1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Theoretical and experimental physics.

  1. Mar 1, 2013 #1
    Enrico Fermi was a successful theoretical and experimental physicist. Is this still something that someone can do, or is it practically impossible today?
    If it is pissible how can someone achieve this?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2013 #2

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    There is a broad range of topics/activities somewhere between experimental and theoretical physics.
     
  4. Mar 1, 2013 #3
    Re: Re: Theoretical and experimental physics.

    Can you elaborate on what those topics/activities are?
     
  5. Mar 1, 2013 #4

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    In general, all simulation tasks can be considered as something in between - they are not real experiments (you don't construct anything), but they are not pure theory either (you don't develop a new theory).
     
  6. Mar 1, 2013 #5
    I think in many branches of physics theory and experiment have a closer relationship than is widely perceived. For example, it is not particularly uncommon for a granular matter theorist to turn to experiments but still continue contributing to theory papers (though in joint projects with former colleagues). I've seen quite a lot of experimental biophysicists proposing a theory model for some results they measured (or doing measurements to prove a model they themselved proposed) - something one would probably file under "theory", usually. And a neuroscience "experimental physics" professor comes to my mind who investigates learning and adaptive behavior on robots - which certainly has an experimental blend, but also contains a large fraction of what a theoretical physicist would spend his time with.

    The perception of theory and experiment being detached (which they really shouldn't be) possibly comes from the big fields (solid state physics, particle physics, possibly even astrophysics) where a huge number of people works on essentially the same thing and, as a result, work becomes extremely specialized. And from the "all physics is Strings and Cosmology" Pop-Sci culture, of course.
     
  7. Mar 1, 2013 #6
    So basically it all down to specialization and what area you conduct research in?
     
  8. Mar 1, 2013 #7
    I would certainly not want to boil down what I said to a single definite sentence. Particularly not based on the very vague question posed (how do you define "being a successful theoretical and experimental physicist", for example?). What I meant to say is that theory and experiment are not neccessarily well separated - neither by scientific content (where obviously some overlap has to exist), nor by personell. And that the degree to which a separation is pronounced may depends on the field, with the separation increasing with the researcher/topic density. Also note that this is just my feeling/impression from having worked as a theoretical physicist in two different fields, not the result of a scientific study or a well-formed and evidence backed-up opinion.
     
  9. Mar 1, 2013 #8
    I understand my question is vague, that comes from my own ignorance and I apoligize about it.
    Is this something I will learn once I finish undergrad and start doing research?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Theoretical and experimental physics.
  1. Theoretical physics (Replies: 1)

  2. Theoretical physics (Replies: 1)

  3. Theoretical Physics? (Replies: 7)

Loading...