Questions about researchers

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  • #1
user_12345
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Hi everyone, I've always liked physics, so I decided a few months ago to study physics as a self-taught.
Now I have some questions about researchers.

What does a researcher in theoretical physics do during the workday?
What professional figures does he/she relate to?
How do you make scientific discoveries?
If I study all the subjects that are studied in university could I ever make discoveries?
Thank you, sorry for my english.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dr. Courtney
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Most of my papers in theory have come after realizing that I had tools in my toolbox that could address an open question. It's 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration - meaning I've spent a lot of time slogging through details and learning/developing new tools and digging through large volumes of literature thinking "maybe I'm onto something here." I've hit a lot of dead ends. But once in a while things come together as I was hoping and I manage a small contribution.

"Discoveries" is a strong word if you mean it in the sense of popular science. But in the process of pursuing theory, I have been the first person to see a few interesting things - well interesting to me, and interesting enough to the peer-reviewers to get them published.

I relate most strongly to Faraday - like him, I am more of an experimentalist with a vivid imagination - and once in a while with enough perspiration - my vivid imagination leads somewhere - it is delightful, but it often feels like a blind mouse finding a cookie. I know there's cookies out there, but with so many theorists who are smarter than me - it's a kind of miracle I ever find anything first.
 
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  • #3
romsofia
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It really depends on the theorist! Some theorists work on consistency between models, and when they see two models of reality predicting two different things, they then try to reconcile it, either by introducing a new model, or trying to show that one model actually emerges from the other.

One example would be the "problem of time": General relativity treats time as dynamical, while QFT treats it as absolute. Someone needs to rectify this issue, and so some theorists work on that. Exciting, eh?

However, it doesn't even need to be consistency between models, some simply work on seeing if a model can predict "new" things we're seeing from experiments, or seeing if the model predicts phenomenon we've never seen before. A famous example would be the predictions of gravitational waves, which were predicted in 1915. We didn't see them until 2015, but someone had to first get the idea out there. However, please be aware that when i say "get the idea out there", it isn't just a statement. You must be able to model your prediction precisely with math, so we can test your prediction against reality.

So, in essence, a theorists job is to make sure models are consistent between each other, consistent against nature (if some experiment gets some data that contradicts the model, theorists must step in!), and to try and predict new phenomenon within a model.
 
  • #4
Twigg
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Come over to the experimental side, we have all the cool toys :oldtongue:

(Just messing around! Do what you feel is right)
 
  • #5
Dr.D
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Since I don't have access to a proper lab, I don't do much experimental work these days. That does not stop me from addressing real questions. I've gotten some interesting papers from reviewing the work of others and asking "why?" Recently, I and a friend published two papers on a problem that was first published in1943, but we have better tools today than were available back then.
 
  • #6
andresB
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There a people that focus on a problem and learn whatever they have to learn to tackle that problem (like Andrew Wiles and Fermat last theorem).

There are people, like me, that just happen to have learned some stuff here and there, then spent their working time asking themselves "what the hell I do with this haphazard set of knowledge?"

And, I suppose, there are people in between.
 
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