The Importance of Theoretical Physics

  • Thread starter RuroumiKenshin
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  • #26
Alexander
Because it is almost impossible to survive on theoretical physics alone, many theorphysicists have to teach introductory physics courses or to do applied projects on side.
 
  • #27
RuroumiKenshin
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
Hello MajinVegeta,
What is the importance of theoretical physics to you? Why do you want a PhD? I am suprised to hear of such interest in a subject for which you know of no purpose.
Well, I have always looked at the universe with such great awe, and wonder. I've always had a special passion to understand space in particular. Ever since I was 6! So, I want to dedicate my life to understand as much as I can. And I don't care what people say about my getting a PhD in something THEY don't see as something profitable.
I can't answer them with what I just said and say "'cause I want to" or something. So I want to give them an answer they'll never forget, one that'll make them see a use in theo. physics.
 
  • #28
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by MajinVegeta
I can't answer them with what I just said and say "'cause I want to" or something. So I want to give them an answer they'll never forget, one that'll make them see a use in theo. physics.
Well, if you want to kick them in the knees a bit I would ask: Well, exactly what is possible? Then simply tell them that it is likely that we will learn something new. When physicists figure out something completely new, it usually changes the world forever. And I repeat: All of physics is justified if we can just build flying cars!
 
  • #29
RuroumiKenshin
the common question that stumps me is "what can physics do for humanity?" and then they later insist that biology is the way to go because it actually does help humanity.
 
  • #30
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by MajinVegeta
the common question that stumps me is "what can physics do for humanity?" and then they later insist that biology is the way to go because it actually does help humanity.
No doubt, many new brave frontiers exist in various fields of biology - with genetic engineering clearly emerging as a favorite. And what do the biologists need to continue their work? The same as the computer, laser, pharmaceutical and medical, automotive, and energy people to name a few - Physics. One example is a recent visit that I made to SLAC. A great deal of the research is physics for other disciplines of science…and a lot of biology

Consider also what you find in hospitals these days. I used to work on CT and MRI Scanners and I'm married to a CT/MRI technologist, so I know a little about this field. We find more and more sophisticated diagnostic devices all heavily rooted in physics - FMRI, Spiral CT, Digital Angiography, Lithotripters , ultra-sound and IR imaging systems to name a few; and an entire library of nuclear medicine specialties, including PET - Positron Emission Tomography. Sound like physics? And we have an ever widening array of isotopes for better resolution and targeting. Also, there are electron and other beam therapies; one that uses latent Star Wars [SDI] laser targeting algorithms for brain and other tumor treatments. Really, you should check out the state of the art in medicine these days. Some hospitals have their own linear accelerators and they have for some time. These things mean that we can use less or non-invasive procedures and provide better diagnostics and treatment where no options or much less desirable options once existed.

Where can computers go without physicists? Who else is up to Quantum Computing…even in principle? On the other hand, if you want to live 400 years you may need to design viruses that can target specific diseases or that can modify DNA and repair genetic defects. Also, we may find that nano-technology yields many miracles. Of course, buckyballs and the child carbon nano-tubes sound promising. Have I mentioned anything not likely to require an increasingly sophisticated level of understanding of quantum physics? Additionally, we do have this little problem with an addiction to the 150 year old technology of internal combustion engines. How about a little hydrogen or fusion for power?

Many argue that physics is the root of all science. Usually we imagine the mathematical roots, the physics trunk, and then the other branches of science as a tree. This connection was almost lost until recent years, but it seems that now many disciplines must once again return to their parent subject Physics. For career options, it’s all a matter of recognizing the timely opportunities. I am quite sure that more and more will be found in years to come.
 
  • #31
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0
What is the importance of theoretical physics to our modern society?
do you not agree that science (which is almost completely physics) can replace religious beliefs.....
 
  • #32
Alexander
Haven't it yet? In Europe and other places, at least. US will follow too sooner or later.
 
  • #33
RuroumiKenshin
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
No doubt, many new brave frontiers exist in various fields of biology - with genetic engineering clearly emerging as a favorite. And what do the biologists need to continue their work? The same as the computer, laser, pharmaceutical and medical, automotive, and energy people to name a few - Physics. One example is a recent visit that I made to SLAC. A great deal of the research is physics for other disciplines of science…and a lot of biology

Consider also what you find in hospitals these days. I used to work on CT and MRI Scanners and I'm married to a CT/MRI technologist, so I know a little about this field. We find more and more sophisticated diagnostic devices all heavily rooted in physics - FMRI, Spiral CT, Digital Angiography, Lithotripters , ultra-sound and IR imaging systems to name a few; and an entire library of nuclear medicine specialties, including PET - Positron Emission Tomography. Sound like physics? And we have an ever widening array of isotopes for better resolution and targeting. Also, there are electron and other beam therapies; one that uses latent Star Wars [SDI] laser targeting algorithms for brain and other tumor treatments. Really, you should check out the state of the art in medicine these days. Some hospitals have their own linear accelerators and they have for some time. These things mean that we can use less or non-invasive procedures and provide better diagnostics and treatment where no options or much less desirable options once existed.

Where can computers go without physicists? Who else is up to Quantum Computing…even in principle? On the other hand, if you want to live 400 years you may need to design viruses that can target specific diseases or that can modify DNA and repair genetic defects. Also, we may find that nano-technology yields many miracles. Of course, buckyballs and the child carbon nano-tubes sound promising. Have I mentioned anything not likely to require an increasingly sophisticated level of understanding of quantum physics? Additionally, we do have this little problem with an addiction to the 150 year old technology of internal combustion engines. How about a little hydrogen or fusion for power?

Many argue that physics is the root of all science. Usually we imagine the mathematical roots, the physics trunk, and then the other branches of science as a tree. This connection was almost lost until recent years, but it seems that now many disciplines must once again return to their parent subject Physics. For career options, it’s all a matter of recognizing the timely opportunities. I am quite sure that more and more will be found in years to come.
Wonderful examples, Ivan. I'm set! Really, people should consider what is the basis of discovery. Geneticists need to have computers to understand the algorythmic patterns of the DNA molecule. Engineers need physics to understand the electric currents, and stability of structures and microchips. Thanks a bunch!
One more question: How would you describe theoretical physics to someone who wants it in "english"? A lot of people ask me what it is, and well, I get stuck using "big" words that are too "scientific" for them. So does anyone have a definition that's in "English"?
 
  • #34
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by MajinVegeta
One more question: How would you describe theoretical physics to someone who wants it in "english"? A lot of people ask me what it is, and well, I get stuck using "big" words that are too "scientific" for them. So does anyone have a definition that's in "English"?
I see Theoretical Physics as the effort to reverse engineer reality. Or, how about the effort to describe the rules that govern how everything works? This gets difficult because all that I can think of ends with everyting, existence, reality, or, all that is. Then I want to use words like "truth" but that's not really correct. Many say Physics asks "what" not "why". But to me this becomes a matter of semantics; why does the ball fall as opposed to what causes the ball to fall...seems more like a word problem. But still, the distinction that we "model" reality as opposed to "knowing" reality I think is important...just so that people don't try to make a religion out of it.
 
  • #35
RuroumiKenshin
lol, yeah, I have trouble with the semantics too. But I like to excuse it all by saying, 'oh, they won't catch it!'. My definition of theoretical physics is (when I'm telling someone in a conversation): "First off :physics is a science which mathematically specifies the physical prospects of the universe. Secondly, theoretical physics is what describes the theoretical aspects of physics."
the common question: "Theoretical? what's that?"

"Just things that can't ALWAYS be tested physically, but mathematically. Theoretically. Things like the quantum chromodynamics of the Big Bang, parallel universes."

Even then, I am very mad at myself, for not giving an accurate definition. What I usually say isn't the best, but its a start. Even after what I said (above), people stare at me blankly. I think I should memorize I dictionary definition:

The science of matter and energy and of interactions between the two, grouped in traditional fields such as acoustics, optics, mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism, as well as in modern extensions including atomic and nuclear physics, cryogenics, solid-state physics, particle physics, and plasma physics.
Tha above is only a definition of 'physics', but not theoretical physics. How do you describe the "theoretical" part?? that's what I'm having trouble with.
 
  • #36
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0
How do you describe the "theoretical" part??
as far as I know....exclude the problem solving part....rest all is theory....
 
  • #37
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by MajinVegeta
lol, yeah, I have trouble with the semantics too. But I like to excuse it all by saying, 'oh, they won't catch it!'. My definition of theoretical physics is (when I'm telling someone in a conversation): "First off :physics is a science which mathematically specifies the physical prospects of the universe. Secondly, theoretical physics is what describes the theoretical aspects of physics."
the common question: "Theoretical? what's that?"

"Just things that can't ALWAYS be tested physically, but mathematically. Theoretically. Things like the quantum chromodynamics of the Big Bang, parallel universes."

Even then, I am very mad at myself, for not giving an accurate definition. What I usually say isn't the best, but its a start. Even after what I said (above), people stare at me blankly. I think I should memorize I dictionary definition:



Tha above is only a definition of 'physics', but not theoretical physics. How do you describe the "theoretical" part?? that's what I'm having trouble with.

Who is your audience? You said English. Everything I have read would still sound complicated to a non-technical person. But as far as defining theoretical, do you just need a good synonym? How about the abstract or conceptual developement or modeling as opposed to testing. If you get too specific you may quickly lose people with the details.
 
  • #38
RuroumiKenshin
My audience is usually non-technical people, who have no background in physics expcept for their highschool physics class. So I should be general?
Should I just say "Physics is the study of movement"? That's very general.
 
  • #39
Alexander
Theoretical physics = mathematical reasons of why universe is such.
 
  • #40
RuroumiKenshin
or rather theoretical physics=mathematical theories that describe the universe. Your way of putting it, Alexander, defines m-theory.
 
  • #41
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Originally posted by MajinVegeta
or rather theoretical physics=mathematical theories that describe the universe. Your way of putting it, Alexander, defines m-theory.
Not really, as M-Theory takes a string/brane approach to the answering of that question. He is describing a T.O.E., IMO.

The definition of "theory" is the product of rigorously testing an hypothesis. IOW, if you have an hypothesis (a testable speculation) and you test it rigorously (and it passes all of the tests), then it "graduates" to "theory".
 
  • #42
166
1
To say that theoretical physics is restricted to M theory or a TOE is wrong. Theoretical physics is physics using calculations rather than working on devices or experiments.

As such, QM is a main part ot theoretial physics, as is GR.

Any TOEs are pointless in a practical scenario, as QM and GR are correct in the situations in which they are considered.

You will find a very few theoretical physicsists working on M theory. Even in the maths departments, they are still mainly working on QM & GR.
 
  • #43
42
0
Originally posted by MajinVegeta
My audience is usually non-technical people, who have no background in physics expcept for their highschool physics class. So I should be general?
Should I just say "Physics is the study of movement"? That's very general.
if you want them to understand what theoretical physics is... i think that tell them exactly the word from the dictionary. i think they will be more clearer because dictionary is for someone who don't understand some word.
 

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