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Are there any Engineering Majors that deal frequently with theoretical physics?

  1. Jun 10, 2017 #1
    Hi, quick question. Are there any Engineering Majors that deal frequently with theoretical physics?

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor


    What a strange question. All traditional engineering disciplines (that excludes software engineering) use theoretical physics. Engineering can be described as applied physics. Before applying it, you must understand what you are applying.

    Maybe you meant something else in your question. If so, please elaborate.
  4. Jun 10, 2017 #3
    By theoretical physics I mean things like General and special relativity, where ideas are formed but cannot actually be tested, and are just widely accepted.
  5. Jun 10, 2017 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    You're wrong. Very wrong, those ideas have been very thoroughly tested and verified. Ditto for quantum mechanics.
  6. Jun 10, 2017 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    ...and by now are in the domain of engineering, at least partly. The engineers who designed the GPS system use them.
  7. Jun 10, 2017 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    That's right Russ, and QM is needed in the design of integrated circuit devices.
  8. Jun 10, 2017 #7


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    Science Advisor

    Even more to the point, even the idea of a semiconductor only makes sense with a quantum theory of solids. So, in that sense, the very existence of integrated circuits is predicated on QM being largely correct.
  9. Jun 10, 2017 #8
    Your picture of theoretical physics is incorrect.

    Every branch of physics has a theoretical and experimental aspect to it.

    I think you mean engineers who do mostly pen and paper theory; they exist but for the most part they're using applied mathematical and computational methods to solve engineering programs that are still at an analytic point (ie you can still write the thing down in terms of pretty equations), and yes engineering problems do still exist like that, but the point is to get an answer that can be applied in some way, you're not investigating the universe for the sake of the knowledge like a pure scientist would.

    You might look into programs like applied physics, engineering physics, or engineering science (example: https://www.math.wisc.edu/amep).
  10. Jun 13, 2017 #9
    If you obtain a PhD in engineering working on the boundaries of physics and engineering like myself, you will frequently encounter everything except general relativity (IIRC the GPS engineers knew they needed to account for GR, but use Newtonian theory with correction terms; correct me if I'm wrong!). For instance, I am getting an engineering PhD and just finished working on a relativistic transport project. Many engineers are now working on topological materials, and plasma physics in the US is often housed jointly between physics and engineering.

    If statistical physics is more your cup of tea, I honestly think more exciting research into chemical and statistical physics is occurring in chemical engineering/chemical physics/chemistry departments than physics departments (The most amusing project I recall is an application of statistical field theory to ice cream manufacture solicited by Nestle)

    As a rank and file engineer you are not going to heavily utilize such knowledge although it will be the bedrock of what you are doing.
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