How (not) to study physics: 5 mistakes you should avoid

Dimitrij Tschodu
6 min readApr 15, 2021

You’re a straight “A” student fresh out of school?
You didn’t have any problems with physics as an advanced course?
You’ve read books by Hawking and Feynman and watched science videos on YouTube?
That doesn’t help you.

The winter semester is coming and with it the study shock. On the one hand, you will struggle with the enormously abstract and rigorous mathematics, where every index below the sum means fail or pass. On the other hand, there are those theoretical physicists who shamelessly shorten differential equations here and there or write the differential right after the integral sign. You will not only have to live with this variety of mathematical expressions, but also with an enormously high workload compared to school.

The reassuring thing is that many physics students feel the same way.
Before you, like the many students, despair of your studies and
take two semesters off, I’ll share with you my top 5 mistakes in physics
that I should have avoided from the beginning.

Trying to be smart

Smart students fresh out of school usually have a tough time at the beginning: they’ve become accustomed to getting good results with relatively little effort. In their first few semesters, however, they’re no longer straight “A” students.

And that can get them down.

If you’re an intelligent person and your ego won’t give you a break, listen to what an old and wise man (not me) tells you:
Charles Munger says,

It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent. There must be some wisdom in the folk saying: ‘It’s the strong swimmers who drown.’

(From “Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger” by Peter Bevelin)

Dimitrij Tschodu

PhD student in biophysics at Leipzig university | Physicist | ML & AI researcher | author | former blogger of