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Where Should I Go From Here?

  1. May 10, 2015 #1
    So, I'm currently a sixteen year old sophomore who is really interested in Physics and I wanted to know what realm of Physics I could join that includes some of my interests.

    I enjoy soldering, programming, mathematics, circuits and electronics, mechanics, and computers. However, I do not want to go into industry and make things like weapons and airplanes for people. I want to spend the rest of my life learning about the universe and how it works. I want to spend the rest of my time on this Earth, getting headaches and being stumped by Physics problems every night.

    I have a fear of going into both Robotics and Applied. I fear that if I were to settle in Robotics, I would be doing more Engineering than Physics, making my job boring and uninteresting. Likewise, I fear that if I were to go into Applied, I'd be dragged into industry and end up with the job I hate; making weapons and such. I'm unsure if this is true or just a simple misconception.

    I am wondering of what use I could be to the vast field of Physics and where I could lie.
    (I think I would be useful in Cosmology or Computational, but I am very unsure.)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    That's a fine goal. How do you plan to be paid for it?
  4. May 10, 2015 #3
    Just be passionate for what you do.. Im sure the government are looking for people just like you.

    Btw, im not talking about working for a local council as a civil engineer... Im talking about being picked by the CIA to work out strategic plans etc. They are always in need of people like you.
  5. May 10, 2015 #4
    To me it sounds like you would be more interested in computer engineering, or perhaps something like mechatronics, than straight physics. What is your aversion to engineering? Fear of being used to make instruments of war? Don't worry, no one will force you to design missiles and airplanes. Most of the time, people are even hard pressed in convincing defense companies to let them do this kind of work, not the other way around; the competition is fierce.

    Let's be straight: you are 16 years old and probably are used to an education system where the teachers cater to and encourage your hopes and dreams. That's fine, we were all idealists at some age. But for your own good I'll tell you: nobody is going to support you in your quest to obtain headaches and confounding results. You will fail your introductory physics classes if you refuse to study pulleys, heat engines, rocket propulsion etc. You will fail in a career as a cosmologist or computational physicist if you refuse to know how a basic telescopes or calculators work.

    If you can't open yourself up to understanding the applications of physics, such as basic engineering, then you have no place demanding a theoretical career. I think it is clear enough that you cannot understand a fundamental law if you refuse to experience its effects.

    If you are just looking for a way to "know the meaning of life" or "understand the will of the universe" then you should look into philosophical studies, but be warned that most do not care about those either. And please don't call engineering "boring" when talking to a group of scientists and engineers. At best it is "not your cup of tea", if you are looking for support and advice.
  6. May 10, 2015 #5
    This. This is how you must think about things.
  7. May 10, 2015 #6


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    Interests change. The field of engineering is too big to worry about any one thing that you have heard of up to now. Concentrate on Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science/programming for the next couple of years and try to decide what you want to learn and do.
  8. May 10, 2015 #7


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    Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist, not an engineer. Going into physics won't keep you out of the weapons industry. Better open a yoga studio instead and avoid the possibility of getting sucked into building weapons without your consent.
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
  9. May 10, 2015 #8


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    Something I might add is that a large portion of physics, perhaps the majority of physics lies in the "applied" realm. Even a lot of work in theoretical physics involves writing computer algorithms, solving bugs in computer code, benchmarking models against experimental data, etc. So it's not like you'll have a job where you just go into the office, sit in a comfy chair at a desk, and think exclusively about the mysteries of the universe.

    You have lots of time to figure this out. At this point, spend as much time as you can reading about the problems that interest you. Start your own little projects to solve the problems that you can solve right now - maybe they won't lead to any immediate breakthroughs, but the point of such exercises lies in skill development and generating an experience base. As your interests mature, you'll be able to make intelligent, informed decisions on which opportunities to pursue.
  10. May 10, 2015 #9
    That's exactly what I'm asking. Is there anywhere I can go where I can enjoy my hobbies while also spending time finding principles of the universe?
  11. May 10, 2015 #10
    I did not say I didn't like engineering. Of course I know I must learn the basics. I was asking is there anywhere I can go without me becoming bored and dreadful of my job. That is all.
  12. May 10, 2015 #11
    That is why I said I am trying to avoid a realm such as that. That is why I stated that I do not want to be part of the weapons industry in any way.
  13. May 11, 2015 #12


    Staff: Mentor

    And I am pointing out that this is a poor criterion to consider in deciding between engineering and physics. Not all engineers build weapons and not all physicists don't.

    If you don't want to build weapons then don't take a job building weapons. That has nothing to do with the choice of engineering or physics.

    If you feel that you lack the capacity to refuse a job building weapons then you should take up yoga instead of either engineering or physics as both may lead to weapons. If you can refuse such a job then you can choose either.
    Last edited: May 11, 2015
  14. May 11, 2015 #13

    I did a double major in both engineering and physics and before I did any engineering I had the same mistaken view of both fields that you do. Physics is not the picture of Brian Cox/Niel deGrasse Tyson/Stephen Hakwing/Michio Kaku staring at their black boards all day working with beautiful equations and deciphering the secrets of the cosmos and engineering is not all some mundane job where someone bereft of passion builds mundane products just to make their employer a buck.
  15. May 13, 2015 #14


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    Some schools have an applied physics major. That could be a very good option for you.
  16. May 14, 2015 #15
    ANYTHING can be used as a weapon. Food can be used as a weapon. Water can be a weapon. Energy supplies can be a weapon. Money can be a weapon. The owner or operator decides whether to use something as a weapon. Even guns can be used defensively or offensively.

    Do not think that your work will ever be completely free of such moral dilemmas. Computational methods, even for such seemingly mundane and theoretical fields such as prime number theory, can have a huge impact on modern commerce. Yes, it too can be a weapon.

    Your efforts to escape this problem by going in to research are laudable, but insufficient. The best way to remain clear of such moral dilemmas is to study the ethics of your profession; to conduct yourself in a caring, genteel manner; and to correct your mistakes honestly, and promptly.
  17. Jun 6, 2015 #16
    Sounds like you would enjoy engineering! Don't write off careers so early in your life. Be open to anything. I can't even begin to describe how my outlook on academics has changed since I was a 16-year-old sophomore. Don't close doors before you have a chance to really see what's behind them.
  18. Jun 6, 2015 #17
    Since your still young, start a youtube educational channel! and write a book! they work hand-in-hand. Do videos of the stuff you like to do and ponder the questions you want to ask! you build enough subscribers and fans to sell your book, or whatever you want to sell!

    Trust me if you go this route, start now, don't wait. With Youtube it's never a matter of how you get famous, but when. make decent content, and itll happen big time by the time your 18-19.
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