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What should I learn?

  1. May 8, 2010 #1
    Hi, I'm a highschool student and I want to study physics. I enjoy learning some things at home, but I'm not sure what's the best thing for me to learn. I sometimes count some limits, but I'm not sure if they are really useful in physics (if they are could you please give me an example?).
    I also sometimes try to solve some things from the physics olympics.
    What do you think that is the best thing to learn as a preparation for physics?
    1. calculus, since my both parents are mathematicians and I don't think we are going to learn much of it at our highschool
    2. go deeper in classical mechanics and other things they teach us at high-school
    3. just read some poular sciece books (honestly I can't see any use of them for me now since I think I'm motivated enough)
    Or is there something else you'd suggest? For example C++ or sth like that?

    I'd really apprecitate if you gave me an advice, because sometimes when I learn e.g. the classical mechanics stuff I feel like it's not even related to what I'd like to do (probably theoretic physics)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2010 #2


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    4. All of the above.

    At the high school level, it's a good idea to simply try out different things and figure out what really interests you. Getting into the habit of reading the popular science books out there isn't so much just about motivating you. The more you read, the more broad your perspective becomes. It can also help to read some biographies of scientists who have done the kind of work you're interested in doing.

    Probing deeper in classical mechanics can be helpful. You might be surprised at how much work in physics and engineering really all comes back to F=ma. Complimenting this with some basic programing skills will help a great deal by the time you get into university. The language itself won't even matter so much as the process of going through algorithm development and coding.

    Advancing your mathematics skills is also quite helpful. It will pay off big time to have seem material before you encounter it in a lecture, and it will give you a better framework for learning physics.

    Of course, you don't have an infinite amount of time. So at some point you need to decide what to focus on. My suggestion is for extra-cirricular stuff, find a project or projects that you enjoy. Sitting down and hammering out math problems because you think it will be helpful in the future won't help you much if you dread doing it. You could try things like writing basic computer programs to simulate physics experiments if that appeals to you. Or perhaps you could start a competative math team at your school. Or start a project like building a solar powered race car.
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