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A day in the life of a theoretical physicist

  1. Nov 17, 2008 #1
    I've always wondered what a day in the life of an academic is like, particularly mathematicians, philosophers, and most of all theoretical physicists.

    So what's an average day like for a theoretical physicist?

    Do you sit in your thinking chairs, lost deep in thought, trying to unwind the complexities of this strange universe?

    Do you start the day reading through academic journals?

    Perhaps take occasional breaks and discuss your ideas at the water cooler?

    Do administrative tasks take up a lot of your time?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 17, 2008 #2
  4. Nov 17, 2008 #3
    Hah, the OP is awesome. In fact, let's explore the ways its awesome.

    1) They could be serious. This isn't anything against them; if you haven't seen how a physics dept operates from the inside, you might actually picture a theoretical physicists in their thinking chairs, thinking about interesting things.

    2) They could be making fun of theoretical physicists, but be cloaked by the reality that some people actually think this way, and thus the OP is free from reprisal.

    Here's to you Mr. Can't-tell-if-you're-sarcastic man: I couldn't have done better myself.
  5. Nov 17, 2008 #4
    Actually the OP kind of describes my typical day. But I am just a lowly grad student. I think as the responsibilities become greater, you do less and less research and more administrative stuff like writing grants/books, advising students, participating against your will in some committee, meeting with other important people, and so on... perhaps someone who has ever held that position could clarify.
  6. Nov 18, 2008 #5
    I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm an undergrad and i've never spent anytime within the physics department.

    I saw a documentary on Einstein last night and they described how he secluded himself in his apartment in order to perfect his theory of relativity. He would sit in his chair in deep thought, eyes closed, he would play the violin every now and then, he walk around the room...
  7. Nov 18, 2008 #6
    I have had the pleasure of meeting two theoretical physicists and understand how they live and work. One of them is a shell of his former self, he is the posterchild for a workaholic. Of course he will have done some brilliant **** before he retires. But I haven't seen him smile for like years.

    The other person I have met was a professor of mine. Mean, elitist and so anti-social that he is barred from grading exams. He has some kind of backpain I think. It doesn't look right anyways. So probably he got some real bad chronic pain. But in all sincerity, he is a D-bag. If I get in a position where I teach at this level, after meeting him, I have decided to be stern, but always nice and forthcoming, except with grades and examination.
  8. Nov 18, 2008 #7
    At the start of the show, did it first display the following message?

    If not, they should be ashamed.
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