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Physics What are the details on Astrophysics?

  1. Nov 8, 2011 #1
    Hey Reader! :)

    I'm a High School Student currently in my 11th year of education and I've been seriously thinking about what I would like to go into, and I love doing physics and mathematics. They are the subjects I most enjoy.

    I would really like to consider going into Astrophysics (I understand they don't make much) because it looks like so much fun and like something I would enjoy putting the work into and learning about.

    What I'm not very sure about is if I'm taking the best courses, or what courses I would be allowed to drop (I'm considering dropping Biology) and I still am not completely sure on what University courses I should do besides a Bachelor of Science. I also would like to know a little more about what they do in their jobs and daily careers.

    The courses that I'm taking right now that might be of relevance to this post are Math 20C-AP, Physics 20-AP, Chem 20-AP and Bio 20/30-AP.

    If anyone could give me information on any of the following, that would be amazing! Thanks to all in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2011 #2
    Make sure you do well in your High School courses and get a solid foundation in High School Math and Physics! Take AP Calculus if it is offered at your school, and try to do some self-studying in physics and mathematics over the course of High School since it is so easy and you have tons of free time.

    Remember to have fun during High School and spend lots of time with friends, but it is also a time to get ahead of everyone else who would be going into the same programs as you by studying ahead. Try and cut out video games completely as they are useless and spend free time at home on things like: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/ocw-scholar/
    these courses. I did Multivariable Calculus in my second semester Grade 12 during my free time after taking AP Calculus and it was one of the most helpful things I could have done.

    Realize that you will be doing a lot of math, and that university level math is very different from high school math. High school is very methodical and procedure based to find the answer to an oversimplified problem, in university math you will be challenge to think creatively to find proofs to unique questions that there will not be many resources to help answer online.

    I would suggest you get ahead by learning some Calculus either during the school year or over the summer and learn some basic electricity and magnetism with the level of math that you know. You will not be able to really learn anything about astrophysics until you have a basic grasp of some of that material. I would recommend, if you want to be introduced to a general overview of some of the specific ideas in the field, and some interesting explanations to order this off the internet and watch the entire series:
    http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=1810 (it is overpriced right now, they periodically put it on sale for really cheap, I got it for like $100).

    Good luck and remember to stay interested and passionate in Math and Science. Buy a telescope, look at Jupiter and the planets and be amazed at the wonder of the universe.
  4. Nov 9, 2011 #3
    Surprisingly enough they aren't. The latest and greatest astrophysics supercomputing systems are based off of GPU and CPU systems that are funded by gamers. Also, if you can get into programming, that can be useful, and one easy way of getting into programming is to start designing and customizing levels in video games.

    The other thing about physics is that a lot of it involves visualization and geometric thinking, and video games provide a surprisingly good way of getting some training in that area.
  5. Nov 9, 2011 #4
    Well, maybe I'm a hypocrite because I played tons of video games during Junior High and High School. There's a difference between mindlessly playing some shooter game and learning how to program a video game...
  6. Nov 9, 2011 #5
    I thought I'd add that my first real inkling towards physics came from an interest in video games at a young age.

    Don't remove (non-health-detrimental) hobbies completely from your life. Not just for the sake of having something to "disconnect" with, you might find some seemingly unrelated hobby to be quite useful in your studies.

    I know my history of tinkering with electric guitars and amps has been enormously helpful in assimilating some of the stuff taught in physics courses... and you would have never thought playing rock guitar could be relevant to physics in the first place.

    Take the highest level calculus, chemistry and physics courses your high school offers before you graduate and you should do fine I think. Next year, take your calculus and head over to Khanacademy.com Tear through all of the videos on the material you cover in calculus class (and more if time permits) with a notebook in hand.

    If you have some time/desire over the summer before entering college, you could get a head start by watching the linear algebra playlist and/or differential equations. They are very accessible and friendly, and you will be more than adequately prepared for university level math.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  7. Nov 9, 2011 #6
    Personally, I would not suggest a "get ahead" mentality. Because if you concentrate on getting ahead in high school and early college years, what happens when people start going in different directions? I'd feel quite lost when there's no "ahead" to get anymore.

    Also, I think it's unwise to require everything you do to benefit your studies/work. Even if physics might benefit from games and whatnot. Because what you study can change; what you work on can change. What if everything you do, you do it because it might help doing astrophysics, but one day you don't want/can't do astrophysics anymore? Do you also drop all the other activities in life because they don't help anymore? I feel it's a bit too utilitarian.

    That said, I got interested in physics because of all those flight-sims I played in the golden age of flight-sims :P
  8. Nov 9, 2011 #7
    Yes, I'm not a physicists, but I'm an engineer and what got me on track was no doubt video games, I didn't watch Star Trek, but I loved video games, flight sims, rpgs, shooters...
    Then when I was really young, like 7 or 8 I wanted to build my own game, so I started learning about programming, then computer science in general...I ended up not being a computer scientist, but from that time I knew I wanted a career in technology.
  9. Nov 9, 2011 #8
    Thank you all, every comment and thought and point of view is appreciated!

    This is just a general idea of what I would like to go into though, so getting way ahead and basing life on this career isn't what I will be aiming for. Expanding my knowledge though and using the sites suggested I will definitely do since I enjoy that anyway, but probably not until summer. I was mostly looking for courses, which I have been given thanks to everyone.

    I didn't realize that computer programming would help, or even be a good idea. Computer science I thought maybe, but programming never dawned on me.

    If anyone had any information on the kind of things that Astrophysicists really do though, that would be amazing!

    (Again, thanks already! This forum has been a great help.)
  10. Nov 10, 2011 #9
    Astrophysicists do lots and lots of programming. You use huge amounts of observational data like luminosity, its time-dependent variability or the color/spectrum of stars to work out things like whats going on in their interiors(which gives/takes insights from fields like nuclear physics), their atmospheres, their chemical composition, their cycles and their implications to the evolution of a galaxy/cluster at large, for example. Then there are other things like planetary science, particle astrophysics, or writing code for computational simulations of processes like galactic and stellar evolution (think supercomputers).
  11. Nov 10, 2011 #10
    Also a large fraction of astrophysicists end up working in finance. It turns out that the equations that are used in astrophysics are very similar to the equations that are used in finance.
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