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Physics Current problems in physics

  1. Apr 30, 2010 #1
    Hi, I'd like to ask what are the current challanges in physics. I'm a highschool student and in two years I'd like to go to a university to study physics (I think we have a different school system in Czech Reupblic so we go to universities straight from high-schools, no colleges).

    So I was wondering what is the most perspective specialisation in physics. I like the idea of doing my master in nuclear physics (as there is probably a lot of quantum mechanics, which I'm fascinated by http://translate.google.cz/translat...TF8.en/studium/bcmgr/ok/f1b9.htm&sl=cs&tl=en"). Do you think that there is going to be a lot of interesting problems to work on with this specialisation in about 7-10 years time? Do you think I could work on quantum computers for example?

    Thanks for your answers
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2010 #2
  4. Apr 30, 2010 #3
    Here are some current problems and open questions I can think of off the top of my head which are being worked on at my physics department:

    Nuclear Physics

    • Nucleon Spin - How do the spins of partons and gluons add to give nucleons a spin of 1/2?
    • Quantum many body systems - How can we use quantum field theory to model large numbers of particles in macroscopic materials?

    And there are other areas:

    Condesnsed Matter Physics

    • Superconductors - How do we model superconductivity at the quantum level?
    • How can we design new materials that exhibit high temperature superconductivity?
    • Left-handed materials - Theory predicts that materials can have negative indices of refraction.

    Astrophysics (this is my area, hence the longer list)

    • Colliding galaxies - How should we model two colliding galaxies? What detectable emission could be predicted from such an interaction?
    • What is the origin of cosmic rays? The current theory is supernova remnants, but this is still very much an open question.
    • Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) - What is the mechanism for high energy gamma ray emission from AGN? Why do these objects exhibit variability in the intensity of their gamma ray flux?
    • Stellar evolution - Precisely what steps are involved in a star's transition to the red giant phase and later stages? We have a pretty good model of how stellar evolution works, but there are quite a few gaps that need to be filled.
    • Extrasolar planets - Astrophysicists look at the light curves of stars in our galaxy to detect the presence of planets outside our solar system. On the theory side of things, how do we model the creation of these planets?

    Of course I haven't mentioned the more famous problems like the Higgs' Boson or inflationary cosmology. These are open problems too, but usually you've got to do your PhD at Harvard or MIT to work on these problems. And most of us normal people don't get into grad school there (but don't let that stop you from trying!).
     
  5. May 1, 2010 #4
    Thanks. This is real help. I certainly want to do my best to do my PhD at Cambridge or some other high level university. But if I won't manage to, the other problems look incredibly interesting as well.
     
  6. May 1, 2010 #5
    About stellar evolution, one question that I have is exactly "why" models seem to work as well as they do. The stellar evolution models leave out a lot of things (namely binary interactions) so it's surprising to me that they seem to work as well as they do. Why is that?

    I'd also put "how do accretion disks work?" "how do supernova work?" "how did galaxies form?" "how do planets form?"

    The other thing is that what you work on is going to be a strong function of who you meet. What usually happens is that you meet someone that is intensely interested in a problem and that rubs off on you.
     
  7. May 1, 2010 #6
    aruma: Of course I haven't mentioned the more famous problems like the Higgs' Boson or inflationary cosmology. These are open problems too, but usually you've got to do your PhD at Harvard or MIT to work on these problems.

    You really don't. Peter Higgs worked at the University of Edinburgh and got his Ph.D. at Kings College London. I know lots of people at UTexas Austin that are working on inflationary cosmology.

    If you go with this link http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008PhLB..667....1P [Broken]

    you'll find authors all over the world.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. May 1, 2010 #7
    There are lots of interesting problems in nuclear physics. Part of the issue is that we really don't know how nucleus work.
     
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