Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How do you decide what to read?

  1. Dec 6, 2012 #1
    (First off, Moderators, I appreciate that this can be relevant to any of the forum areas, so please feel free to move this as you see fit.)

    Apologies for this very basic question, but as a very amatuer, with a job, a family, and ... a bit of a life, how do you decide which papers / articles to read (and I not asking about this specific list, but all of the available material? I love to read these articles and find them very informative and thought provoking, but ... each one that I read leads to a subsequent chain of references, so I never seem to be catching up!


  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Read what interests you then critically examine it. Consider the reputation of the authors, the number of previous papers, and how many have been accepted for publication in a reputable journal as a measure of credibilty. arxiv is a wonderful source of information, but, individual papers still need to be vetted. I've seem a fair share of fairly awful papers on arxiv.
  4. Dec 8, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member


    I agree completely with Chronos above: “Read what interests you and critically examine it”.

    I am seventy years old and during my career I have spent several years reading and learning about one specific subject. And then, after some time, began another. One example: I studied hydrodynamic and optical solitons for many years. What drove me was simple curiosity...a thirst to understand a process or mechanism more completely. Once I felt satisfied I simply remained open and alert until the next subject for study came along. I can promise you, I have only been bored a very few times in all my years because there are so many interesting aspects of our natural world to learn about. There is no limit or magical guideline for you to follow. You must put down a topic only when you yourself are satisfied with your depth of knowledge of it.

  5. Dec 8, 2012 #4
    Thanks guys. I understand and will keep going.


  6. Dec 30, 2012 #5
    I tried a mathematical approach about five or seven years ago and discovered I had forgotten most of the math I learned 40 or 50 years ago. So tensor mathematics turned out not to be SO interesting to me now that I wanted to recover undergraduate and graduate mathematics...time is short...I now use expert interpretations from posters here about what happens in that math.

    So I switched to half a dozen or so books to get started.....for the general public, light on math, like

    RELATIVITY, Albert Einstein [1954]
    THE BLACK HOLE WAR, Leonard Susskind,
    PARALLEL WORLDS, Michio Kaku,
    THE NATURE OF SPACE AND TIME, Hawking and Penrose,
    WARPED PASSAGES, Lisa Randall [lots of particle theory and explanations]

    Ended up readin maybe two or three dozen books while aboard my boat summers in Maine after I retired. That's when I had time. Buy them used...like at Amazonbooks...cheap.

    I compare descriptions with what I can easily find online, like Wikipedia, Ned Wright,
    Mathpages, etc. From time to time I read an ARXIV research paper recommended in these forums. And when I come across an 'aha!!' description, into my notes it goes!!

    Here is one recent forums discussion I found really interesting:

    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook