I'm thinking I'd like to study theoretical physics, as a hobby. I studied it up to the first year at Cambridge and am now in my 40s, semi-retired, living in London. I'm interested in it because it's deep, and because I believe that you have to use your brain, even if you don't need to use it to earn a living.
Any ideas for any courses? I thought of the Open University but I think their courses might be too basic - they don't seem to have any postgrad physics courses and their undergrad course doesn't even seem to touch on general relativity. Could I do a part time masters at a London University? If so what course(s) would you recommend? Ideally it would be good to have the flexibility to study when I want, because I like going off travelling, which is why I thought of the Open University, but perhaps I would have to forego this.
Grateful for any advice!
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Where to study theoretical physics? watch
- Thread Starter
- 20-01-2015 18:23
- 21-01-2015 18:16
You cant really do a proper physics masters without a strong undergrad mathematics/physics background, which you may not have if you only done a single year of study. Can you remember basic mathematics from 20 years ago (e.g. do you still know how to solve partial differential equations, do fourier analysis, linear algebra, etc?). That's going to be prerequisite stuff for any remotely serious theoretical physics masters program.
Your best bet would probably be a good undergrad degree with heavy mathematical content (possibly distance learning), followed by a Masters (eg QFFF at Imperial).
Also general relativity is an advanced subject which is why you dont see it on the undergrad degree syllabus. Its usually taught at MSc/MSci level once students already have a strong background in more basic things like special relativity/hamiltonian mechanics/etc, although some physics degrees do give a basic introduction during 3rd year. And again the mathematical requirements for general relativity are high - you have to have enough background that you can pick up tensor analysis and basic differential geometry without much issue, which requires at least 2 years of solid mathematical methods courses as well as a solid background in classical mechanics. This is what a typical undergrad level general relativity course looks like (Cambridge Part II): http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/research/...rtiipublic.pdf, and here is a Masters level one: http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/hsr1...notes_2012.pdf
Basically the short answer is that if you are starting from scratch without at least the equivalent of the first two years of a mathematics undergrad degree, its going to be a _lot_ of work and you're going have to start from the beginning (i.e. basic undergrad level) rather than jumping into a masters. On the plus side, you have your whole life ahead of you and physics is still an incredibly interesting subject even at basic 1st year undergrad level, so even if you cant just dive into the 'cool' theoretical stuff right away you will still be able to learn extremely interesting and fun material right at the start. Yeah, general relativity is exciting and elegant, but so is classical electrodynamics and hamiltonian mechancis.
If you want to self-study a bit before committing, then Richard Feyman's physics lectures are the classic reference for someone without a strong physics background:http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/. However the main problem with those notes is that they dont contain exercises, and if you want to learn physics/mathematics then you really, really have to spend a lot of time actually doing exercises and solving problems - its very easy to read something and think you've understood it, then discover you havent learned anything once you actually try to solve problems.Last edited by poohat; 21-01-2015 at 18:48.