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Understanding Astrophysics/Cosmology

  1. May 4, 2010 #1
    I have a deep interest in science. My main subject of interest however is astrophysics/cosmology. I have https://www.amazon.com/Astrophysics-Nutshell-Dan-Maoz/dp/0691125848". The mathematics used are simple, single variable calculus and some ODEs, although, on the physics aspect, I feel that I'm missing the connections. Especially the quantum mechanics. I've never read a science text book on anything else besides some basic classical physics.

    I'm thinking about going through classical electrodynamics, quantum mechanics and then some particle physics. Maybe after all of that I can learn some real astrophysics (and cosmology).

    Would all of that be necessary to truly understand it all? I still have an interest in physics but I'd rather learn about the cosmos first, then learn more in-depth physics.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2010 #2
    The thing about Astrophysics is that in touches on nearly all aspects of Physics. I've used bits of QM, EM, Mechanics, Thermo. etc. all the time. However, I don't have a deep understanding of any of these subjects (I'm a math major with a physics minor). My suggestion: since I don't know your education level/background, it might be best to wait until you've at least had introductory courses in EM and Mechanics before trying to tackle rigorous Astrophysics. At least, that's all I have and the class is going pretty smoothly.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. May 4, 2010 #3
    I should probably touch up on some mechanics, then maybe go through some EM? I actually haven't used any E&M. Only QM. What is EM useful for in astrophysics? The magnetic field of stars?
  5. May 4, 2010 #4
    Yes and in particular of neutron stars. I suppose mechanics would be the most useful, then QM and thermo. and what not.
  6. May 4, 2010 #5
    What level of astrophysics knowledge are you aiming for? Is this just for fun, or are you aiming to eventually do this professionally?

    As Newtime said, astrophysics (like condensed matter, nuclear physics, etc.) uses all areas of "basic" physics. When you start seriously approaching cosmology, for example, you need quantum and statistical mechanics to do early universe stuff. Of course you don't need anywhere near all of what's taught in the traditional undergraduate curriculum to approach a given area of astrophysics, but it's hard to build a list of specific topics; different topics build off of one another in the course of an undergrad education, and combine to produce the physical intuition and mathematical background needed to pick up new topics as necessary.

    If you're just doing this at a (serious) casual level, then you don't need full courses in, say nuclear physics, or even the more basic subjects. But you'll have a much harder time reading an astrophysics book and realizing what specific subject you need to go study in order to understand a particular topic.

    Radiative transfer, magnetohydrodynamics (star formation, galactic structure, etc.), emission and absorption in a host of astrophysically relevant environments, and many other topics.
  7. May 4, 2010 #6
    I'm actually doing this for my self. I've always been really curious about the universe. I'm not doing this for a living, though I'd like to have as close to a professional knowledge as possible.

    This isn't the only subject I like to learn about, I've made a challenge to see how much I can learn in a life time.
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