How do theoretical physicists work?

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  • Thread starter Robin04
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I always imagine them sitting in their room behind their desks and working on their new theory like Einstein. I suppose most theorists work in groups nowadays to be more efficient but do these lonely workers still exist and are they supported financially or they're working in their free time?
 

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analogdesign
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Where I work they must be writing software all day because they are constantly competing with us for time on the supercomputer.
 
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Where I work they must be writing software all day because they are constantly competing with us for time on the supercomputer.
Yeah, I run a lot of simulations, as do my colleagues. I don't really use the supercomputer, but other people do. FYI, I'm a physics PhD student.

I do a lot of hand-written derivations, but I'm not really creating new theories, so-to-speak. I'm trying to model particular phenomena using existing theories in different ways and sometimes I add insights or new things to an existing formalism. When I'm "deriving," mostly I'm trying to see if my work explains what I think it should and then see if it reduces to known results in limiting cases.
 
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symbolipoint
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Drakkith
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ZapperZ
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Are "Theoretical Physics" and any other classification of Physics really so separate from each other?
No. In most disciplines in physics, "theoretical physics" is only one aspect of that discipline, i.e. theoretical condensed matter physics, theoretical high energy physics, theoretical accelerator physics, etc. It is just that, as I've stated before, many people seem to think that "theoretical physics" is a subject matter in itself.

I also see a lot of people, especially students just starting out, being "enamored" by doing "theoretical physics", since the popular characters in physics are usually theorists. Question like this is seldom asked of the rest of us, especially experimentalists, maybe because people think they know what we do, or what our days look like?

Little do they know!

Zz.
 

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