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Physics Programming in theoretical physics

  1. Jan 29, 2012 #1
    Ok , Programming and me havent been the best of friends . It kinds of irritate me , although I can follow the logic of what's going on , I find it very hard to come up with the code , I make a error and find it impossible to correct the error .What I have been learning so far is MAthematica , I can do the basic -average stuff [ manipulate lists, create functions and so on ] but now with my project looming I cant even make head or tails of what to do .. One reason maybe that I didnt do any homework set and kind of relied on my friends too much

    Im just wondering , how important is programming in the future .. I was planning to do research in theoretical physics , Im pretty decent at maths and physics , but mathematica is like my worst nightmare right now ..Is there any way around this programming , in my later years if I were to work as a physicist ..

    Cheers for reading
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2012 #2
    Theoretical physics is synonymous with programming. Very few theoretical physicists spend 100% of the time just writing maths on a board. If you want to avoid it later, become an experimentalist.
  4. Jan 29, 2012 #3
    Depends on the type of physics. There are physicists that hardly ever touch a computer, and there are physicists that not only can program in Mathematica, they can and do program Mathematica from scratch.

    The problem with not programming is not so much graduate school, the problem is after graduate school. Most theoretical physics Ph.D.'s end up getting programming jobs, and your job prospects decline markedly if you can't program.
  5. Jan 29, 2012 #4


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    Science Advisor

    You might find that at least basic programming skills are also required for many experimentalists. Once you've acquired some terrabytes of data from your experiements... what are you going to do with them?

    To OP: If you can't program, you need to learn it if you want to go into theory. You can only shoot yourself in the foot if you are not able to do that. If you're in over your head, start at a more basic level and progess step by step (e.g., in your case, get the Mathematica book and start at the beginning...). "Understanding" a program and coming up with one yourself are entirely different things until a late level in coding proficiency.
  6. Jan 29, 2012 #5
    What if , I master in say maths , rather than theretical physics , does it change anything ..Im talking like abstract algebra
  7. Jan 29, 2012 #6


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    Education Advisor

    Probably not. Even if you major in math, depending on where you are studying, you may still be required to take programming or computer science courses.

    At any rate, I would presume that you are intending to pursue further graduate studies, in which case your employment prospects are greatly improved if you develop at least some proficiency in programming, since in the private sector most math graduates tend to work in areas where some programming is required -- and this is coming from someone who graduated in math, and pursued graduate studies in statistics.

    If you are having difficulties with programming, I would follow the advice of the other posters and start at the beginning and practice programming exercises, with some good books on Mathematica.
  8. Jan 29, 2012 #7
    cheers for the advice ..
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