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Studying Studying cosmology part-time?

  1. May 6, 2007 #1
    Hello, I am 17 and from England.

    I have never really been good at maths, I find equations and such difficult to comprehend - this was the reason I decided not to take physics in college but rather art subjects, and luckaly enough for me I have always had an apparent gift when it comes to painting and other artsy stuff. I think it's just the way my mind works; some people understand logic and arithmetic naturally, I understand painting techniques and so forth naturally, but not logic and arithmetic. I believe it's the "wiering" of my brain and it's for this reason I feel I can never follow my love for cosmology to the extent I would like too. As Einstein once said, without the maths one can only be an observer to the mystical dance of the unverse. At least I think it was him. :yuck:

    Eitherway, I would like to know what paths I could possibly take? I would be going for the art career primarily but would highly enjoy some involvement with cosmology. I can't provide anything more specific to ask other than this as I don't know anything. I'm cluless.

    Thanks for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2007 #2


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    Cosmology is the study of the universe based on Einstein's equations of general relativity (GR). Sooo, GR is where you must begin. And I hate to disapoint you, but GR is the branch of physics with the hardest math in it.

    What you could do though is take out Penrose's book The Road to Reality and read chapters 27-28.
  4. May 6, 2007 #3


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    One can study cosmology qualitatively rather than quantitatively, but that would mostly likely be as an amateur or avocationally rather than professionally. Cosmology, like any science, tends to be quantitative, and often involves complex mathematical models which describe dynamic processes or the structure of the universe/cosmos. Theories using models are proposed then tested against observation, and then theories/models are interatively adjusted to meet the observation hopefully. The theory and model must also be self-consistent.

    One could be involved in observational astronomy.
  5. May 6, 2007 #4
    Try the book 'Cosmology' by Edward Harrison for starters.
  6. May 6, 2007 #5
    I guess i'll have to feed my brain with books for now then.

    Any other books that people could reccomend me? I'm currently reading Big Bang by Simon Singh, then once finished i'm going to get Richard Fenyman's Character of Physical Law and Bill Bryson's A Hisory of Nearly Everything. I'm open to mathmatics books, aswel, so I can try and get acquainted with intermediate mathmatics and then with advanced mathmatics in the (hopefully) near future.

  7. May 7, 2007 #6
    But doesn't this also require a good deal of mathematics (i.e. statistical analysis of data, modeling, etc.)? I'm not asking rhetorically, I really want to know. I'm starting my graduate research in astrophysics this summer, and while I'm quite adept at math, I don't particularly enjoy it. So if there's any area in astrophysics that doesn't require any math, I'd certainly be interested in checking it out. Alas, since physics I in my first semester at college, I can't remember ever taking a theoretical or experimental physics class in which I didn't have to take a derivative or something on a regular basis.

    Oh, and to the OP, Quasar is right that cosmology not only requires math, but the most difficult math you can find. I majored in math in college (don't ask why I hate math...long story), and did very well in all my math classes, but general relativity still went over my head. It's not for the mathematically challenged. Heck, it's not even for us mortals.

    But since you're good at art, perhaps you could paint pictures for cosmology and astronomy textbooks? Most textbooks have artists conceptions of various celestial objects. Seems like this would be right up your alley.
  8. May 7, 2007 #7
    Yes, that could be pretty fun.

    I'd still enjoy to get to grips with mathmatics though, as hard as it could be. Not for a future career but because I want too soley out of interest and because of the desire I have to learn as much as I can about something I enjoy. It's just a shame it's hit me when i'm finishing college in 3 weeks.
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