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Q: Where should I study theoretical Cosmology like Superstring Theory (M Theory)? ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Where should I study theoretical Cosmology like Superstring Theory (M Theory)?
Category: Science > Astronomy
Asked by: ryan256-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 06 Apr 2005 21:47 PDT
Expires: 06 May 2005 21:47 PDT
Question ID: 506137
Where should I go to study theoretical cosmology such as Superstring
Theory (now known as M Theory)?

I currently have a computer business that is going quite well, and
I'll be finished with my undergraduate degree in December.  It seems a
logical next step to pick up the pace with my business, make some
money, and forget about school.

But I feel unfulfilled with my college education.  I will have a minor
in Math and a minor in Computer Science.  My major is in Elective
Studies since I spent the last four years of my life trying vastly
different subject areas in the hopes of finding something that fueled
my passion for science and technology, as well as creative new ideas. 
I have found Math too straightforward to be creative, and Philosophy
too fuzzy to be shared usefully with others.

The only time I've really experienced that passion was when reading
about theoretical cosmology when I was in high school.  Now I realize
that I probably should have started college by chasing that dream of
cosmology, rather than beating around the bush for four years.

So I ask myself:  Should I stay in school and study Cosmology and
Superstring Theory, or should I quit school and work full time? 
That's something I have to figure out on my own.  But before I can
even begin to consider that question, I need some help from you!

So here's my question for you:  

Where are some of the best schools to study Cosmology and Superstring
Theory (M Theory)?

Where do students go to study and get involved in this kind of
bleeding edge theoretical thinking?  I'm from Minnesota, and I don't
really know of any major universities here that even have a Cosmology
program, much less a "Superstring Theory program!"  Do such programs
even exist?  (Anywhere in the U.S., not necessarily just MN.)  Where
is all this happening?  Where is the center(s) of activity?

I should add that I am NOT asking where I should go to study
ASTRONOMY.  Astronomers spend their time
crunching numbers, and they end up with a very precise result that is
a single piece of a very large unassembled puzzle
with an unknown number of pieces. 

Although Cosmology is interesting only because of the wealth of
experimental results provided by the hard work of countless
Astronomers, I am personally more interested in the bigger picture
than the meticulous details of carrying out a very specific
experiment.  Cosmologists are the ones who look
at the bigger picture and try to put all the pieces together.  That's
what I love, and that's what I'm interested in.  Cosmology. 
Superstring Theory.  M Theory.  That's the stuff!

If I put off full-time work for a few more years, would I just be
chasing a pie in the sky--or do there exist places where I can really
go to study this stuff?

Thanks for your help in making this life-decision!


Since this is a repost, I will include the original clarification in the body:

 Request for Question Clarification by  siliconsamurai-ga  on 04 Mar
2005 02:53 PST
What constitutes a minor in math can vary quite a bit between schools.
Can you let us know what your last math class was or otherwise
describe your highest level of math knowledge? This might help to
narrow the field a bit. Without at least a masters in physics you may
not be able to enter some of the top programs and similarly for a
certain level of theoretical math knowledge.

  Clarification of Question by ryan256-ga  on 04 Mar 2005 12:12 PST 
In terms of math required for string theory, I have already found a
fair amount of information at: 

My minor will cover the undergraduate suggestions listed at this site.
 Even so, I realize that if I were to really get serious about this, I
would probably need to study math at the graduate level.

However, for the sake of question clarification, let's assume that
I've got a good portion of the graduate math requirements taken care
of as well.  In that case, where should I go to study theoretical
Cosmology like Stuperstring Theory (M Theory)?

My main question is:  Does there exist such a thing as a "Cosmology
program" or "String theory program" (along the lines of a "Business
program" or "Art department")?  If so, where are the best places in
the nation, and how do their programs differ?

My secondary question is:  At what point does one start connecting the
pure math to the actual theory?  Is it really impossible to talk about
string theory without a graduate degree in math and physics?
Subject: Re: Where should I study theoretical Cosmology like Superstring Theory (M Theory
Answered By: politicalguru-ga on 07 Apr 2005 00:58 PDT
Dear Ryan, 

"Cosmology" programs, or sometimes also "M/String Theory" programs
exist as a specialisation as part of a wider graduate program in
physics, usually within the frame of the elementary partical theory.
It is not "impossible" to talk about these theories without these
degrees (there are many autodidacts, for example, science journalists,
who have not studied it in an orderly fashion), but in order to talk
about them in an academic level, or to actually research them, you'll
need to study these at least at the graduate level, and perhaps also
in the postdoc level.

Getting into one of the graduate labs I'll refer to in this list might
not be easy for someone who hasn't got an undergraduate degree in
physics/math. However, it is also not "impossible". Unfortunately for
you, most of these programs are outside the MidWest, except for
Chicago (in fact, good labs are either in the East or the West. I
guess they like the oceanview :).

Here is a list of leading universities, whose graduate program deals
with string theory or cosmology (this is not ranking, but an
alphabetical order. Basically, I cannot really rank any of these
excellent institutions over another, your choice must have to do with
other elements - chances of a grant; addmission requirements; with
whom of the great minds will you work; etc.):

Baylor University

California Institute of Technology
Physics @ CalTech 

University of Chicago

Columbia University, New York
<> - where Brian Greene teaches and researches. 

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA)
Dept of Physics

Institute of Advaned Study, Princeton 
<> - you can't really "study" (for a degree) there.
They do have summer programs and postdoc projects, and many people in
their faculty are employed in other New Jersey universities,
especially Princeton.

Princeton University

Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
<> - you can participate in their
researches as a graduate student at Stanford, or as part of a summer
program (either graduate or postdoc; they also have something for
undergrads). Their researchers are part of Stanford's physics

University of California, Berkeley
<> - this department also works with SLAC
and is also involved in theoretical research.

University of California, Irvine

University of Maryland, College Park

I hope this answers your question. I wish you success in your chosen
path, especially now, at the beginning of the way, which is going to
be a bit bumpy.
Subject: Re: Where should I study theoretical Cosmology like Superstring Theory (M Theory)?
From: hedgie-ga on 07 Apr 2005 20:02 PDT

I would recommend, before looking for a specific program,
to do a bit of reading, perhaps a course in conceptual physics,
before selecting a specific field, such a M Theory  or cosmology.

Official classification of topics in physics is:

   03. Quantum mechanics, field theories, and special relativity
 (see also 11 General theory of fields and particles)
      81.07.-b Nanoscale materials and structures: fabrication and characterization
       81.07.Bc Nanocrystalline materials
 	81.07.De Nanotubes
 	81.07.Lk Nanocontacts
 	81.07.Nb Molecular nanostructures

 The two subfields, Unified Theories and Cosmology do intersect in
study of early universe, as described on popular lever here:

Here are other classifications and resources

     During such preparation you should be able to decide
 if you are just rounding up you education, 
 of if you contemplate a career in one of the fields.

This statement :
 "I realize that if I were to really get serious about this, I
would probably need to study math at the graduate level..."

is an understatement of the your. Drip the 'propbably'. 

I would start with this book:

Tensor analysis for physicists.y Schouten, J. A. (Jan Arnoldus), b. 1883.
Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1951. 1951.

and then, if you enjoy that, look at the history of the field:

To see if you will still be interested after some serious reading.

Subject: Re: Where should I study theoretical Cosmology like Superstring Theory (M Theory)?
From: hedgie-ga on 07 Apr 2005 20:05 PDT
is an understatement of the your. Drip the 'propbably'

should be
is an understatement of the year. Drop the 'probably'

sorry about that

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