The Physics Philes, lesson 1: An Introduction

In which ennui is felt, books are purchased, and math anxiety is confronted.

Regular readers of this blog might know that I’m a lawyer. I don’t practice, but I am licensed so I could if I wanted to. Supposedly, law school opens up a lot of doors. The skills taught in law school are applicable to many different jobs. Logical reasoning, clear communication, the ability to become an expert on many different topics in a short time; all of these are skills one needs to master before graduating. Because these skills are generally applicable, I thought law school would throw me into the path of interesting careers.

It didn’t. Or, at least, it hasn’t yet.

My friends and family tell me that it’s not me! It’s the economy! Things will pick up! Maybe. But since Rebecca (foolishly?) hired me to help out with Teen Skepchick over a year ago, one thought has been nagging me increasingly: Why didn’t you study science?

Why didn’t I study science? I like it. A lot. Astronomy, especially. When I was a kid my room was decorated with a hand-drawn version of every U.S. manned spacecraft every made. But I gave it up. And I don’t remember why.

That’s not entirely true. I hated math. With the passionate heat of a thousand suns I hated math. I let that hatred scare me away from something I actually loved. And that is upsetting. Thus, over the past year I’ve been experiencing an increasing sense of ennui, a melancholy boredom that was proving impossible to shake.

So I’m doing something about it.

Instead of sitting on my bum wishing I had studied more science, I am actually going to study more science. Specifically I’ll be taking a free online physics course offered by MIT. Class notes, assignments, exams, and answers are provided. I bought the textbook for $6 on Amazon. With the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology I am teaching myself physics. One might think physics – with all its math – wouldn’t be the best topic to start out with. Actually, it’s quite the contrary.

I have completed the first lesson, and I have realized something: I am a very different person than I was 10 years ago.

Eighteen year old me would be frustrated. Eighteen year old me wouldn’t see the the joy in figuring stuff out. Eighteen year old me didn’t like things she didn’t understand immediately (which includes almost everything else.) Eighteen year old me didn’t know how to study.  Twenty-eight year old me isn’t frustrated, genuinely enjoys the learning process, and knows how to study (thank you, law school.) It’s thrilling.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to blog about what I learn. Every week I’ll write about some concept that I learned the week before and questions that I have. Hopefully this will keep me on task and help everyone more fully understand basic physics concepts.

Here’s the thing. I’m going to need your help. If you know physics, you need to tell me when I get something wrong. My physics education will be crowd-sourced. If no one sets me straight, not only will this project be useless for me, but I’ll be proliferating incorrect information to the entire Internet. And we cannot have that.

Check back here every Monday for updates on my progress.

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Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


  1. June 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm —

    This is a great idea – good luck! I’m not skilled enough with physics or communicating it to help much, but I’ll be excited to read about your progress 🙂 (I recognise that Young and Freedman text well…)

    • June 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm —

      Thanks! I’ll need a bunch of luck. I have to re-learn all the math I’ve forgotten over the years.

  2. June 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm —

    Yay, go Mindy! So excited to read about this!

    • June 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm —

      I’m excited to write it! Although I’m already finding the math a little overwhelming.

  3. June 12, 2012 at 4:15 am —

    This is wonderful news, and I look forward to your progress.

    See you in a few weeks!

  4. July 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm —

    Hi Mindy, i study astrophysics, as a grad student now, i also started later (about 5 years late) but what i can tell you is that you can make real scientific contributions as an amateur in Astronomy. Try it. Amateur astronomy is what made me start studying physics.

    • July 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm —

      Blakut, I’ve actually just starting going to my local amateur astronomy club! It’s so much fun, I can’t even stand it 🙂

  5. June 20, 2014 at 10:11 am —

    Let? Hey I am 69 and I am four years late on your blog; so I am doubly late.

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