Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Ernest Rutherford—we have all heard these names growing up. We know them as great physicists who helped us make leaps in the scientific world. In fact, they may have even inspired you to pursue physics yourself.
But before you formally take up physics as your major, you probably have some questions you want regarding the subject. Read on and hopefully, you will have your questions answered.
Foremost, if you are here simply out of curiosity, you will want to know what physics entails. Physics helps you understand the structure of matter and how it interacts with other matter, including the effect different forces have on it.
Let’s start by exploring the difficulty of physics and the challenges you may face whilst studying it.
Is Physics Hard?
Physics is very hard. The reason most students find physics difficult is that it has a lot of abstract concepts and advanced maths, is confusing to visualize, is challenging to develop proper intuition for, has an extensive syllabus, and requires a lot of dedication and commitment.
Physics requires you to think in a way such that you should be able to describe non-observable phenomena quantitatively. Not just that, all the occurrences in the universe are sought to be explained mathematically. As such, you should have a very logical way of thinking.
Physics is quite different from the usual STEM subjects in the sense that it deals with a lot of abstract concepts which you then attempt to explain via mathematical models. This fundamentally makes it hard, right off the bat.
Take the concept of work in physics, for example. Work is used to quantify the transfer of energy when an object is moved by a subject. It cannot be observed and is essentially a concept that helps us explain the phenomenon of energy transfer when force is applied. Therefore, we need equations, graphs, and other mathematical methods to help us understand this and in turn, be able to visualize it.
Not only is understanding this type of content difficult but so is applying quantitative approaches to it. Moreover, work is quite a basic concept. At the undergraduate level and ahead, you will come across even harder topics which you will have to use pretty advanced mathematics for.
The fact of the matter is that maths is pretty much everywhere in physics. Physics is essentially applied mathematics. You must study and properly understand concepts from linear algebra, multivariable calculus, and differential equations before you get down to more advanced physics such as quantum physics.
It is not just the heavy involvement of mathematics that makes physics hard. A lot of degrees allow you to get by with mere memorization and basic understanding. This does not work with physics at all. You could be provided with an entire cheat sheet of formulae but if you do not understand why, where, and how those formulae are used, the cheat sheet is pointless.
Therefore, it is necessary that you develop an accurate intuition as well as a logical understanding of physics concepts. Generating said intuition and logic are not easy without putting in ample hard work. Critical thinking is absolutely necessary.
Physics has two aspects to it: practical and theoretical. Theoretical is hard enough for the above reasons, but when you have to start implementing it practically, the difficulty level surges. A lot of students struggle with getting the labs and practical components right, whether it is producing accurate raw data or analyzing data meaningfully.
Luckily though, the lab work is not exhaustingly difficult or extensive. Once you have built your skills in the lab, you are good to go.
So far we have established that physics is indeed difficult and a student who is considered average will likely find this subject challenging. However, that can very well be made up for by having a deep interest and fascination for physics.
If you enjoy physics, then the effort you put in will not feel like work. Moreover, our brains tend to learn more when we are enjoying ourselves.
Is Physics Harder Than Maths?
Physics is harder than maths. Students find physics to be more difficult than maths since it is more abstract, has a more extensive course, requires you to develop practical skills, and calls for stronger problem-solving and analytical prowess.
Maths is not easy by any means either. If your brain is not inclined to think in a logical and precise way, you will do poorly in it. Maths requires you to know how to solve problems. And often times, these problems are substantially complex.
In physics, you have all of this in addition to the usual course content. As established above, the abstract nature of physics is a head-scratcher. When you start applying heavy maths such as multivariable calculus or differential equations to said abstract topics, things become increasingly difficult.
This is because you are juggling two things at once. For example, when solving Einstein’s field equation, you will have to have a solid command of general relativity as well as know how to deal with tensor fields.
Therefore, while both are formidable STEM fields that mentally challenge students, physics tends to give its students a tougher time because of its combination of the two fields of study.
Is Physics Harder than Medicine?
Physics is equally hard as medicine. Physics is considered hard due to advanced mathematics, and abstract concepts. Medicine is considered a difficult field because of the extensive curriculum, demanding schedule, and interconnected subject content.
The nature of both these subjects is completely different. On one hand, you have biology with copious amounts of memorization. On the other, you have physics where memorization has little use.
Length and content-wise, medicine takes the lead. The entirety of the human body is taught in the five years of medical school. The medical school syllabus includes the body’s functions, diseases, and treatments. A medical student has to study diligently in order to assume responsibility for human life later on in their career.
Moreover, there is a hefty amount of memorization involved in medicine. You will have to remember the scientific names of quite a lot of body parts, little and small, and also remember what function they serve, and how they fit into a system.
On the other hand, a physics degree might take fewer years to complete, but the nature of its content is such that you have to truly push your brain to its limits. If memorization is not difficult for you but critical thinking is, physics will feel nothing short of a nightmare. With physics, you have to truly and properly understand its concepts to advance in your degree.
As compared to medicine, its material is slightly more complicated and is generally more difficult to grasp for students.
Therefore, what will be harder for you depends on your abilities and where your interests lie, but with a good amount of hard work, you can manage to do well in both medicine and physics.
Which is Easier: Biology, Chemistry, or Physics?
Biology is easier when compared to chemistry or physics. Biology is easier since it is not very intellectually demanding nor does it employ advanced maths. Moreover, you can do well in biology through memorization and a basic understanding of the material.
Although, all three subjects are considered to be challenging by the general populace, what comes easier is more likely to be decided by your natural inclination and interest.
Nevertheless, if you manage to nail down a few things in biology, you can get a hang of it quicker as opposed to the other two.
Since biology is the study of living organisms, people tend to be more fascinated by it. Moreover, a lot of what you study in biology is what you have been seeing since childhood— various illnesses, mold on food, bacteria, viruses, and wounds healing after a scrape.
At an advanced level, a large part of biology involves memorization. It is heavy on the content but that content is relatively simple as compared to the course material of physics and chemistry. Once you get past the medical terminology and everything you have to remember, understanding its content will become much easier as compared to the other two.
Physics and chemistry in comparison will require less rote learning from you (which is good news for those who are not made for it) but have more complex topics. These topics generally require more concentration and mental capacity to fully understand.
Moreover, both physics and chemistry heavily rely on you being adept with mathematical concepts. If you are not good with maths, you will most likely not be able to get too far in physics and chemistry. That is not the case with biology.
As such, what you are better at depends on your mental capabilities. If you can think very technically and logically, you might even find physics and chemistry easier than biology.