Is it possible to become an "independent" physicist? Greetings all. I've read lots of threads on here about "old" guys (the poster is usually 29 or 30) going back to school to study physics, and I've digested the oft-repeated issue of no jobs in academia even for young guys, let alone oldsters. However, I'm in a position where I want to study physics BUT I don't need to get a job when I'm done. I am fortunate enough to have already covered myself in the financial area of life. Now it is time to learn and expand my mind and skills in new ways that I've only thought about for over 20 years. My primary question is: is it possible to be a "working", independent physicist outside of academia and industry? Can a sufficiently trained person work at home, doing "research" (quite clearly theoretical work or work involving simulations) and be part of the broader academic community, submitting papers to journals, being published, possibly teaching as an adjunct professor, etc.? Does the physics community allow for the "gentleman" scientist any more? A bit of background on me: *44 years old *BA in biology from Brown 22 years ago. *20 undergrad hours in physics (18 years ago) *24 undergrad hours in math (18 years ago) *taught high school math and science for a few years (15 years ago) *financially independent (sorry, but it is true!) My notion is to give myself a thorough refresher course introductory calculus and physics using textbooks and MIT Open Courseware. Next, I plan to return to college and take courses to have the equivalent of a BS in physics. As I'm in the Bay Area, San Francisco State is the obvious choice, starting next fall. I'm a bit tied to the Bay Area, so that means that if I want to go beyond the equivalent of a BS, that means an MS at San Francisco State or (gasp!) a PhD at Berkeley or Stanford. My further questions: 1. Do I have a snowballs chance in h**l of getting into grad school? The MS at SFSU seems possible, but the PhD at Berkeley or Stanford? Is that even a possibility, or would they blow me off in a New York minute? Even if I had all the attributes of a successful applicant (grades, research, publication, GRE), would my age be an automatic "no." 2. Would the best path be to do an MS to gain some research experience before applying to a PhD program? 3. Is a PhD even necessary? Does one need the credential? Or would the foundation of an MS allow me to do what I wanted to do since I don't need the PhD for employment purposes? Thanks in advance for the responses.