Return to Outreach

Physics

The dictionary definition of physics is “the study of matter, energy, and the interaction between them”, but what that really means is that physics is about asking fundamental questions and trying to answer them by observing and experimenting. Formulating, thus simple rules from where prediction can be done.

Physicists ask really big questions like:

  • How did the universe begin?
  • How will the universe change in the future?
  • How does the Sun keep on shining?
  • What are the basic building blocks of matter?

If you think these questions are fascinating, then you’ll like physics.

 

What do Physicists do?

Many physicists work in ‘pure’ research, trying to find answers to these types of question. The answers they come up with often lead to unexpected technological applications. Physics doesn’t just deal with theoretical concepts. It’s applied in every sphere of human activity, including:

  • Development of sustainable forms of energy production.
  • Treating cancer, through radiotherapy, and diagnosing illness through various types of imaging, all based on physics.
  • Developing computer games. Yes, some of them.
  • Design and manufacture of sports equipment, or sport cars.
  • Understanding and predicting earthquakes, or other natural phenomenon.

…in fact, pretty much every sector you can think of needs people with physics knowledge.

 

What about mathematics?

Many apparently complicated things in nature can be understood in terms of relatively simple mathematical relationships. Physicists try to uncover these relationships through observing, creating mathematical models, and testing them by doing experiments. The mathematical equations used in physics often look far more complicated than they really are. Nevertheless, if you are going to study physics, you will need to get to grips with a certain amount of maths.

 

…and computers?

Physicists are increasingly using advanced computers and programming languages in the solution of scientific problems, particularly for modeling complex processes. If the simulation is not based on correct physics, then it has no chance of predicting what really happens in nature. Most degree courses in physics now involve at least some computer programming.

 

Why  I decided to study physics?

Simple: Physics challenges our imagination, this is the main reason why I like so much physics. Besides, Physics requires deep knowledge of many other hard-Sciences, for example: Math, Computational science, Biology, engineering, chemistry, philosophy, etc.

 

So, what specifically do you work on José?

I work in a very specific branch of Physics: Solid State Physics, and within this branch I study a specific branch: condensed matter, and within this branch I specialized, in a tiny, tiny branch.  in short, I use the theoretical work developed by great minds (Nobel Laureates) in quantum mechanics. The theories have been coded in efficient algorithms that allow us to compute many properties of solids and molecules. For instance I can give you a good hint if a material is a metal and if it will superconduct, and if yes, I can estimate the transition temperature. Or provided you with a theoretical explanation of why certain materials are magnetic and others not.  I play with electrons in my computer,  – most of the times in supercomputers -. I am interested in finding novel magnetic, superconducting and thermoelectric materials. There is not really big difference between them, for doing so, you need to have a deep understanding of these properties of matter.