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Studying Satisfaction derived from studying physics

  1. Nov 10, 2012 #1
    Apologies for the pun in the title.

    I'm curious to hear, from more experienced PFer's, on what the kind of satisfaction one can get from studying physics. More specifically, on whether the amount of uncertainty or unknown in a specific topic actually diminish with advances in understanding, or if each new understanding brings with it more than one new unknown.

    Speaking with a friend today who did physics with a concentration in electronics, he told me, "honestly, the more I learned the more I realized I didnt know anything about electronics". Is this a similar feeling for others, even those at the PhD level and on? Is it like exploring an unbounded territory, where the further you go simply extends the length of the border on the unknown? Or, is it possible to get to a place where you look back and say, yes, now I totally understand this arena, or subfield, topic, etc.

    The reason I ask is largely out of curiosity on what its like after being 10+ years in the physics field. In a lot of other fields, by that time you are basically a master at it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2012 #2
    That is what is sort of exciting about science in general, you are constantly delving into the unknown, which means there is always work to be done.

    Some people don't feel comfortable not knowing the answers, but once you can come to terms with it there must be some sort of sense of peace that comes from it, I suppose. I'm still relatively early in my studies and I am starting to see exactly how little I know and how ignorant I really am, and I can only imagine in 5 years from now realizing how little I really knew then (meaning now) and even how little I will know in 5 years.
  4. Nov 10, 2012 #3
  5. Nov 11, 2012 #4
    Although I'm still a physics undergrad, with every course I take it seems I know less and less despite the fact that I actually know more and more.

    One of the more amazing things to me about physics is that a lot of the equations and principles are derived from basic mathematical assumptions yet have huuuge physical meaning. And after dealing with all of these complex equations and seemingly tedious calculations, sometimes I take a step back and say "...this is all REAL!"

    It might seem stupid point that out but all of these equations are real things and without them nothing would exist (as we know it). In my thermal physics class, we are getting into statistical concepts like the partition function which is one of the more central things in statistical mechanics. The partition function is more or less a mathematical object but manipulating it shows very real properties of a system. The seemingly arbitrary number 2.71828182846... has numerous applications to the universe. We live in a hugely complex world that would have gone unnoticed without physics. And math I suppose. :P
  6. Nov 11, 2012 #5
    If you look ahead, you'll feel like you know less, but if you look behind, you realize that things that took you years to learn are now trivial and obvious and that's beautiful. In fact, my entire goal in learning math and physics is to maximize the number of nature's secrets that are obvious to me--not just things that I can push symbols around and derive, but just see them as obvious. I am afraid not that many people pursue this approach as strictly as I do. But you'd be surprised how much you CAN actually understand without doing complicated calculations. It's interesting to think how my perceptions would change if I were more into just doing calculations and remembering facts as true, without really understanding why as many people tend to do more than I do. Not that everyone else is unaware of such things--they have to be to some extent if they are going to make it in physics. It's just that I take it to an extreme.
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