Want to become Theoretical Physicist but don't know Coding

In summary, the OP is still in high school and doesn't know much about programming. If they offer programming classes there, they should consider taking one. Another option is to take a class at a local community college if there is one near by.
  • #1
Quantum_Arcanium
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1
Hi, I am an aspiring Theoretical Physicist. I've heard that you need to know many programming languages to become a Physicist, but I have never learned a single programming language in my life and I am 16-17 years old now. Is there any chance of me still becoming one? Is there anything I can do? Will taking Computer Science courses in College be a good choice? Thanks for your help.

Quantum_Arcanium
 
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  • #2
A lot of the work most physicists do is related to programming in order to perform simulations of systems that cannot be solved analytically. However, I do not think you need to know programming before starting university (I didn't). Of course, already knowing it gives you an edge, just as you might have other edges if you have pre-studied university level mathematics, etc.
 
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  • #3
Orodruin said:
A lot of the work most physicists do is related to programming in order to perform simulations of systems that cannot be solved analytically. However, I do not think you need to know programming before starting university (I didn't). Of course, already knowing it gives you an edge, just as you might have other edges if you have pre-studied university level mathematics, etc.

I am strong in Mathematics but just don't have any programming experience at all. Thanks for your advice too.
 
  • #4
Im no physicist but I am in an introductory programming class now. I started out having zero knowledge of the matter (didnt even know what compressing a file meant, etc). Its a really fun class but out of all my classes (Calc I, Chem I, generals), its my hardest one.
For some programs, you know what it needs to do but its hard to put that on a screen in such a way that nothing is assumed and is basically boiled down to the most basic level. For example, writing code for a simple rock paper scissors game is actually quite difficult. Coding requires a certain type of thinking different from anything I've experienced but with practice it starts to become more natural. At my university, a significant amount of students change majors to CS after taking their first CS class because its a fun thing to do. I definitely won't do that but know many that have. So I think you should definitely take it as its fun and a valuable skill professionally and intellectually. My school doesn't require it for the physics major so I am just taking it as an extra class and will probably take another over the summer to get a broader understanding of it.
Food for thought.
 
  • #5
Quantum_Arcanium said:
I've heard that you need to know many programming languages to become a Physicist
If you know one programming language reasonably well, that's better than having only a minimal understanding of several languages.

Orodruin said:
A lot of the work most physicists do is related to programming in order to perform simulations of systems that cannot be solved analytically.
And a lot of that work, at least what I've seen here at this site, is in Fortran, and very poorly written at that. Having one or two computer science classes under your belt would make it more likely that the code you write would be easier for someone else to read, more portable to different operating systems, and more reusable.

I assume that you (the OP) are still in high school. If they offer programming classes there, consider taking one. Another option is to take a class at a local community college if there is one near by. It's good that you are strong in mathematics, but being able to write good programs also requires strong logical and organizational skills.
 
  • #6
Mark44 said:
And a lot of that work, at least what I've seen here at this site, is in Fortran, and very poorly written at that.
I can only speak for the HEP community, but Fortran used to be very popular. It has fallen somewhat out of fashion to give way to C/C++. There is a cutoff somewhere between the ages 40 and 45. Older people use Fortran, younger C or C++. Even younger may try to avoid compiled languages altogether in favour of Matlab and Mathematica.
 
  • #7
Orodruin said:
Even younger may try to avoid compiled languages altogether in favour of Matlab and Mathematica.
Or Python, using its numpy and scipy libraries.
 
  • #8
These days, one can work in a web browser...
which is great since there's nothing to install or configure.

Later when you need maximum performance,
you can choose your language and platform
and appropriate installation files.

But for now... you can try these out, for example...
... and you don't need to wait to take a course to try things out.

Check out Glowscript (which is a variant of VPython, a physics-inspired library for Python)
http://www.glowscript.org/
http://www.glowscript.org/#/user/GlowScriptDemos/folder/Examples/
http://www.glowscript.org/#/user/matterandinteractions/folder/matterandinteractions/ [look at these examples]

Some of the visualizations are in 3-D... right-mouse-drag to rotate.

Code can be viewed and you can copy them and make modifications.

I prefer to work on
https://trinket.io/ (which supports Glowscript, Python 2, and HTML5 on a free account)

See this blog entry by Rhett Allain to get started...
https://www.wired.com/2015/04/dare-change-numerical-calculation/
[the error in the code example presented there can be corrected by editing line 11 and replacing "true" by "True"]
 

Related to Want to become Theoretical Physicist but don't know Coding

1. Can I become a theoretical physicist without knowing how to code?

Yes, it is possible to become a theoretical physicist without knowing how to code. While coding can be a useful tool in theoretical physics, it is not a requirement for understanding and conducting research in this field.

2. Will not knowing how to code limit my career opportunities as a theoretical physicist?

Not knowing how to code may limit your career opportunities to some extent, as coding is becoming increasingly important in many fields of science. However, there are still many opportunities available for theoretical physicists who do not know how to code, such as theoretical research positions or teaching positions at universities.

3. Do I need to learn a specific programming language to be a theoretical physicist?

No, there is no one specific programming language that is required for theoretical physics. However, some commonly used languages in this field include Python, MATLAB, and Fortran. It may be helpful to learn one or more of these languages to aid in your research, but it is not a necessity.

4. Is it too late to learn how to code if I want to become a theoretical physicist?

No, it is never too late to learn how to code. Many theoretical physicists learn coding skills later in their careers, and it can still be a valuable asset even if you already have a strong foundation in theoretical physics.

5. How can I improve my coding skills as a theoretical physicist?

If you are interested in improving your coding skills as a theoretical physicist, there are many resources available such as online tutorials, coding workshops, and courses offered by universities. It may also be helpful to collaborate with colleagues or attend conferences to learn from others in the field.

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