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One of the interesting things about the way physics research is done is the symbiotic partnership between the theoreticians and the experimentalists. The way it has worked for a long time is the theory people develop a theory about some aspect of the physical universe, based on the current understanding of the universe and some educated guesswork about something we don’t understand. They use the the language of the physical universe, mathematics, and if they can solve the equations in such a way that their model describes something that looks like the universe we actually live in, they look inside the math for predictive consequences, things that would have to be observable if the theory was true. Then they publish the paper and wait. At some point, some experimentalists will design a way to test that prediction. If the prediction turns out to be accurate, the theory gains in credibility. If it does not, there is something wrong with the model and the theoretician goes back to the chalkboard.

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Category: Science