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Not so theoretical physicists

  1. Dec 5, 2009 #1
    Hi guys. I was surfing threads on this forum once again and i read a line that was like physicists aren't interested in mechanics..or else they'd be engineers.. And in other threads things like physics not being practicle.

    This is confounding. Physics..originally something of philosophy, not practicle? If you ask me Physics Defines what can be practicle, and engineers make something out of it.

    String Theory blows my mind, as to how ANYONE could possible even want to study it. There's plenty of methods and things for Physicist to study. And more importantly these things can lead to "useable tools" that can advance technology and tools, propels humans across the universe, and makes discoveries there too.

    I always thought a physicist would be a very efficient person(job?) In which discoveries were made and applied...or discovered TO BE APPLIED.

    And I've always had a skewed vision that engineers didn't get all the rigors and smarts of PhD Physicists.

    When i thougth about going into physics I was lured by the thought of discovering things, or understanding things, or just being intelligent and applicable to both discovery and creation.

    Without discovery how can better things be created? What is around us can always be more High tech..And maybe even the whole world one day can be "Advanced"

    My bottom line question is, WTF is with physicist? Really. Is there such job titles as physicist engineers?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 5, 2009 #2
    Different things appeal to different people. Personally, the fact that what I do might have practical applications someday has no bearing on why I do it. I only do it because I enjoy it. Other people enjoy things because they are practical. Different strokes for different folks.
  4. Dec 5, 2009 #3
  5. Dec 5, 2009 #4
    Thank you sir...QUICK QUICK..Tooooo ENGLISH FORUMS
  6. Dec 5, 2009 #5
    Sorry bud i'm literally ocd about things of that nature. I agree with what you are saying; I've done so much research on pursuing physics and find it to be a lot easier to go into engineering (job prospects). This is primarily why to most it is not as attractive. It seems in recent years that this is more common now that we are in a recession etc. I hope (for my own sake) that physics really make some breakthroughs in the next few decades in order to fuel some serious financial respect (grants etc). That's my take on things. The next generation of physicists hopefully can bring back the acclaim that hawkings and einstein have brought.

    The nature of globalized technology is really changing the nature of the way it is pursued though. Now having a familiarity with coding and computer science is a must for a lot that venture into the theoretical confines of math and physics.

    Please someone correct me if i'm totally off-base.
  7. Dec 5, 2009 #6
    I think there is a legitimate argument to be made about whether or not String Theory has lost all bearings on physical reality but I don't think that is to the discredit of theoretical physics.
    Right now things like String Theory or Quantum Gravity may seem like a whole lot of hooplah about a whole lot of nothing (for our everday experience).

    But you have to realize that Newton probably didn't formulate gravity with
    the astronauts that would come a long centuries later in mind.

    And similarly Maxwell's equations certainly weren't formulated with the future applications
    electromagnetic theory would have on our entire culture and technology in mind.

    My point being Theoretical Physics has a good track record of making
    mathematical abstractions that one day become applied physics.
    Theoretical Physics DOES "lead to usable tools".

    Its just a little down the line.

    We can't just decide we have learned enough and we just want to work within Physics
    as its currently described.
  8. Dec 6, 2009 #7


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    Gold Member

    Well, just a remark.
    Einstein wanted to learn Engineering, he didn't get accepted and thus went to learn physics.
    Hawking wanted to learn mathematics, but wishing to please his father went to University College at Oxford to learn physics.

    I.e, you can't categorise theoretical physicists as lesser or better than engineers or what else, it depends on each individual to what extent his work and knowledge might entail.
    Paul Dirac learnt Electrical Engineering, but instead continued as a theoretical physicist.
  9. Dec 6, 2009 #8
    Interesting I didn't know that Einstein didn't get into engineering school. In this day in age if you have BS in engineering you tend to have better job potential than BS in physics. Someone told be that if you get a BS in Physics you better plan on going to grad school???

    From what you just said it seems that no matter what you major in etc you will end up gravitating towards your fortes or defaults lol.

    Any additional comments would be great.

    It seems like being a theoretical physicist/math for a lifetime is a luxury and you must be determined from the start; or discover something of real importants like the mass gap or p vs np or something.
  10. Dec 6, 2009 #9
    I just want to mention these quotes:

    1.The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.
    Henri Poincaré

    2.Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it.
    Richard Feynman.
  11. Dec 7, 2009 #10
    Theoretics like Newtons formulas and Einsteins have been proven to be successful... I don't know how to really word what I'm trying to get at.

    My first interest in physics was stuff like Anti-Gravity, super conducters, quantum entanglement.

    Discoveries are good, its amazing and wonderful to discover and know that two particles can be affected by one action no matter how far apart they are. But like, applying that, in maybe more advanced systems.

    (please don't give me any run down about that, I know)

    But no, It's like the physicist discovers it and then drops it.

    When I decided I one day wanted to go to school for science, I wanted to both discover and advance humanity. But it seems like, the world wants engineers who only have what tools there to create things, and not quite the people who can create/discover/define the tools.

    I don't know If I'm making sense anymore. This all makes sense in my head..
  12. Dec 7, 2009 #11


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    Science Advisor

    People change the world in so many different ways, and a lot of them don't hold titles in society or are in any established profession.

    If you want to discover things in science, then logically the best thing to do is become a scientist. Learn the basic tools of math and that of your science and use your curiosity and existing knowledge of science and try to do something with it.

    But like I said lots of people can have an impact on many peoples lives. Think about every profession from journalism to teaching to everything in between. Its not just the doctors, engineers, and scientists that are doing this.

    If you want to change the world then become interested in something then become organized and structured and then get other people involved who believe in and support your ideas. Its a lot easier said than done, but revolutions in society don't happen overnight.
  13. Dec 8, 2009 #12
    You're absolutely correct, and my fretting is quite rediculous. I'll go for scientist a PhD and everything, after that will be a matter of my determination.

    But what you're getting at though is...I can bring together my interests by simply working hard at it..like obtain PhD .....start revolution(lol)..

    After I get through college, I might as well start a scientist coalition specilized for..whatever! ha Well anyway thanks for clearing this for me (sorta)
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