes isn't enough, as you will soon find out.

    The only way to find out if you can succeed at studying physics is to try it. And be critical of your experience.
    The only way to find out if you want a job in physics (which is completely different from studying) is to try internships and see if you like it.

    You are 15 years old and worried you have already made too many career switches? Most likely you will only figure out what you really want to do with your life when you are about 25. In the mean time it is important that you learn useful stuff and to be sure you get enough experience to truly learn what you want from life and avoid both regrets and a mid-life crisis.

    Also, don't take all this with too much pressure. If this is already stressful and not fun to you, it won't get better, whatever you decide to do in life.
  4. Feb 3, 2016 #3
    Forgive me for the misunderstanding. It isn't just a fascination with black holes. This is a passion for the universe. This is the need to uncover its mysteries! Honestly, it's one of the only things which satisfies me anymore (quite sad, I know), the vision of being able to work alongside others who share this love for nature. I found my love for physics, and I can't seem to get enough, but unfortunately, I've hit a brick wall, so now I can't really be satisfied anymore.

    Worst of all, I'm not good at anything. I'm physically useless, and only somewhat useful in physics (not really a pun). I'm pretty much useless all around. That's why I want to use the only thing I have (my passion for nature) and actually do something. However, I fear that my intellect is far too lacking for any such great task. I'm probably better off joining the military as an infantryman, but still!

    My question was if any physicists on here shared these feelings, concerns or doubts when they were in my position. It could offer me some comfort.
  5. Feb 3, 2016 #4
    Few people are in 9th grade.

    Have you seen Stephen Hawking?
  6. Feb 3, 2016 #5


    Staff: Mentor

  7. Feb 3, 2016 #6
    Taken out of context, my quote seems utterly horrible and offensive, but that's not at all how I meant it. I am physically useless, and that's why I want to be intellectually useful. If I'm neither, what am I?
  8. Feb 3, 2016 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you are evenly remotely serious about taking your life, don't look for an answers on an Internet forum. Find a trusted adult (doctor, teacher, priest, family member, ...) and confide in them. Suicidal depression is not a weakness or a character flaw, it is a real physical disease with real physical causes just like cancer or pneumonia so it can be treated. That feeling of being useless is a symptom just as much as pain in the lower right abdomen is a symptom of acute appendicitis. You wouldn't ignore that pain, or say "well, it's just the way life is".... so don't do that with suicidal thoughts either.
  9. Feb 3, 2016 #8
    I can see you're in a bit of an existential panic. First of all this is fairly normal. We all go through them at points in life. But you need to stay calm and get perspective. You are very young. My life didn't start to click until I was in college. There are no blueprints for a happy life. Maybe in 5 years you decide physics is not for you and instead become a something totally different when finding a passion you never knew you had. My point is that things change and usually don't work out just as you planned. Don't stress it too much. Live life and see where it takes you. It's a journey you know.
  10. Feb 3, 2016 #9
    Well, if you stop humiliated yourself and go after learning what you want to learn, you won't be in this 'existencial crisis', i'm 16 years-old and i'm a teenager too, and i understand(in part) what's your feeling about thinking that you is horrible in everything, this not the truth!, everyone is good at something, if you want to learn physics, just go after it, read a TEXTbook about what you want to learn, if you fell that you can't get the mathematics behind the concept, ask here in the forum and i'm sure that someone will recommend or even guide you, just try to believe in yourself ;)

    So, if you really want to learn physics you should start learning the mathematics behind it, what math are you confortable? trigonometry? analytic geometry? calculus? explain to us.
  11. Feb 3, 2016 #10
    btw, I am thin as rails physically and I scored a rubbish 20 on the ACT. Now I help run the best science community on the planet, own a red brick house and have an amazing wife. Doesn't sound so bad does it?
  12. Feb 3, 2016 #11
    Thank you. But there's the problem. I'll likely never see college. Hell, I'll likely never get through high school! I'm afraid that I'll be prevented from studying what I love by some trivialities like when to write a 'y' or 'i' and the various rules of world congress.

    In any case, I feel obligated to apologize for my dramatic entry. These weeks have been some of the worst so far. I don't think I've got what it takes. I've been looking around, and I believe a job in the armor division would suit me quite well. Requires little to no physical fitness, hazardous, risky, loud, and most of all, no examinations!

    I apologize again. Physics rule.

    Edit: Analytic geometry? Calculus? Trigonometry? I have no clue what those are. As far as I know, I'm an expert in linear equations and linear functions, currently mastered the art of equations with two unknown... Things... Analytic geometry seems somewhat familiar, but still sounds scary and unknown to me. I'm downright retarded when it comes to mathematics, even though I aced it.
  13. Feb 3, 2016 #12
    Why would trivialities prevent you from graduating HS? You seem bright enough just from these writings.

    The Army has lots of great opportunities
  14. Feb 3, 2016 #13
    Indeed it does! Even if I only had a Bachelor's degree (unlikely at best in my case), I would immediately be a Specialist. Doesn't pay well, but at least I'd do something! I might even be good at it, I might even like it. I doubt it though.

    I wouldn't graduate high school because I wouldn't even get in. To get in, I need to pass very difficult math and grammar exams. These things are awful. They are the worst exams I've seen in my life. 136 people applied last year, only 60 are accepted. All the others are left to rot. Makes me wish I was born elsewhere. Maybe I'd have a greater chance.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I think I will close my mind for now, wrap myself in a protective bubble, and think. I just need to think. Thinking is calming. I might even make an excuse to myself. If I pass my exams, and get another four years of hope, I will report back to the site, and perhaps get to know it better. But honestly, I'd rather not make any friends prematurely. I'm deep into the woods...
  15. Feb 3, 2016 #14
    What country do you live in? Sounds like you're trying to get into an exclusive private school?
  16. Feb 3, 2016 #15
    Oh no, it's a state school. Every school is like this here. I'm in the Czech republic. Central Europe. They passed the law last year. Mandatory examinations for all potential new students. Therefore half of us have bright futures, and the other half is stranded. Our great minister of education decided to pass this law, to stress out students and increase the yearly number of student suicides. We all love him very much for potentially ruining our lives, driving us towards taking them.

    Oh well, such is life! Not everyone can be a physicist! I set a goal way too great for myself. I loved the vision so much, I actually started believing it. How naive of me.

    The world needs carpenters, friend! The world needs carpenters! Let the power of Proletarian sheep drive the world, since the world needs carpenters!

    For socialism! For carpenters! For Stalin's mustache! For the Bolshevik Party! For the sickle! For the hammer! For the star! For the red! For the blood!

    The world needs carpenters... I shall fulfill this need, and become an armor devision wooden tank carpenter for the Soviet Army of Independent Proletarians and Socialists! Za Stalina!

    Sorry. I shall leave now.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2016
  17. Feb 3, 2016 #16
    Well, it seems to me you already gave up before the fight began. Sure, you won't be a physicist that way.

    You know, as a physicist or a mathematician, you need to survive so many big challenges and tests. Getting through high school is just one of them. Getting a bachelor/master/PhD degree is another one. Actually struggling to understand the material is another one. Guess who ends up being a physicist at the end? The one who was bright from the very beginning? Nooooo. Being born smart helps quite a lot, but it's not the most important quality. Hard work and self-confidence is a lot more important. If you give up now, you won't be a physicst. If you start fighting to pass the exam, you might accomplish your dream.
  18. Feb 3, 2016 #17


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    Staff: Mentor

    There was a mix-up here, there were no replies visible when I moved this thread. I have advised the OP to start a more focused thread about his academic interests in the Academic forum.
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