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Physics What job is better Theoretical Physics or AI?

  1. Sep 4, 2017 #1
    Recently, I've been struggling with this issue. I really really love theoretical physics and mathematics, but at some point, I feel like it has now become into a mix of speculation and super advanced mathematics. The fact that some physicists say some areas like String Theory or Quantum Loop Gravity are overpopulated sound to me like crazy: Can a "theory of everything" be overpopulated? what if that theory is right?

    Theoretical Physics, in my very own perspective, is biased into the theory seems more reasonable, more "explainatory"... and then, when it's theorized enough, you switch into another theory, and then again and again the same thing... It's like you're doing nothing with your life! The thing is that I love it despite all this, which is my very own perspective. But then there's Artificial Intelligence, which seems to be the future in all ways, and it's intellectually challenging too. The salary is way much higher than physics (in some parts of US, the average salary is 140K$ per year, whereas in Physics you're lucky if you get to 100K). Now there's the problem that it doesn't sound to me that interesting. I mean, it's interesting to delve into what is intelligence, creativity..., the algorithms that would fit better into reasoning... but if we compare that to Physics, Physics is like the cool, crazy stuff. Am I right? Should I give up the cool, interesting stuff of Physics in spite of the biggest thing the human could ever create, AI? Or just stay in Physics (maybe and I just say maybe until machines take control of all this research)?
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
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  3. Sep 4, 2017 #2
    What year of school are you in? I would always advise to follow your passion wherever it takes you. If you love basket weaving, do basket weaving etc.
     
  4. Sep 4, 2017 #3
    I'm about to start 12th grade.
    The thing is that I'm passionated about both Physics and AI, but Physics sounds to me slightly more interesting, whereas AI seems to me like the best thing to work in. Anyway thanks for your response :)
     
  5. Sep 4, 2017 #4
    So split the difference and major in physics with a minor in comp sci or vice versa.
     
  6. Sep 4, 2017 #5
    Cool! So I don't have to decide that yet. Thank you.
     
  7. Sep 4, 2017 #6

    Orodruin

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    To be honest, nobody can answer such a question for you as only you know your personal preferences. As Greg says, you do not really have to choose yet.

    I will say this though: Most areas of theoretical physics are overpopulated. This is not a measure of how many people could work on a subject were there unlimited resources, but a measure of how many actual positions there are in relation to how many people compete for them. In other words, bluntly, how many physicists society is willing to pay for doing research.
     
  8. Sep 4, 2017 #7
    That's a tough question, you can be thinking about it for years (I have, at least a version of it). Thinking about these things in the abstract is very hard, and very misleading. It's misleading because the high level aspects of a field like theoretical physics may not be highly correlated with what you will actually be working on and what problems you will be solving. I'm a theoretical physicist, I got into the field thinking I wanted to work on the "theory of everything" , but I find myself most of the time executing Mathematica commands and waiting 20 minuets for some kind of answer (or an error:). AI on the other hand has the high level appeal of making gods! Yet you might just end up working on tuning statistical models correcting bugs in a giant music recommendation app and making good money. The low level things don't sound as good yet these are what you will be experiencing, and I personally love executing Mathematica command and thinking through the results to figure out what I will do next. I also love looking up some machine learning course and figuring out what that's all about.

    My point being here is to think with your actions. Talk to people from both field and see what they do day to day and try to mimic that and see how it feels.

    A clarification, I'm a theoretical physicist, I started in high energy and cosmology. But now I work on soft matter physics, I think a field like soft matter does not have a lot of the objections that you described about string theory and loop quantum gravity. I think fields like soft matter can be as "fundamental " if not more than string theory because they help you think about how things organize themselves in the world and in the universe. In addition to being subject to active experimentation and being used in applications.

    Also remember there can be things you're interested in and things you work on. These two things can have overlaps but they don't have to be the same.
    One last thing I'm also not really sure what I will be doing in 5 years. I'm finishing grad school, but I'm also working on physics educational games and starting a YouTube channel, you can transfer skills that you learn in AI and physics to what you will be doing in the future, but work on being someone who really gets into things and does the best job through action not just abstract thinking.

    I really hope this helps, I might've been a little too scattered. Good Luck!
     
  9. Sep 4, 2017 #8
    So it's true, Theoretical Physics is totally biased into what seems more attractive and less populated. I think Theoretical Physics should switch into more "experimental" areas like soft matter theory, so that some progress is being done as we have more experimental evidence. I don't find particulary useful to try to populate almost every single theory that could potentially be the "theory of everything" (and yet have no evidence whatsoever that the theory that is being worked with is true), at least until experimental physics gives us some hints for where we should head to. Until then, I think, Theoretical Physics should not rush so much.
     
  10. Sep 4, 2017 #9
    Oh my god, I hope that is not to be the case hahah!

    Thank you, that was insightful!
     
  11. Sep 4, 2017 #10

    Orodruin

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    What makes you think there are no theoretical physicists in those areas? "Theoretical physics" is a very broad concept and usually a theoretical physicist will have more in common with an experimental physicist in the same field than with a random "theoretical physicist".
     
  12. Sep 4, 2017 #11

    Choppy

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    You're in 12th grade. You don't have to decide on a career right now. Over the next year or so you'll need to decide on how to start your post secondary education. You can take courses in both physics and computer science regardless of what your major says. Once you have experience in both, you'll be in a much better position to make any long term decisions.
     
  13. Sep 4, 2017 #12
    I know, I should have said Theoretical High Energy Physics (or correct me if I'm still wrong), which, I think, tries to find this theory of everything. It would be extremely hard to try to measure some properties of String Theory, extra dimensions, Quantum loop theory or anything like that in CERN, than, for example superconductors (you can do some easier experiments with that). At least, technology enables us to measure more properties of condensed matter theory than advanced HEP, as HEP seems to be the area on which most people focus on when thinking of Physics research.
     
  14. Sep 4, 2017 #13

    Orodruin

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    This is not really correct. I am a theoretical high-energy physicist. I do neutrino and dark matter models and phenomenology (essentially the study of how the signals of different models would look in experiments).

    I would say string theory and ToE is more to the mathematical physics side.
     
  15. Sep 4, 2017 #14
    Ok right, whatever. I tried to say that if any area was to find the theory of everything, that was HEP. Of course that is not its main concern. Many theoretical high energy physicists work into areas like the higgs boson, dark matter (as you have said) & supersymmetry. Neutrinos and dark matter are "easier" (if I can say that) to measure than String Theory, or extra dimensions, so I thought we should rather not focus on just that, which many people find the coolest part in science (I mean, String Theory is thought by many people to be the future of Physics, which of course isn't quite true). That is what I meant. I'm from Spain, and maybe my English level isn't quite high, so I'm sorry.
     
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