What is Theoretical physicist: Definition and 90 Discussions

Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.
The advancement of science generally depends on the interplay between experimental studies and theory. In some cases, theoretical physics adheres to standards of mathematical rigour while giving little weight to experiments and observations. For example, while developing special relativity, Albert Einstein was concerned with the Lorentz transformation which left Maxwell's equations invariant, but was apparently uninterested in the Michelson–Morley experiment on Earth's drift through a luminiferous aether. Conversely, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for explaining the photoelectric effect, previously an experimental result lacking a theoretical formulation.

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  1. D

    Theoretical Physicist working on physics of energy systems and climate

    See also my LinkedIn page under my name, Dirk Smit. I retired recently from a big energy company where I was the corporate chief scientist. I am now affiliated with Oxford Univ and MIT working on the applied science and engineering of the energy transition in particular the role of the...
  2. DanielcoderX

    Seeking insights on careers in theoretical physics and cosmology

    TL;DR Summary: Aspiring physicist seeking insights on job prospects, education paths, and salaries in theoretical physics and cosmology. Share your experiences and advice for informed decision-making. Thanks! Dear members of the forum, I'm currently in Grade 11, seeking insights on...
  3. E

    Physics Questions by a First Year UofToronto Physics Student on Grad Admissions

    Sorry if this is long, just want this to be as definitive as possible. Hello everyone, I am a first year physics & mathematics specialist (which is kind of analogous to double major here) student in University of Toronto and had several questions on applying to grad school. So, to give some...
  4. DannyLouis888

    A physics PhD students addicted to Computational Languages

    I am a 4th-yesr PhD student in Theoretical Particle Physics. My work frequently involves computational stuff so I feel like addicted to developing and using computational techniques for solving physics problems. I am aimed at some topics involving computers for my postdoc. My current project...
  5. Joel_Entrup

    Is it possible to become a theoretical physicist with a 120 IQ?

    An IQ of 120 is plenty good, but the average IQ of Physics and Astronomy majors is higher. It's even higher for brilliant theoretical physicists and Physics PhD holders. So is it possible, with enough hard work and dedication, that someone with a 120 IQ could become a theoretical physicist? Or...
  6. J

    Schools Help to find best high school in the US to become a theoretical phyicist

    Dear everyone, My younger brother who is 15 years old and me, both live in the UK. He is determined to become a theoretical physicist like Zeldovich or Ginzburg. We have an opportunity to send him to a US high school because it is the best place to become and be a physicist. Could you please...
  7. warhammer

    I Is Theoretical Physics Progressing Slower Than Experimental Physics?

    In respect to the above question, I also have a follow up question. Is progress in Theoretical Physics somewhat slow currently as compared to Experimental Physics?
  8. W

    Physics Leaving Academia While Still Contributing to Physics Research

    There is a Theoretical Physicist by the name of Garret Lisi. He gave a ted Talk on one of his unified physics theories that received a lot of attention. The reason why I am bringing him up is because he left academia after he finished his phd and moved to Maui. During his time there he found...
  9. M

    What avenue of physics can a scientist in the Star Wars galaxy study?

    What I’m looking for is some new avenue of physics for a scientist in the Star Wars galaxy to be studying. They probably know what dark matter and dark energy are since Starkiller Base is powered by it. I’m sure they know about how the universe began, why it’s expanding and what it’s fate is...
  10. L

    Who is Raúl, a Spanish Theoretical Physicist and Knowledge-Addict?

    I am Raúl, from España, Theoretical Physicist Graduate, Ph.D Student and High School Teacher. Thanks for tha add. Interested in psychophyics
  11. A

    Other How did you find your reasearch area in theoretical physics?

    Hi guys, I find it hard to decide what to work on. To give some background, I am a bachelor student and I want to work in theoretical research. I talked with a professor (he is the chief of the theory department) at my uni about this and he expects me to find a topic or an area of research for...
  12. Quantum_Arcanium

    Physics Want to become Theoretical Physicist but don't know Coding

    Hi, I am an aspiring Theoretical Physicist. I've heard that you need to know many programming languages to become a Physicist, but I have never learned a single programming language in my life and I am 16-17 years old now. Is there any chance of me still becoming one? Is there anything I can do...
  13. Alex Petrosyan

    Physics Getting into theoretical Physics after multiple setbacks

    Hi all, I'm a theoretical physics hopeful, and I've had a couple of major setbacks in my undergraduate studies. I'm thinking of whether I should pursue a career in TP, or reconsider doing physics entirely. My background: I've always had an interest in Physics. I got a bronze medal from...
  14. Greg Bernhardt

    Insights Interview with Theoretical Physicist Clifford Johnson - Comments

    Greg Bernhardt submitted a new PF Insights post Interview with Theoretical Physicist Clifford Johnson Continue reading the Original PF Insights Post.
  15. assademre

    Where to start with Theoretical Physics?

    Firstly, I'm sorry if it is wrong part to start this thread. I'm new here and I can change the category if you let me know. Secondly, I want to learn something about theoretical physics. I am about to finish my study Mathematics in a semester. However, I consider to study physics either and I...
  16. A

    Physics Theoretical Physicist Career Guidance

    what is the academic route to become a theoretical physicist?
  17. lawlieto

    Studying Should a theoretical physicist learn maths like a mathematician?

    I'm currently doing my undergraduate physics course at university, and I'm quite confident I'd like to be a theorist in the future. We have separate maths lectures from maths students, and most people have an attitude towards maths which could be summed up as "only learn what you need to know...
  18. Zohaib_aarfi

    I Correct relation is F^{ij} = - epsilon^{ijk} B^k.

    When I tried to derive this relation I got the wrong sign. Please check the pic and tell me my mistakes.
  19. Greg Bernhardt

    Insights Interview with a Theoretical Physicist: Sabine Hossenfelder - Comments

    TheAdmin submitted a new PF Insights post Interview with a Theoretical Physicist: Sabine Hossenfelder Continue reading the Original PF Insights Post.
  20. TheFlyingGandalf

    Physics A few questions about a theoretical physicist career

    Hello, I'm Michael, am 17 and uncertain about my future (as I'm sure anyone my age is). you see, I aim to be a theoretical physicist in the future and I am worried a bit: Yes, I know, you shouldn't pick a job just for the money, but I do worry about how much does a theoretical physicist make. do...
  21. Brent Lingenfelter

    Teen Struggling to Become a Theoretical Physicist?

    I'm 14 years old, and I would like to become a Theoretical Physicist. There is an issue though and I don't know what to do. The problem is in math/science "I have to take biology this year :(" class I am so bored they take the fun out of learning. Also everything is way way too slow I am...
  22. Liam Lau

    Mathematical Physics or Theoretical Physics

    Hi, I am currently applying to university and am an aspiring Theoretical Physicist. I see many different courses but the two I am not sure on are Mathematical Physics and Theoretical Physics. I was wondering what would give me a better foundation to go on to be a Theoretical Physicist, thank...
  23. P

    Physics Advice for becoming a theoretical physicist

    I am 14 and I have had an uncommon interest in math and science (mostly math). I have recently gotten into the mysteries of quantum physics. What I have heard about theoretical physics is that it requires manipulating data to create equations then find the why's and what's for phenomena. I feel...
  24. LazarusLong

    Physics Do I have any chance of becoming a theoretical physicist?

    I am a senior physics student. Since high school I have been mainly self-taught in physics. I’ve hardly had any success in university, with an average score of about 74. The reason partly has to do with my terrible algebra skills, with the vast majority of exams being algebra-oriented. However...
  25. Greg Bernhardt

    Insights Interview with a Theoretical Physicist: Carlo Rovelli - Comments

    Greg Bernhardt submitted a new PF Insights post Interview with a Theoretical Physicist: Carlo Rovelli Continue reading the Original PF Insights Post.
  26. M

    Looking for a numeric classical mechanics problem for project

    Homework Statement I was recently assigned an assignment where my instructor told us to come up with an idea for a numeric classical mechanics problem that is solved by computer methods. Some ideas the instructor gave was to simulate motion of a sun-earth-moon system or simulate the tides of a...
  27. Greg Bernhardt

    Insights Interview with a Theoretical Physicist: Garrett Lisi - Comments

    Greg Bernhardt submitted a new PF Insights post Interview with a Theoretical Physicist: Garrett Lisi Continue reading the Original PF Insights Post.
  28. KylieVegas

    Physics Can an applied physics graduate be a theoretical physicist?

    Hello, can an applied physics graduate be able to be a theoretical physicist? Our school only offers applied physics major in instrumentation but they do send students to do interns/ojt (on the job training) to CERN and various universities all over the world. I know applied physics is more...
  29. R

    Physics or Math, and some other questions

    Hello everyone. I came to gather some advice from all the experienced people here. I'm 16 and going to be a 10th grader in high school this coming year. I have taken Algebra 2 while doing Algebra 1, and they are letting me into AP Calculus this year early. I personally love math and physics, but...
  30. Y

    How to become a theoretical physicist

    Hi , I'm currently a high school student and aiming to be a theoretical physicist but before I go any further I'd like to know what it takes to be a theoretical physicist based on some basic questions revolving around my head all this time.Eventhough I searched for any information pertaining to...
  31. Adrian Silaghi

    On Becoming a Theoretical Physicist

    Hello everyone.First of all let me introduce myself.My name is Adrian I'm 20 years old I'm a freshmen in college and I live in Romania.My story is kinda short.After I got my Highschool final exam from Physics I started liking it.Now I study Systems Engineering cause it was my only option due to...
  32. P

    Can I become a theoretical physicist?

    With an undergrad degree in Applied Mathematics and Meteorology (school has no quantum field theory; didn't to study it and its extensive lab classes). And then do a masters degree in Mathematical Physic afterwards do a PhD in Mathematical Physics? Will I then be a theoretical physicist or a...
  33. FuturePhysicist

    Physics Can a theoretical physicist do multiple fields?

    Based on what I have learned, I know that a theoretical physicist has to work in a specific field. But can one work in two? For instance, a person who has a PhD in cosmology but is working on both cosmology and field theories (quantum, unified). Or maybe even the same person working at a...
  34. J

    Physics Where is the best place to work as a Theoretical Physicist?

    Hello. I'm finishing my last year of school and I have wanted to become a Theoretical Physicist at CERN for 2 years, so I want to get a PhD degree. Knowing that people at CERN speak both english and french, I decided to study Physics in Paris (bachelor-french, masters-english), but is it CERN...
  35. Kostas Tzim

    Theoretical Physicist: Maths or Physics? (Greece)

    Hey folks, If someone wants to be a theoretical physicist is preferable to follow the mathematics department or the physics? i live in greece (just to know)
  36. P

    Exploring BB as a theoretical physicist or astrophysicist?

    I am curious as to the differences, if one wishes to study the big bang and the origin of the universe, as his/hers primary studies. How would my field of study, and expertise differ coming from a theoretical physics background, compared to (theoretical) astrophysics? Would there be any...
  37. S

    Suggestions for books every Theoretical Physicist should have

    Hi, I am just starting my studies in earnest in Physics (woo, Freshman!) and plan on eventually seeking a PhD in theoretical physics. I was wondering if there were any "cannon" works, textbooks that almost every one knows or has studied from at some point, that I should start looking at...
  38. Brunnun

    Doubts of an aspiring Theoretical Physicist

    I hope I do not extend myself here. I am a Brazilian High School student, graduating this year, that plans to pursue a Physics undergraduate in the United States. Since I started High School I decided on my degree; I love physics and my ultimate dream is to research the depths of the field...
  39. B3NR4Y

    Is there a point to being a theoretical physicist?

    When I started undergrad I was speaking with my lab professor, a theoretical physicist, and he asked what I wanted to do when I am done with school. I said I planned on being a theoretical physicist and he told me that about 3/4 of the students in his graduate program at Stanford wanted to be...
  40. H

    On becoming theoretical physicist

    I'm a high school student . I'll start a self learning of physics and maths . I want to be theoretical physicist . I'm especially interested in gravitational physics . I wonder which website advice below is better to follow ? Why ? ...
  41. F

    Physics PhD in Physics Theoretical Physicist career problem

    I am interested in getting a PhD in Physics, but I do not want to teach. However, I do want to conduct research, is there anyway, I can have a job as a theoretical physicist working to participate in researches, maybe work in CERN, for the large haldron collider or something, without teaching in...
  42. M

    Physics How you become a theoretical physicist

    Hi, I would like to ask HOW you become a theoretical physicist. By how, I mean what classes are needed? What is college like for one studying to become a theoretical physicist?I would like to specialize in Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Of course this all depends on what college you attend...
  43. M

    Physics Theoretical Physicist: Qualifications & Job Opps

    What does it take to be a Theoretical Physicist. and what are the job oppurtunities Sorry about the title. :D
  44. I

    Physics How do you become a theoretical physicist?

    Hello, Can you guys please guide me and tell me what procedures are necessary to become a theoretical physicist? Also, tell me if you think if its a good idea to be that type of physicist or you think another type of physicist is probably better. Can you also tell me what the average salary is...
  45. F

    Please check my road map for becoming a theoretical physicist

    Please check my road to Physics I am a new member,been to this forum before but was never a registered user (?) Before hitting on the topic, I think it is necessary to describe my background. So here it is: I live in India! I am currently enrolled in BSc MATHEMATICS at IGNOU (INDIRA GANDHI...
  46. T

    The road to becoming a Theoretical Physicist

    I am currently a high school student, I will be graduating next year and I know exactly what I want to do after that. I cannot see myself choosing a career other than physics as it is my passion and it has always been my dream to work as a theoretical physicist. I am now at the point where I am...
  47. J

    Physics Why a theoretical physicist seeks professorship

    What kind of resources does a university provide that are so important to a theoretical physicist? I pose this as a serious question. I know not all fields of theoretical physics are the same, but let's just take string theory for example. It seems to me that string theory at the moment is...
  48. D

    Physics I am a Doctor, Can I be a theoretical Physicist?

    I graduated from Medical school. Then wanted to pursue my career in research. I chose Immunology and I was doing PhD. But my skills were not good and I was fired during my studies. My supervisor said that I am smart and clever but I don't have skills. I always wanted to be a scientist and I...