The Heart of Physics

The vast majority of people who study physics--even those taking the subject very seriously and devoting a lot of time and energy to mastering the basic ideas--ever do any sort of physics, per se. It's exactly like mathematics. A lot of people study mathematics and master some of the most important principles, but never see themselves as a mathematician. Yet it might become an integral part of work that isn't directly classified as physics or mathematics.

Personally, I found that mathematics made a lot more sense when I was able to couple it with a serious study of basic physics. The models and equations of physics gave meaning to otherwise abstract mathematical principles. We can crank out a bazillion fancy and colorful images on the latest-and-greatest graphing calculators; but it all takes on more meaning when the math is tied to a dynamic mental image of charged particles rushing headlong through force fields.

So you can use your study of physics to give meaning to your work in mathematics. That is one heck of a combination of skills. Then you will be ready to do some original engineering or product development.

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Part 1 - Mechanics

1.1 Motion Along a Line
1.2 Motion in a Plane
1.3 Force and Newton’s Laws of Motion
1.4 Circular Motion
1.5 Conservation of Energy
1.6 Linear Momentum
1.7 Torque and Angular Momentum
1.8 Fluids
1.9 Elasticity and Oscillations
1.10 Waves
1.11 Sound

Part 2 - Thermal Physics

2.1 Temperature and the Ideal Gas
2.2 Heat
2.3 Thermodynamics

Part 3 - Electromagnetism

3.1 Electric Forces and Fields
3.2 Electric Potential
3.3 Electric Current and Circuits
3.4 Magnetic Forces and Fields
3.5 Electromagnetic Induction
3.6 Alternating Current

Part 4 - Electromagnetic Waves and Optics

4.1 Electromagnetic Waves
4.2 Reflection and Refraction of Light
4.3 Optical Instruments
4.4 Interference and Diffraction

Part 5 - Quantum and Particle Physics

5.1 Relativity
5.2 Early Quantum Physics and the Photon
5.3 Quantum Physics
5.4 Nuclear Physics
5.5 Particle Physics

On the Lighter Side of Theoretical Physics

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for physics. In fact, there was a time--when I was about 8 or 10 years old--that I thought it would be cool to be a theoretical physicist. I think I got the idea from 1940s-style action movies about WWII German physicists who either turned into mad scientists or were the good guys who fled to England or the USA. In any event, I was attracted to the way they pronounced "theoretical"--sort of like "tsee-eh-REH-tee-kl." Of course you had to gutteralize the "r." Besides the accent, there was the engaging personality of Albert Einstein who held rock start status in the late 1940s. I was an Einstein groupie and theoretical-physicist wannabe. From: Radical Lifelong Learning: Harnessing the Energy

Bungling Wannabe or Responsible Thinker:

Here's How You Know

 "When you work in cosmology--the study of the cosmos at large--one of the facts of life becomes the weekly letter, e-mail, or fax from someone who wants to describe to you his own theory of the universe (yes, they are invariably men). The biggest mistake you can make is to politely answer that you would like to learn more. This immediately results in an endless barrage of messages. So how can you prevent the assault? A particular tactic that I found to be quite effective (short of the impolite act of not answering at all) is to point out the true fact that as long as the theory is not precisely formulated in the language of mathematics, it is impossible to assess its relevance. This response stops most amateur cosmologists in their tracks. The reality is that without mathematics, modern-day cosmologists would not have progressed even one step in attempting to understand the laws of nature. Mathematics provides the solid scaffolding that holds together any theory of the universe." Quotation from: Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio