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Particle Physics vs. Cosmology

  1. May 6, 2014 #1
    I would like to study the fundamental aspects of the Universe (of course, assuming that I am capable of pursuing such a thing in the first place). Not necessarily on a large scale, but I am interested in space, time, the fundamental aspects of matter... Things like that. I know that there is some degree of overlap between these two things. Er, at least I'm pretty sure that there must be, anyways...

    Sorry for asking stupid questions; I guess if I have to ask such a thing, then I'm probably not intellectually equipped to study any of it in the first place, eh? But I would definitely appreciate it if somebody at least humored me on this.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2014 #2
    Sounds like toe stuff ( theory of everything) particle physics is closely related I would say more so than cosmology.
  4. May 6, 2014 #3
    Alright, thank you. Is special relativity used a lot in particle physics? I find that to be a particularly fascinating subject.
  5. May 6, 2014 #4


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    Sure it is... particles are often moving very fast so you have to use relativistic equations. But in my experience special relativity is used more as a correction than a focus of study.
  6. May 6, 2014 #5
    Hm, alright. This still helped me narrow it down, so thanks everyone.
  7. May 6, 2014 #6
    Special relativity is a narrow case where nothing is accelerating and general relativity is more general where a frame of reference is accelerating. The research out there right now is trying to connect general rel to quantum mechanics in the are of quantum gravity. This leads to area like string theory and the avid search for the graviton. That's all I understand of it.
  8. May 29, 2014 #7

    Would I be able to study fundamental particle stuff with a degree in Nuclear Physics?
  9. May 29, 2014 #8
    What is your current education? One normally gets a B.S. in physics and takes elective courses in fields such as optics, nuclear physics, etc. You specialize at the graduate level (e.g. Masters and PhD). To answer your question: there is some overlap between nuclear and particle physics - they are both broad fields.
  10. May 29, 2014 #9
    No. In Nuclear Physics you would be heavily limited. Nuclear Physics is like the ancestor to Particle Physics. Research interests in Nuclear Physics are much more limited compared to Particle Physics, I would strongly recommend Particle Physics over Nuclear Physics if you must choose between those two.
  11. May 29, 2014 #10
    That’s not quite true, special relativity can handle accelerated reference frames, it’s applicable as long as gravity is sufficiently weak that you can ignore it. General relativity is required when the gravity is non-negligible.
  12. Jun 19, 2014 #11
    But, will a heavy background in Nuclear Physics be useful for studying Particle Physics? I mean, I've seen a ton of graduate programs that seem as if Nuclear and Particle Physics are part of a combined program. If I had, say, an MS in Nuclear Engineering or something, would it prepare me for a doctoral program in Particle Physics?
  13. Jun 19, 2014 #12
    The answer for a degree in nuclear physics was "no" - quite rightfully-so, I believe. The answer for a degree in nuclear engineering is "a degree in nuclear physics would prepare you better".
  14. Jun 19, 2014 #13


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    We need to be very careful here. Please note that facilities such as RHIC and the upcoming FRIB to be built at Michigan State University are all particle colliders, but they are, get this, nuclear physics facilities!! They studied quark-gluon fluid and others, and these are considered as "nuclear physics". ALICE detector at the LHC does the same thing.

    So yes, there is a very strong overlap between elementary particle physics and nuclear physics, IF the specialization is chosen to be in the relevant area of nuclear physics.

    The more important question to be asked of the OP is, if he/she is interested in elementary particle physics, why not study that, rather than doing it via nuclear physics, which has a more definite goal. I also think that the OP is worrying about this waaaaay too early.

  15. Jun 20, 2014 #14
    I just want to know all of my options. I think it's good to know about what all of my viable options are, so that as things happen in the next couple of years I will be able to tailor my path to whatever works best, and if a Nuclear Physics or Engineering degree can get me to where I want to go, then I think it's something that's definitely worth considering.

    Plus, I got to thinking, if a Nuclear Engineering degree could prepare me for a doctoral program in Particle Physics, that would already be good. But, if something happened that prevented me from pursuing that, I would be able to fall back on a Nuclear Engineering job just in case (I wouldn't plan or hope for that to happen, but if it acts as an effective safety net, then all the better, right?).

    Heh, you may have a point :)

    However, I just want to be prepared, and aware of all my options as soon as possible so I have the most time to be able to adjust my plan just in case something changes, or this or that happens. Plus, thinking this far ahead makes me feel somewhat less disappointed in myself for being where I am now, so, I guess there's that, too.


    Anyways, thanks to everyone who has helped me so far. Even though responses have been... varied... I appreciate anything relevant anyone has to say. Getting as many perspectives as possible seems like the best way to look at a situation like this to me.
  16. Jun 20, 2014 #15


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    A nuclear engineering degree is not the same as a nuclear physics degree. It doesn't prepare you for a specialization in particle physics any more than any other engineering degree.

    This thread is all over the place and lacks focus. I hope you find useful information in it, because if I were in your shoes, I certainly don't.

  17. Jun 23, 2014 #16
    Oh, I misunderstood then.

    Keep in mind, this thread was first posted about a month and a half ago, and I have revived it a couple of separate times thinking from different angles. A month and a half may not seem like a very long time, but I've thought about it enough to have my mind changed slightly based on information both from these forums and otherwise. I want to sift through all of these different ideas and get as much information as I need to be satisfied, that way, I can make the best decision for myself based on what I learn about my different ideas.

    I do find useful information from this whole thread. Everything said has helped me further think about this entire thing. Even this comment has been useful, because you are right. There is a certain level of focus that I wish I had, but I don't. But the way I see it, the more questions I ask (dumb or not), the closer I can get to zeroing in on what I really want.

    So still, I must say thank you to everyone.
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