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Should have been a physicist

  1. Jan 1, 2014 #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm feeling down because I should have been a physicist, instead I became an investor in the stock market. I am good at what I do but I feel I should have physics in my life.

    How do you think I could apply physics to my life in the investing world?

    You know Charlie Munger, one of the greatest investors and a business partner of the richest man in the world, Warren Buffett has said that having an understanding of physics has helped him. I just think I need it too but I don't know where to start.

    Down on new years day :(
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 1, 2014 #2
    Draw lots of graphs and plot correlations!
  4. Jan 1, 2014 #3
    Change somehow or be sad again next year.
  5. Jan 1, 2014 #4


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    Why not start by taking an introductory physics class at a local college? That 's probably the best way to begin learning physic formally. If you like it, build up from there.
  6. Jan 1, 2014 #5


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    Physics makes a great hobby. I'm an electrical engineer but I read physics (mostly quantum and solid-state) physics texts regularly. Good times. Applying physics to investing is dangerous because you will be lumping yourself in with the snake-oil salesmen (aka "technical" analysts).
  7. Jan 1, 2014 #6
    Do you have a family? If not it will be much easier to switch. If you really would be happy doing it, do it. But like the previous posters said try taking it slow at first and just take introductory physics and calculus for a semester and see how it goes (if you havent already!).
  8. Jan 1, 2014 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    You could start with the book Physics for the IB Diploma by Tsokos. This book is used to prepare high school students by giving them a taste of first year college physics.

    Another book to consider is The Theoretical Minimum books by Prof Leonard Susskind. The first book covers Classical Mechanics and the second due February 2014 will cover Quantum Mechanics. The first is very readable and is more college oriented and would be more familiar to someone who took junior/senior Classical Mechanics course. They are a step up from the Tsokos book.

    There are several online courses by Susskind one of which on CM that complements the book. His other online courses cover QM, Relativity,Cosmology ...

  9. Jan 2, 2014 #8


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    http://imageshack.com/a/img833/664/c40v.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  10. Jan 2, 2014 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    He's a philologist which is close: at least he can read physics in alien languages on Star Gate SG-1 before it got canceled.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  11. Jan 2, 2014 #10


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    TS should have been a philologist.
  12. Jan 3, 2014 #11

    Do you have a connection with investing as well as physics?
  13. Jan 3, 2014 #12
    This sounds like a good idea. I might look into home learning courses or something of that nature. I don't necessarily want to become a physicist by profession, but I want to appreciate the fact that it can open the mind and let one see the world in a new light.

    Charlie Munger is always going on about a multi disciplinary approach to investing where he says that an understanding of hard sciences is essential to dealing with life, not just investing

    I been watching a lot of Feynman videos on youtube, he is amazing
  14. Jan 4, 2014 #13


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    I personally am not an investor (only index funds for me) but I have two friends who are investment bankers (one quite close). With the exception of "quants" there isn't that much use for hard science in investing. The math involved isn't that complex and it is driven by so many unknowables such as government policy and investor psychology. Where hard science is most useful is in the structuring of financial deals (aka financial engineering). But look where that got us.

    Knowing about hard science is a truly mind-expanding experience and I highly recommend it. Don't be put off if you take a class and you get bored with doing problems about weights on inclined planes. This is the foundation. If you just want more general knowledge there is a wealth of excellent "pop science" out there that will give you the flavor of the field.
  15. Jan 4, 2014 #14
    I'd love to know how knowing hard science has been a mind expanding experience for you
  16. Jan 4, 2014 #15
    Stop watching feynman videos and start reading Feynman lectures then you will have a better idea.
  17. Jan 5, 2014 #16


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    For one, knowing how something works in a deep and fundamental way is an incredible experience. I do research in integrated circuits and understanding semiconductor physics (from the relevant quantum mechanics all the way through to devices and circuits) at a reasonable level has taken almost 20 years but there are these incredible times when the scales fall from my eyes and I have an insight. It is like a high and I keep studying and learning and trying to get that feeling again. After love I think it is the best feeling I have experienced in my life.

    Besides that, once you've gone deep into a field you have "learned how to learn" and gathering more knowledge in other fields becomes faster and faster (and more enjoyable). On my own, I study a bit of high-energy physics as an amateur and while to be honest the math is sometimes beyond me there *are* things I understand and can slowly get a handle on. It's incredible to get brief glimpses of the way the world really works. I think of it as touching the void and for me that is the real reward of studying physics and math.
  18. Jan 5, 2014 #17
    Hmm, should have been a physicist too, I think- instead I'm a chef and do mechanics (car, truck maintenance) and math/physics as a hobby - a well paying hobby I might add.
    Why do you insist on the need to know physics just because it has helped someone else? If you truly knew what you were doing then you wouldn't need to ask.

    It's not like I can tell you how to make a filet mignon the first day you show up to wanna become a chef nor can I let you do the car's suspension checkup in case of a problem if you don't even know what to look for. Back to the basics, then. Before you can do anything, you first have to understand it.
  19. Jan 5, 2014 #18
    It is an incredible experience, and its useful too if one can regularly apply it in life, which is easier said than done. It takes a lot of commitment.

    It is like a high and I also try to study further to get that feeling again, but that feeling is always fleeting and its like I'm always trying to chase after it. It comes and goes, it's a beautiful thing. I think its one of the things that keeps me going, that feeling.
  20. Jan 15, 2014 #19
    I think jedishrfu and jesse73 hit it on the head. Depending on how much you've been exposed to and how comfortable you are with high school math, you could check out a couple of paths: the Feynman Lectures are aimed at undergraduates and may be a little heavy as a first introduction but they're so awesome and elegant and good at getting you excited about physics. If you were to read only one thing, I would suggest that.

    Then there's a path that jedishrfu talked about. There were enough people who were past their college years but wanted to learn physics that Leonard Susskind has taught a course with that particular audience in mind at Stanford, and the lectures and the book of the same name are a good place to go http://theoreticalminimum.com/courses (I'm going through the lectures myself because they're condensed and he jumps straight into advanced topics/ideas that are developed over the course of semesters)

    I think though that the website edx.org might be the most suited for you. It will have in it's archive a Classical Mechanics course (Physics I) and Electromagnetism course (Physics II) with the lectures of Sir Walter Lewin from MIT. He's a great professor and his love for physics is evident, and his demos are pretty cool so I highly recommend checking out the courses and checking out anything that piques your interest. The videos are online and always available, and the courses will include homework problems and solutions, so definitely check it out. I think these courses balance accessibility and enrichment pretty well, and any math hurdles too big could be remedied at khanacademy.org. Good luck.
  21. Jan 20, 2014 #20
    Hi, first, I am a foreigner, so please forgive my bad english. That said, I first come from neither physics nor investment, I first studied art, and... well, it was kind of waist of time, then I moved to physics which I handled correctly until I graduated in theoretical physics, but i still feel like I know it very shallowly. Now I would like to perform my own experiments, so I tried to invest some money on the stock market, cause experiments aren't cheap. You know what? I am the worst investor in the world. With the up trend of last months/years, I still lost some money. But I keep hoping I will reach my goal, I try to be more reasonable now, not going in shorting indexes for example, hoping this will collapse brutally. So if you give me some tips, I teach you physics for free!!! (or just the physics I know, which is much less than THE PHYSICS).
    Apart of that, above comments are very good, I also wonder if you want to learn physics for yourself or just "increase" your ability to understand the world in order to make more money, because somebody said that. I don't blame you anyway, but I doubt physics is of any use for usual investing. Physics asks for a lot of dedication, and it's hard to be dedicated by yourself, more if you live in a stressful and rich life like you might. But some people are more skilled than others and you could enjoy it.
    I recommend you to focus on some mathematics we learn at university. Differential equations are obviously a master topic, like fourier series and fourier transform.
    One very useful method to express physical laws is the Lagrangian formulation of physics. You need to know that physics states laws that aim to picture the nature. Most of the laws are "evolution equations", which means it states how a studied quantity evolves through time with respects to some limited varying parameters.
    Maths are not necessarily hard in physics, but you need to know them well.
    The typical topic someone can enjoy and understand is basic electromagnetism. It has a lot of vector calculus into it, with, at first sight, hard formulas. But you will find them to be quite easy in the end, and you can imagine nice pictures, and a lot of various situations.
    Of course before that, it would be good to know Newton's mechanics.

    I think to continue with vector calculus you can look at fluid mechanics, and don't be afraid to take a clear maths book about derivation and partial derivatives. There are many things interesting about local conservation laws.

    Once you get that you can move to differential geometry, and look at GR and SR. Of course if you follow that path, you will avoid quantum mechanics and optics, and also thermodynamics and statistical physics.

    I would suggest you to study quantum mechanics and optics together to see some connections, thermodynamics and statistical physics are somewhat hard and ugly. Most of the theorists likes them. For the thermodynamics I suppose they love it because it's just like learning a whole new science with new parameters, but that still got some very strong laws, without any needs to refer to Newton's ones.
    For the statistical physics, it's just... so many calculation, that they like it very hard.

    Feynman's book are mandatory.
    Good luck!
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