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What's the hottest area in theoretical physics?

  1. May 25, 2003 #1

    marcus

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    In what area of research is the most creative work-----most likely to have longterm significance----currrently being done?


    On PF the question surfaces from time to time----who's the greatest living physicist? Who's the most like Newton, but active today, or like Einstein etc.?

    Wolfgang77 raised this issue just now, in Community/General Discussion forum, with some reference to "up and comers".

    I think to get perspective you need to look at the fields of research first, before you look at personalities.

    Unless a person creates an entirely new field of research all by himherself, then much of what decides on the longterm significance of a person's work is how critical the research area is to future developments. Is that too vague? I mean the area matters. So where is the most creative work being done now in theoretical physics, do you think?

    cite some examples, with urls or links, if you want
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2003 #2
    Science is really treated differently now. I don't think we're going to have einstien's and newtons again. Partly because science isn't spoken outside of science. The general public doesn't know a damn thing about what science has done, and they aren't educated enough to understand. Also, because the fundamentals have very much been covered. I mean, surely some of them will prove to be insufficient, but basically the niches of the universe have been found out, and we're mostly working on higher levels based upon those initial observations.

    As far as hottest areas, my guess would be it's a tie between the large and the small. There's a big race to understand the smallest units and also to get energy from them.

    The second area is the large - cosmology, there's a huge field of scientists who studying it because of it's relationship to energy.

    Energy is surely at the heart of it all.
     
  4. May 25, 2003 #3
    I would like to say Solar Physics,

    at least it would be a good place for a budding physicist because it has so many unanswered questions combined with excellent experimental data, and the experiments will only improve greatly with time. The Trace and Solo satellites, and other instruments, have produced a treasure trove of information. Just put Trace into your search engine, you'll get the NASA and Lockheed websites.

    Combine this data base with the fact that the current theory of Magnetic Reconnection has proved incompetent to account for results, in computer simulations sunspots last fifteen minutes instead of fifteen days or weeks, and I think a good theorist would have a field day finding the right answers.
     
  5. May 25, 2003 #4
    Hottest area?

    Astrophysics seems to be very hot topic right now( Einstiens and nowtonian physics). But it's opinion. Many people might say solar physics or other. Like in market the new demand is Solar cell and Fel cell.
     
  6. May 25, 2003 #5

    chroot

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    Seems to me the hottest topics are on the quantum theory of gravity and the grand unification.

    - Warren
     
  7. May 25, 2003 #6
    i'd say research in the feild of fusion and other power is probobly the most important in the longterm. but then again it could all be a waste of time.
     
  8. May 25, 2003 #7

    What about the Brief history of time and other books for the layman?

    Im sure these things were not around in Newton's time.

    People said used to say that there would never be a golfer who could dominate the game again. Then comes tiger woods.
     
  9. May 25, 2003 #8
    Golf doesn't get more complex. It just gets better players.

    Anyone who reads a brief history of time isn't a layman.

    Remember that over 90% of the population have nothing to do with science at all.

    Even wanting to read hawking makes you ahead of the game. Let's not underestimate the unscientific nature of the current population.
     
  10. May 25, 2003 #9

    chroot

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    Certainly, people who read Hawking's pop-sci are one notch above the normal unscientific populus, but the word layman quite clearly is defined (in OED, for example) as:

    "A man who is a nonprofessional."

    Certainly, reading Hawking's pop-sci does not make you a professional -- as a result, such people certainly are laymen.

    - Warren
     
  11. May 25, 2003 #10

    ahrkron

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    That may be a nice motivational phrase, but it is only valid metaphorically. Popularizations cannot possibly replace years of formal and experimental training, and sometimes make people honestly think that physics (or science in general) is much less involved and detailed than it actually is.

    Many readers of such books end up with the wrong impression that they have a "profound understanding of physics, without the unnecesary math". This just cannot be the case.

    Those books can be good, as long as people don't loose sight of their purpose and reach.
     
  12. May 25, 2003 #11

    marcus

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    quantum gravity

    Roughly speaking I would agree. Actually I asked the question about *theoretical* physics----many of the answers concerned applied physics and specialized problems of modeling and prediction, but were interesting all the same.

    Referring to part of what chroot said here, does anyone know a good survey article describing the state of "grand unification" theories?

    As for quantum gravity, I know of a good survey article
    that came out this spring, Smolin's

    "How far are we from the quantum theory of gravity?"

    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/hep-th/0303185

    It lists the problems that have been answered and those that remain to be solved and gives an overview of the competing theories. I was impressed at how clearly a difficult subject was laid out.
    Can recommend it.
     
  13. May 25, 2003 #12

    chroot

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    marcus,

    I'm about halfway through reading that paper right now. I think I first need to consult some of the "introductory" references contained therein to really understand it.

    - Warren
     
  14. May 25, 2003 #13

    marcus

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    Yes let me say right out that the paper is dreadfully hard going.

    But in spite of this it is possible to glean stuff from it!

    I do not demand of myself that I understand everything,
    and I have also been trying to download some key papers
    referred to like his references [17] and [99]

    17. Rovelli and Smolin---Spin networks and quantum gravity 1995
    99. Smolin---Linking topological quantum field theory and nonperturbative quantum gravity 1995

    both are in arXiv and the survey paper gives the url number.

    my feeling is that no matter how rough going it is better to
    learn the lay of the land directly than to depend entirely on popularized accounts for one's impressions.

    I am very glad that you are trying to do this too.

    I am beginning to get some intuition of how loops can serve as an algebraic classification of the diffeomorphisms of a manifold.
    Dont press me on it, but I'm getting some glimmers. Congratulations to us both for trying to read this quantum gravity survey paper.
     
  15. May 26, 2003 #14
    Hottest area in physics? In the fraction of time after the big bang.
    Several trillionf of degrees, many degrees hotter then the temperature inside stars.
     
  16. May 26, 2003 #15

    marcus

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    Yes the planck temperature is E32 kelvin

    or more exactly 1.4E32 kelvin

    a plausible rough estimate of the temperature during the first natural unit of time
     
  17. May 26, 2003 #16
    I agree.
     
  18. May 26, 2003 #17

    Neither of these theories are much use, as normal quantum is accurate to lots and lots of decimal places and so is relativity in the situations in which they are used.
     
  19. May 26, 2003 #18
    Yes, but they are both trying to describe the same Universe. If one disagrees with the other, one of them must be wrong.
     
  20. May 26, 2003 #19

    But if you know when to apply both theories, then the combined theory is correct up to equivalence to any other theory produced.

    So in my opinion, studying this yields no results in physics, unless it happens to simplify formulae, which I doubt.
     
  21. May 26, 2003 #20

    chroot

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    We will eventually (in fact, pretty soon!) have the technology to explore energies in which we know quantum mechanics will fail. Pretty soon the grand unification and quantum theory of gravity will be necessary to explain run-of-the-mill experiments in particle physics labs around the world.

    Besides, are you trying to say that physics is done? We should just put down our pencils and call it a wrap?

    - Warren
     
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