Celebrating 18 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index T > Category: Theoretical Physics

Theoretical Physics Quotes (15 quotes)


But, contrary to the lady’s prejudices about the engineering profession, the fact is that quite some time ago the tables were turned between theory and applications in the physical sciences. Since World War II the discoveries that have changed the world are not made so much in lofty halls of theoretical physics as in the less-noticed labs of engineering and experimental physics. The roles of pure and applied science have been reversed; they are no longer what they were in the golden age of physics, in the age of Einstein, Schrφdinger, Fermi and Dirac.
'The Age of Computing: a Personal Memoir', Daedalus (1992), 121, 120.
Science quotes on:  |  Application (117)  |  Applied Science (28)  |  Paul A. M. Dirac (43)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Albert Einstein (535)  |  Engineer (72)  |  Fact (609)  |  Enrico Fermi (17)  |  Golden Age (5)  |  Laboratory (120)  |  Physical Science (54)  |  Physics (301)  |  Prejudice (58)  |  Profession (54)  |  Pure Science (18)  |  Reverse (14)  |  Role (35)  |  Erwin Schrφdinger (65)  |  Theory (582)  |  World War II (7)

During the time that [Karl] Landsteiner gave me an education in the field of imununology, I discovered that he and I were thinking about the serologic problem in very different ways. He would ask, What do these experiments force us to believe about the nature of the world? I would ask, What is the most. simple and general picture of the world that we can formulate that is not ruled by these experiments? I realized that medical and biological investigators were not attacking their problems the same way that theoretical physicists do, the way I had been in the habit of doing.
‘Molecular Disease’, Pfizer Spectrum (1958), 6:9, 234.
Science quotes on:  |  Asking (23)  |  Belief (400)  |  Difference (208)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Education (280)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Field (119)  |  Formulation (20)  |  Generality (22)  |  Habit (78)  |  Immunology (13)  |  Karl Landsteiner (8)  |  Medicine (322)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Picture (55)  |  Problem (362)  |  Realization (33)  |  Research (517)  |  Rule (135)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Theoretical Physicist (12)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Way (36)  |  World (667)

Every theoretical physicist who is any good knows six or seven different theoretical representations for exactly the same physics. He knows that they are all equivalent, and that nobody is ever going to be able to decide which one is right at that level, but he keeps them in his head, hoping that they will give him different ideas for guessing.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 168.
Science quotes on:  |  Decide (25)  |  Different (110)  |  Equivalent (14)  |  Guess (36)  |  Idea (440)  |  Level (51)  |  Representation (27)  |  Right (144)  |  Theory (582)

From the age of 13, I was attracted to physics and mathematics. My interest in these subjects derived mostly from popular science books that I read avidly. Early on I was fascinated by theoretical physics and determined to become a theoretical physicist. I had no real idea what that meant, but it seemed incredibly exciting to spend one's life attempting to find the secrets of the universe by using one's mind.
From 'Autobiography', in Tore Frδngsmyr (ed.) Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2004, (2005).
Science quotes on:  |  Attempting (3)  |  Attraction (32)  |  Book (181)  |  Career (54)  |  Determination (53)  |  Exciting (14)  |  Fascination (26)  |  Find (248)  |  Idea (440)  |  Incredible (18)  |  Inspiration (50)  |  Interest (170)  |  Life (917)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Mind (544)  |  Popular (21)  |  Reading (51)  |  Science (1699)  |  Secret (98)  |  Subject (129)  |  Universe (563)  |  Use (70)

I have tried to read philosophers of all ages and have found many illuminating ideas but no steady progress toward deeper knowledge and understanding. Science, however, gives me the feeling of steady progress: I am convinced that theoretical physics is actual philosophy. It has revolutionized fundamental concepts, e.g., about space and time (relativity), about causality (quantum theory), and about substance and matter (atomistics), and it has taught us new methods of thinking (complementarity) which are applicable far beyond physics.
Max Born
My Life & My Views (1968), 48.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Matter (270)  |  Philosophy (213)  |  Progress (317)  |  Quantum Physics (16)  |  Science (1699)  |  Space-Time (14)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Understanding (317)

I recognize that many physicists are smarter than I am—most of them theoretical physicists. A lot of smart people have gone into theoretical physics, therefore the field is extremely competitive. I console myself with the thought that although they may be smarter and may be deeper thinkers than I am, I have broader interests than they have.
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Broad (18)  |  Competitive (6)  |  Console (2)  |  Deep (81)  |  Extremely (10)  |  Field (119)  |  Interest (170)  |  Lot (23)  |  Myself (22)  |  People (269)  |  Physicist (130)  |  Recognize (41)  |  Smart (13)  |  Thinker (15)  |  Thought (374)

Many scientists have tried to make determinism and complementarity the basis of conclusions that seem to me weak and dangerous; for instance, they have used Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to bolster up human free will, though his principle, which applies exclusively to the behavior of electrons and is the direct result of microphysical measurement techniques, has nothing to do with human freedom of choice. It is far safer and wiser that the physicist remain on the solid ground of theoretical physics itself and eschew the shifting sands of philosophic extrapolations.
New Perspectives in Physics (1962), viii.
Science quotes on:  |  Electron (66)  |  Free Will (11)  |  Werner Heisenberg (38)  |  Quantum Physics (16)  |  Uncertainty Principle (7)

The first thing to realize about physics ... is its extraordinary indirectness.... For physics is not about the real world, it is about “abstractions” from the real world, and this is what makes it so scientific.... Theoretical physics runs merrily along with these unreal abstractions, but its conclusions are checked, at every possible point, by experiments.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 60-62.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstraction (29)  |  Check (16)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Physics (301)  |  Real World (8)  |  Reality (140)  |  Realization (33)

The methods of theoretical physics should be applicable to all those branches of thought in which the essential features are expressible with numbers.
Nobel Prize Banquet Speech (10 Dec1933). In Carl Gustaf Santesson (Ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1933 (1935), 78
Science quotes on:  |  Number (179)

The pace of science forces the pace of technique. Theoretical physics forces atomic energy on us; the successful production of the fission bomb forces upon us the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. We do not choose our problems, we do not choose our products; we are pushed, we are forced—by what? By a system which has no purpose and goal transcending it, and which makes man its appendix.
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Appendix (4)  |  Atomic Energy (21)  |  Bomb (17)  |  Choose (35)  |  Fission (7)  |  Force (194)  |  Goal (81)  |  Hydrogen Bomb (7)  |  Manufacture (12)  |  Pace (4)  |  Problem (362)  |  Product (72)  |  Production (105)  |  Purpose (138)  |  Push (22)  |  Science (1699)  |  Successful (20)  |  System (141)  |  Technique (41)  |  Transcend (9)

The physicist, in his study of natural phenomena, has two methods of making progress: (1) the method of experiment and observation, and (2) the method of mathematical reasoning. The former is just the collection of selected data; the latter enables one to infer results about experiments that have not been performed. There is no logical reason why the second method should be possible at all, but one has found in practice that it does work and meets with reasonable success.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 122.
Science quotes on:  |  Collection (38)  |  Data (100)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Infer (10)  |  Logical (20)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Meet (16)  |  Method (154)  |  Natural Science (62)  |  Observation (418)  |  Performed (3)  |  Physics (301)  |  Practice (67)  |  Progress (317)  |  Reasonable (18)  |  Reasoning (79)  |  Result (250)  |  Study (331)  |  Success (202)  |  Work (457)

The reason Dick's [Richard Feynman] physics was so hard for ordinary people to grasp was that he did not use equations. The usual theoretical physics was done since the time of Newton was to begin by writing down some equations and then to work hard calculating solutions of the equations. This was the way Hans [Bethe] and Oppy [Oppenheimer] and Julian Schwinger did physics. Dick just wrote down the solutions out of his head without ever writing down the equations. He had a physical picture of the way things happen, and the picture gave him the solutions directly with a minimum of calculation. It was no wonder that people who had spent their lives solving equations were baffled by him. Their minds were analytical; his was pictorial.
Quoted in Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer Thompson, Beyond Einstein: the Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe (1987, 1999), 56-57, citing Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (1979, 1981), 55-56.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (123)  |  Bafflement (2)  |  Hans Albrecht Bethe (5)  |  Biography (227)  |  Calculation (67)  |  Difficulty (113)  |  Equation (69)  |  Richard P. Feynman (107)  |  Happening (32)  |  Hard (70)  |  Life (917)  |  Minimum (10)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  J. Robert Oppenheimer (30)  |  Physics (301)  |  Picture (55)  |  Solution (168)  |  Understanding (317)  |  Wonder (134)  |  Writing (72)

There are, at present, fundamental problems in theoretical physics … the solution of which … will presumably require a more drastic revision of our fundmental concepts than any that have gone before. Quite likely, these changes will be so great that it will be beyond the power of human intelligence to get the necessary new ideas by direct attempts to formulate the experimental data in mathematical terms. The theoretical worker in the future will, therefore, have to proceed in a more direct way. The most powerful method of advance that can be suggested at present is to employ all the resources of pure mathematics in attempts to perfect and generalize the mathematical formalism that forms the existing basis of theoretical physics, and after each success in this direction, to try to interpret the new mathematical features in terms of physical entities.
At age 28.
Proceedings of the Royal Society (1931), A133, 60. In A. Pais, 'Playing With Equations, the Dirac Way'. Behram N. Kursunoglu (Ed.) and Eugene Paul Wigner (Ed.), Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: Reminiscences about a Great Physicist (1990), 109.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Problem (362)  |  Pure Mathematics (27)  |  Solution (168)

They think that differential equations are not reality. Hearing some colleagues speak, it's as though theoretical physics was just playing house with plastic building blocks. This absurd idea has gained currency, and now people seem to feel that theoretical physicists are little more than dreamers locked away ivory towers. They think our games, our little houses, bear no relation to their everyday worries, their interests, their problems, or their welfare. But I'm going to tell you something, and I want you to take it as a ground rule for this course. From now on I will be filling this board with equations. ... And when I'm done, I want you to do the following: look at those numbers, all those little numbers and Greek letters on the board, and repeat to yourselves, “This is reality,” repeat it over and over.
Zig Zag, trans. Lisa Dillman (2008), 63.
Science quotes on:  |  Board (5)  |  Differential Equation (9)  |  Dreamer (4)  |  Game (45)  |  Interest (170)  |  Ivory Tower (3)  |  Problem (362)  |  Reality (140)  |  Repeat (27)  |  Welfare (16)  |  Worry (27)

When I began my physical studies [in Munich in 1874] and sought advice from my venerable teacher Philipp von Jolly...he portrayed to me physics as a highly developed, almost fully matured science...Possibly in one or another nook there would perhaps be a dust particle or a small bubble to be examined and classified, but the system as a whole stood there fairly secured, and theoretical physics approached visibly that degree of perfection which, for example, geometry has had already for centuries.

From a lecture (1924). In Damien Broderick (ed.), Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge (2008), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Geometry (99)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.