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# Physics with foundation year watch

1. (Original post by freeurmind)
LOL with real physics you are right, but degree level physics is pretty much an easy version of maths

Compare cosmology, general relativity or quantum mechanics on a mathematics courses to that on a physics course
They're the same ones at my uni Modules shared between the departments are common where I am, and so it gives us the opportunity to be taught by the appropriate people. I thought it was similar across most unis at least to an extent, maybe I'm wrong. I know it's common for general relativity to be very skimmed over at undergrad level for a physics degree, but that's because it's not really physics in the sense that a straight physics degree encompasses most pure physics. General relativity, cosmology and quantum mechanics, as well as others, always have, and always will, primarily be studied to their greatest depths by theoretical physicists and mathematicians. However, if you're not being taught how to apply the concepts from them to physics at the very least, then it's not the best taught module.

Unless of course you just mean that physics is easier because it's not quite as heavy on maths, in which case of course you'd be right if that's your view of it, but that all depends on how good a certain person is at certain things. Having had a look at some of the physics based modules run by the maths department at my uni, I'd definitely do better in them because I struggle most with a lot of the more physical stuff which isn't quite required to the same level in the maths papers.
2. Observational Astronomy sounds like cosmic boyscouting, like you'd just all get telescopes, look at the sky and deduce things from what you see. It'll probably involve deep space telescopes, Doppler shifts, the small angle formula for working out distance, then relating it to luminosity and brightness, then temperature, combined with spectroscopic readings to find the elemental make-up of the stars you're observing, and other things that can be inferred just by 'looking'.

Only problem is that it can surely only scratch the surface. For example, you use Doppler effect techniques to work out the speed at which distant objects are moving, but this only works if the object is moving towards or away from your point of view. However in 'real' physics, relativistic theory teaches you that there's also a 'transverse' Doppler effect for objects that are moving sideways to your viewpoint, and there's other stuff like gravitational lensing, fusion chains in the core of stars,and other absolutely amazing stuff that you might not learn in a simply 'observational' course. I could be wrong, but you may end up disappointed by the content of the course and realise you could have learned it at home by yourself anyway (like I did ).

Google 'coursera', go to their website and look for the 'Introduction to Astronomy' course provided by Duke University (for free!). It's an amazing starting block for the subject. You'll be too late to get a certificate of completion but you can still sign up so the video lectures and slides are available and you complete the on-screen, automatically graded homework questions at your leisure. Truly it's an amazing course and will have you totally immersed in the subject.

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3. (Original post by heyimbored)
I'd just reiterate what everyone else has said really; physics at uni is very maths heavy; well beyond the standard of A level. While conceptual stuff is involved, degree content is very heavily based on expressing that mathematically, so if you don't like maths then it might not be for you. If you just find it hard then I wouldn't rule it out; maths ability comes purely down to practise, but be prepared to put a lot of effort in, and sacrifice a lot of time.

You would obviously have to go down the route of a foundation course, which isn't a bad thing; basically what they do is get you up to the standard of maths and physics for first year. I believe that the content of A level maths, physics and further maths are basically covered, although there may be some topics that aren't covered to tailor it for the physics in the degree itself.

If you were interested in space/astronomy, then it would be worth looking around for astrophysics courses, and more specifically at unis that have astro departments specialising in the observational side of things. The majority of content will still be core physics in the first couple of years at least, and be very maths heavy throughout, but those kinds of places may offer more modules in 3rd/4th year that are more observation based, and a bit less maths heavy.

I would avoid the Glamorgan course though, as it doesn't seem to offer what a standard physics/astrophysics degree would in the problem solving and analytic skills, as well as the mathematical ability developed, which are the reasons employers like physics graduates. Looking at the unistats page for the course ( http://unistats.direct.gov.uk/Subjec...eturnTo/Search ), the employment numbers look alright, but it just seems to be different to most physics degrees as well; heavily coursework assessed, not many in further study (which suggests that it's not enough for a physics PhD), not many in a professional job, average graduate salary is quite low etc...Looking at the jobs graduates go onto as well, 20% go into 'sales assistants and retail cashiers', which to me suggests that they can't find a job. I don't think it's accredited by the IOP either. It looks to me like a degree in astro labs basically, which is a small part of an astrophysics degree, and ultimately useless without the fundamental physics knowledge to make anything of it. It looks like an interesting degree, but not one you could really do much with; communication based jobs with an astronomy twist are probably the best you could hope for, but then the astrophysics graduate who's written in the Student paper would probably be a better candidate.

It's hard to say what's best; if you hate maths then it probably isn't for you, but if you just find it hard then it might be worth it, you will have to tackle a lot of maths though, and core physics is a big part of astrophysics degrees. You could have a look for courses which offer more lab based astronomy, or conceptual modules (galaxy modules are often less maths heavy, but I do one galaxy module which basically covers all the conceptual side of it, so any further modules would be more mathsy I imagine), but you'd still have to tackle a lot of maths. You'd need to go down the foundation year or gap year with study route though. You would be employable outside of physics as well, so you're not committing for life, but you need to enjoy it to do well.
The Uni of South Wales (previously Glamorgan) BSc Obs Astronomy degree has only just (July 2013) graduated it's first class, so the employment stats etc. are not relevant to this new course, but most of the students from the first class are either going on to further study (Masters courses) or moving into education (PGCE courses) or science communication areas. The course is not as physics/maths intensive as traditional astro courses, but it is much broader-based and appeals to students who are looking at say B or C grades in A levels - it does not require Physics or Maths, but an A level in science is needed. If you don't have A levels in Physics and/or Maths there will be additional work to do, but if you are interested in astronomy then this is the only full-time BSc you could get on to. Many of the students get involved in research projects in the 2nd year, using the Faulkes Telescopes, and you have far more opportunities to actually "do astronomy" than in most other astro degrees in the UK - nowhere else has daily access to 2-metre telescopes for the undergrads!
4. (Original post by Welsh_Starman)
The Uni of South Wales (previously Glamorgan) BSc Obs Astronomy degree has only just (July 2013) graduated it's first class, so the employment stats etc. are not relevant to this new course, but most of the students from the first class are either going on to further study (Masters courses) or moving into education (PGCE courses) or science communication areas. The course is not as physics/maths intensive as traditional astro courses, but it is much broader-based and appeals to students who are looking at say B or C grades in A levels - it does not require Physics or Maths, but an A level in science is needed. If you don't have A levels in Physics and/or Maths there will be additional work to do, but if you are interested in astronomy then this is the only full-time BSc you could get on to. Many of the students get involved in research projects in the 2nd year, using the Faulkes Telescopes, and you have far more opportunities to actually "do astronomy" than in most other astro degrees in the UK - nowhere else has daily access to 2-metre telescopes for the undergrads!
Fair enough on it only just graduating the first class, I didn't know that. Having said that though, I can't see how it'll offer the same employment ( or further study) opportunities as a physics/astro degree. I'd need to know more about whether those going on to do masters qualifications and working with research groups are actually working as physicists, or more as specialised technicians; the observation is only a fraction of a full astrophysics research project, the rest requires the full mathematical and physical knowledge you gain in a full on astro/physics degree. Teaching is obviously a clear option due to the lack of physics/maths teachers.

Of course that's not to say it's a poor course; it obviously does offer more actual astronomy time because less time is spent learning the bread and butter of a physics degree, which has its appeal. However, I'd say that at first glance it looks like more of a course that looks interesting and enjoyable, but doesn't offer nearly the same employment prospects as a physics or astro degree, and I'm not convinced that it'll act as a particularly good platform into a career as a university level researcher at least, although being involved in some capacity is likely.

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5. (Original post by heyimbored)
Fair enough on it only just graduating the first class, I didn't know that. Having said that though, I can't see how it'll offer the same employment ( or further study) opportunities as a physics/astro degree. I'd need to know more about whether those going on to do masters qualifications and working with research groups are actually working as physicists, or more as specialised technicians; the observation is only a fraction of a full astrophysics research project, the rest requires the full mathematical and physical knowledge you gain in a full on astro/physics degree. Teaching is obviously a clear option due to the lack of physics/maths teachers.

Of course that's not to say it's a poor course; it obviously does offer more actual astronomy time because less time is spent learning the bread and butter of a physics degree, which has its appeal. However, I'd say that at first glance it looks like more of a course that looks interesting and enjoyable, but doesn't offer nearly the same employment prospects as a physics or astro degree, and I'm not convinced that it'll act as a particularly good platform into a career as a university level researcher at least, although being involved in some capacity is likely.

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Fair point - the course is definitely not aimed at people who want to go straight into research, given that it has "stripped out" a lot of the "excess" physics/maths that is taught alongside the really core stuff needed for astronomy/astrophysics. It is more aimed at people who are going to get B/C grades rather than A/A*, so really is (as the name suggests) a course in astronomy rather than astrophysics. And as a 3-year BSc, you would need a 4th year (MSc/MRes) qualification after the BSc in order to stand much hope of getting a funded PhD place.

Having said that, there is much more of a focus on transferable skills, the sort of things that do get you jobs (i.e. problem solving, team working, project planning/management, report writing, presentation skills) rather than just on doing lots of very complex maths, so in a sense it is better for non-research employment.

But you're right, if you have ambitions to pursue PhD-level astrophysics research in the future, the safer option is going to be an MPhys/MSci (4 year) degree in physics/astrophysics.

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