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ChatGPT can solve physics problems, to some extent

Measuring ChatGPT's physics expertise

Reviewed By: Steve Hook

Last Updated on April 4, 2024
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ChatGPT has been getting a lot of attention lately and it is no surprise! OpenAI’s large language model seems to be the most popular chatbot in the world of AI tools, with it now gaining popularity amongst both mathematicians and physicists alike. When it comes to natural language processing tasks, there really isn’t much this model can’t do. But how does the chatbot fair in solving advanced physics problems? Whether you need help with your studies or just want a quick answer to a physics-related question, ChatGPT may be able to help. Let’s find out more.

Quick Answer

ChatGPT can answer physics questions, to some extent. ChatGPT is a large language model that specialises in creating human-like text responses, so though its capabilities do extent to solving physics problems, it can’t akways do so with 100% accuracy.

ChatGPT can solve physics problems, to some extent

In short, ChatGPT can solve physics problems but not all the time. Machine learning algorithms aren’t rules-based (in the way non-AI algorithms are) and instead purely operate based on examples. This is actually a great hindrance to calculating math and by extension physics equations. It’s still far more computationally efficient and accurate to use arithmetic than machine learning for math. In other words, a normal calculator (even the calculator app on your phone) beats ChatGPT.

Since the platform is built on a large language model and excels in areas relating to relaying data in an easy-to-read text format, when it comes to explaining advanced topics, ChatGPT has no issue. See the example below, where ChatGPT is asked to explain Quantum physics.

In addition to this ChatGPT is able to solve physics problems, by retrieving related data and answering accordingly. However, since the model is built to churn out responses in the form of text, ChatGPT will likely struggle with solving advanced calculations, deriving theorems, and evaluating difficult integrals, with 100% accuracy. All of which are required for at least college-level courses. See how the chatbot responds to physics questions with varying levels of difficulty, in the examples below.

This is pretty impressive, to say the least. The model was even able to provide explanations and reasoning behind its answers.

From what it seems, ChatGPT will be able to solve most school physics questions. We actually tested the model on a straightforward problem assessing knowledge of pressure. The AI successfully answered the question and even showed how it came to that conclusion. This demonstrates ChatGPT’s ability to at least perform some basic mathematical calculations.

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Testing ChatGPT’s physics-solving abilities further

Many users have decided to put ChatGPT to the test, with YouTuber, Cool Worlds actually putting ChatGPT against an introductory-level college astrophysics exam. Surprisingly, the model managed to answer most of the multiple-choice questions correctly, scoring 73.9% on the test. The AI tool does appear to know about general relativity and Ohm’s law and can understand velocity and momentum. This ability is common amongst today’s most advanced NLP models. Of course, it does still use token prediction, and not a real bonafide understanding of the world, in the way that Runways General World Models propose. But for a simulation of understanding, it’s still pretty convincing.

Can ChatGPT generate physics questions?

Yes, ChatGPT is able to generate complex physics questions with ease and speed, far quicker than it can solve them. This is because all it has to do to generate a question is retrieve data on similar topics and use its natural language processing to create a completely original question. See the examples below, where ChatGPT is even able to generate a graph that is related to the question.

Physics-solving AI tools

If you’d like to look for an AI tool that is more dedicated to solving physics questions there are a bunch of apps that can help you. Of course, the more advanced the problem the more difficult it will be to find an app that is capable of tackling your query. Additionally, you may need to pay to get access to some of these platforms. Regardless, here are a couple of apps you could try out:

PhyWiz – Physics Solver

This app is available for free from the Google Play Store. PhyWiz can help you with physics homework covering over 30 different topics including kinematics, quantum physics, and forces. And can provide detailed solutions including numerous equations to teach you how to tackle various problems.

WolframAlpha

WolframAlpha is a favorite among the maths and physics community. The website not only offers help with mathematical and physics calculations but also covers numerous topics in Science & Technology, Society & Culture, and Everyday Life.

Important to note

Using ChatGPT to help with studies can be quite a serious offense if caught. Arguably, it is a lot harder to tell if you’re using ChatGPT for instances like math or physics homework, than it is for essays. However, the use of AI in written work can be detected by Universities using AI detection tools, therefore it is important to weigh up the risks. If you’d like to read up on how ChatGPT is detectable, check out our Can Universities Detect ChatGPT guide.

Final Thoughts

ChatGPT definitely can solve physics problems. But, to what degree of accuracy? It is important to remember that ChatGPT isn’t a calculator of any sort but more a text generator with a large bank of knowledge of the world. For educational purposes, it’s great, and even with higher-level questions, it can assist physicists. This includes even complex phenomena around gravity, dark matter, gravitational waves, black holes, and more.

If you want an answer to a conceptual problem, solely based on ideas and principles, ChatGPT could definitely help you. When it comes to difficult calculations, however, you may want to look elsewhere for the correct answer.

Funmi joined PC Guide in November 2022, and was a driving force for the site's ChatGPT coverage. She has a wide knowledge of AI apps, gaming and consumer technology.