Theoretical physics

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Theoretical physics is physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions rather than experimental processes. Theoretical physics attempts to understand the natural world by making a model of reality, used for rationalizing, explaining, and predicting physical phenomena in what are called "physical theories." There are three types of theories in physics: mainstream theories, proposed theories and fringe theories.

Some physical theories are backed by observation, whereas others are not. A physical theory is a model of physical events and cannot be proven from basic axioms. A physical theory is different from a mathematical theorem; physical theories model reality and are a statement of what has been observed, and provide predictions of new observations.

Physical theories can become accepted if they are able to make correct predictions and avoid incorrect ones. All else being equal, physical theories which are simpler tend to be accepted over theories which are complex. Physical theories are also more likely to be accepted if they connect a wide range of phenomena. The process of testing a physical theory is part of the scientific method.

Famous theoretical physicists include Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Niels Hendrik Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Hendrik A. Lorentz, Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Paul Dirac, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Lev Landau, Abdus Salam, Enrico Fermi, Louis Victor Broglie, and Wolfgang Pauli.

Theoretical physics is just one important part of physics; the other parts are experimental physics and mathematical physics. The difference between theoretical physics and mathematical physics is that mathematical physics finds the mathematical rigor required in mathematics to be more important than the contact with experiments and observations.[1]

Mainstream theories

Mainstream theories (sometimes referred to as central theories) are the body of knowledge of both factual and scientific views and possess a usual scientific quality of the tests of repeatability, consistency with existing well-established science and experimentation.


Proposed theories

The proposed theories of physics are relatively new theories which deal with the study of physics which include scientific approaches, means for determining the validity of models and new types of reasoning used to arrive at the theory. Proposed theories can include fringe theories in the process of becoming established (and, sometimes, gaining wider acceptance). Proposed theories usually have not been tested.


Fringe theories

Fringe theories include any new area of scientific endeavor in the process of becoming established and some proposed theories. It can include speculative sciences. This includes physics fields and physical theories presented in accordance with known evidence, and a body of associated predictions have been made according to that theory.

Some fringe theories go on to become an widely accepted part of physics. Other fringe theories end up being disproven. Some fringe theories are a form of protoscience and others are a form of pseudoscience. The falsification of the original theory sometimes leads to reformulation of the theory.


* These theories are both proposed and fringe theories.


  1. ^  Sometimes mathematical physics and theoretical physics are used synonymously to refer to the latter.

See also

es:Física Teórica fr:Physique théorique gl:Física Teórica ko:이론물리학 id:Fisika teoretis nl:Theoretische natuurkunde ja:理論物理学 nn:Teoretisk fysikk pl:Fizyka teoretyczna sl:Teoretična fizika zh:理论物理