# How many equations does a physicist write in his lifetime?

1. Jun 17, 2017

### arpon

How many equations does a physicist write in his/her lifetime on average? Is there any approximate statistics on this?
Also how much is this correlated to his/her contribution to physics?

2. Jun 17, 2017

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
No. The APS or AIP, for example, never asked for such a survey question.

So what you are asking for requires complete speculation. Besides, of all the parameters that can be associated with a physicist's career, why would this particular statistics matter?

Zz.

3. Jun 17, 2017

### arpon

I thought writing more equations means spending more time on physics.

4. Jun 17, 2017

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Really? Do you discount a huge population of experimental physicists who often go off to build something rather than spend time "writing more equations"?

And look at a physics paper, for example. Often times, many things are referred to simply by words, but the underlying mathematical form of the physics is there without having to "write more equations." If I said that "we solve this via Gauss's law", did that count as "writing down an equation"?

And besides, how do you count this? Do you count each UNIQUE equations? Do you discount derivation of an equation? Do you discount all the equations that are part of the steps of getting from one place to the next? Do you discount equations that are used to simply define quantities? If I can do a bunch of steps in my head and not have to write it down, did I diminish my "equation count" because I simply skipped a few steps?

Your original premise has no correlation to what you think it should imply. If I were you, I'd be more concern that I am not applying the basic tenets of physics in deriving my conjecture. This is what you are doing.

Zz.

5. Jun 17, 2017

### Staff: Mentor

Now without joking: Counting equations means counting equality signs. But often you sketch situations, omit the equality sign on scratches, or even write more than those which might appear in a final paper. And what about estimations $\approx$, $\gtrless$ signs or mapping arrows? Isn't the actual work done left or right of these signs?

This hopefully will show you how inappropriate your measure is. The commonly used measure is the number of publications or the number of citations for which rankings exist - as far as I know. But even this is a questionable measure. I don't know where e.g. Andrew Wiles ranks in these statistics, but nevertheless, he is the man who solved a problem more than 350 years old. Or Perelman? Or Galois? There is basically only one important paper from Galois, but it founded an entire theory. And measured by this quite modern method, even Einstein probably wouldn't be very high ranking. And as always in life, the quality weighs heavier than the quantity.

6. Jun 17, 2017

### WWGD

The question becomes even more complicated in even defining what a physicist is: is it someone, like a general engineer, who knows physics but is not trained as a physicist? Is it someone who is not professionally -trained but uses physics in their work, like a sound technician, electrician, etc?