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Where do I begin?

  1. Feb 27, 2012 #1
    I've always had a huge fascination for the universe, space, time, and physics. There are so many questions in my head that I can't answer and I wish I could live to see the day that they are answered. I'm only a junior in high school, I haven't taken any major science classes besides things like Biology, Earth and Environmental, etc. so I don't have enough knowledge of the subjects that interest me quite yet. I tried reading about 10 articles on Wikipedia to get general ideas of theories about universe and time including M-theory, String Theory, Theories of Everything, Schrodinger's Cat (I couldn't understand this) and I really want to know what the Standard Model means. The problem I noticed with trying to learn about these subjects are I don't fully understand the terminology used, so how am I supposed to really learn it? Like I read it and I understand the idea of it but there are words that I don't understand and it's really confusing. Do I just have to wait until I take some of these classes in school or is there another way to learn more about the universe?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2012 #2


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    Michael3710, Welcome to Physics Forums! We all have to crawl before walking, and walk before running. That is a process, just as learning science is a process. Using the same terms for sciencetific experiments and results is what makes science "universal". An experiment in California can be duplicated in China...or another planet...and still give the same results. So, the process you face now is to learn the vocabulary of each area you are interested in. This terminology will allow you to study simple ideas and get the meaning clearly. There are some great textbooks on those subjects you mentioned, and they always define terms at the beginning of each section. If you have a limited budget I recommend the used book sectiion of a university library. Your curiosity is your most valuable asset right now. Be patient, and do your homework!
  4. Feb 28, 2012 #3
    I agree with Bobbywhy. In the mean time physicsforums is a great place to ask questions, I don't have a lot of experience in the forum, but from the little I have I can tell you that people here are great, they always want to help you. Ask people not to be too mathy and they wont be. You will be able to get good logical answers here.

    IMHO a really good start is trying to learn a bit about history of physics, because everything in physics is related. This helped me a LOT in understanding why some theory came up, what were the questions being asked at that time that motivated that discovery. You don't need to get into a lot of details, just check out the years of the discoveries so you get an idea. As Newton and Einstein once said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".
  5. Feb 28, 2012 #4


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    Read the history of science. Read the biographies of the 'greats'. I think it is a very under-rated thing to do, but reading how people 'unearthed' each hard-won piece of the 'jigsaw' is very informative. These folks did not have the basis on which to second guess any of this. So they chipped away at each piece of the puzzle, and seeing their difficulties in making progress understanding these things should also reflect in your own dawning comprehension of them.
  6. Feb 28, 2012 #5
    Thanks for all the help guys :) I will take little steps and make my way into delving into all of my huge interests!
  7. Feb 28, 2012 #6
  8. Feb 28, 2012 #7
    Wow thanks for the information Kjamha :)
  9. Feb 28, 2012 #8
    My advice would be to avoid textbooks for now. The subjects you listed are fascinating, but very advanced. The math skills alone are years beyond Jr. High; some of your subjects are beyond an undergraduate degree. If you start with textbooks that you can understand, you'll be burnt out while still learning about pendulums (or thereabouts). For now, I would advise reading books written for people who are not trying to get a working knowledge of the subject. I do research in quantum mechanics and, as I've mentioned elsewhere, I recommend "Quantum: A guide for the perplexed" as a great starting for the subject. Quantum mechanics is a good place to start before jumping into string theory too. I'm sure other people on the forums can recommend other reliable authors and books that aren't too technical.
  10. Feb 29, 2012 #9
    Thanks man :)
  11. Feb 29, 2012 #10
    Read "a brief history of time" by Stephen Hawking, you will find there are no equations in it, but so much information you probably would enjoy. I read the whole thing on a beach in turkey, best vacation ever, thanks to that book.

    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  12. Feb 29, 2012 #11
    Khan Academy is a good place to learn introductory to intermediate/advanced math and physics. Khan is pretty good about giving the viewer an intuitive feel for stuff, and he has practice problems too.
  13. Feb 29, 2012 #12
    I second this recommendation. This book, along with my own curiosity, is what got me into physics.
  14. Mar 7, 2012 #13
    I was going to suggest Khan Academy as well.
  15. Mar 8, 2012 #14
    If you're truly serious about going into science then learning math is the singlemost important thing to do now. You'll need to know algebra, geometry, trig, precalc and calculus REALLY REALLY REALLY well before embarking in physics.

    Right now, the best you can do is taking all the math classes you can. You can also take some physics and chemistry classes alongside, but that's not necessary.

    Go to khanacademy and watch the videos as well.

    Don't waste your time reading popsci books. A brief history of time by Hawking is good, but you can do more valuable things with your time. Study math instead, and study it hard.

    Yes, high school math IS boring, but you'll need to know it really well.
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