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Rekindling an Interest in Physics and Astrophysics

  1. Jan 31, 2015 #1
    Hi Everyone,

    I'm an IT professional looking to engage with all of you to refresh and expand my knowledge of physics and astrophysics. Areas of science I enjoyed when I was younger but have not kept up with since I graduated college. I have a BSE in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a MS in Computer Science from the University of Illinois. I've spent the last 30 years in the information technology and media industries working for companies as diverse as the old AT&T Bell Labs and for various media companies ranging from small alternative newsweeklies (think the Onion, http://www.theonion.com) to major city daily newspapers.

    Knowing I have an interest in physics a friend of mine recently suggested I watch the online lectures of Prof. Leonard Susskind, http://theoreticalminimum.com/, and a wondrous thing happened. They rekindled the fascination with physics and astrophysics that I had when I was younger. I vividly remember the PBS series Connections (c. 1979, James Burke - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connections_(TV_series)) and Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (c. 1980, Carl Sagan - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmos:_A_Personal_Voyage) having a deep impact on my young mind and after watching Prof. Susskind I felt that same enthusiasm again. Connections and Cosmos had me so excited that by my senior year in high school I wanted to go to college to become an astrophysicist. Coming from a rural area that didn't put much faith in something so abstract I was dissuaded by a local high school mentor in my career choices. He said I should do something "useful" with my life so that I could be assured I could get a job. He suggested I study computer science. Well I did study computer science, I did get the jobs and have ended up putting in over 30 years in the IT industry. Looking back now with a slight bit of remorse I find myself wondering what if. What if I had studied astrophysics instead of computer science? It's an interesting line of questioning so I thought I should put it to a test.

    I've decided to see how far I can get with a physics self-study regimen so I'm currently relearning what I've forgotten from my college days. Calculus I, II, and III (third semester was Boas' Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences) and Physics I and II (two semesters of Halliday and Resnick's Fundamentals of Physics, Extended Version). Books I still have today and hopefully are still of some use. Being a little overly optimistic in my intellectual capabilities I'm also challenging myself to see if I can make it through the freshman Physics 8.012 course at MIT using MIT's OpenCourseWare site, http://ocw.mit.edu/. So I have Kleppner and Kolenkow's An Introduction to Mechanics and Busza, Cartwright, and Guth's Essentials of Introductory Classical Mechanics waiting for me if I find I have the intellectual horsepower.

    I don't know how far I will be able to get with a self-study regimen but I'm excited by the journey all the same. So if you see me in the Homework and Coursework Questions forum asking rudimentary Physics 101 questions please be gentle. I have a lot to (re)learn and will appreciate any guidance you can provide. Hopefully I can reciprocate in kind with any of the knowledge that I've learned from my career in IT.

    SilentThunder
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2015 #2
    Welcome to PF!
     
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