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Rudiments of Physics? Please help me get started!

  1. Jul 24, 2010 #1
    Hello everybody.

    I'm new to this forum and I'm a lay person as far as physics goes, so forgive me if i come across as naive. I'm 28 and haven't studied physics formally (except the mandatory GCSE Science at high school.)

    A recent conversation with a physics professor, a weekend spent reading 'Cosmos' by Carl Sagan and an interest in the behavior of light have left me feeling curious about the world. I have always put my attention to art & music , both of which I love, but i have seriously neglected a natural curriousity for science.

    Apart from looking at evening courses for adults, where is a good starting point for indpendent study? Can the subject be stripped down to several rudimentary starting points?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2010 #2


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    You'll need basic Newtonian Mechanics to understand just about any other branch. Once you have that, you'll have some options. But up to that point, that's pretty much it. Any introductory physics course or text will start from that.
  4. Jul 24, 2010 #3
    http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html#qmechanics - site by a Nobel prize winner summing up and linking to all the stuff needed to learn the whole of physics on your own

    more sustainable is probably watching online lectures. I could dig up some sites if you show interest?
  5. Jul 25, 2010 #4
    I'm not sure that you really want (or need) to study Physics per se.

    Physics courses are generally about the methods of accurate prediction of events and that means they rapidly escalate(degenerate?) into mathematics. Much of Physics is learning about formal relationships between quantities like force, distance, time mass, momentum, energy - I could go on.

    Newtonian mechanics is a case in point, after the tree basic laws are stated, you immediately get into f=ma and then a relatively short step into s = ut +1/2 a t^2 and it's five siblings. Do you really want to know how to calculate the range and time-of-flight of a cannonball?

    You might be more interested in the History of Science, which tends to serve the Dessert and leave the Broccoli to one side. :smile:
  6. Jul 25, 2010 #5
    You didn't say what area of physics interests you. Astrophysics? Life?.....

    You will gain most if you concentrate/work through on the areas of personal interest. Personsally, for instance all that stuff about optics and lenses bores me silly.

    You might find this book, writtten by a non physicist, stimulating/motivating.

    Cats Paws and Catapaults
    "The mechanical worlds of nature and people"
    by Steven Vogel, available in Penguin.

    The BBC is now broadcasting lots more introductory/discussion science programs, especially on the radio. Many are available on listen again.
  7. Jul 25, 2010 #6
    Thanks for the suggestion. In so far devoting a lot of my time to learning to write songs, play drums and guitar and painting, I feel like i've been feasting on tasty deserts all my life and that i'm now in dyer need of some vitamin c!!

    But you're right, having read this Carl sagan book recently, its given me a thirst for more knowledge but whether the next step is plunging into formal studies i'm not 100%.
  8. Jul 25, 2010 #7
    Hmm which areas interest me?

    - Lagrangean points in space - don't understand them but want to!!!
    - Planet/ Moon resonation
    - The behaviour of light
    - Gravity
    - Behaviour of sound waves
    - As a keen photographer i may find that optics/lens stuff interests me.

    I'll check out the BBC radio programmes.

  9. Jul 25, 2010 #8
    And thanks to everyone else for your replies. It seems that this is an active forum, so i'll be using it regularly!
  10. Jul 25, 2010 #9
    Watch some science shows on TV, nature, science channel, etc, whatever is available in your country, and see what interests you...
  11. Jul 25, 2010 #10
    Thanks, i've been doing this a while. A lot of things interest me! I'm at the risk of coming across as extremely dumb on this forum, so i should think about wording my questions a little better!
  12. Jul 25, 2010 #11
    No you're not.

    The competition for Dumb is pretty fierce on this forum.
    In fact, you can start on your Physics practice right now by seeing if you can pick them out, there's a couple of real doozies on the go right now!.
  13. Jul 25, 2010 #12
    It's helpful to learn the names of some popular science writers who are trustworthy, by which I mean they don't try to sell crackpot theories. For example, Timothy Ferris, Philip Ball, and the team of Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee are highly respected science writers. Their books are probably in your local library.
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