What does a theoretical physicist do? – Science Mystery

What does a theoretical physicist do


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    What does a theoretical physicist do?

    Do they sit all day and dream of new particles or imagine the beginning of the universe, and how it works.


    Research and theoretical physics generally do one of two things or they have some data that needs clarification for which a theory must be developed. And second, they have a theory that needs improvement and the improved theory leads to a prediction that is then experimentally tested.


    I have noticed that some people think that theoretical physics is something special to the foundation of physics, but it is not so at all. The sub-disciplines of physics have an experimental part and a theoretical part.


    How much labor is divided into different groups of people depends strongly on the field in some parts of astrophysics. For example, data collection analysis and theory development are done by a large number of people.


    In parts of condensed matter physics, there are also many experimental theorists. But if you look at fields like cosmology or high-energy particle physics, people specialize in experiments or in theory development.


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    What kind of job is a theoretical physicist?

    Theoretical Physics is very much like a job in which you get an education and then you put your knowledge into work. You find theoretical physicists in public higher education institutions and some non-profit research institutes or industries.


    In addition to research, a theoretical physicist may have administrative duties or public outreach for students, scientific meetings, committees, etc.


    When it comes to research, theoretical physics does not work differently from other disciplines of science. The biggest part of research is 99% learning what other people have done. That means you read books and papers, go to seminars, go to conferences, listen to lectures and talk to people until that you do not understand what they have done.


    And as you do that you probably come up with some open problems and among them. You choose one for your own research problem that you are interested in. But also something that you think will advance the field and the important thing is that you raise a problem that you think you have a choice of a research topic there is a fair chance that is both interesting and practical.


    It’s not easy and requires quite a bit of familiarity with literature. That’s why young researchers usually rely on more senior colleagues to choose a subject where theoretical physics is special in the amount of mathematics we use in our research.


    How important is mathematics to a theoretical physicist?

    All theories in physics are mathematical, this means that you should know both how to construct a natural system with mathematics and how calculations are done within these models.


    Theoretical physicists do a lot of calculations numerically on a computer. But you still have to understand the mathematics that goes into this. There is really no way around it so that’s the heart of the job, you have to find or understand and use the right mathematics to describe the nature of things that a lot of people don’t understand. 


    In theory development, you cannot just dream of a particle because almost everything you can think of will not work. If you write math it is just nonsense or you quickly find that it is already in conflict with observation. But a theoretical physicist’s job is not done with finishing a calculation.


    Once you get your results, you have to write them and publish them. And then you will lecture about it so that others will understand what you have done. And hopefully built on your work what’s fascinating about theoretical physics is just how remarkably well mathematics describes nature.


    I always wonder if people tell me that they never understood physics. Because I would say that physics is the only thing you can really understand that it is the rest of the world that does not understand.


    So these are enough for today. Comment what is your opinion about this post “What does a theoretical physicist do?“.

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