Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.
The advancement of science depends in general on the interplay between experimental studies and theory. In some cases, theoretical physics adheres to standards of mathematical rigor while giving little weight to experiments and observations. For example, while developing special relativity, Albert Einstein was concerned with the Lorentz transformation which left Maxwell's equations invariant, but was apparently uninterested in the Michelson–Morley experiment on Earth's drift through a luminiferous ether. On the other hand, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for explaining the photoelectric effect, previously an experimental result lacking a theoretical formulation.
Famous quotes containing the words theoretical and/or physicist:
“Post-structuralism is among other things a kind of theoretical hangover from the failed uprising of 68Ma way of keeping the revolution warm at the level of language, blending the euphoric libertarianism of that moment with the stoical melancholia of its aftermath.”
—Terry Eagleton (b. 1943)
“It would be a poor thing to be an atom in a universe without physicists, and physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is an atoms way of knowing about atoms.”
—George Wald (b. 1906)