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Need advice: should I take solid state physics?

  1. May 16, 2013 #1
    Somehow I missed my registration notification for Fall and the E&M and Mathematical Physics classes are full. I am an astrophysics major. I wanted to take nuclear physics, but it will not be offered again until Fall 2014. I will be taking thermodynamics in the fall, but I am wondering if I should take solid state physics. Is solid state physics important in astrophysics? Reading the course description, I can think of many ways in which it can be useful in astrophysics, but I am wondering if it is essential as I will probably have to eliminate taking a math class such as probability and statistics in order to fit it in my schedule.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2013 #2

    mfb

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    To interpret observations, you will certainly need some knowledge of statistics. I am not so sure about solid state physics - many interesting objects in space are not solid, and even if they are their motion is often independent of their internal details.
    On the other hand, I think statistics (at least the tools you need in physics) is easier to learn on your own than solid state physics.
     
  4. May 16, 2013 #3
    There are solid state researchers who spend time studying what things might happen under high pressure/temperature conditions like those in the cores of gas giant planets and such. There are many open questions, like about the existence of a metallic phase of hydrogen under such extreme conditions, etc. It's a fairly interesting field of study. If that's the sort of thing you're interested in, go for it. Otherwise it's probably not going to be very useful, especially at the undergraduate level.
     
  5. May 16, 2013 #4
    This. Courses in statistical mechanics will prove more useful for the astrophysicist, for example my first stat mech course covered some of the physics in white dwarfs. What I covered in my SS course was largely applications of stat mech, EM and QM but not at a particularly high level.

    I found my SS physics course really boring, in fact it's the only course in my entire curriculum that I ever really felt was a chore more often than not, so I am a little biased. The theory behind electron transport in semiconductors, the anomalous specific heat for solids at low temperature as an indicator of the existence of quanta, and the intro to superconductivity were interesting topics in their own right.

    Probably not immediately useful for astrophysics, but it is a mandatory subject in every physics undergrad program I've seen, so there might be a good reason for that. Also, the Physics GRE always has 2-4 elementary questions on the subject (typically stuff from the first 3 chapters of Kittel's book).

    I think you will get more out of a probability and statistics course if you don't already know a lot about this subject.
     
  6. May 16, 2013 #5
    Thanks so much mfb, daveyrocket, and lavabug.

    At my school thermodynamics and statistical mechanics are combined into one course. Solid state physics is not required, but it is one of the three classes we have to choose from for major electives. I would like to choose nuclear physics.

    Thanks again for the advice. I will keep probability and statistics and do nuclear physics next fall.
     
  7. May 16, 2013 #6
    If you had stat mech was combined with thermo, consider taking a more advanced statmech course later down the line if you can, as it is immensely important in astrophysics, as well as many other areas.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2013
  8. May 16, 2013 #7

    WannabeNewton

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    I'm pretty sure a full on stat mech course (not the University physics level course that combines thermo and stat mech) is required in order to complete a bachelors in the US. At least, every university I have come across requires it.
     
  9. May 16, 2013 #8
    Any chance you go to USC Columbia?
     
  10. May 16, 2013 #9
    Will do. Thanks Lavabug.
    Statistical mechanics and thermodynamics were recently consolidated at my school (fall of 2012) and there is no full on course in stat mech.
    Nope:wink: I'm in Florida.
     
  11. May 16, 2013 #10

    WannabeNewton

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    Interesting. Is it a year long course or something (like a two semester sequence)? At my university, it looks like the upper division stat mech course is a one semester course that is also combined with thermodynamics interestingly: http://cohengroup.ccmr.cornell.edu/courses/phys341/phys341.htm
     
  12. May 16, 2013 #11
    No, it's only one semester. The only year long class we have in the physics curriculum is astrophysics--divided into stellar and galactic. I just completed stellar. The course description at my school closely matches yours. I wonder if we use the same book :] It's also upper division at my school but I believe it is 4000 level.
     
  13. May 17, 2013 #12

    WannabeNewton

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    If we do use the same book, you do know that we have no choice but to be study buddies right? It's either that or take interpretative dance instead :P

    Just out of curiosity, how mathematical is the probability and statistics course you were going to take? Does it for example deal with measure spaces and integration theory?
     
  14. May 17, 2013 #13
    Well judging by the professor's nerdy countenance--it should be involved. Let me pull up the description.
     
  15. May 17, 2013 #14
    it has topics relating to measure and integration theory...example given as the central limit theorem. I have no idea what this is right now :/
     
  16. May 17, 2013 #15

    WannabeNewton

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    Why not take the course then? It sounds like it will be a lot of fun and of measurable utility (no pun intended xP).
     
  17. May 17, 2013 #16

    jhae2.718

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    If it sounds fun, take it. That's half the point. ;)
     
  18. May 17, 2013 #17
    omg u guys -_-
    I've been trying to ditch this class for a few semesters now :biggrin: Seriously I have always wanted to take it but I was wondering if there are more physics related classes I should take and study this on my own as many people say prob and stats is easy to self study. I can't get access to the book for my thermodynamics class yet wbn...but I am too far below your level to be a study buddy
     
  19. May 17, 2013 #18

    micromass

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    Don't worry, he'll spend the entire study time by cracking corny jokes.
     
  20. May 17, 2013 #19

    WannabeNewton

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    Noooo, now we'll never get to muse about the similarities between regular thermodynamics and black hole thermodynamics (you know...since you're into that astrophysics stuff :wink:)
    You spelled "too far above" wrong :smile:
     
  21. May 17, 2013 #20

    CAF123

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    At my university, we have the option of taking a larger two semester course on thermodynamics and statistical mechanics or a one semester course on Statistical mechanics. They split it up like that so as to give the Math Phys students some choice (ie they don't have to do the thermodynamics part). I am still undecided on what I will do.
     
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