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Need Help Deciding: From xrays to quarks or the unconscious quantum

  1. Nov 8, 2012 #1
    Need Help Deciding: "From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum"

    so I never would have expected myself to wind up here for most of my existence, but I recently had an epiphany on my life. I held out for awhile to see if it was just a fad my brain had gone into, but i become more and more intrigued and interested in it day by day, im even dreaming about it.

    I want to do astro/particle physics. I spent the greater part of today in the library picking up (and blowing the dust off of) biographies of Einstein, carl sagan, etc. Flipped through and it wasnt really cutting it for me, im not so much interested on the full spectrum of their lives and other issues, im interested in the physics and mathematics themselves. But i know it is so complicated that I need to construct an timeline and evolution of primarily physics in my head.

    I found a bunch of quantum physics type books, and managed to grab these 2.

    ("From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum")

    Just wonder what you would recommend to someone who is just getting into it. I dont have a large physics background at all, and slight calculus. But this is only out of disinterest in the past. I generally tend to comprehend pretty fast and can look out of the box quiet well. Math just seems to work in my head.

    Also how would you break it down from start to beginning say, college course wise. Im finishing up a business degree but I find business to be pretty easy aswell, and would love to start working on basic stuff I can just teach myself with some textbooks. This would not all go to waste either as I do want a 2nd degree in the content.

    Thank you so much :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2012 #2
    Re: Need Help Deciding: "From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum"

    To clarify, you're planning on actually working towards a physics or astro degree after you get your business degree?
  4. Nov 8, 2012 #3
    Re: Need Help Deciding: "From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum"

    With regard to the two books you mentioned, they could both be characterized as entertainment. "From X-Rays to Quarks" looks like a short history of the development of modern physics. I'm sure it would be a good read, but would probably be best used as an interesting supplement when learning the real physics. Although I haven't read "Unconscious Quantum," it's probably even less academic than the first book. Stenger is a well known physicist, but his books tend to be focused more on being a skeptic/atheist than on hard science. The goal of this book is mostly to argue against the various forms of 'quantum mysticism' that have emerged over past decades; views that have largely been promoted by people who aren't trained scientists. I believe he refers to them as "metaphysical fads."

    In short, they're both probably good reads, but are certainly not any kind of substitute for textbooks/hard physics if your goal is really to get into the field.
  5. Nov 8, 2012 #4
    Re: Need Help Deciding: "From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum"

    to answer the first question, yes, I would want to pursue it after the business degree.

    And im generally looking for something that will basically give me a brief overview so when I am learning the hard physics and mathematics, I can think "oh einstien, and his theorm/experiment, blah blah blah."

    And secondly, i also would like advice on what kind of physics and mathematics i would need so i can do the basics myself and test into higher levels saving me some time.
  6. Nov 8, 2012 #5
    Re: Need Help Deciding: "From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum"

    and also i was getting that vibe in the reviews for "unconscious quantum" sounds to me like exactly what I dont want.
  7. Nov 8, 2012 #6
    Re: Need Help Deciding: "From xrays to quarks" or "the unconscious quantum"

    Ahh, well then yes, I imagine you would enjoy "From X-Rays to Quarks." Some people might contend that it's a waste of time to read books like that when you should to be focusing on mastering the basics of physics and calculus, but I would probably disagree. When starting out, I think it's always good to be reminded that physics isn't all force diagrams and balls rolling down inclined planes; that it gets much more exciting down road. Otherwise, you might get bored and discouraged.

    With regard to math/physics you can teach yourself, have you taken any calc/non-calc based physics classes? What's the highest level of math you've taken? The most important thing is basically to master the material you would learn in physics I and II (Mechanics and E&M), along with calculus (derivatives, integrals, series, basic multivariable/vector). Differential equations would also probably be a bonus. Keeping with my advice of keeping yourself interested, once you know some basics, you could also mix in some basic special relativity and wave-particle duality/quantum concepts (space-time diagrams, relativistic kinematics, photoelectric effect, interference patterns, the uncertainty principle, potential well problems, the bohr model, etc. etc.).
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