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Summer physics

  1. Jul 15, 2004 #1
    Dear friends,

    After having succesfully passed my first year at the Physics faculty, I must say that I'm starting to feel a bit bored in my summer vacation.I'm always thinking of problems and I read interesting books such as 'the elegant universe'.

    All my friends got the chance to work on something they study and like. The one who's studying architecture works with an architect. Another one who studies Art got a summer job at the museum.

    I wish I could do something like that. But there's no physics club in my city, nobody to talk to about my doubts and problems. I have no guide, no orientation but the biographies of great men like Lagrange, Laplace, Euler, etc. and the excellent Physics Forum on-line!

    What do you suggest I do? I've got so much math to learn, cause I feel I won't be able to understand the laws of physics without a solid base of calculus and algebra.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2004 #2
    I wish I knew... I'm bord on my vacation too. Atleast school starts in two weeks for me.
  4. Jul 15, 2004 #3
    You could study your calculus book. It will certainly help you to be able to COMPLETELY :grumpy: understand vectors, if you do not understand them already. It never hurt anyone to try to learn something on their own, even if you are going to have to take a class pertaining to the subject. As for the laws of physics, why don't you just try? Pick up (or buy) an E&M book, a modern physics book, or a classical dynamics book. If you have some idea about what you are confused about prior to taking a class, you could ask more appropriate questions! Also now you know to start looking for a summer job sooner! I wish I had tried harder for them during my undergraduate career.

    As for not having anyone to talk physics with, I can relate as I live on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere...try talking physics to trees, bugs, or the local rednecks :surprise:
  5. Jul 15, 2004 #4
    There's a cute little book called "Perfect Form" by a fellow named Don S. Lemons (look here: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/...104-2228040-9964713?v=glance&s=books&n=507846)

    that only assumes some knowledge of physics (say a freshman or sophomore level) and calculus. The point of the book is to introduce the basic ideas of the variational calculus to young physicists. It is really a good book with nice problems and of course the mathematics is very relevant to physics.

  6. Jul 15, 2004 #5


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    I suggest go to summer classes - if you cant afford to register for any math classes/whatever - just go to classes anyway - attend those lectures, and in the fall when you start taking those classes (for example linear algebra or differential equations) - you'll absord more material and develop a better understand of the subject, as well as appreciation which will help you stay on track. I'm sure your college is offering summer session in math and/or physics
  7. Jul 15, 2004 #6
    Here are my suggestions:

    Water skiing


    Archery (more fun than you think)

    Teach yourself Flash

    There is a fantastic 3-D animation tool available called Animation: Master! Buy it and learn it.

  8. Jul 15, 2004 #7
    Why are you trying to discourage someone who appears to be interested in the subject? I have spent several of my summers having fun and wish I had been more active in physics over those periods. I had a girlfriend who hated the time I spent on science, and now I wish it had ended (the relationship) sooner so I could have spent even more time falling in love with physics. I am having to relearn some things I have forgotten because I was not using them to further understand complexities of the field! Many things are built on some basic, yet hard to understand concepts, so why not get a head start? There's never enough time during a semester to learn all you want to and spend time having fun (a necessary activity while breaking your back trying to appease professors!)

    I am not saying you are wrong, some of those things sound appealing. And it is important to take some time off from study. However, I object when you say "anything but physics!!""
  9. Jul 16, 2004 #8
    Thank you guys for all you ideas. It is true, my girlfriend wants anything but physics! However I feel I need to do something. I've decided to go to Germany and improve my German.
    I'll get the chance to visit one of the oldest universities in the world:Universitas Heidelbergensis.

    Have fun!
  10. Jul 16, 2004 #9


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    when you were learning you wished you had a vacation, and when you have a vacation you wished for learning.
    the fact of life, why?????
  11. Jul 16, 2004 #10
    Yes, I finished the 2nd year of Physics and I'm very bored... after being stressed with exams... nothing to do with me, instead of enjoy vacations I want to begin 3rd year :)
  12. Jul 16, 2004 #11
    Blasphemer!!! Get him! :devil:
  13. Jul 16, 2004 #12
    what i did in my summer breaks was to find a really complex problem in physics that interested me and then frustrated myself because i could not work it out.
    and before you laugh at me you would be suprised at how much you can learn by getting it wrong
  14. Jul 16, 2004 #13


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    Way to go! In the tradition of the best.
  15. Jul 17, 2004 #14
    Although my statement "Anything but physics!" was meant tongue-in-cheek, there is some truth in it, in my view. I earned a Ph.D. in physics, and I kick myself in the ass every time I think about all the fun things I could have done during the summer, but didn't because I was too busy screwing around with physics. I never learned how to play the bass guitar, because I was too busy with schoolwork. I don't know how to water ski, and I really wish I knew.

    Hell, I wish I knew how to weld more than the stuff I learned over summer during my undergraduate years. I could have done a lot of cool things welding.

    There is an old saying that "Physics is FUN." Whomever said that doesn't know what fun is, or I don't know how to do physics. I studied the subject for 15 years as a student, and I cannot think of any time I considered it fun. (Interesting, challenging, satisfying on occassion. Fun? No.)

    So during the summer, go out and have some fun. Some REAL FUN. Because when you get older, you will find it too late. You will have a wife and kids and a steady job, and little time for it. And when Joe SixPack goes hunting with his kids -- and you can't because you never learned how -- you will envy him.

    My advice is simple: Every summer, learn something new that is at least mildly recreational. If you have little talent for sporting activities, I suggest archery. The equipment is not that expensive and a beginner can have just as good a time as the experts. Or take billiard lessons. Or play the guitar. Or...
  16. Jul 20, 2004 #15


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    I'll have to agree wholeheartedly with JohnDubYa. Summer isn't simply a whole 3 month intensive self study period, its a time to develop yourself outside of academics. Read interesting books by all means, but if you find yourself locking your doors and studying all day, you are missing the point. That is also a surefire way to burn yourself out before the new school year even begins. My main recommendation would be to play sports (i'm a bit of a jock though, so you may not agree.) Also travelling and seeing new places, visiting friends and relatives are also some of my personal favorite things to do. You really don't want to look back on these days remembering only having your face firmly planted in a book.
  17. Jul 20, 2004 #16


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    Archery, John???!!! :)

    Here's my 2 cents - learn how to COOK!

    Chances are, you WILL leave home, you WILL be on your own, and you WILL eventually need to eat a proper meal that doesn't come wrapped in recycled paper. Learning how to cook proper meals is a survival skill, and your body will thank you later on when you're as old as I am!

    And cooking can be theraputic also. I remember way back then when I was preparing for my oral comprehensive exam and the week leading up to it, I had way too much nervous energy. Since it was in the middle of winter, I couldn't just go out and hit a few balls at a tennis court. So I end up learning how to make bread from scratch by hand! The kneeding process is a terrific means to get rid of aggression - and you also develop quite strong wrist and triceps muscles! This is of course in addition to the fact that even a mediocre freshly-baked homemade bread tastes WAY better than the ones found in a typical supermarket.

    Er... is this the Physics Forum or a Cooking Forum? I forget! :)

  18. Jul 20, 2004 #17
    The Other Side

    I tend to disagree with the entirely pro-leisure posts. While I think it is important to have the ability to have fun in a nonintellectual manner, I would not suggest letting that physics (or math) book get dusty over the summer. I say this because I did exactly that...I dropped out of school once, so I could make a go at the working man's life and live a more relaxed life. I really did not think that academia was the path for me, but was I ever wrong. I became employed as a cook (a mere coincidence with ZapperZ's recreation) and had lots of spare time to try anything I wanted to. I learned how to cook (still cannot bake anything!!) and play the bass guitar (which is awesome, but extremely frustrating!) However, this was not the course for me and I grew mentally bored.

    This is when I went back to school studying physics. I still had the leisurely-oriented mindset though and spent my summers goofing off and working as a bartender. I have always wanted to be a bartender and it was fun, but I should have listened to my advisor and tried for a job in the field. Now I have graduated and I wished I had spent more time studying physics and working in research labs as an intern. I plan to go to graduate school, but I find myself relearning things that I wish I simply knew by heart. Physics is FUN, you just have to look at it the right way. If you want to spend your life doing something, it should be fun for you. I know a computer programmer who spends just about every day, all day long, working and she loves it. Sure there are stressful times, but there are also times she looks like a little kid typing away at her laptop. I hope to get a job in physics where I can feel like that.

    I kick myself in the butt everytime I think about all those times I spent goofing off. I should have spent that time doing what I really want to do, study physics. Hindsight is really always 20/20 and I think I am presenting the opposing extreme to what others have present earlier in this thread. Everyone wishes they had done something different at some point in thier lives, but you never know this until after the deed is done and there is no point in fretting over it. You can also learn new things, even as life progresses. I think it is wise to incorporate recreation into daily life, then you don't have to wait around for a vacation to have fun. There is no reason not to play your favorite sport or favorite relaxation activity for an hour every day and you do not lose anything over it. If you cannot find that hour to relax every day then I think you should reevaluate your work ethic, it may kill you.
  19. Jul 20, 2004 #18


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    I'm glad you posted this because it gives me a chance to make a clarification. I wasn't suggesting that one always find non-physics "recreation" during the summer/holiday months. In fact, I interened at Fermilab one summer between my Junior and Senior year in college (for those not familiar with that, it's between the end of 3rd and 4th year in a university). It was a very significant period of my life and a turning point in my ambition to become a physicist because it smacked some sense into me and snapped my illusion of going into high energy physics. (Yes, my internship at Fermilab turned me OFF from that field of physics.)

    So yes, I advocate doing certain things whenever appropriate. Besides, you don't have to spend an entire summer learning how to cook, do you? :)

  20. Jul 20, 2004 #19
    My own two cents:

    It is summer and I'm still doing physics and mathematics, I really enjoy them. What i don't enjoy are deadlines and cramming and rushing. Summer gives you an opportunity to fill out your knowledge, go off on some tangents. Perhaps some sections in your last physics text were skipped, go check them out. Maybe you've just taken quantum and would like to read more, check out diracs book for example.

    Of course, the nice thing about summer is that when I'm tired of working on math/physics for the day I grab a couple steaks and beers and head outside to the grill or pick up a nice book I wanted to read last spring but didn't have time, or make bread (as another poster suggested) etc.

    I'm sure if you a physics/math major, then you enjoy it, keep doing it, but now, savor the leisurely pace, work all day when you feel like it, hike all day the following. Mix it up in a way that you'll enjoy.

    Most importantly... Have a nice summer.

  21. Jul 20, 2004 #20
    We all think that. We think that if only we had worked harder, didn't spend so much, woke up earlier, went to bed earlier, ate healthier... Yes, it seems so now, but we forget the displeasures that accompany these activities when we reminesce.

    Summer is for fun. Your career as an undergraduate is probably your last shot at having real fun before the real world dumps on you. You won't have time for any of these recreational activities later when you get married, have a family, and have to hold down a steady job. And you won't know how to do them anyway.

    As for physics being FUN? I find that to be a huge stretch. As I said, it can be challenging, interesting, and satisfying at times, but not fun. I have never gone "Wheeeeeeee!!!" when doing physics.
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