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Young mind needing guidance

  1. Jul 26, 2009 #1

    Let me start off by saying I am new to the forums I just discovered them last night and just made an account. I find these forums to be an execellent source of information and guidance to anyone looking to gain knowledge on physics.

    I'm 17 years old, going to be a senior in high school this year, and living in a small town in Florida. I have an undying passion for physics and aerospace/deep space science. The research being done on black holes, anti-matter, dark matter, dark energy, quantum topics , string theory , gravitational waves, subatomic particles, and basically any topic of physics
    relating to our universe ( or other universes?) can keep me busy browsing web pages for hours.I've read books on string theory , anti matter, and dark matter, doing my best to understand them with only knowledge of elementary physics.

    I don't know where to start? I want to join the air force / navy to be able to marry early but I'm unsure of what type of career to pick regarding physics. I don't know what I would need to do to start a degree in theoretical physics. I've done some research online only to find myself more confused by the numerous types of degree programs to go. There are so many schools with so many type of degree options, I feel like its to easy to chose a wrong one. I want to end up being able to do research on 'cutting edge' physics, make a contribution to the physics community ,and maybe publish my own theories. I understand it would require a lot of schooling and I was just hoping to get a opinion of what you think is the best way for a 'fresh out of high school student' to undergo a career in the physics/theoretical physics area?

    If anyone with experience of graduate/undergraduate degrees in the physics area and have any advice on what to do it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2009 #2


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    If I were you, I'd take it one step at a time, and apply for an undergraduate degree in Physics. If, during your time at university, you still enjoy the subject, you can explore options for further study.

    By the way, what do you mean by "I want to join the air force / navy to be able to marry early"??
  4. Jul 26, 2009 #3
    I have a girlfriend that I have been dating for about a year and a half. We are planning to get married and I would enlist in the airforce right out of highschool to make some decent money to support a family. Getting married would be the only legal way for her to move with me and pay for her housing.

    Aside from that I know there are many scientific careers in the airforce/navy. Nuclear powered subs.. etc. It would be a good solid start for some cash / schooling where I could bring my girlfriend with me as opposed to applying for financial aid going through 4-8 years of school without any solid job for the first 2 years and not having enough money to get married / have a house until I graduate. Atleast in the military I can bring her with me and we can live on base, while I go to school for a specific job ( hopefully a physics orientented) and have time to study/have a family. Plus .. They pay for most expenses :)

    I am only 17 years old so what do I know. My conception of what the military life would be like could be crap and I could get shipped out to Iraq right after basic. But what do I know.
  5. Jul 26, 2009 #4


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    Why, where do you plan on moving to? Is she marrying you for citizenship or something?

    Anyway, I know nothing about the (US) military and their degree schemes. Here in the UK, I know that you can attend university and have it paid for by the armed forces if you sign up to enroll when you graduate. Things may be different over in the US, though. I'm sure some people know about this...
  6. Jul 26, 2009 #5
    No, she is not marrying me for citizenship. We're just both fresh out of highschool students looking to start our lives. Moving isn't the only option, I can request to be based in my hometown but moving to another state for schooling for specific job is most likely.

    I don't know all of the logistics of it but from what I understood after talking to a recruiter there are a numerous amount of jobs you can qualify for and they send you to school for X amount of months. When finished you should have some credits that are transferable to universities. My only hope is that I can find something in the military relating to the field of physics/science that can carry on with me later in life.

    Thanks for your input again.
  7. Jul 26, 2009 #6


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    I guess the thing I don't understand about your situation is why you have to get married to start your life. It also seems that you appear to be choosing to join the armed forces solely so you can be with your gf, but I don't really understand why you and your gf can't just move wherever you like anyway. The fact that there are good career opportunities in the armed forces appears to be an afterthought.

    It seems to me that the obvious choice, given your interests, would be to go to college and get a degree in physics. Of course, if you're set on having a family with your gf in the immediate future, then this would probably not be the best thing to do. Ultimately, you need to decide what's more important to you: having a family before you're 21, or obtaining a degree which will allow you to do a job that you (think you will be) interested in.
  8. Jul 26, 2009 #7
    Thank you for your advice. I will consider it.
  9. Jul 27, 2009 #8
    First thing -- you really need to look closely at the the military situation you might be getting yourself into. Haven't you heard about Obama's moves realting to Iraq? The focus is not, now, on Iraq it is on Afghanistan. I think the US Air Force policy there really sucks. They don't make enough effort to avoid targeting civilians, so you have had many situations of them blowing up wedding parties of Afghan/Pakistan civilians having mistaken them for Taliban insurgents ("well, boss, they had turbans and fired rifles in the air!")

  10. Jul 27, 2009 #9
    I'm not in the US, but I suppose all armies are the same more or less :) so I would like to warn you that being in the army might not turn out the way you want it to be. In my opinion, the only good reason for joining the army is your desire to spend some years protecting your country, doing whatever they will tell you to do. This is very noble in itself, but if this is not your primary goal then my advise is to stay away from the armed forces, as long as you can help it.

    If your problem is money, perhaps there are other solutions? Aren't there any undergraduate scholarships you can apply for?
  11. Jul 27, 2009 #10
    I don't know if I should laugh or cry. The Onion could have written that...
    But I'm pretty sure the Navy is a safe bet in this situation. The Afghanistan Navy consists of camels. Our Navy isn't going to be fighting any Bismarcks soon.
  12. Jul 27, 2009 #11
    Oh no don't tell the Navy that the Afghans have camels! They'll be taking out camel polo competitions with cruise missiles..."Well Cap'n, you see, I saw he had a big stick and ...".
  13. Jul 27, 2009 #12
    [1] is a reasonable position. [2] is a position for moral cowards. [2] is the position that the commander at Auschwitz took: "Well Hitler told me to do it." He said this before the hangman sent him to hell. Until (if) Obama manages to get a grip on Blair/Bush's legacy no way would I join the US armed forces! Wedding parties, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, ... Geneva convention up in flames!
  14. Jul 27, 2009 #13
    I couldn't agree more.
    But, this isn't quite what I ment.

    I suppose we have slightly different views regarding Iraq etc., but as I said I'm not from the US, and anyway the OP surely has his own view on the subject.

    What I meant is that his military career might turn out being a waste of his time - his best years, actually - doing boring, and perhaps meaningless work. And I think doing it just for the money might not be a wise decision. Doing it because he thinks it is his duty to protect his country is something else.
  15. Jul 27, 2009 #14
    So you know where I'm coming from, I have a PhD in physics, but work mostly in the defense sector now. So what I'm about to say is not inspired by any anti-military sentiment.

    If you want to be a physicist, do not even think about enlisting. It will take away several of your young and productive years, and will not serve you in the slightest in a science career. Whatever education you get for whatever military specialty, little of it will apply to your scientific training; further, whatever you're promised when you sign up, Uncle Sam can change it at any time. What they consider the good of the service will come ahead of what you consider the good of yourself and your family. The military can be good for career training if you want to be an electrician, say, or a clerk, or even middle management, or many other careers -- but it's not the place for a would-be scientist.

    If you're only contemplating enlisting to support (on an E-1's salary!) your 18-year-old bride-to-be (and why isn't she going to work?), then, frankly, it's idiotic. There is absolutely no reason why you can't put off marriage a few years, and getting yourself sent to Afghanistan won't do her much good anyway. (Incidentally, contrary to what some here are suggesting, the Air Force and Navy both have thousands of boots on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever your recruiter tells you, you can be sent there -- or to other, more peaceful, overseas postings where family can't come along.)

    So if you want to be a physicist, start looking at colleges, and take out loans if you can't work enough part-time to pay for it. You can get into a good grad program from a relatively cheap public undergrad program.
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