Physics

It was the end of my sophmore year, and a lot of transitions had happend in my life. I moved to a new country, had to learn a different language, and had recently closed a severe chapter in my personal life. I wasn't very academically towards any subject, let alone physics or math. I do remember, fondly, asking my 9th grade science teacher a question that had perplexed me: How can light always go the same speed? I mean, if im traveling on a train going such and such speed, wont that light go faster than the light outside of the train? My teacher was also perplexed at this dilemma, and in retrospect, he wasn't a very good teacher.

I of course had no knowledge of special relativity at that age, and really only knew that light always goes the same speed. But in retrospect, I feel proud that I had asked that question, because its the same question Einstein asked himself when he was grappling with relativity.

But moving along, I was in a new place with no friends and an inability to speak the local language. Because of problems with getting my academic record approved from one country to the other, I was out of school for a year.

So here I am, a 17 year old in a foreign country with nothing to do for a year. I realized that when I entered school again, I would be a year older than my peers. I felt, inadequate. I felt like I needed to compensate for this discrepancy. And somehow, the idea that I needed to learn calculus entered my head.

"Calculus". Just the sound, it sounds advanced, mature, smart. So, for all the wrong reasons, I started googling articles about learning calculus by your self. I ordered a couple books and set about to teach my self calculus. But, despite the pompus and arrogant reasons for doing it, I'm glad I did. I fell in love with the subject. I grasped it, I could do it, I could manipulate it. I realised I had learned calculus much much faster than most people do in a classroom, let alone by them selves. So, there was something there. Maybe this is what I should be doing. I was good at it, and it was fun.

But the real fun came when I went back to school. It was a private school, with the books in English but the classes taught in the local language. So the books were the only way I could learn the material. Quickly I discovered that Physics was my favorite subject. It came as a total shock to me, I hardly knew any of Newton's laws.

Maybe it was the teacher, but for whatever reason, I started studying it with zeal. My classmates learned and copied my homework. It felt good to be good at something. I felt like I had a secret knowledge. I felt like I could understand things, and really analyze them. Its like a sense of wonder and a desire to explore.

And then I started to do reading on my own, applying calculus to physics. Its so funny in hindsight because what I was doing was incredibly simple, but at the time it just felt so cutting edge.  The notation, the integral signs, it was so amazing and fun. A secret language.

By the time I came back to the US, I was far ahead of both my academic peers, and people my age in terms of knowledge and ability with math and science. Maybe because I was a year older it widened that gap.

I discovered MIT OpenCourseWare and learned differential equations, linear algebra, and more advanced physics. On my own I studied for 4 AP tests, and got three 5s and one 4. I know they're just numbers, but I felt a real sense of achievement that I could do something entirely on my  own and excel at it.

So physics to me was almost mystical. I havent even talked about the pure joy of learning deep things about nature. Symmetries. Quantum physics. The wackiness of it all, and the fact that we're still finding things out. The link between math and physics and thus the universe in general. I want to be part of that, I want to find out something thats useful, that tells us more about everything around us.

Its all.. amazing.
endivedual endivedual
18-21, M
5 Responses Aug 13, 2007

I love this post. And you are truly an inspiring person

I forgot to add:<br />
<br />
like you I asked a science teacher a question in my early years and received an agitated and confused response.<br />
<br />
We were looking at out solar system, the sun, the planets etc and i asked.....<br />
<br />
I wonder if our solar system could be a great big atom and our galaxy could be a great big molecule in someonelses great big universe ?<br />
<br />
The others around me laughed and my teacher became very upset!

Well done!<br />
You have turned a disadvantage into an advantage and that is very commendable.<br />
<br />
A Challenge for you !<br />
Have you heard of Vortex mathematics and what do you think of it.?<br />
<br />
pete

You're a true scientist. There aren't too many of those out there since many scientists' have motives focusing only on rewards and personal gain and get bought off by the government. You're different because you want to actually learn understand and apply science for the greater good. I'm 18 and I recently learned calculus (including multivariable), linear algebra, differential equations (only ode's) detailed organic chemistry, some biochemistry and special relativity on my own within the past year. I'm still trying to learn the general theory along with quantum mechanics in terms of the mathematical fr<x>ameworks. My motive is kinda different since I started working on all of my science ideas like 5 years ago. Can you tell me some of your goals in science? There aren't too many true scientists out there these days. Nice to meet you.

Wow. I am humbled by your passion! I'm learning physics at school, and all too often I need to ask for help. It becomes very embarrassing when the teacher explains one question, has to come back for the next, and by the third one, I'm just sitting in shock at my own thickheadness. The embarrassment is even more so b/c my friends are so smart. I wish I had a drop of your intelligence!