Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

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rbtucker
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Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby rbtucker » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:00 pm

Hi, I'm an Economics major with a strong math background (minor in mathematics).

I have never taken physics.

However, for curiosity's sake, what would I need to study if I were to intend taking the PGRE?

I'm curious because astrophysics absolutely fascinate me and I have located several graduate programs which will accept any major given that their PGRE is high enough.

I imagine it would be difficult for me to properly prepare myself, but I have never been one to shy away from sheer challenge.



Thanks,

Ryan

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sphy
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby sphy » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:10 pm

rbtucker wrote:Hi, I'm an Economics major with a strong math background (minor in mathematics).

I have never taken physics.

However, for curiosity's sake, what would I need to study if I were to intend taking the PGRE?

I'm curious because astrophysics absolutely fascinate me and I have located several graduate programs which will accept any major given that their PGRE is high enough.

I imagine it would be difficult for me to properly prepare myself, but I have never been one to shy away from sheer challenge.



Thanks,

Ryan

Well, for the PGRE, Halliday and Resnick Physics vol 1 & 2 will be sufficient and since you have economics so I am assuming you have good calculus background.
Then a little bit quantum mechanics from the Griffiths or Sakurai's book would be more than enough.

I think this much should get you over 900.

Best of luck.
P.S.:
Don't forget to post your profile when you ace the test, We would love to have you around.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:15 pm

Pick up an intro physics book, something on the calc-based level, and know it cold after studying. A lot of programs will accept different majors, but they usually are engineering, math, or other sciences. I understand the fascination, that's why we all got into it. However, if you can even get in with an econ major and no physics classes ever, you should know this is not for the faint of heart. You need to take a few physics classes to experience real physics, because a lot of people who go into physics as an undergrad don't come out as physics majors. It's not what you see on TV, or even read in all those best selling bull crap books. Oh, and IMHO, anything with the word astro in front of it makes it even harder to get into because funding is much smaller, so even decent apps in physics have trouble getting into astro or astrophysics programs.

vttd
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby vttd » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:31 pm

I think your best bet would be to apply to some masters programs. I don't want to discourage you, but I think it'd be extremely difficult to start a PhD in astrophysics without ever taking a physics class or studying some upper division level textbooks. If you are a great self-studier, I would say pick up some books like Griffiths and go cover to cover and find some professors to start doing research with. It will help you figure out if this is really a field you want to pursue.

Also use the profile pages as a gauge to see what kind of programs you would be able to get into. For instance if someone with a 990 and a physics major at a high ranked school cannot get into a school like Princeton, then I would recommend that you don't apply to that school.

bfollinprm
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:27 pm

midwestphysics wrote:Pick up an intro physics book, something on the calc-based level, and know it cold after studying. A lot of programs will accept different majors, but they usually are engineering, math, or other sciences. I understand the fascination, that's why we all got into it. However, if you can even get in with an econ major and no physics classes ever, you should know this is not for the faint of heart. You need to take a few physics classes to experience real physics, because a lot of people who go into physics as an undergrad don't come out as physics majors. It's not what you see on TV, or even read in all those best selling bull crap books. Oh, and IMHO, anything with the word astro in front of it makes it even harder to get into because funding is much smaller, so even decent apps in physics have trouble getting into astro or astrophysics programs.


Agreed. Apply to physics programs that offer astronomy research.

rbtucker wrote:Hi, I'm an Economics major with a strong math background (minor in mathematics).

I have never taken physics.

However, for curiosity's sake, what would I need to study if I were to intend taking the PGRE?

I'm curious because astrophysics absolutely fascinate me and I have located several graduate programs which will accept any major given that their PGRE is high enough.

I imagine it would be difficult for me to properly prepare myself, but I have never been one to shy away from sheer challenge.



I'm confident in my ability as an astro data guy to handle economics, so don't let anyone scare you away from doing physics/astro if that's where your heart is--there's a lot in common. As long as your econ major was math-based (calc-based stats and Calc 3 are a must), you'll be fine once you actually get to research. As others have said, your main hurdle will be the actual PGRE; aim for an 800 (domestic) or 900 international, since you have a point to prove. That should be enough to get you into a good program to let you pursue what you love. Even a 600-700 though is probably enough to convince someone to take you on. Once you start your degree, your actual score won't matter, and you'll be so involved with your research it won't matter than you haven't a clue how to find the electron orbitals of a hydrogen atom or the inductance of a solenoid. If a school accepts you they'll understand they'll have to work with you in classes, you'll probably sit in a few upper-level undergraduate classes and take your quals a year late.

Alternatively, and this actually might be easier, see if there's someone at your school/alma mater who would be interested in taking you on as an unpaid researcher in the physics department (I doubt you'd get funding). Doesn't have to be astronomy, but I'd pick something data oriented, since it'll translate better. You'll spend less time talking about rings and complex analysis, and more time working on standard deviation and error (risk) analysis. Do this and schools will care less about your PGRE, plus you'll have a ready-made LoR (most of your econ profs won't know how to write a science LoR). Put in 40 hrs/week for 12 weeks on a project like this, and you'll both know if you still want to do it and you'll have the in you need to get accepted somewhere.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:22 pm

I don't want to discourage you either, but this is something you really need to sit down and think about. You need to go through some lectures (anything from a major university on Youtube), peer into some upper-level text books, and try to gauge how much you really want to do this. I truly can not imagine beginning a graduate program in physics with little to no science background.

You'll need to do very well on the PGRE and I think your dedication towards that test will truly show if physics is indeed an option. Either you'll get so sick of physics studying for it, not study enough and do poorly (and "probably" not get into a program, bad PGRE + econ major would be hard), or really enjoy the material and realize you can actually manage to do it. Unfortunately, if I was to take 100 people with a similar background, I would guess maybe 5 of them would enjoy the material and do "well" on the test. Even if you can pull this off, graduate courses in physics are not a cakewalk. I think it's pretty fair to say that getting a degree in Physics may be the most difficult Ph.D. So by all means, if you're really passionate about this stuff, start NOW.

-Riley

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HappyQuark
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby HappyQuark » Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:35 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:I don't want to discourage you either, but this is something you really need to sit down and think about. You need to go through some lectures (anything from a major university on Youtube), peer into some upper-level text books, and try to gauge how much you really want to do this. I truly can not imagine beginning a graduate program in physics with little to no science background.

You'll need to do very well on the PGRE and I think your dedication towards that test will truly show if physics is indeed an option. Either you'll get so sick of physics studying for it, not study enough and do poorly (and "probably" not get into a program, bad PGRE + econ major would be hard), or really enjoy the material and realize you can actually manage to do it. Unfortunately, if I was to take 100 people with a similar background, I would guess maybe 5 of them would enjoy the material and do "well" on the test. Even if you can pull this off, graduate courses in physics are not a cakewalk. I think it's pretty fair to say that getting a degree in Physics may be the most difficult Ph.D. So by all means, if you're really passionate about this stuff, start NOW.

-Riley


I agree with what this dude said. I don't doubt that you could prepare and do well on the PGRE. Much of it is memorization of facts, or memorizing how to solve certain types of problems that appear frequently on the exam. What you probably can't prepare for, especially in self study with only around a year of preparation, are the 2-3 years of lower and upper division coursework involved in a standard undergraduate physics degree. Assuming you get into a graduate program, how are you going to pass any of your courses? You are not only going to have to be exposed to all of the undergraduate material on which the content is based but you will have to have mastered it in order to really understand any of it. How are you going to do research, again, without being extremely familiar with at least the fundamentals? I think you've set enormously lofty goals for yourself and if it's possible to pull it off it will take immense dedication. Keep in mind that is a HUGE if.

bfollinprm
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Mar 28, 2011 7:59 pm

HappyQuark wrote: What you probably can't prepare for, especially in self study with only around a year of preparation, are the 2-3 years of lower and upper division coursework involved in a standard undergraduate physics degree. Assuming you get into a graduate program, how are you going to pass any of your courses? You are not only going to have to be exposed to all of the undergraduate material on which the content is based but you will have to have mastered it in order to really understand any of it.


If you don't have a strong background in mathematics (differential equations, basic advanced integration techniques, fourier transforms) I imagine this will be quite hard and I agree with HQ. But, there are plenty of examples of people who have made the switch. I'll be honest; aside from the math and some physical intuitions, I don't remember much about E&M, or thermodynamics. I took these classes 5 years ago. If you spent a year (20+hrs a week) working through some physics textbooks, I don't see why you wouldn't end up at the point I am right now in those subjects. I imagine I'll have to work harder than some to get through Jackson (graduate E&M, and a bitch from what I hear), but I do think I'll get through it--I'm not going to flunk out of my grad classes. Again, if you've never seen the math, you have a long road ahead of you (not impossible, just long). If you have seen the math, you're just a research concentration and a year of intense study away from being a physics major.

I realize by saying this I'm marginalizing a lot of people's undergraduate preparation. I don't mean to say that as an econ major you'll ever end up being a physics renaissance man. It WILL be obvious that you have deficiencies, but they won't be insurmountable. I think you'll be somewhere around the preparation of a dude with a lib arts physics student who's been out of school a while (like me), and will have a tough first year of grad school; way tougher than a physics major from Ohio State. You'll probably need help in grad school, but it's not med school, people want you to succeed: others will help you. Don't go to Cal Tech, Princeton, or MIT and you'll be fine (you won't get in anyway). But the real meat of being a physicist is research, and most people in grad school have very limited experience.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby HappyQuark » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:05 pm

bfollinprm wrote:
HappyQuark wrote: What you probably can't prepare for, especially in self study with only around a year of preparation, are the 2-3 years of lower and upper division coursework involved in a standard undergraduate physics degree. Assuming you get into a graduate program, how are you going to pass any of your courses? You are not only going to have to be exposed to all of the undergraduate material on which the content is based but you will have to have mastered it in order to really understand any of it.


If you don't have a strong background in mathematics (differential equations, basic advanced integration techniques, fourier transforms) I imagine this will be quite hard and I agree with HQ. But, there are plenty of examples of people who have made the switch. I'll be honest; aside from the math and some physical intuitions, I don't remember much about E&M, or thermodynamics. I took these classes 5 years ago. If you spent a year (20+hrs a week) working through some physics textbooks, I don't see why you wouldn't end up at the point I am right now in those subjects. I imagine I'll have to work harder than some to get through Jackson (graduate E&M, and a bitch from what I hear), but I do think I'll get through it--I'm not going to flunk out of my grad classes. Again, if you've never seen the math, you have a long road ahead of you (not impossible, just long). If you have seen the math, you're just a research concentration and a year of intense study away from being a physics major.

I realize by saying this I'm marginalizing a lot of people's undergraduate preparation. I don't mean to say that as an econ major you'll ever end up being a physics renaissance man. It WILL be obvious that you have deficiencies, but they won't be insurmountable. I think you'll be somewhere around the preparation of a dude with a lib arts physics student who's been out of school a while (like me), and will have a tough first year of grad school; way tougher than a physics major from Ohio State. You'll probably need help in grad school, but it's not med school, people want you to succeed: others will help you. Don't go to Cal Tech, Princeton, or MIT and you'll be fine (you won't get in anyway). But the real meat of being a physicist is research, and most people in grad school have very limited experience.


I'm fully convinced the person could cover most of the material in roughly a year or so. What I'm not convinced of is that this is enough time for it to really sink in. There is something to be said for stewing for 3-4 years and slowly accumulating the information so that it actually builds some sort of database of actually functional knowledge. I'm sure what the OP suggested could be done, I just think it could only be done by someone exceptionally brilliant.

It's like they say, Einstein wasn't built in a day.... or something like that.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:28 pm

Yeah, I have to say that while I too don't remember a lot from E&M, Thermo, or really any class that I haven't taken in 1-2 years I could crack those books and still work through them because of years of practice. I feel sorry for anyone who has to teach themselves E&M, Thermo, Mechanics, Quantum, etc in a year without previous exposure to physics. I know if I were in that position I doubt I could do it, at least well enough to consider the subject truly learned.

However, it's not impossible, and if you want to really do it here are some upper level books on those subjects.

Thermo: "Thermal Physics" Kittel & Kroemer, "Statistical Physics" McQuarrie, "Fundamentals of statistical and therma physcis" Reif, and as something more advanced "Statistical Physics" Landau and Liftshitz.
E&M: Griff, and "Electromagentism" Pollack and Stump(Newer text, same difficulty, but written better and better examples if you ask me)
Mechanics: "Analytical Mechanics" Fowles and Cassiday
Quantum: "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" Griffiths

strikershootingguard
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby strikershootingguard » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:37 am

Ryan,

I think that the best way forward is to go back to the fundamentals. I'm not saying that you can't have a go at astrophysics right now, but it's likely that astro programs require a little more than just unbridled enthusiasm and a great PGRE score. That said, I don't think your path to physics/astro grad school is that difficult, especially since your background in econometrics makes for good prep for data analysis work in astrophysics. You might want to ask your university if you can enroll in upper-div physics subjects (you can probably skip the intro sequence, since you seem to have a good math background anyway), and if you do well in them (they shouldn't take a year or more to finish), you should enroll in grad subjects or yet more advanced undergrad subjects. You don't need to complete a B.S. in physics, but you're going to need to take more than a few physics subjects. If you go this route, though, be prepared to spend two or more years. And it's important to do a lot of research in the process--this really can't be emphasized enough. And all this time you've got to self-study for the PGRE.

It's an enormously tall order, but I think it can be done. If I'm not mistaken there's somebody in the 2011 profiles page who was in a similar situation to yours. Good luck.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:50 am

strikershootingguard wrote:You might want to ask your university if you can enroll in upper-div physics subjects (you can probably skip the intro sequence, since you seem to have a good math background anyway), and if you do well in them (they shouldn't take a year or more to finish), you should enroll in grad subjects or yet more advanced undergrad subjects. You don't need to complete a B.S. in physics, but you're going to need to take more than a few physics subjects. If you go this route, though, be prepared to spend two or more years.


I think graduate courses in Physics is overshooting it a little. I think Ryan is looking to jump straight to the graduate program sooner than later. Although I agree, someone should spend a few years at the undergraduate level trying to figure out if this is a possibility, I don't think most people have that type of patience.

-Riley

CarlBrannen
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby CarlBrannen » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:33 pm

I legged into a physics PhD program without having an undergraduate degree (or minor) in physics. What I did was start taking physics grad classes as a math grad student. So you might consider signing up for a MS degree in economics and take physics classes on the side.

By the way, one of the disadvantages of this is that I never took undergrad classes in E&M or thermodynamics and I've always considered these my weak points. (But I still got a 990 on the physics GRE which is mostly about freshman and sophomore physics, plus how well read you are in general physics.)

Also, the advice that you crack open a grad textbook in order to find out if you're good enough for grad work is bad. It's much easier to learn the subject in class, with a bunch of other students having a conversation with a professor, then it is from a dry textbook. So very good students could easily convince themselves that they'll never understand physics this way.

If you are going to pick up textbooks to learn on your own, try to pick the ones with titles along the line of "relativity for dummies". These are likely to be easier to read. Most of the advice you'll get from physicists on which textbooks to self-learn from will be bad (too hard). And when reading these books, when you stumble onto something you don't understand, post a question at physics.stackexchange for example, on finding psi from Fourier modes:
http://physics.stackexchange.com/questi ... rier-modes

As a start on books to learn about the concepts of quantum mechanics (but not the calculations) see Feynman's book, "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter".

bfollinprm
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:59 pm

I think some people are under the assumption that to get a PhD you have to come being comfortable with the material. While this is certainly ideal, it isn't necessary. Lots of people make a switch of fields after undergrad, and physics isn't on some pedestal by itself out of the reach of mere mortals. Grad school is school, if they accept you they'll work to rectify your deficiencies. As a switcher, I'd expect to be frozen out of top 10, and probably top 20, schools, but there are plenty of places that take an intelligent person with analytical experience. It's not necessary that you prove you know as much as a physics major, it's only necessary that you prove you CAN learn it, and learn it quickly, while adding a deeper level of understanding in the grad level class.
Jackson doesn't assume Griffiths, it's just a lot of work to understand Jackson if you've never been exposed to the topic before. You CAN start cold turkey though--I never took an undergraduate classical mechanics course, and did fine (A+) in graduate hamiltonian dynamics.

EDIT: having read Carl's post, I agree that textbooks are not the best for self-learning (though some are ok). The good thing to do is to find someone to work through it with; a professor, or a friend with a physics degree, or someone trying to take the PGRE after some time off. The very best thing is to find somewhere to be involved in physics (as a researcher), and use that atmosphere to build a solid foundation of physical intuition (read intro textbooks, plus texts related to your research, and discuss these with the prof). Physical intuition + solid math background = 90% of undergrad physics anyway. Having to apply these to real physics will quickly make up for anything you missed by not getting your undergraduate degree in Physics in the first place, at least eventually (probably not before you get to grad school, but hey, if you already knew everything, why get a PhD?).
Last edited by bfollinprm on Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:48 pm

bfollinprm wrote:I think some people are under the assumption that to get a PhD you have to come being comfortable with the material. While this is certainly ideal, it isn't necessary. Lots of people make a switch of fields after undergrad, and physics isn't on some pedestal by itself out of the reach of mere mortals. Grad school is school, if they accept you they'll work to rectify your deficiencies. As a switcher, I'd expect to be frozen out of top 10, and probably top 20, schools, but there are plenty of places that take an intelligent person with analytical experience. It's not necessary that you prove you know as much as a physics major, it's only necessary that you prove you CAN learn it, and learn it quickly, while adding a deeper level of understanding in the grad level class.
Jackson doesn't assume Griffiths, it's just a lot of work to understand Jackson if you've never been exposed to the topic before. You CAN start cold turkey though--I never took an undergraduate classical mechanics course, and did fine (A+) in graduate hamiltonian dynamics.


On the other hand, I think some people are filling the OPs heads with a false sense of hope and conflating what is possible with what is probable.

Here is the most likely scenario: If you manage to spend the year almost exclusively studying physics, you may be able to do well on the PGRE. If that happens, you might be accepted to one of the bottom of the barrel departments were, despite the lower expectations, you will struggle enormously to keep up. At this point, your only options to pass your classes will be to spend large amounts of time covering the lower division coursework you've likely never seen before to prep for your more difficult problem sets and then, immediately after, start doing those difficult problem sets or you will have to be "that guy" that everyone hates because you can't get any of your work done without being in a group and asking a lot of elementary questions about the subject matter. If you pass your classes, you'll be able to join a research group. Although, keep in mind that at most of the universities you will be accepted to, the concept of a research group is typically a professor with only 1 grad student (occasionally 2). Additionally, at this types of institution it is fairly common for the department to expect the faculty to be more teaching oriented than research oriented, meaning your research advisor likely won't be as concerned with what you are doing and won't be as well prepared to get you started on your own research journey.

The point I'm getting at is that the experience that the OP most likely wants to get out of going into physics will almost certainly not be had, especially by pursuing it with such ill preparation. My advice is to do what a very close friend of mine did. He got 2.5 years into college with a major in business and realized he wanted to do physics, so he dropped his major and started fresh. It took him 7.5 years to get his undergraduate degree (he switched majors a few times before deciding on physics) but by the time he was done he had a legitimate degree and the knowledge to back it up. Since you've got a "strong math background", you've got much of the prerequisite coursework out of the way and can probably get a B.S. in physics in roughly 2 years. That would be an effective use of your time and although you'll have used up 1 extra year it will more than pay off in the long run.

TheBeast
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby TheBeast » Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:28 am

To the OP:

It's awesome that you're fascinated by astro. It's a remarkably cool subject. But do you know what astro research is all about? Do you know if you're interested in theory or experiment? I would recommend talking to some current astrophysics grad students (maybe invite them out for beer or coffee of something) and ask them about what projects they work on, but also what they actually do on a day-to-day basis. You might find the answer surprising. It might be that despite the sexy end results with the glossy photographs and sweet plots, the actual work involved in the research in order to get to those end results might not seem so fun.

If you're excited by what the grad students tell you, I would recommend what bfollinprm suggests: find a physics prof to work with. If first year undergrads with barely any physics classes can find summer research projects, I'm sure that your prof can come up with a research project for you that isn't too complicated and will really give you a chance to learn as you go along. If you're still enthusiastic after a few weeks of the research, then it might be time to start prepping for the GRE.

I don't want to discourage you, but I've got a somewhat disheartening anecdote about grad level astrophysics and non-physicists. A few years ago, I took a graduate level introductory astrophysics course. At the school that I go to, any student can sign up to take any course in the university. As such, there were about 7 or 8 students (some upper year engineering undergrads, and at least 1 economics student) who signed up. The prof, who is one of the most laid-back people I know, said that he didn't mind if people didn't have the necessary background, as long as they were willing to work. Several of these non-physics students assured him of their passion for astro. By the time the first assignment rolled around, only the physics students were left in the class. Even the students who professed their "passion for astrophysics" were gone. Admittedly, I don't know why all of the non-physics students dropped the class, but it's not inconceivable that actual graduate astrophysics wasn't what they expected it to be.

pqortic
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby pqortic » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:29 am

rbtucker wrote:However, for curiosity's sake, what would I need to study if I were to intend taking the PGRE?


Search the forum. you can find many resources. A concise one is here viewtopic.php?f=18&t=2559 and there are many other student with different backgrounds tuned in to physics that you can find their study plans.

philipsteele
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby philipsteele » Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:02 am

first you should take the best decision about your interested fields of study..it is the best choice that taking of Halliday and Resnick Physics vol 1 & 2 and also there have many resources to learn more about the physics...!!!!!

CarlBrannen
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby CarlBrannen » Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:14 pm

rbtucker wrote:Hi, I'm an Economics major with a strong math background (minor in mathematics).

I have never taken physics.

However, for curiosity's sake, what would I need to study if I were to intend taking the PGRE?


Take the oldest practice PGRE test. Then conclude that majoring in math isn't so bad and you're glad you only wasted 3 hours of your life.

PatrickEM
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby PatrickEM » Sat Sep 17, 2011 3:59 pm

You really need to study a basic physics textbook: one that is used for a year long calc based physics course. Then pick up a modern physics text (preferably one that is about the same size and structure as the basic physics text) and study that. Let me know if you need some recommendations regarding which texts to get- I'm on my iPad right now otherwise I'd site the ones I have.

Physics is much more than math. To begin I would suggest studying vector calculus, complex variables, and green functions. From there it really depends on what you plan to do in physics.

Good luck

Richwest
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby Richwest » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:51 am

The first volume of an adaptation of the Resnick, Halliday and Walker’s Fundamental of Physics ( 8th edition) for IIT-JEE and offers a solid understanding of fundamental concepts and helps reader apply this conceptual understanding to quantitative problem solving. It is the best book I have ever read, if one can solve it he become a master in IIT or more than that

bfollinprm
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Re: Never taken physics, what do I need to study?

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:49 am

Goldstein's mechanics and Griffith's E & M are good starting points if you have a strong math background, but that means the background of a math grad student, not an undergraduate math minor. You should also have an intuitive understanding of kinetic energy and potential fields.





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