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Difference between Physics and Applied Physics

by ultimateguy
Tags: applied, difference, physics
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ultimateguy
#1
Dec21-06, 01:49 PM
P: 126
My department is changing its designation from "Applied Physics" to "Physics". Because I'm in 3rd year, this means that I have the option of having one of the two on my degree. What is the difference?
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#2
Dec21-06, 02:08 PM
P: 262
If it was my choice, I would stick with Physics just because it sounds more general. I don't know if someone may look down on Applied Physics (I would hope not). Of course, the name doesn't change the courses you've taken or probably will take... so its really just a preference.
chroot
#3
Dec21-06, 02:19 PM
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Depends on what you want to do. If you intend to work as an experimentalist, or wish to go into engineering, I'd call it Applied Physics. If you intend to go to graduate school to study pure physics, then I'd call it Physics.

- Warren

Locrian
#4
Dec21-06, 11:51 PM
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Difference between Physics and Applied Physics

Why would being an "experimentalist" be different than "pure physics?"
ZapperZ
#5
Dec22-06, 07:11 AM
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I am always puzzled by such division between "pure physics" and "applied physics". I know that the educational systems in many parts of the world (Europe and the UK come to mind) make such a distinction. Even here in the US, you do get it here and there. Stanford, for example, has a Dept. of Physics, and a Dept. of Applied Physics (yet you see many students and faculty members being a part of BOTH).

The apparent distinction here between the two is that the "pure physics" studies basic, fundamental aspect of physics that would include field theory, elementary particle physics, string theory (ugh), etc.. and would, presumably, include both theoretical and experimental. Applied physics, on the other hand, would cover subject areas such as atomic/molecular physics, condensed matter physics, quantum optics, etc... i.e. those that have "practical" applications. These areas would also include both theoretical and experimental work.

Now, it is bad enough that we have various subject areas of physics. Now, we also have a broader dichotomy of all these areas to group them broadly into separate categories. Of course, the misleading impression left behind here is that the "applied physics" areas do not make any contribution to the fundamental aspect of physics, only "pure physics" areas do. One only needs to look at the various theoretical advances in condensed matter physics and how they have been "hijacked" into the "pure" areas to disprove that fallacy.

Zz.
ultimateguy
#6
Dec22-06, 11:46 AM
P: 126
So if I am planning on pursuing a Master's Degree with the department, I guess I should just stick with Physics.
Stingray
#7
Dec22-06, 11:55 AM
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Quote Quote by ZapperZ View Post
Of course, the misleading impression left behind here is that the "applied physics" areas do not make any contribution to the fundamental aspect of physics, only "pure physics" areas do. One only needs to look at the various theoretical advances in condensed matter physics and how they have been "hijacked" into the "pure" areas to disprove that fallacy.
Advances in math have been applied to physics, and vice versa. Advances in chemistry have been applied to physics, and vice versa. Advances in chemistry have been applied to biology, and vice versa... I don't see how anyone could claim that two fields with different names could never interact.
Locrian
#8
Dec22-06, 05:23 PM
P: 1,729
Stingray,

I do not understand what your response has to do with Zz's quote. I don't think he ever suggested two fields in science don't interact or stated that anyone argued such.

I believe Zz was responding to the implication that physics done with practical intention does not make fundamental, important discoveries, which of course is incorrect. This makes more sense in the context of the thread as well as the context of his post.
Stingray
#9
Dec22-06, 05:34 PM
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Quote Quote by Locrian View Post
I do not understand what your response has to do with Zz's quote. I don't think he ever suggested two fields in science don't interact or stated that anyone argued such.
It sounded to me like he was suggesting that many people incorrectly assume that "physics" and "applied physics" are completely independent subjects. This seemed to be one of his justifications for disliking the label. I was only saying that I was skeptical that many people would have that misunderstanding.
ZapperZ
#10
Dec22-06, 06:20 PM
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Quote Quote by Stingray View Post
It sounded to me like he was suggesting that many people incorrectly assume that "physics" and "applied physics" are completely independent subjects. This seemed to be one of his justifications for disliking the label. I was only saying that I was skeptical that many people would have that misunderstanding.
No, that wasn't what I was implying at all.

You will note that I loosely defined what I believe to be how "pure physics" and "applied physics" are defined from what I have seen. Based on that, it is CLEAR that these cannot be "completely independent subjects", considering condensed matter physicists have to also study quantum field theory, for example.

What I did want to correct was the fallacy that these two really don't have any interactions, and that "applied physics" are less "fundamental" than "pure physics", which seems to be the common thread in many students that I've talked to when you ask them about such dichotomy. One can easily "thank" Gell-Mann for having such inferior views of "applied physics".

Zz.
Nasrullah
#11
Dec30-06, 06:55 AM
P: 7
Okay i am gonig to ask stupid question and that is if person does bachelor degree in applied physics/ engineering physics then he would he still able to do research [phd] in astronomy related areas?
Dr Transport
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Dec30-06, 10:36 AM
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Quote Quote by Nasrullah View Post
Okay i am gonig to ask stupid question and that is if person does bachelor degree in applied physics/ engineering physics then he would he still able to do research [phd] in astronomy related areas?
Yes..... but you may have to make up some gaps in your education. As an example, I know a university that has an engineering physics degree program that for all intensive purposes is a mix of physics and EE. You only have to take one semester of thermo/statistical physics, one semester of mechanics and one semester of advanced lab (i.e. essentially a BA as opposed to a BS) along with a bunch of EE courses. If you were working in astronomy, you'd definitely would need the mechanics and thermodynamics and could make them up.
D H
#13
Dec30-06, 11:47 AM
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An undergraduate physics major who concentrates in elementary particle physics will have just as hard a time adjusting to astronomy as does the undergraduate applied/engineering physics major who concentrates in biophysics.

My undergraduate school had (and still has) a School of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences and a School of Applied and Engineering Physics in the College of Engineering. The big difference between the two at the undergraduate level was the side courses one had to take (BA versus BS degree). The real differences appear at the graduate level.

Denoting theoretical physics as "pure" is a bit snobbish, akin to splitting math into pure and applied mathematics. The implication is that the applied people are doing something impure. What would the purists think if the fields were renamed practical and impractical physics?
Dr Transport
#14
Dec30-06, 12:53 PM
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Quote Quote by D H View Post
Denoting theoretical physics as "pure" is a bit snobbish, akin to splitting math into pure and applied mathematics. The implication is that the applied people are doing something impure. What would the purists think if the fields were renamed practical and impractical physics?
I like that......

Strings or any other field that you cannot directly measure a result and compare to prediction = impractical

Anything else where you can copmpare predictions and measured results = practical
K.J.Healey
#15
Dec30-06, 03:14 PM
P: 641
I have a bachelors in "applied physics" (College of Science) and my physics coursework was:
PHYS 110 M Physics I: Mechanics
PHYS 224 M Electricity & Magnetism
PHYS 372 M Optics I
PHYS 362 M Modern Physics
PHYS 342 M Materials Science
PHYS 452 M Thermodynamics & Stats Physics
PHYS 382 M Acoustics I: Sounds & Sources
PHYS 462 M Quantum Physics
PHYS 474 M Optoelectronics (elective)
PHYS 412 M Theoretical Mechanics
PHYS 499 M Photonics and Fiber Optics (elective)

My other electives were either EE or mathematics. The way I see it, the Applied Phys undergrad isn't applied, but usually your electives are. The only calss that my school (Kettering) didnt offer was a particle/nuclear class, though those topics were lightly covered elsewhere. I have a feeling that since my school is geared toward preparing ME's for the auto industry they figure the physicist are doing the same, so they named the program "applied" to help us get jobs. The coursework in the listed non-elective required physics classes were in no way more "applied" than a HS physics course. It was all mainly theory with a few labs in some of the lower classes.
Ki Man
#16
Dec31-06, 11:42 AM
P: 555
i always hought that applied physics was just regular physics being applied into situation

i dont see why they would need to be entirely seperate departments. i think of applied physics as a sub-catagory of physics
Dr Transport
#17
Dec31-06, 12:59 PM
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Quote Quote by Ki Man View Post
i always hought that applied physics was just regular physics being applied into situation

i dont see why they would need to be entirely seperate departments. i think of applied physics as a sub-catagory of physics

True, but the purists in physics don't want anything practical to dirty their sand box. If it wasn't for the practical side of physics the purists would not be able to conduct therir reseach and run their codes, write their publications and communitcate back and forth. Think about this, if the purists got their way, would John Bardeen have won TWO Nobel prizes, his work was obviously pure at the time but the application of his work is more critical to life today than say any work Gell-Mann or Hawking has ever done. (No disrespect to either man or his accomplishments.)


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