Scientific papers that made major contributions

  • #1
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Hello!

I'm very interested in physics, and relatively new to it. I'm doing a degree in Engineering but interested in shifting the Major to physics.
I'm requesting suggestions about scientific paper that EVERY physicist must read in order to get a certain command on the subject. I mean by that scientific papers that made a major contributions in physics.

Thanks for your attention,
 

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  • #2
DrClaude
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I think that reading scientific papers is not the correct approach to learning physics. Here are some reasons, in no particular order:
  • The amount of assumed knowledge from the ready is extremely high for scientific papers. They are intended to be read by the peers of the researchers who did the work.
  • Papers are not written with a pedagogical approach.
  • Some papers are interesting from a historical perspective, but old papers are often full of wholes that were filled by later research. Also, some things, like notation and terminology, can take time to be settled.
You are much better off picking up a textbook on the subject and read the original research only later for a historical perspective.
 
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  • #3
Orodruin
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You are not going to learn physics by reading research papers. What you should do instead to learn the basics is to study textbooks that have been particularly written in order for people to learn the basics from them. You will then advance to more specialised textbooks and review articles in whatever field you choose to specialise in. Then and only then can you start reading recent research papers to know where the front-line research in your subfield is being done.

Scientific papers are not written for people to learn from, they are written as communications between specialists in order to advance the field. This will usually not be as pedagogical as a textbook. As an example, nobody should try to learn relativity from Einsteins original papers. It would be a complete waste of time. The didactics of relativity have improved and developed over the last 100 years and you would be much better off by picking up a modern textbook.

Edit: Just scooped by @DrClaude ... At least we are saying basically the same thing.
 
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ZapperZ
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Hello!

I'm very interested in physics, and relatively new to it. I'm doing a degree in Engineering but interested in shifting the Major to physics.
I'm requesting suggestions about scientific paper that EVERY physicist must read in order to get a certain command on the subject. I mean by that scientific papers that made a major contributions in physics.

Thanks for your attention,

I'll add to what have been said. You have a slightly-skewered view of what it takes to learn physics.

Learning requires a systematic approach to understanding something. This is why we have excellent books, great teachers, etc... Presenting a subject matter to students is DIFFERENT than discussing the same topic with experts in the field. Scientific papers are meant for the latter. It isn't meant to TEACH you about what the subject is, because the author assumes that people whom the papers are meant for are already experts in that area.

It is why we do not give students physics papers to read and learn from in intro physics classes.

Zz.
 
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For original papers, you could read Newton’s Principia but it’s difficult to understand since modern physics math notation is markedly different.

You might also read Einstein’s papers from his miracle year on Special Relativity, Brownian motion and the photoelectric effect and then later his General Relativity papers. These are quite insightful although physics has gone much further beyond what they imagine.

For Quantum Mechanics, you might read the papers of Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Pauli et al...

Many of the early modern physics papers are available in collected works books like Hawking's book The Dream that Stuff is Made Of or Diracs yellow QM book.

Dover also has some collected works along with Newton’s Principia and Maxwell's treatise on Electromagnetism.

I had one prof who said that as a grad student, he read all the seminal papers of QM to better understand what he was learning. His tests were extremely hard. However, I think reading these papers is something best left to science historians who are interested in tracking the evolution of physics theories through the ages.
 
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