- #1

XGWManque

- 7

- 3

So, I'm looking for some advice from people here who have experience studying physics outside of an academic program. Recently, I've started Griffiths E&M. Although it hasn't been long, I've been having an absolute blast: like, heart-fluttering, "helping me with suicidal depression" levels blast. However, I can also tell that my mathematical abilities are going to pose problems going forward.

Now, on a high, brittle level, I'm familiar with all the mathematics used here, so it isn't that I feel I absolutely *cannot* get through the text right now... but I can tell that the learning process isn't as efficient as it could be, with me stumbling over the math and being regularly sidetracked with re-learning (or just learning) the tools, the proofs, etc in the true understanding detail that I neglected as an idiot 18/19 year old.

I also worry that I don't truly master the physics as deeply as I could with a more sophisticated mathematical background, even if it is far from necessary: and learning things like tensor or exterior algebra would require a much more systematic, solid basis in linear algebra, one where I don't stumble to remember the basics. So, I've been considering putting off physics for a couple of years while I dive deep into undergraduate level math in full, taking time to fully master everything. If I do that, when I do eventually learn physics, I will never stumble over the math again.

However, I'm ultimately interested in physics first, with mathematics serving as a means to that end, and I'm reluctant to push my motivation too hard for a couple of reasons. For one, I'm studying outside a structured environment. But more importantly, I'm also cleaning my general mess of a life up from years of problems. As a recovering addict struggling to basically function in other areas of my life, I'm not sure I can preserve my newfound motivation and very, very fragile discipline through years of learning all the prerequisite math before doing any physics at all.

I have been checking out mathematical methods books like Boas and Arfken as possible alternatives to going through each mathematical prerequisite individually, but even if I limit it to that, I immediately feel the impulse to get the hell back to Griffiths and my-very, very embryonic-attention span struggling.

Doing both simultaneously on an ad hoc basis is an option, but I did that as an undergrad, and even if I was less of a terrible student, that's never the most productive way of mastering the material. Moreover, I work a full-time job now. Not a very intensive one, thank goodness, so I can devote time to going through a textbook, but I still don't have the free time I did when I was 19. I don't even have the money to pay for a tutor currently, albeit this might change in a couple of months.

So... yeah, your advice? Thank you for your time. As a side note, I realize my own story might be a bit unique, but I'm sure I'm not the only older person interesting in learning physics outside of school: I've already met a couple of people off this forum who are doing the same thing. I'd be happy to hear your experiences.