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Best Qualities to be a Physicist?

  1. Nov 10, 2016 #1
    I'm only 15 but I'm thinking about what i need to be a successful physicist. I want to know what kind of strengths a good physicist should have and also what sets one physicist from the rest?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2016 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Curiosity, wonder, and a thick skin.
    If you are the sort of person who gets a good feeling when presented with a mystery, automatically seeks to penetrate the mystery, and, having discovered the workings of the mystery you still have a good feeling (maybe the feeling deepens) ... then you can be a scientist. If you accept skeptical reasoning and you have an inherent honesty that will not allow you to accept things as true without good evidence that they are true - then you are probably already a scientist.

    To be successful though?? I dunno - what are your criteria for success?
  4. Nov 10, 2016 #3
    simon bridge your answer is awesome, i think that physics is all about satisfaction, the main difference in physics and mathematics is that, in mathematics once you get the prove its over, that particular topic is over, but in physics you can't prove every thing just like Newton's law, but you can get satisfied by explanations like Galileo's plane for first law and so on, many students takes physics but only fraction of them becomes physicist, this is because both of them faces same types and numbers of questions, some of them gets satisfied with the answer and some of them asks more about it, this more,curiosity, dissatisfaction makes you different from other physics students.
  5. Nov 11, 2016 #4
    Read about Rickard Feynman, he has most of the qualities you are sesrching for, if not all. He was curious about everything, and never believed anything that was not proven to him. He also had a special method of understanding things, where he tries to describe the hardest of concepts in a way that a kid can understand it. That is what gave him the ability to understand his subject deeply and with curiosity, he was able to dive into science and explore.
    Physics is a beautiful field, i am sure you are going to love it.
  6. Nov 11, 2016 #5


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    Five posts in and no one has mentioned mathematical fluency?:oldconfused::oldeek:
  7. Nov 11, 2016 #6
    We should have. Actually Feynman had math as a hobby. Yet i don't know why but when we talk about physics I forget all about math. I never consider it something different. Its like a single package. Sorry OP but being good at math is also one of the most fundamental qualities of a physicist, especially if you are heading to theoretical physics.
  8. Nov 11, 2016 #7


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    How much does, "good at math" mean?
  9. Nov 11, 2016 #8
    Curiosity, imagination, and the ability describe what you imagine in mathematical terms which are consistent with observation.
  10. Nov 12, 2016 #9
    I am no expert but i know that we need a lot of math at the start like differential equations and all the levels of calculus but then it depends on the specific field and the math that is most usefull for every field. There are some posts on the forums linking every field of physics with the needed math.
  11. Nov 12, 2016 #10


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    High frustration tolerance.
  12. Nov 12, 2016 #11
    Rather than make up my own list, I will give you some sources to look into to.

    There is plenty of information about this and it's available in different ways from the greatest physicists. I will try to explain.

    At least for theoretical physics, there is a web page on this topic at https://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gadda001/goodtheorist/.

    This is the most helpful resource I have found which is relevant to your question. This essay is by t'Hooft, a Nobel Laureate. He not only gives some general advice, but follows up with a complete course outline for learning physics including links to free online books!

    I think it also helps to read some of the more popular works by the greatest scientists. For example, Einstein wrote some books at a popular level. You can certainly read these while still in high school. This helps you become more familiar with how the greatest minds operate. They were great and stood out from the crowd not only because of superior IQ but because of how they used their intelligence to best effect.

    But there are many other great physicists besides Einstein. Beware of the "cult of personality." (Some physicists thought Einstein was on the wrong path in his later years and produced little of value during those years).

    You can go down the list of all the Nobel laureates as well as the other great physicists, including Newton, Faraday, and Maxwell. Faraday is another good example of someone who wrote popular books on science.

    It's also helpful to read something about the lives of the great scientists. Many of them faced great challenges. But they kept going anyway.

    A scientist needs to learn how to think for himself or herself. Learn what you can, be respectful of people, but ultimately make up your own mind and follow your own instincts.

    I hope this helps. Best wishes.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  13. Nov 16, 2016 #12
    Awesome. I liked it immensely.
  14. Nov 22, 2016 #13
    People in science careers often need a strong ability to concentrate even in the midst of noise, but they must also have the capability of dreaming about possible directions to try or experiments to perform.
  15. Nov 22, 2016 #14


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    In addition to the wonderful answers above, I would say a good physicist is motivated by the work first, and other considerations second. A physicist won't make as much money as a lot of other careers with similar educational and commitment requirements, the demand to keep up with the field and work hard never ends, and a physicist will typically have to move to where the jobs are, but if you love the work, you can make that happen. Most of the physicists I work with have very high job satisfaction.
  16. Nov 22, 2016 #15


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  17. Nov 24, 2016 #16
    how so?
  18. Nov 24, 2016 #17


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    "mild" craziness... :-)
  19. Nov 24, 2016 #18


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    Physics is really hard. Getting a career in physics is even harder. You've got to take failure well, be able to brush yourself off and keep going.
  20. Nov 26, 2016 #19
    In order of importance:

    #1 An analytical AND creative mind.
    #2 Being obsessively curious.
    #3 Grit & a solid work ethic.
    #4 Being open to new ideas and learning from others.
  21. Nov 26, 2016 #20


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    I really believe those are very good points and I wish I could give one more "like"; but the forum will just turn that into a removal of the "like".
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