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Which topics/major would be right for somebody like me?

  1. Jun 21, 2012 #1
    Hello. So I have posted once, and I decided what I want to do kinda. I am going to spend the next year really learning the industry I am in (mortgages) and anatomy (because I am into weight lifting) and economics (because that is easy for me) and because honestly, I don't have enough money to afford going back to school right now. In all honesty, I don't think I will end up working in any field except banking, but it does not interest me the way science does.

    So, since I don't particularly care about my degree, I just want to learn, which is better for me based on the following:

    1) I don't really know math well, because I have not had to apply it at all so I forgot it. When I took calculus and statistics, I got A's in both (two levels of each). Math was usually pretty easy for me. However I don't really care about being able to calculate most things, I am interested in learning for the conceptual part (why stuff happens rather than the exact formula of calculating it). I understand I need the math to understand the concepts, but I do not need it to be super math intensive.

    2) I will be doing this part time, but here are the concepts/subjects I am looking to learn (which, basically, is everything). I know the terms for most of these subjects, but I am just going to write what I want to learn specifically so maybe you can understand exactly what I want to learn: Why/how atoms bond, how electricity and other forms of energy work, how light works (like why magnifying glasses and microscopes work and how lightwaves work), how sound works, classical physics topics like leverage, friction, etc, I guess a little bit about string theory, why explosions happen...I realize what I am saying is kinda confusing, but the reason I want to study physics and/or chemistry is not so I can sit down and say "well here is the formula to make this happen", but like I want to look at the things around me and understand what is going on. When I watch TV I want to understand why I am seeing what I am seeing that, when I am driving my car I want to understand what is moving it, etc.

    So, which is the right path for me, based on my (admittedly ridiculous) learning goals?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2012 #2
    I guess I should also add that most of this is stemming from the fact that I feel like a worthless piece of crap. I know nobody cares so I am not looking for like sympathy or anything. I just always feel like I don't know anything. I know finance but that's it. Everything I do in my life, I always question it. Even stuff I am good at. Like for instance, I am very, very good at talking to people. I am not trying to brag or anything but like, girls love me, my managers love, my colleagues love me, people take me out for expensive dinners all the time just because they love me..and I am naturally charismatic. But then when I am alone I think "wait, how am I good at talking to people? I don't understand the science behind what I am saying, it just comes out naturally". Another example is I have very good form at the gym. Bodybuilders come up to me at the gym and tell me my form is perfect. But I don't know why it is perfect, it just comes naturally to me. I am naturally good looking, I was always in honors programs, when I got my IQ test it was a few points away from genius (not that that means anything), I am consistently getting trophies at work for my excellent product knowledge, I am the #1 performer at my job- and yet I feel like I know nothing. I always want to know everything....EVERYTHING. I look at a helicopter and I want to know how it flies, I look at a computer and I want to know how it displays images, I look at a calculator and I want to know how it computes. And the messed up thing is that when I speak to other scientists in real life, they don't really know anything either, except their specific area of research. My girlfriend is a chemist, she can't often answer my real life questions about science, but you put her in a lab and she gets job offers from all over. She says I am much smarter than her, but I don't think so. I think banking is stupid and easy.

    Maybe what I need to realize is that I will never be able to learn everything. Even Steven Hawking said any given person can only really truly understand one specific area of knowledge. But this does not satisfy me; I want to know everything and anything.

    Sorry for the rant I just wanted to clarify where I am coming from
  4. Jun 21, 2012 #3


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Gold Member

    Have you heard of Impostor Syndrome?


    It's not an "official disorder" but lots of smart people can identify with it.

    You should consider taking a physics class, maybe at a community college, if you feel confident with your math skills (they do deteriorate if not used).

    Btw, your educational goals are certainly not ridiculous!
  5. Jun 21, 2012 #4
    Start reading small books just about the concepts of physics. If you like to read a lot, and you question a lot of things, read feynman lectures on physics!
  6. Jun 22, 2012 #5
    This is very interesting, I had not heard of this. It seems to describe me pretty well, but there are some differences. I don't feel like I am deceiving anybody per se, or that I will be "found out". It is more like I just think nobody thinks they know what they are talking about when they say I am intelligent haha.
  7. Jun 22, 2012 #6
    Math isn't separate from concepts. Math also includes concepts. And many concepts that are useful for the kind of understanding of physics that you are talking about. So, actually, if you say it's super math intensive, to me, as a math PhD student, that actually MEANS more conceptual. Physicists are the ones doing more calculation. Mathematicians tend not to like calculation that much, and are more into proving things, as a general rule (although there are some mathematicians who are obsessed with calculation).
  8. Jun 22, 2012 #7
    Very interesting point. I know they are integrated and I did not mean to sound anti-math. I just meant I want to know "why do certain things reflect only the color green" more than "calculate the vector quantities given"
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