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Reason to study physics?

  1. Jul 10, 2015 #1
    I'm starting to rethink whether I want to become a physicist or not. The only reason why I want to join a univ is simply for the sake of learning. I just love learning physics, but I don't think that justifies entering a univ.

    What should I do in this situation? I do indeed want a job physics related but have no desire to go to a univ because I don't think much emphasis is being put into learning in itself, instead more about mindless results rather than progression.

    Should I simply study physics in my spare time and become a physicist pretender in my basement or what?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2015 #2


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    How would you know this? Have you been at that level of learning before?

    Note that if all we do is about mindless result rather than progression, then what causes the progression in our knowledge all this time? Who do you think made all that? Pretender physicists working in their basements?

  4. Jul 10, 2015 #3
    I was trying to say that progression (what you've learned, new ways of coping with problems...etc) is usually not much of a concern in the academic life purely by my viewpoint, here in Sweden as far I've observed. The results themselves are very important, but when it is of a significant importance it removes the point in learning in my opinion. Learning simply for the results (i.e academic results such as grades) is not a good external motivator in my opinion, doesn't make me satisfied. Learning for the sake of it is much better because it encourages rapid advancements in the area of interest.

    So my question was, what should I do if I'm thinking this way? Might I aswell "pretend" to be a physicist? By that I mean by simply learning and being involved in voluntary physical experiments for fun while having more aimple job.

    I hope you didn't get offended by that, was only asking for advice.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2015
  5. Jul 10, 2015 #4
    Is physics your passion? does learning things about the physical world excite you? do you have other fields you're thinking of going?
    the problem with being a pretend physicist is you won't do the things which you absolutely hate, but are necessary to produce good physics understanding and a good hardened physicist.
    even if you go to a school and you don't like the way things are, you can do things differently while still being part of a school, you are always responsible for your own learning, being in a school just gives you motivation and structure (like which courses to learn about at what time, and what problems you need to figure out first).

    can you clarify your problem with the schools? I don't get it.
  6. Jul 10, 2015 #5
    University is what you make it. If you want to just learn pointless facts and memorize equations for exams, you can certainly do that.

    If you want to learn more about the universe and be in awe of the way it works, you can do that as well.
  7. Jul 10, 2015 #6
    How would you claim to know this? It's totally false. Sure, some students will do things by just memorizing and without thinking about stuff a lot. But they will typically not advance far in academia.
  8. Jul 11, 2015 #7
    I do only have one problem with school and that is it takes learning very seriously by imposing a lot of examinations which prevents me from learning efficently, I learn a lot better by myself (with a lot of constructive criticism and minimal exams) but then comes a new problem, I won't have a future in that case.

    I only want help to find reason to work hard because I'm very willing to do so, but when there's better alternatives to learning it makes me doubtful about my decisions regarding universities. Any advice is appreciated.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  9. Jul 11, 2015 #8
    Frankly, this is only by what I have been observing. It's not a claim. I just don't think students are being encouraged to ask many questions, hence why it does not have an impact on the grades. It's memorization that impacts ones grades (problem solving too but usually ineffective when the exams include tiny details). Not sure if this applies to where you live, might be different there.

    Don't bother replying to this particular post, it has nothing to do with the subject. All I'm asking for is whether it is worth going to university if I don't care about grades/exams but instead learning a lot simply for entertainment. Grades will still be a priority but not much work for that because I would spend much time learning rather than adapting to the structure of exams...
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  10. Jul 11, 2015 #9
    If you want to understand universe better or you have curious and passion about universe or the beuty of universe you can be a physicist.When I was 14 my best friend gave me a book about Einstein and his works.I was impressed immediately.Then I wanted to become a physicist.And now 4 years later I am a physicist in Universty First Grade.I read the book and I see universe and the beauty of physics.If you can see that beauty or If you feel something like this you can go to university.
    Yes it worths.I think a person without knowladge of physics is just a living ghost.No point for living without physics cause we are here for a reason.That reason is understand the universe better.

    Thats my idea.
  11. Jul 11, 2015 #10
    I cannot really think of a better place to learn about physics than a university. You have the option to learn from the top experts on the topic, ask them questions, are surrounded by a group of peers with the same interest as you, and have lots of time to devote on the field. If you want to get a degree afterwards you may have to demonstrate a certain set of basic skills which may not be completely aligned to your interests, though. The afore-mentioned skill to solve standard problems, for example.
    However: If you have problems with math or physics grades in school (it is not clear from your post if you just don't like memorization for getting top grades or if you actually struggle to get top grades) then be warned that university requirements tend to be much higher than school requirements. You could end up memorizing stuff for the next exam just to get through somehow. In this case you probably would not have much time for understanding physics, and going to university would probably not be a pleasant time.
  12. Jul 11, 2015 #11


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    With regards to learning physics for your own entertainment, I think the first question is are you looking for advice, or are you looking for others to reinforce your idea that you can do it on your own, without a university education?

    If you're doing something just for your own entertainment, then you can do what you want. Read physics books. Do selected problems. Participate in discussion forums online. Maybe you could even build a basement lab.

    But if you really want to learn physics, my experience is that you need to go through a university curriculum. You need to learn from professors, ask (and have answered) questions, engage in problem solving with other students, attend colloquia, and push yourself through a bunch of the tedious exercises that more people would rather not do and often won't see the value in until well after they've been completed. The big point is that you need feedback on what it is you're learning. That's why the exams are there. They let you know if you're understanding the material, and what aspects you need to re-examine. Sure, sometimes it feel like they concentrate on the little details that may not be all that important, but in aggregate, over time, examinations allow you to demonstrate that you are learning.

    Without all of a that, people tend to have very big holes in their knowledge. And what's worse, they have no way of recognizing those holes.

    If you're not happy with the system at your current school, I don't know how it works where you're from, but you generally have the opportunity to vote with your tuition. There are usually more than one option available.
  13. Jul 11, 2015 #12
    Thank you all for the help!

    I suppose the best solution is to simply go through university and learn as much as possible considering all the resources are there and at the same time try to obtain acceptable grades for future employment.

    Really appreciated all the help :smile:
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