1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Self-Teaching astrophysics, Need help on sub-specialty

  1. Aug 14, 2010 #1
    Hello Everybody,
    It's been a very long time since i posted on here last but hopefully this is the start of a long-term involvement on this site.
    I'm trying to self-teach myself Astrophysics and so far I have gone through all the courses on th MIT OCW website that are "required subjects" for a physics major, and some of the graduate courses that interest me and so far have a 3.9 GPA on the tests and assignments i've done.
    I think i'm at a point where I want to start work on a Dissertation [just for my own intelectual advancement and enjoyment, since i don't have the money to go to school.] and i'm trying to decide on a sub-specialty within astrophysics to focus my attention on. I know exactly what it is that i am interested in, i just don't know if there is a specific branch of astrophysics that deals with these things.
    I have a great intrest in:
    1. Dark Matter and Dark Energy
    2. Black holes
    3. Brane+Bulk theory of Strings [as opposed to compactification]
    4. Quantum Gravity [in a form other than string theory]
    and how those four are related.

    Is there a branch of physics dealing with this that i havn't heard of yet?
    And also, I am aware of tons of major unsolved problems in physics, but does anyone know of any smaller unanswered questions that maybe havn't come accross my veiw yet that i could try to resolve in my thesis? I am of course continuing to search on my own but i would love to hear any ideas that you might have.

    Thank you in advance,
    Sid
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2010 #2
  4. Aug 14, 2010 #3
  5. Aug 14, 2010 #4
    neat. i'm investigating the pioneer anomaly. that's interesting. any others?
     
  6. Aug 14, 2010 #5

    eri

    User Avatar

    They're called gamma ray bursts now, not bursters. And we actually have a very good idea of what causes them - short GRBs are caused by the merging of two compact objects, namely neutron stars, and long GRBs are caused by the collapse of a massive, rapidly rotating, low-metallicity star. There's still a lot to solve in that field, but we've been working on it for many years now.

    It's admirable that you want to pursue a dissertation, but even people who took all those courses from professors in a classroom setting need many years of introduction to the process of doing research. Graduate school is free in physics and astronomy; it won't cost you anything if you get in and get a teaching or research assistantship, and if you have a bachelors in something and score well on the physics GRE you might convince a grad program to give you a shot.
     
  7. Aug 14, 2010 #6
    I don't actually have a bachelors in anything, unfourtunatly. I had no idea that graduate school was free in physics and astronomy. is that in the US?
    I'm sure i could score well on any tests, and i would love nothing more than learning more about doing the research. I have a really good background in advanced math and physics starting from the 6th grade [advance placement school]. What is the phyiscs GRE? [i really have no idea about the actually school process, i've been entirely self taught since i was 15. I don't actually even know how one applies for college let alone grad school.]
     
  8. Aug 14, 2010 #7
    And like you said, they have many years preparing them in the proscess of doing research. I am dying to get my hands into doing some research on an unsolved problem, even if it just means working it out mathematically with the variables i can gather from the internet and physics journals that i get. [i do have a small radio tellescope that i built, but all it can really read is the upper atmosphere of earth [interesteing enough] and the sun and moon.]
     
  9. Aug 15, 2010 #8

    eri

    User Avatar

    Yes, that's in the US, but it's free in most other countries as well (but with a time limit - the US is more free about how long it takes you to finish). The physics GRE is a test undergraduates will take when applying to physics graduate programs; most grad programs require it, and it covers all the topics you'd learn in undergraduate physics. It's very difficult to pursue independent research with no adviser starting from scratch; it would help you a lot if you could find someone willing to help you near you. But with no coursework background, it may be hard to find anyone willing to take you on since you can't enroll in a degree program.
     
  10. Aug 15, 2010 #9
    yeah i'm sure, especially since i live in the middle of nowhere with no schools around. I'm deffinitly looking into taking the GRE. Thanks for that Info it helped alot.

    And also on a tangental note, I am quite interested in that pioneer anomally. does anyone know if any work has been done on it this year? the most recent work i can find is 2009.
     
  11. Aug 15, 2010 #10
    On the topic of learning how to do research, I know that a one-on-one advisor is of course best, but if i cannot make that happen [or in the meantime until i find one], are there any resourses i could look into that could give me a head start in this direction as far as the methods and skills i would need?
     
  12. Sep 12, 2010 #11
    Or also, part of my original question, is there a sub-specialty within astrophysics where I should focus my study?
     
  13. Sep 16, 2010 #12
    Did you look at the the MIT course based on the book Zwiebach, Barton. A First Course in String Theory? That looks useful for much of what you are looking for. I haven't read it, but the reference section looks excellent. It lists a lot of pedagogical review papers useful for people taking the first steps in or after string theory and related areas. Might be good models for the kind of dissertation you want to write.
     
  14. Sep 16, 2010 #13
    Personally, I'd recommend that you start off by staying *away* from "weird theory." What you want is to get a firm understanding of the data and observations that we have, and then you can go into "weird theory."

    One thing that you'll find is that every part of physics is connected to every other part of physics, so just find some very narrow topic that you are interested in and work from there.

    Start by going into adswww.harvard.edu and read up on something that you are interested in. Also, you do need to get a bachelors in something (and it shouldn't be too difficult). It should be quick, and if you get yourself in an undergraduate research program then you can start getting papers out.
     
  15. Sep 16, 2010 #14
    Just to double check, can you list some of the courses that you've done? I just want to make sure that you really do know what you think you know. Also what do you mean by "required subjects". There are General Institute Requirements, but there are also department requirements which are different.

    Some quick questions:

    1) If I give you a second order partial homogenous differential equation, can you solve it?

    2) Can you tell me the difference between a hyperbolic and parabolic PDE?

    3) Explain how the canocial ensemble works? What are the Langrange-Euler equations?

    4) In complex analysis, what is a pole?

    5) What is Lorentz covariance? What is is the difference between the Schodinger and Heisenberg pictures of QM?

    If you don't have any problems answering those questions. What I'd advise you do is to get a quick bachelors through either Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior or Charter Oak University, and then apply for undergraduate research internships. You can get recommendations which will then get you into graduate school.

    If you do have have problems then you need maybe another year or two of work, and you can get that in a local university.
     
  16. Sep 16, 2010 #15
    There are several hundred.

    One thing that you have to understand is that the "lone scientist" model of research doesn't work. Science is an extremely social activity, and you need to get yourself pulled into the astrophysics social networks.
     
  17. Sep 18, 2010 #16
    @two-fish quant:
    The list I've gone through is:
    8.01- classical mechanics, 8.02- electicity and magnetisim, 8.03-vibrations and waves, 18.01- single variable calculus, 18.02i multi variable calculus, 18.03- differential equations, 8.04 quantum mechanics 1, 8.044, statistical physics 1, 8.05 quantum mechanics 2, 8.06- quantum mechanics 3, 8.224- exploring black holes, genneral relativity and astrophysics, 8.251 string theory for undergraduates, 8.323 relatavistic quantum field theory 1, 8.324- relatavistic quantum field theory 2, 8.325- relatavistic quantum field theory 3, 8.21 string theory, 8.901 astrophysics 1, and 8.902 astrophysics two. I also watched a lecture series on linear algebra from berkley. And I took the doctoral general exams ( part 1 and two practice exams from like 2002 or 2003.).
     
  18. Sep 18, 2010 #17
    And to answer you quick questions, I'm pretty sure I do know the answers (if I am wrong, please correct me. I'd rather fix the gaps in my knowledge than not.)
    1. You mean like:
    P(t)y"+q(t)y'+r(t)y=0?
    It needs to equal 0 for all values of t to be homogeonous.
    Y"+5y'+6y=0. Y(0)=2. And y'(0)=3
    Then
    Y=9e^-2t-7e^-3t

    2.Parabolic if b^2(q1,q2)=4a(q1,q2)c(q1,q2) and hyperbolic if b^2(q1,q2)>4a(q1,q2)c(q1,q2)

    3. Probabillity distrubution for Systems of particles. An allowed macroscopic state I, all particles n are withing the vollume v.
    The system is in contact with and energy resevoir, a heat bath, and the microscopic states within each meaurable macroscopic state is given by the boltzman distribution.
    The canonical partition function can be used to calculate averages in the ensemble.

    Lagrange-euler equations are the fundamental equations of the calculus of variables.
    Equations of motion for generalized coordinites. ( I can't find a symbol for a partial derivitive on my keyboard so I can't write it out)

    4. A pole is a a point of singularity. If n as the smallest number where (z-z0)^n f(z) is holomorphic at z0

    5. Lorenz covarient is a part of spactime that's covarient if it transforms with the lorenz equations, and invarient if it doesn't.
    Difference between the schrodinger and heisenburg pictures of quantum mechanics is that in the schrodinger picture the state vectors are time dependant and the operators are constant, and in the heisenburg the operators are time dependant and the state vectors are time- independant.

    Is that right?
     
  19. Sep 18, 2010 #18
    And to answer you quick questions, I'm pretty sure I do know the answers (if I am wrong, please correct me. I'd rather fix the gaps in my knowledge than not.)
    1. You mean like:
    P(t)y"+q(t)y'+r(t)y=0?
    It needs to equal 0 for all values of t to be homogeonous.
    Y"+5y'+6y=0. Y(0)=2. And y'(0)=3
    Then
    Y=9e^-2t-7e^-3t

    2.Parabolic if b^2(q1,q2)=4a(q1,q2)c(q1,q2) and hyperbolic if b^2(q1,q2)>4a(q1,q2)c(q1,q2)

    3. Probabillity distrubution for Systems of particles. An allowed macroscopic state I, all particles n are withing the vollume v.
    The system is in contact with and energy resevoir, a heat bath, and the microscopic states within each meaurable macroscopic state is given by the boltzman distribution.
    The canonical partition function can be used to calculate averages in the ensemble.

    Lagrange-euler equations are the fundamental equations of the calculus of variables.
    Equations of motion for generalized coordinites. ( I can't find a symbol for a partial derivitive on my keyboard so I can't write it out)

    4. A pole is a a point of singularity. If n as the smallest number where (z-z0)^n f(z) is holomorphic at z0

    5. Lorenz covarient is a part of spactime that's covarient if it transforms with the lorenz equations, and invarient if it doesn't.
    Difference between the schrodinger and heisenburg pictures of quantum mechanics is that in the schrodinger picture the state vectors are time dependant and the operators are constant, and in the heisenburg the operators are time dependant and the state vectors are time- independant.

    Is that right?
     
  20. Sep 19, 2010 #19
    Yes it's right....

    It looks to me that you have enough knowledge to do graduate work. I think the hard part now is to just to get the pieces of paper that you need to apply to a graduate program.

    Do you have a bachelor degree? If not, I think you should try to get one via correspondence simply so that you have that piece of paper. This should also make you eligible for REU programs.

    Alternatively, one thing that you might want to do is to just buy an airplane ticket to various scientific conferences, and meet people. What you are looking for is some job as a lab assistant. The other thing that you should do is go log into adswww.harvard.edu and Los Alamos Preprints, find some papers and problems that interest you, and e-mail the people that are working on those problems.

    You pretty clearly have the book knowledge that you need to do research. Now the tricky part (and it's tricky because there isn't s standard procedure for doing it) is to get you linked into the social networks.
     
  21. Sep 21, 2010 #20
    I've been following this post since it was made, and though I have nothing (knowledge, advice, insight, etc.) that i can contribute to the succession thought, I do have a valid question to pose.

    How would someone go about getting a bachelors degree 'via correspondence'? I assume that you mean to say there is a way that he can get his degree simply by displaying his proficient understanding of mathematical/physical concepts (or at the very least by a less redundant system than usual), but how would he do this?

    I make this post not only because i am curious, but also because if he (the original poster) knew of a method by which he could acquire a degree without having to pay outlandish tuition, he would have done so by now.

    edit: in the event that i am the only fool who does not understand what twofish is referring to, i apologize = ]
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook