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Phys graduates, do people assume you know more than you actually do?

  1. Sep 6, 2014 #1
    I find that since graduating a lot of people assume you know everything about everything that uses/involves physics ever, from understanding how a light bulb works to knowing the complete inner workings of hydroelectric dams. Some questions are more convoluted than others, but can anyone here honestly say they can correctly apply knowledge from their degree to understand most modern technology?

    I'm not sure whether I'm asking this question to the best of my ability, but I think it really boils down to this: Do people assume too much about the practical knowledge obtained from your degree?
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 6, 2014 #2
    I'm only a second year physics student, but let me give you what I think.
    Its definitely true that you could probably go through your physics degree taking only a single practical physics course, and the rest consisting of all theory courses. In such a case, your practical knowledge would probably be minuscule. But as a physics major you could also lean towards a more applied spectrum taking signals/systems/time series analysis, electronics labs, more practical components dealing with equipment from neon-helium lasers to the workings of dc motors. So it goes both ways. Someone graduating from a physics degree may know just as much about technology as the person graduating from engineering. But it is often the case that this is not true (based on my own experience of people around me).
  4. Sep 6, 2014 #3
    To illustrate your point, I'm an undergrad and I was talking to one of my physics professors who has a degree in, I think, nanotechnology or something like that. He's a physics Phd, so I thought he'd be able to answer some questions about particle physics or astrophysics. I quickly found out that I know quite a bit more regarding those topics than he does.

    People don't understand that the topic of physics is huge, and a Phd isn't going to know a lot about the entirety of physics; they're going to be experts on a relatively small area of physics.
    Some people are so unaware of that fact that they even classify scientists as people who are experts of science. I don't want to divert the topic, but one thing that gets me is people who talk about scientists who oppose evolution, and you find out those scientists are not biologists. It means nothing. A physicist's opinion on evolution means as little as mine.
  5. Sep 6, 2014 #4


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    Well, I might not know the inner workings of a hydro-electric dam, but at least I would be able to point you to the underlying physical principles (potential energy of the water being converted into kinetic energy and then into electric energy by a generator).

    I guess if someone asked me an engineering question, I might point them to the basics, but that's about all I can do haha.
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