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What are good ideas to publish?

  1. Dec 5, 2009 #1
    Hi all, I was wondering: how do you know or find out if something is a good idea to publish?

    For instance: in an attempt to make quantum mechanics more physically-graspable, I feel (whimsically, at present) inspired to write a side-by-side comparison of the derivations of the matching-results of the Bohr theory of the atom to the results of quantum mechanics.

    I also feel like I want to stress the matrix and linear-algebra aspect of quantum mechanics, and publish something that puts the parts of undergraduate quantum mechanics textbooks that solve the infinite potential well, finite potential well, and step-potentials where transmission/reflection occur (where you happily and naively match boundary conditions and chunk out wavefunctions, happily normalizing them and, in my opinion, don't get a feel for the true "first principles" from which the "weirdness" of quantum mechanics comes from).

    I feel like these are good ideas to "get out there" in journals like a physics-education-journal, but they may have been done already.

    Are those good ideas for publication? Or, have they been so "done to death" that it wouldn't be worth it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 5, 2009 #2
    Look into the American Journal of Physics. This seems like something that might fit into there journal.
  4. Dec 5, 2009 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    That's why you should do a literature search on your topic, before you start serious work on writing your article. For example, you can search the http://scitation.aip.org/ajp/ [Broken] on line. There may be other journals that are worth searching on your topic.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Dec 5, 2009 #4
    How else would you do it? It is the usual way for solving a wave equation.
  6. Dec 5, 2009 #5
    Oh, well, the matrix-method was what Heisenberg initially used....that's what Peter Fong's book said. Then, you can also see on p. 102-103 of Robert Scherrer's book that introduces quantum mechanics, you find out that a function is the limiting case of an infinite-dimensional vector. E.g., the "smooth" functions that are the solutions to the Schrodinger equation are really limiting cases of infinite-dimensional vectors. I like that because, to me, the essence of quantum mechanics is the fact that vectors in Hilbert space are inner-product-ed into the probability-density of the particle in question. Each entry of the vector *is* a possibility of experimental-outcome: that is, it's an eigenvalue of the function in question, and the function, itself, is built up from an (infinite) basis of eigenfunctions.

    And: I feel all that wonderful detail that strongly points at the (vector) essence of quantum states is lost when students just match up boundary conditions and normalize when being *introduced* to quantum mechanics.
  7. Dec 5, 2009 #6

    For a decent introduction account of matrix qm

    http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=AJPIAS000077000002000128000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=Yes [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Dec 5, 2009 #7


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    Homework Helper

    I would imagine that all the stuff you're talking about has been done to death, and you wouldn't be able to get it published in a real scientific journal. Of course, if you have a personal website, you could put it up there and share it with people who might be interested in that sort of thing, which is self-publishing in a sense.

    I've never had any ideas worth publishing myself, so I wouldn't consider myself an expert on such things, but the only way I can think of to really learn how to tell when something is publishable is to look at examples. That's (one reason) why reading scientific journals is useful, because you get to see examples of what is considered publication-quality work. Of course, it would be nice to have examples of non-publication-quality work for comparison, but I can only think of two ways to get that: try writing things up and sending them in for publication (expecting to get them rejected), or apprentice yourself to someone who has slightly more experience with the system (a.k.a. get a PhD).
  9. Dec 5, 2009 #8
    Yeah, I'm in grad school right now. (Luckily: in an M.S.-only program). The thing is: I want to publish and make meaningful contributions in the field in time to get a respectable CV with which to apply to PhD programs. Ha ha....
  10. Dec 5, 2009 #9
    Thank you!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Dec 5, 2009 #10


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    Luckily? I wouldn't think so... if you wanted to do meaningful research, why didn't you go straight to a PhD program?

    Anyway, I know that as a bachelor's degree recipient, you don't need to have published papers to get accepted to a PhD program. It certainly helps, and it may be very difficult to get into a top research university's PhD program without having published something, but it's not an administrative requirement. I'm not sure if that would be different for an applicant with a master's degree. Perhaps you could ask some of the professors in your department whether they know the answer to that - i.e. if you apply to a PhD program as a master's degree recipient (which is effectively a transfer), would you be expected to have some publications to your credit? If you can't get that information at your own school, maybe figure out some possibilities for where you might want to get your PhD and ask a professor there.
  12. Dec 5, 2009 #11
    I thought one would need some qualifications in physics before applying to a PhD program that isn't in some remote Joe-Backwater place where they do hick-physics? I want to eat and have kids after I get my PhD...lol. That's why I'm in a terminal-MS program (they don't have a PhD program...only MS).

    Definitely not an administrative requirement, true 'dat. However, I'm told it's extremely helpful. Besides: I figure the actual experience, itself, of getting published (or at least trying to) will teach me to more effectively think of what really *is* a meaningful contribution. Right now, I'm getting paid to go to school, so the field is serving me. I want to start serving the field back. I'm actually eating and, as of a few minutes ago, able to purchase a laptop to replace the one that just conked out on me. All while doing stuff that I love. I feel so grateful to the field, that this just adds to the motivation to start serving the field in some capacity: namely, publishing (or experiencing "trying" to publish, anyway).
  13. Dec 5, 2009 #12
    You can alway upload it to the Los Alamos Preprint Server. If you are trying to publish something intended to improve physics education, there are lots of journals for that. The trouble is that they are looking for something *very* different.

    One why of thinking about publication is that it's part of a long conversation, and you have to have some idea what you are responding to.
  14. Dec 5, 2009 #13
    And one problem with making it an administrative or even informal requirement is that you end up having people publish things without having something interesting to say. One thing that you might try to do is to get it into some sort of conference proceeding. It's generally the case that someone incubates an idea for several months before it published.

    If you are looking at a teaching mechanism, you probably should talk to some physics teachers, to get some feedback. The point out which you should publish is if you can get things to the point where someone says "Hmmmm.... Interesting."

    The other thing about publishing is that most of the world in getting something published involves making sure that all of the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, and that takes a huge amount of time.
  15. Dec 5, 2009 #14
    No. Graduate school is where you *get* qualifications in physics. Also, one thing about physics is that a lot of good schools are in backwater places, since downtown Manhattan is a very bad place to put a nuclear reactor, particle accelerator, or large telescope.

    Not hard at all. Unless you want to be a research professor, but you really should give up all hope of that before you start your Ph.D.
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