Your Science Zine

Citizen Science Degree Plan: Physics

A few weeks ago my little sister, a sophomore in High school, texted me saying she wanted to drop out and become an entrepeneur. She felt school was too easy and she wanted to do something challenging. I had to stop myself from saying thats an awesome idea. Instead I chocked back the tears of pride and being the good brother I am, I convinced her to stay in school and finish up her diploma. Mainly because her main interest is nuclear physics and while people have made good progress building fusion reactors in their garages(i.e. Famulus Fusion), alot of the cutting edge research does still require billion dollar machinery. And so, as part of our deal, she’d see about testing out of classes and I would put together a curriculum of more challenging classes she could take after school.

Which brings us to the Citizen Science Degree plan. At first glance it doesn’t seem like much, just a bunch of videos. Until you really think about it. The only difference between someone who actively watches each one of this videos and does all the homework they release with them and someone who actually attends the class is almost 6 figures in debt and a piece of paper. Yes, there’s the whole business of not being able to get a job with a citizen science online degree. Yet for entrepreneurs,those willing to go after the start up jobs(whos employers will depend more on the interview than the resume), or those in impoverished parts of the world, I believe its a viable option.

What are yall’s thoughts on the idea in general and the specific classes I chose for the physics degree plan?

Module 1-Foundation
Intro to Computer programming
Single Variable Calculas
Circuits And Electronics + Arduino Supplemental Lab
Classical Physics
Electricity and magnetism
Intro to Biology (added for balance)

Module 2 – Intermediate Physics
Multi-variable Calculas
Linear Algebra
Vibration and Waves
Computational Science and Engineering
Intro to Algorithms
Differential Equation

Module 3 – Current Physics
Quantum Mechanics
Special Relativity
Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity
Cosmology
Statistical Mechanics

Note: I stacked the classes heavily from MIT because thats where my sister would like to go but if you think another university offers a better class on the same topic, let me know.

  • Gabe

    Great idea, but a physics degree takes a lot of time, though all of those courses could probably be done in 3 years. You’re also leaving out the fact that what you get out of a lab setting (working with a research group) is far greater than sitting in class or at home listening to a lecture.

    • I agree. Though with the advent of hackerspaces it is very much a possibility to get that lab time outside a university lab.

  • GarthPatrick

    Lab and Quiz sessions are essential to learning Physics. The most quotable excuse by undergraduate students is “I understand the theory but I can’t work the problems”. Graded homework and lab exercises are the bridge between “Theory” and true learning.

    • Alot of the classes I listed were kind enough to also post their quizzes and exams. As for who a self taught student can turn to when they hit a roadblock, I’d posit the internet has the answers to most undergrad related problems. And for the questions it doesn’t answer, there are a lot of people on forums, IRC, mailing lists or email who would be happy to help a puzzled student out.

  • Neat idea.

    I just started a plan like this, to get back into physics after a long absence. I hope to do as much of it the same way I learn anything else these days: hands-on projects and internet-assisted immersion. Your list covers a few topics I’d missed. Thanks!

    Video lectures are a good start. For math topics, I’ve enjoyed the magic-blackboard style that Khan Academy uses. (The shorter format makes them easier to schedule, too.) I haven’t looked at the MIT assignments and exams yet, though.

    Hackerspace projects would help, especially long-term progressions independent of the individual classes. (Organizing a local project group is easier when we don’t have to study in lockstep.) I’ve seen lots of resources for engineering; do you know of any for physics projects?

    The need for peer interaction could be addressed by BarCamp or Ignite-style talks given by and for “citizen students”. I personally learn much more when I have to present the ideas to other students and answer questions. Local sessions would be great, but Ustream might provide a way to do the same thing remotely.

    (Just backed the Kickstarter project, BTW. Keep up the good work!)

    • Thanks for supporting us Chris. I second your hackerspace comment. They are wonderful places for learning. Im not aware of any non engineering related physics projects, but I’ll keep an eye out.

  • I’m currently working part time on a physics degree already, so working through the full syllabus would be a little redundant. Still, I’d very interested in some of your suggested courses as stand alone modules (notably electronics, although I could also use a refresher course in linear algebra!)