Should someone still learning basic physics worry about...

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Should someone still learning basic physics concern themselves with cutting edge theories, hypotheses, experiments, and so on?

I am not sure, on the grounds that laymen translations tend to give the wrong impression.
 

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ZapperZ
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Should someone still learning basic physics concern themselves with cutting edge theories, hypotheses, experiments, and so on?

I am not sure, on the grounds that laymen translations tend to give the wrong impression.

Test it out yourself. What do you understand out of this paper, which was published in PRL?

https://arxiv.org/pdf/cond-mat/9904449v2.pdf

Zz.
 
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Test it out yourself. What do you understand out of this paper, which was published in PRL?

https://arxiv.org/pdf/cond-mat/9904449v2.pdf

Zz.
The math equations are more comprehensible than the physics and the text itself, which is full of jargon of which I am entirely ignorant of, or have the vaguest of notions.

So I would suppose I'm on the right tract thinking it's mostly a waste of time. Also I can see why mentors and mods could get really annoyed at lower division undergrads posting about things like this. For example if I asked you why the first equation has imaginary parts, where would you even begin? (my assumption is that there is a bunch of experimental history and physics behind it, to the point where a simple lay person answer would be insufficient)

So yeah, I might be curious about some of the newly popular gravity ideas, but I don't think I'll be discussing them very much. ;)
 
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Should you "concern" yourself with the nuances of cutting-edge research and theories? No. But you may find it interesting, so you shouldn't stop yourself from learning about it. I spent a lot of time as an undergrad talking to a professor about how things that we discussed in class connected to more "cutting-edge" research - he loved to talk about it, and I found it fascinating. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions like this - for instance, in quantum mechanics and E&M, there are a lot of postulates that are just "assumed", and by asking about them you can learn a lot about what led to the necessity of certain experiments/theories. I wouldn't jump face-first into papers like the one Zz posted, but work your way up to them from the ground up. Be curious, and ask questions.
 
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You can try skimming through papers in various areas to see what might be appealing to you. You can do some internet searches of different experimental techniques and the equipment used. Computational approaches and some mathematical and numerical techniques involved. I would just get an awareness of these and not aim for a deep understanding. Every area of physics uses the things I've mentioned - experimental, mathematical, and computational approaches.

However, I would ultimately focus on your study of basic physics first. It's important for you to get a good understanding of the core topics you study at a university. In the meantime I would just gloss over some papers occasionally to perhaps have a small idea of what's out there.
 
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ZapperZ
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There are many ways for students who are "... still learning basic physics.... " to keep up with the current "big news" in research and advancement in physics. Any member of the SPS will receive a subscription to Physics Today that highlights many of the important and significant news. There are articles written about different areas of physics in each issue.

One should also attend departmental colloquium. In many of the smaller schools, the colloquiums often are given at the level that an advanced undergraduate might be able to comprehend. At the very least, even if the topics you attend fly over your head, you'd be aware of an area of physics that you may never have heard before.

All of these can be quite informative, and doesn't require that you be "concerned" about these research-front topics.

Zz.
 
  • #7
I second ZapperZ's suggestions. Physics Today provides very nice reviews to cutting edge research topics which are at an approachable level for physics undergraduates.

I also would not get overly concerned about getting the wrong impression from reading "laymens translations" of physics research. More important is getting exposed to some of the basic motivations and goals for physics research and the techniques used to move towards those goals.

~Javier
 

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