Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Some question for ZapperZ

  1. May 26, 2006 #1
    ZapperZ, I have been reading some of your posts. ex. So You Want To Be a Physicist. I have found that thread and certainly your comments very inspirational. I am directly talking to you because you are the only Physicist that I "know" in PF and because of your thread. I would like to thank you for the time that you gave/give in PF as well as the other mentors.

    Well... I am a senior in high school and I am trying to figure out what to study in college. Sorry for taking up your time and hopefully you and other Physicist can answer some of my questions. Thank you.

    So far in my life I have not felt like I have succeeded, at least in my perspective, in the things that I like, or that I at least think that I like. I like Mathematics and Physics. However, I have only studied Physics for one year, my senior year. During my junior year I used to say to myself, "I wish that I only had to come to school for Chemistry and Math." Well, this year I feel like in order for me to be a well rounded, educated, and perhaps interesting individual, I must not only focus on the subjects that I find interesting, but also on those other subjects that I am required to take in school. I certainly enjoy all of my classes now. I appologize for taking your valuable time.

    To the point. In my junior year of high school, I took CP Chemistry (regular chemistry, it was not advance, honors nor ap) and I liked it. However, now in my senior year I took Physics. I get sad when I think about it, but the truth is that I have pretty much forgotten everything that I was taught in Chemistry. I like Physics, or at least so far I think that I like it, because through it, I get a better understanding of some of the devices that surround me, as well as the physical world. However, I fear that perhaps I will forget the things that I have learned in Physics class. I will study Physics over the summer on my own in order to not forget what I learned. I am taking Pre-Cal right now. I enjoy it. In my school I must take pre-cal before having the chance of taking Calculus. However, I am a senior so I will not be able to tak Calculus in high school. In my Pre-cal class the students are mostly seniors with the exception of two or thre. When I moved to the U.S. the administrators signed me up for a math that was at the level of the regular class. I moved 5yrs ago from Colombia.

    I try to not memorize what I've been taught in physics. I usually try to understand why things happen. However, there are still many things that I have to memorize, because I have not been able to understand some formulas. Those formulas that I do not "understand" are usually those that I forget.
    I will highlight this paragraph in case that you feel like I am not worth of your time and think that I am a bad student. I like studying. I like learning. To my standards I do not think I am that good of a student, I try hard however. I do not care about the grades in school. I care about having a good understanding of everything that I learn. I certainly must have good grades in order to succeed in life. So I try to get good grades

    When you come to PF and you see the Physics questions that some post, as a Physicist, do you know how to solve all the those problems? Do you not forget formulas, concepts, etc.?

    Why did you choose Physics? When did you first noticed that you like Physics? Would you say that you were one of the smartest kids of your graduating class in High school? What tips do you have for someone like me?

    I feel like it is too early for me to say that I truly like Physics and Math because I have not covered enough material. Should I try to pursue a career that deals with Physics and Math? Well, eventhough I know that I am the only one that can answer that, I will still like to know your opinion at least if you were me.

    Other questions.... How do you feel about being a Physicist? Is it what you wanted it to be? How do you feel about the discoveries that you have made throught out your Physics experience? Would you go back and do all the hard work[Physics] again? What are some of the problems that you face as a Physicist everyday? I think of life as study, study, study. Am I the only one that feels this way?

    Sometimes I feel that I must isolate myself from everyone in order to stay on focus. I have not yet met anyone, personally, that I can share my interests with. Sometimes I wonder what the people in some of my classes are going to do with their lifes because they are always complaining about the work that they give us in school. I feel that their negative comments do not have a good impact on me. I do not want to fail in life. It is unacceptable yet I am scared. Everyone around me takes things very easily. They are very laid back and do not seem to care much. I do not like to be aroudn that. Am I the only one that feels this way?

    I would like to thank you for reading this if you have. And again I appologize for taking up your time. This is the only time where I can say what I truly feel. When I talk to the few acquaintances of mine about my feelings towards Math and Physics, I usually receive bad looks. I do not care. But it means that I cannot talk to them about it. PF seems to be like a place where some people and I have the same interests. I also appologize for my English. I know that after reading this you may think that I have contradicted myself a lot throught this post. It just that this is the only way that I know to communicate myself w/ people. And my English not being the best may give some impressions that I do not mean.

    Thank you very much.
    Last edited: May 26, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2006 #2
    Holy crap man, you apologize way too much.
  4. May 26, 2006 #3
    I apologize as much as I do because I know that time is very valuable and I do not feel too good about spending someone's valuable time. I am certainly thankful.
  5. May 26, 2006 #4
    You could have simply PMed him
  6. May 26, 2006 #5
    But then we won't be able to read the insights of other physicists...
  7. May 27, 2006 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper


    I just wanted to comment on two of your points:

    You need to understand that most people will not attempt to provide solutions to problems they don't know how to solve! No one knows everything. Also, everyone forgets things but there is really only a small set of core concepts in physics which, if you understand them deeply, makes it unnecessary to memorize much. That, along with well developed problem solving skills will let you take on a very wide array of problems. You accomplish that with practice, curiosity and enthusiasm and that all comes from within.

    Why should their bad attitude, laziness and lack of motivation hinder you in your aspirations? Seek out other people with interests similar to your own.
  8. May 27, 2006 #7
    I have not met anybody, at my school that is, that likes Physiscs and/or Math. Well, I think that whenever I go to college that will change and also visiting PF and reading some of post by the successfull, not rich perhaps, but succesful engineers, physicist, mathematicians, etc. has been an inspiration.

    If you do not mind me asking Tide, what do you do for a living? Are you a student? If you are would mind sharing what you are majoring in?......It is always nice to meet people that try in life. I am asking this because I would also like to ask you some questions on your career.
  9. May 27, 2006 #8
    That's a very good attitude. Recently a nobel prize winner in physics met with undergrads at my school and to a question about how should an aspiring physicist approach science education, he said to get as broad a background as possible.

    Everyone does.

    One pretty interesting fact I learned in my neurobio class is that, when your brain learns something by gradual training (like learning about physics bit by bit, everyday in highschool), it may "forget" things when your exposure to the subject stops, but it "recovers" the memory in a very short time compared to the time it took to learn the subject the first time around. I'm sure everyone has experience this. Even if you feel like you forgot everything you learned in highschool after sitting in your room and playing computer games all summer, you would be able to pick up your textbook and recall evertying you learned in less than a month.

    Again, good attitude.

    This could be true. The concept of a physicist I imagined in highschool was quite different from the physicists I know now in my third year of college. However, you will only get your answer to this question if you go ahead and major in physics in college.
    Last edited: May 27, 2006
  10. May 27, 2006 #9
    Thank you very much Phun. As I asked Tide and hopefully you will not mind answering me, what are/did you study in college?
    Last edited: May 27, 2006
  11. May 27, 2006 #10
    I'm a junior(college) physics major, if that gives my opinions any credibility.
  12. May 28, 2006 #11
    I was only asking you what your major is/was because I would like to ask you some questions about it. But now that I know, How do you like it? What degree do you wish to end up with? What has motivated you to keep studying Physics? Perhaps that last question was not exactly what I meant, but that is the only way I can say it.
  13. May 28, 2006 #12
    Well...let's see..
    Ever since high school, I knew that I wanted to study the sciences or engineering. Well, to be more precise, I wanted to do engineering because at the time it seemed like one would be able to get a solid job with an engineeing degree, and everyone in my high school who was good at science/math seemed to be thinking in that direction. When I actually got to college, I realized that engineers learn how to use the fundamental ideas in science with design/manufacturing as the primary goal. Altough ph.d engineers do sometimes tackle fundamental scientific questions, undergraduate education in engineering is not really focused on understanding the fundamentals at all. So I decided that I would do science. Among the sciences, physics seemed to be most fundamental, and I'm a kind of person who would feel uneasy to learn about chemical bonds without understanding the quantum mechanics. Of course the chemists learn quantum mechanics but I doubt if chemistry undergrad majors know how to solve schrodinger's equation or understand the concept of Hilbert space. As for biology, I think there would be plenty other people who can do biology better than me, since my strength doesn't lie heavily on memorization or logical thinking without mathematics.

    This is getting unnecessarily long, but to make it short, I like physics because physics is not based on any other fundamental knowledge, and I can say that if I understand physics, at least I understand everything that gives rise to everything else, although I might not know the macroscopic workings of more complex phenomena such as life. Some might say that math is more fundamental, but it's a completely different question, because math by itself is not concerned with describing the nature. So far my physics education has not disappointed me in this regard (as far as helping me understand the fundamentals), although I've had my ups and downs. And about the ups and downs, I'd rather not go into details unless I know you personally :)

    Oh, and of course, I plan to get a ph.d. in physics
    Last edited: May 28, 2006
  14. May 28, 2006 #13
    What has been your favorite class so far?

    Some questions that I have not had the chance to ask anyone... How many classes do you take in a week? How long is each class? would having a double major cost more?
  15. May 28, 2006 #14
    wow now this seems like an online chat.
    It's hard to say. I had the best experience in solid state physics, but that was because I had a very good experience in quantum mechanics. Of course a budding physicist should like everything at the undergrad level.
    Your second question seems a bit irrelevant, because at my school, people can take anywhere from 3 to whatever (I've heard up to 7) classes, depending on how much actual life they would like to have. I think none of these questions would really factor into your decision of whether to do physics or not, but if you are just plain curious, look into the websites of the schools you are interested in. At this point, just decide whether you want to do physics, and if you do, just go ahead and experience!
  16. May 28, 2006 #15
    I asked those other questions because I'm also interested in Engineering, and I wanted to see if it would be a good decision in an economical way. I did not get a free ride to College so I need to work some while in college. Everybody likes money; however, Right now I just want to let my mind "grow" (get wiser and learn more things.) I do not want to be a slave and have to pay for my education for the rest of my life.

    But thank you very much Phun for answering some of my questions. Your answers have been very helpful.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook