Where should I start from, studying physics again?

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  • Thread starter tin_man
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Hello, everyone.
I am a soldier looking forward to be discharged in February.
I have always loved physics since i was very young, just like everyone else here.
I had to go to a community college because somebody had to feed my family. I ended up in the army in my second year, and I have not spend much time studying physics until now.
For years, only the passion grew, and the knowledge faded, though there wasn't much from the beginning.
Now I am financially stable(enough to feed myself without working), I would like to spend the rest of my life studying physics. I think I have done what I could to liberate the oppressed. I believe it is time for me to live for myself. I am not sure whether I want to go back to school, though. I really want some quite moments and seclusion for a while. so i ask -

1) is it possible for me to learn all i can learn about physics online(of course, only the theoretical aspects of it), given enough time and motivation?

2) assuming the above could be done -
i can't seem to remember much of the math and science formulas, though i remember
most of the concepts. where and how should i start to finish the undergraduate level of
elementary physics?

3) assuming i finish the step 2) relatively fast -
i'm interested in cosmology. where can i find the list of materials i need to learn? would it
be better if i enroll in a graduate school?

4) assuming i make myself to look for a graduate school -
can i get accepted to a school with good academic environment with just GRE subject
tests?

5) what do you suggest i do next?

thank you for being so patient to read this far.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Vanadium 50
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If your plans involve graduate school, you will need to get a BS first.
 
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I highly doubt you're going to be able to cover even 10% of what you'd need to know to go to physics grad school even in a year on your own. It is NOT high school physics and the amount of math and science you actually need to know is staggering for someone with no college education in the subject. Your best bet would be to enroll in a good state school (I think GIs get tuition assistance at public universities? Plus, a lot of the programs are fantastic) and see how it goes.

No, you cannot get accepted to any graduate school with just the PGRE and at this point in your education, I'm highly skeptical you could even get 200 on it. You need a B.S. OR equivalent education for grad school.

Not to rain on your parade, but you seem to have a few unrealistic expectations about physics and the university process. Please remember that passion alone is not going to carry you through. It is HARD work and will demand a lot of your time. The reason most people take 4 years to finish a physics degree is not because they're lazy and party all the time but because that's usually how much time it takes to learn all the math and physics required, so expecting that you can do it in a semester or a year on your own is setting yourself up for major disappointment. Good luck.
 
  • #4
G01
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Hello, everyone.
I am a soldier looking forward to be discharged in February.
I have always loved physics since i was very young, just like everyone else here.
I had to go to a community college because somebody had to feed my family. I ended up in the army in my second year, and I have not spend much time studying physics until now.
For years, only the passion grew, and the knowledge faded, though there wasn't much from the beginning.
Now I am financially stable(enough to feed myself without working), I would like to spend the rest of my life studying physics. I think I have done what I could to liberate the oppressed. I believe it is time for me to live for myself. I am not sure whether I want to go back to school, though. I really want some quite moments and seclusion for a while. so i ask -

Before I start answering your questions, I just want to say thank you for your service.

1) is it possible for me to learn all i can learn about physics online(of course, only the theoretical aspects of it), given enough time and motivation?

While it is "possible," it is not the best way to go about it. I've been learning physics for quite some time now, and I must say that I would have not gotten 1/4 of the way through it had it not been for the people I studied with. Having other students to struggle with and knowledgeable professors to go to with your misconceptions is very important to a physics education.

2) assuming the above could be done -
i can't seem to remember much of the math and science formulas, though i remember
most of the concepts. where and how should i start to finish the undergraduate level of
elementary physics?

You first need to figure out where your math ability lies. If your comfortable with first year calculus then your next step is to find a good introductory, calculus based physics text. (Check the book review forum.) If not, You should probably first focus on getting back up to speed with your math.

However, I highly recommend signing up for classes, even if you never decide to go back to school full time. Even the best of the best struggle and need the support of others who have been through it or who are going through it.

3) assuming i finish the step 2) relatively fast -
i'm interested in cosmology. where can i find the list of materials i need to learn? would it
be better if i enroll in a graduate school?

I know I'm sounding like a broken record:

Physics, especially the more advanced you go, is always easier to learn in an environment filled with other physicists.

4) assuming i make myself to look for a graduate school -
can i get accepted to a school with good academic environment with just GRE subject
tests?

No. Sorry.

5) what do you suggest i do next?

If you are serious about interest in graduate school in physics: Apply to a good state school and start learning physics! Use the financial aid GI's get, and get as strong of a physics education as you can for as little money as possible!

thank you for being so patient to read this far.

No problem.


All of my answers have an obvious theme in common. Wanting some quite and seclusion in your life is, of course, something you are entitled to after service. However, the truth of the matter is that it is very hard to learn physics on your own just from reading books. Having people to go to with problems you can't solve or concepts you don't understand is essential.
 
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