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How do theoretical physicists conduct research?

  • Physics
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Is it mostly trying to coming up with equations, solving them, reading etc.? Do they use computers a lot or can the work they do be done simply with a pen and paper?
 

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  • #2
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Theories have to be consisent within themselves. Any observable can be cited as evidence for or against. Better theories can be put forward, popular theories can be debunked..... all using available knowledge, logic and commonsense.
 
  • #3
Is it mostly trying to coming up with equations, solving them, reading etc.? Do they use computers a lot or can the work they do be done simply with a pen and paper?
It completely depends on what you're doing. Theoretical physics is an umbrella term, encompassing hundreds of different research disciplines.

I know theorists that spend all day programming. Some spend all day modelling. Some spend all day sitting with a pen and paper, resulting in some equation that they will give to another person to solve numerically for them.

There isn't a single answer :smile:
 
  • #4
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Is it mostly trying to coming up with equations, solving them, reading etc.? Do they use computers a lot or can the work they do be done simply with a pen and paper?
In my field computational astrophysics, it involves mostly programming. You have a certain model that you are trying to get working, and most of the work involves running tests and debugging. There is quite a bit of pencil and paper work that you use to figure out how exactly to program things.

There's also a lot of reading, which more and more becomes lots of internet surfing. You are always going through the latest papers, looking at the latest research, and thinking about what those results mean.
 

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