Becoming a Theoretical Physicist – Phase 1

What’s the big idea, you ask? Well, my goal is to self-study as much stuff as I can to enable me to at least cover the foundations of the body of  knowledge required for mainstream theoretical physics. Why would I want to spend my time studying aimlessly to become a theoretical physicist in the first place? Primarily because it seems like a better way to spend time than programming video games, which is my other calling in life.


If physicists and mathematicians could be given scores from 1 to 100, with Leibniz, Newton, Dirac et al getting a 100 and that “observational science” bloke who debated Bill Nye getting a zero, I’d probably put myself in the 1.5 – 2.5 range. By the end of Phase 1, I plan to elevate myself to a 5 (possibly a 7, if I’m lucky).

So what is Phase 1? Well, Phase 1 of this project consists of learning the language of the universe i.e Mathematics. Physics requires a profound understanding of several regions of mathematics, hence I feel it necessary to learn a bit of the mathematical essentials before I plunge into classical and quantum  mechanics. Here is what I plan to learn in Phase 1:

  • Calculus
  • Linear Algebra
  • Advanced Calculus
  • Number Theory
  • Probability Theory
  • Real Analysis
  • Complex Analysis
  • Logic
  • Topology

How long will it take me to complete Phase 1? Probably the better part of 5 years or so, if all goes well. What next? I haven’t yet completely decided what Phase 2 will consist of, but there’s a high chance of it containing Classical Mechanics, Electro-magnetism and Quantum Mechanics, at least at an introductory level.

Will it be worth all the blood, toil and sweat? Yes. Even if I don’t end up being a physicist (or engineer), all this knowledge will come in handy someday, I’m sure.

On a side note

A Mathematician’s Apology by G.H Hardy is a pretty good read. Also, Khan Academy’s Cosmology and Astronomy playlist is awesome:



  1. Try Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering by Riley, Hobson, and Bence. It’s very well structured. If you have an maths education up to roughly Alevels/ high school, you should be just about able to manage 🙂

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