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!

Suggestions needed for a dysmathic polymath!

  1. Jan 9, 2014 #1
    G'day all,

    I'm a 50-year-old ex-hardware pseudo-engineer. I had 2 years of electronics training back in the early 80s, but since then I've been completely self-taught. I was sharp enough to be offered a position at Hewlett-Packard, in instrument repair, although I was the only team member without any formal qualifications. I learned pretty much on-the-job. I stayed there for 16 years, moving into computer support and finally critical escalation management. All of this was hands-on, with access to the factory designers and engineers, which I found to be very humbling. I was a lucky guy!

    Since then (~2005) I've kept busy designing and building a music studio, where I've been repairing, recovering, and restoring audio recordings (think wax cylinders, wire recordings, bakelite, shellac-on-glass, nitride, and vinyl disks, as well as cassette, reel-to-reel tapes, Beta and VHS video, and so on). Again, self-taught, and I did a good enough job to be able to get work from the Australian Film and TV Archives in Canberra. It's been tremendously rewarding and utterly fascinating, but after leading the field for nearly a decade, there are too many others offering competing services (without the attention to detail, unfortunately) and this is no longer viable.

    As a hobby, I design, fabricate, and build small computers for use in drying oven controls, metal detectors, autonomous robots, vehicle sensors for driving assistance, and sometimes just to flash the lights!

    However... my true passions (apart from helping people) are cosmology and medical prosthetics, believe it or not. I read as many cosmology papers as I can access, but the catch is that I'm quite dysmathic - I have tremendous trouble with higher maths concepts, such as Taylor expansion, complex polynomials, various spaces (Riemann, Minkowski, Hilbert, etc). So anything more complex than vectors is really, really difficult for me, despite years of trying with maths books. I can fudge through calculus now, but my brain hurts when I do it.

    I assume this makes practical exploratory cosmology a closed subject, but I'm hoping somewhere, someone might see some potential. Heck, I'd even be happy to dust the telescopes if that would get my foot in the door! Unfortunately, the three or four observatories I've contacted have quite clearly stated that they required a formal degree before they'd let me out of the visitors' area!

    Another option would be in prosthetics, since I also have an excellent medical comprehension (I'm currently teaching myself neurology as I have quite a few prosthetics in my spine after a misspent youth!), and I definitely have the mental and design chops to offer some skills in that area - but again, the few people I've been able to contact want formal engineering qualifications in mechanical or medical/biological engineering.

    So can anyone suggest any possible areas where my skillset might be useful? I'm prepared to spend a few years in uni, to get at least a degree, but the costs are (pardon the pun) astronomical!

    Oh, yeah, I'm based in Melbourne, Australia.

    Any suggestions or pointers would be very much appreciated. And thanks for reading all this!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    If you're currently successful and have a disposable income, astronomy remains a field in which non-professionals can make outstanding contributions to the field. Obviously you aren't going to be able to do the heavy lifting origin of the universe stuff, but a sizeable scope with proper set up will enable you to take part in asteroid/comet identification, planetary observation, variable stars, ect.

    I have a 16 inch Meade I really wish I had the space to pier mount somewhere. A scope of that size is a good start. If you haven't done much observing, it will also prove mentally stimulating to learn all the ins and outs.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook