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Out of my depth here

  1. Dec 31, 2005 #1
    Most of my knowledge of physics comes from popular science books. I can't help it, I don't know where to turn, I KNOW they aren't real physics but I can't find anything else. Feynman's lectures, yes, but I understand about 10% of these and don't know why as they're supposed to be "introductory" physics texts. I'm sure the problem isn't my intelligence, as my IQ is 147 (I know IQ isn't everything but I don't have anything else to show I should be able to deal with physics?)
    I don't know anything about the American system of education either, I'm a Brit...
    Should I leave these forums? Can anyone help me?
    I've been praised for a talent in physics from a very early age, and I don't know why I'm drowning here.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2005 #2

    Bystander

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    "A standing broad jump" from "coffee table physics" to "Feynman?" And you get 10%? Impressive. If I read your post correctly, you're looking for a little "light reading" to bridge the gap --- hit the used book stores for Asimov's intro's, slightly deeper than the "coffee table." Not perfect, but will give you one view of quantitative approaches.
     
  4. Dec 31, 2005 #3

    LeonhardEuler

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    Most people here have studied physics in college (I think they may call that "university" or something in Brittain, I mean whatever most people begin when they're 18). If you want to learn quantum mechanics then Feynman's lectures are good to begin to learn some of the concepts, but if you really want to understand it then you should probably learn classical mechanics and E&M first. I am teaching myself the stuff too since I am an engineering major, so I learned classical mechanics and E&M along with basic quantum stuff, but am not satisfied with my knowlege of QM. I am working my way slowly through a book called "Modern Quantum Mechanics" by J.J. Sakurai. I should warn you though that I was totally intimidated the first time I tried to read it, and I didn't begin making progress until I studied physical chemistry and got some background. The book I used there was "Physical Chemistry" by Donald McQuarrie. It is very easy to understand and things are explained well, but it doesn't go into enough detail at times. It is a beast of a book: over 1,200 pages, but you really only have to get a few chapters in to get the basic understanding of the quantum stuff you need to move on. A lot of the end of the book is thermodynamics and stuff. Also be sure to have a good enough math background before attemting one of these books. You need to know calculus of several variables and basic diff eq's. And I should also stress that you need to know linear algebra really well. I recomend "Linear Algebra" by Friedberg, Insel and Spence.
     
  5. Dec 31, 2005 #4

    Moonbear

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    Well, it takes a good deal of intelligence to grasp physics, so even a really smart kid is just going to be average among those starting out in physics. If you're trying to learn it on your own, without the benefit of a teacher or professor to guide you along the way, it's going to be tougher.

    As you move from pop science to real hardcore science texts, you're going to have to accompany that with learning higher levels of maths as well. One of the surest ways to frustrate students is to expect them to learn physics before they've mastered sufficient mathematical skills to support their learning.

    You might get more benefit out of asking questions in our Science Education Zone at first rather than trying to jump feet-first into the other discussions.

    Also, keep in mind that you're still just a beginner and have a long way to go before you have the sort of knowledge/background that the professional physicists on this board have. That's fine, and we understand it, but you have to understand that too and be careful to ask questions and not assume you know things for certain...that's one problem with having your physics knowledge coming from popular science books, those tend to make things sound more certain than the real scientists might consider them to be, or might explain things in imprecise ways to simplify it for the reader without adequate background in the subject. So, a good place to start is to ask if your assumptions are even correct. You may think something is true that isn't because you haven't had the benefit of a proper instructor to guide you through and test your understanding.

    You might also find you'll benefit more from just reading along at first, and when something confuses you or is too far over your head, ask for further explanation, but hold off starting your own threads until you've gotten a better feel for how the discussions go around here.
     
  6. Dec 31, 2005 #5
    Aaaaah!
    That's why I was so confused :)
    For us college is 16 - 18, after high school and before Uni...
    Isn't Harvard called a University though? :confused:

    And thanks both of you for the advice, I don't even move up to British
    college until next year, but I'll have a look at any books mentioned on this
    thread.
     
  7. Dec 31, 2005 #6

    Moonbear

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    In the U.S. system, the distinction between colleges and universities is quite different than in Britain. A college is often a division of a university, or an institution with a focus on teaching rather than research for the faculty. The terms can be used interchangeably in terms of the educational level of the students here. What you call college in Britain is what we call high school in the U.S. (or approximately so anyway).

    If you want recommendations of books, we have a Book Review section under the Science Education Zone of the forums.
     
  8. Dec 31, 2005 #7

    LeonhardEuler

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    Oh, I didn't realize you were that young. You probably need to learn more math before you begin reading those books. Don't worry about it, I'm sure if you study physics at a university you'll be able to understand what's going on, just be patient.
     
  9. Dec 31, 2005 #8

    In the US college and university are used synonmously in general lexicon. However, they do have slightly seperate meanings. College can refer to sections within a university (College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Mathematics, College of Engineering or something along the lines of Oxford where the seperate sections are not based on subject) or it can refer to a 'Junior College' which is basically just the first two years of university work. University would then refer to a group of colleges that comprise a single school. But usually the two words are used as synonyms.
     
  10. Dec 31, 2005 #9
    Oops...
    I said "both," but Moonbear replied while I was writing that reply.
    I am very careful when reading popular science books not to take them for granted.
    I understand that no theory in science (not just physics) is "correct," and that the theories we use are just models to help us understand the world mathematically.
    And all theories are subject to change.
    ...right?
     
  11. Dec 31, 2005 #10

    LeonhardEuler

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    Absolutely. By the way, the Feynman lectures are really not typical popular science. Feynman is careful not to oversimplify to a ridiculous extent or mislead the reader.
     
  12. Dec 31, 2005 #11

    Moonbear

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    Technically, yes, but there are mature theories that have a long history of strong evidence backing them that will take a truly shocking discovery to dismantle. A common mistake beginners make is to assume all that they know about the support for a theory is all that is known. I don't know if you would make this mistake, but be careful not to fall into that trap.

    It's sort of like the old saying of a teacher to a student, "I may have taught you everything you know, but I haven't taught you everything I know."

    Anyway, now knowing your background/age, you'll probably find most, if not all, of the topics in the physics forums here to be fairly well over your head. Don't let this frustrate you. You're probably still way ahead of most other students your age. So, like I already suggested above, stick around and read and be patient. Focus on learning more mathematics first. If you only learn a little bit, it's still more than you know today, right?
     
  13. Dec 31, 2005 #12

    Evo

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    Welcome to PF FeynmanMH42!!!! I see you managed to sneak past the welcome tent. :grumpy:

    I would say that the majority of members here range in age from 16 to 27 years old, so you fit right in!!

    Glad to have you here, there are a lot of great members here that are excellent resources for students. :approve:
     
  14. Dec 31, 2005 #13

    shmoe

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    One of the main goals of this forum is to educate people. If everyone who came here already had all the answers, this goal would vanish and this forum would be reduced to the level of the GD section we're currently in :smile: Both students and teachers are needed here to make this site successful (though the good teachers will also remain students), so you're very much needed. Stick around, work hard, have patience, and over the years you'll find yourself drifting into the teacher category.
     
  15. Dec 31, 2005 #14

    Evo

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    Oh look, shmoe was just "accidently" banned. :grumpy: :wink:
     
  16. Dec 31, 2005 #15

    shmoe

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    By "reduced to the level of the GD", of course I meant "trimmed all the other unneccessary sections so GD would stand out in it's fully deserved glory" :tongue2:

    GD absolutely plays a vital role. 10 minutes in the GD section provides a full weeks dosage of "silly" :rofl:
     
  17. Dec 31, 2005 #16

    Evo

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    I see you are a quick learner and very wise. :biggrin:
     
  18. Dec 31, 2005 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    You can learn some concepts and basic principles such as the conservation laws, and the more the better, but ultimately, real physics doesn't begin until you have had a little Calculus, and then it's a race to learn the math needed for next quarter's physics classes for several years. So take heart, learn what you can now, and dig in for the long haul.
     
  19. Dec 31, 2005 #18
    I have a theory that if someone want to make up an IQ they say it is either 137 or 147. It sounds impressive, but not so high that people will think you are lying. You think I'm kidding ask a random group of people and those two numbers will pop up more than any other. Even though good IQ tests rarely give numbers not divisible by 5
     
  20. Dec 31, 2005 #19
  21. Dec 31, 2005 #20
    If you know it isn't real physics, why are you still looking at them? Why not actually study from a physics textbook? Do you really think people get physics degrees and co from reading popular books?! Why are you suprised that Feynmans lectures are difficult? Could it be the fact that it is for university students unlike you, which I presume is not?

    It is obvious, even for a non physicist to see that you are lacking in the basics, which require hard work, effort and concentration in classes and TEXTBOOKS. No wonder you are having 'drowning' problems. My recommendation is, if you are so interested in physics, buy yourself a standard textbook and work to a curriculum. You have to know your basic physics to even start to question it.
     
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