Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Question That My Physics Professor Proposed

  1. Jun 4, 2004 #1


    User Avatar

    At the end of class today, my Physics II professor asked us this simple question to answer over the weekend. The question: "So many people are interested in mathematics and physics, but why are there so few people getting degrees in these basic sciences?"

    I just wanted to hear what kind of answers y'all have for that question. I'm probably going to major in Physics since I enjoy it so much, so its kinda tough for me to answer that question.

    Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 4, 2004 #2
    Well, basicly, I just don't know, because I'm one of these few :smile: and there's nothing else I can study instead of physics. Nevertheless, people may choose computers over maths and mostly so they do :grumpy:
  4. Jun 4, 2004 #3
    Probably becasue not as many people are good with math as you would think. To most of us here I'm sure math comes together quite naturally, but I don't think that a lot of the general population has a very good grasp on ( even basic ) math. Since physics is essentially applied math, that would explain the lack of physics people too.

    In short: THEY ARE TOO HARD!!! :)
  5. Jun 4, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    How much do the engineering fields subtract from the math & physics group?
  6. Jun 4, 2004 #5
    I guess most of those people are mostly interested in popular parts of math/physics. Stuff like fractals ("Whoah! Gets smaller and smaller and always the same again, fascinating. I love math.") or black holes. But I don't think those people are even considering to study it
  7. Jun 4, 2004 #6
    honestrosewater got a point there! I LOVE maths but am doing Engineering!

    Anyway, I know a lot of people who do like Maths BUT getting a Maths Degree is quite a mission. Just looking at the final year papers was enuf to put me of it. (Well, not really - still wanna do Maths as a major!!) Also, in todays world, marketability is crucial and a maths/physics is considered less marketable than a marketing,tourism or engineering degree. I think thats been the case for a while now and is one really unfortunate one. :frown:
  8. Jun 4, 2004 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Job opportunity would be an issue, and I guess people like to know the implications of physics but not having to go through the pains of having to learn all the math.

    In biology we use a lot of math too :eek: :biggrin:
  9. Jun 4, 2004 #8
    people are moer interested in a small part of math and physics, but dont want to know the whole shabang, therefore they dont want to study math and physics, they just want to know what they want to know, nothing more. and also math and physics dont come naturaly to everyone
  10. Jun 4, 2004 #9

    jimmy p

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In England it is to do with the maths. There is a shortage of maths and physics students. So much so that the government is going to be giving out grants and things to people who study at degree level in these subjects.

    The A-level maths is the hardest A-level and physics is (supposedly :biggrin:) the second hardest, though i think chemistry is much tougher. But for a physics degree you need good grades in both maths and physics, and that puts a lot of people off.
  11. Jun 4, 2004 #10
    There are very few job opportunities for those who focus on maths. What would you do? Be a maths teacher? Maybe if you do your Honours in Cryptography of something, maybe then you'd find a real job.

    For everyone else, maths is only something used in other fields of focus, not the focus itself.
  12. Jun 4, 2004 #11
    jimmyp, same thing in SA. there's the hip2b^2 program (hip to be square) which was initialised by Mark Shuttleworth (the Afronaut :smile: ) where South African scholars are encouraged to take Maths and Physics.

    The good thing is that now kids have someone to aspire to (Mark Shuttleworth.) He's telling them "Maths is cool" so kids listen to him and becoming interested in Maths and Physics. Role models are important and Maths and Physics lacks the non "geek" type role models if you all get what I mean. If Madonna had a PhD in Physics, imagine how big Physics would be?
  13. Jun 5, 2004 #12
    Physics and maths don't give you good job opportunities?

    I guess it depends on the job you want but over here in London maths and physics graduates are quickly assimilated into the investment banks - earning shed loads of cash as they go.

  14. Jun 5, 2004 #13
    Didn't Mark Shuttleworth get what he wanted by writing a check for $20 million to Russia? He got into space because he was a businessman, not a physicist or mathematician. If anything, he's a shining example of why we should all give up science and go to business school.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2004
  15. Jun 5, 2004 #14


    User Avatar

    I have to wonder, why do so many people say you are less marketable with a Math and/or Physics degree? Every recruitment person I have spoken with has expressed far more interest in people holding degrees in math and/or physics. And all, but one engineering firm I've talked too, would rather have someone with a math or physics degree compared to someone with an engineering degree (any discipline). I even read in Popular Science a month or so back that most people involved with Research & Development hold physics degrees. And isn't R&D one of the best fields to enter because of availablity? I say so just because so many companies pour so much money into R&D. I know that AMD, Intel, and Xerox are just a few of the companies that spend more than half of their budget on R&D. And I cannot tell you how many times Microsoft is at my school trying to get people to join their research teams. In fact, a girl I know who graduates at the end of summer with a mathematics degree (emphasis in Applied Math) already has a job at NASA working for their Research & Development division.

    I'm just curious where all of y'all get your information about "not being marketable". Wouldn't it be more reasonable just to say "I don't want to do research for my career."? Because every type of business will always be doing some sort of research and/or developing (unless of course they go out of business).
  16. Jun 5, 2004 #15


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    I think people say that because there aren't a lot of jobs out there called "mathematician" or "physicist." Still, someone who has displayed the intellectual prowess and ability for both abstract and applied thought that these areas of study demand will do well in a great many jobs, and employers know this. Grad schools and professional schools know this as well.
  17. Jun 6, 2004 #16
    baffled matt wat do physicists do in investment banking??
  18. Jun 6, 2004 #17
    I'm not entirely sure as it's not the sort of thing I have ever been interested in myself, but I'm guessing it's things like market analysis, risk analysis etc. I've been told that these big firms like to employ physics graduates because these are people who have actually been trained to use math and computers and such to solve real problems. (I think the work is almost entirely computer based). A friend of mine worked for one of the big city banks as part of an industrial placement and he told me he was just coding risk-assessment software. Boring as hell apparently but got paid a bundle (equivalent to £28k per year).

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook