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Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper?

  1. Aug 12, 2008 #1
    Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    I am a computer Science student, but love theo. phy. till the core of my heart
    Will I be able to publish papers without any physics degree, and just by studying at home???
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2008 #2
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    It is possible, of course, but there is very little benefit to it. Your papers are very unlikely to be selected for any journal with a hint of impact, and it's nearly impossible to truly know what's going on theoretical physics from the literature alone. With no degree and no university affiliation, you can study all you want, but you may as well be like digging a trench with a teaspoon.
     
  4. Aug 12, 2008 #3
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    Why is that so??? If I read journals, won't that'll be enough
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
  5. Aug 12, 2008 #4

    Defennder

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    If you can understand the journals well without the benefit of a physics undergrad curriculum, I don't see why not. But I highly doubt so. I think there was a case in 2003 of a totally unknown individual who worked as an insurance agent but never majored or minored in physics who published a paper and became famous for it. However, some people accused him of being a crank. I can't remember his name.
     
  6. Aug 12, 2008 #5
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    I couldn't understand a word of journals until my 3rd year of a UK physics degree (I believe equivalent to 4th year US university). Now (new PhD student) I can only understand journals related to an area I've studied in some depth. Theoretical physics is not one of my main areas and therefore it's still totally unfathomable in most cases.

    If you can get hold of books which are equivalent to an entire physics degree and teach it to yourself, after a few years you may be able to read those journals. Since most of my courses were covered in books I can see it would be theoretically (excuse the pun) possible if you were exceptionaly clever and motivated, but the workload would have be equivalent to actually doing a degree.
     
  7. Aug 12, 2008 #6
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    I think you might be referring to Garrett Lisi, who was featured in an article in The New Yorker. But even he is not the exception to the rule--shortly after receiving a Ph.D. in physics from UCSD, he dropped out of academia for a few years before reemerging in 2002 by publishing a preprint on arXiv.

    The closest possible exceptions that you'll find are physicists with undergrad degrees in other fields. Examples include Ed Witten (B.A. in history from Brandeis) and Anthony Leggett (B.A. in literae humaniores [classics] from Oxford), but even they needed graduate study in physics before becoming practicing physicists.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2008 #7

    eri

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    Not having a degree does not stop you from submitting your work to a journal, nor does it stop them from publishing it if they so choose. However, getting your first paper published as a single author in theoretical physics without significant background is really not going to happen. I suggest you read a few recent articles here http://www.arxiv.org to see what we're talking about. You really need to start from the beginning with intro physics and work your way up from there to theoretical. While you can do this on your own, it's still going to take years to accomplish. And it can be frustrating, because the intro stuff isn't nearly as interesting as GR or string theory - but without the intro, you'll be missing much more than you realize.

    In addition, having an adviser to help you through the learning process, to introduce you to the important work in the field, to make sure you're on track, not repeating stuff already done, and doing something useful, as well as helping you to publish, can not be overrated. An adviser is essential to the process.

    In short, it's possible but extremely unlikely. If you're still in school, why don't you take some physics classes to get you started, and decide if you want to go from there - you can always apply to a graduate program in physics down the road.
     
  9. Aug 13, 2008 #8
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    Didn't a similar thing happen back in 1905? Some guy who was working as a patent clerk or something.... Al, I think.... o:)
     
  10. Aug 13, 2008 #9
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    Mr. Stein of the Ein variet had been collaborating with others during that time if I'm not mistaken.

    And let's face it, physics was just easier in 1905.
     
  11. Aug 13, 2008 #10

    ZapperZ

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    People shouldn't be comparing what happened early in the 1900 (or even earlier) with the reality of how science is practiced today. If one is attempting to publish a paper in respected journals, one needs to learn what is required and what is the process involved, regardless of one's background.

    Zz.
     
  12. Aug 13, 2008 #11
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    hopefully "science" is still practiced the same way now as in 1905.
     
  13. Aug 13, 2008 #12

    ZapperZ

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    It is not identical.

    Besides the obvious difference that there are a LOT more science/physics journals of various levels (thus, facilitating what Dan Koshland has claimed as "... the final safeguard against too much conservatism and is the ultimate reason that science is more receptive to non-conformity than any other segment of our society... " (Nature, v.432, p.447 (2004)), the formality of peer-review publications are also clearer and more well-established than it was back then. Nowadays, a chief editor of a science journal does not wield as much of a power over the subject matter being submitted for publication when compared to back then.

    In fact, Einstein himself had to learn how to handle such a peer-review process from the barely 30-year old Physical Review journal. Read about his battle with the Physical Review.

    Zz.
     
  14. Aug 13, 2008 #13
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    i was just seperating "science" as a profession and "science" as in the
    scientific method.
     
  15. Aug 13, 2008 #14

    nrqed

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    It depends if you have in mind something like American Journal of Physics, which is not devoted to new research but to pedagogical presentations of known physics (by the way, if you don't know it, you should really really try to look at this journal, it is excellent to learn physics!) or if you are talking about cutting edge physics papers little the ones published in Physical Review.

    In the second case, it is almost impossible, in my opinion, to get to that level just by oneself, in isolation. One needs to interact with other physicists in order to understand current research and to generate new ideas. Take my example. I have a PhD and a postdoc in theoretical physics. After years of teaching I am now trying to get back in research in something a bit different than the topic of my PhD. I printed about 30 papers in this topic and am going through every line, deriving everything. Even with my background, I got stuck on a few things and I had to contact researchers in the field to ask questions (some conceptual, some mathematical) until I resolved my difficulties (very very often it was that there were typos or plain mistakes in many papers..and that is a killer when you are working by yourself because if the mistake is in the paper, no matter how many times you check your work you will never find any mistake because you did it correctly!)

    SO if you want to do current reserach, I think that the minimum you will have to do will be to get in spend time in a physics department, attend talks, talk with the grad students, postdocs, profs and try to start by collaborating. Doing everything in isolation is really really really difficult!
     
  16. Aug 13, 2008 #15
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    My uncle always says "The science of today is better than the science of yesterday and inferior to the science of tomorrow. Science by its nature only improves in knowledge, grows in depth, understanding and accuracy by time". He's in the nanotechnology research field.

    Most of the major respected and stringently peer reviewed journals, especially those by AAAS and NAS will no way accept a paper from such individuals unless they meet very strong criteria (like Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Royal Society Publishing, Nature...). There are many journals around just for cranks and armchair wikipedia graduates to publish their works to boast validity for what they claim, though. But if online self-study from 4th grade upwards was enough to make you even slightly an expert, then schools would've long disappeared and we wouldn't have produced so many online, confused, delusional, pseudo-scientist cranks that we constantly battle around. :tongue:

    In the vast majority of cases, unless you have solid verified and trusted foundations in the knowledge field, you will only end up being confused and going astray in the understanding, implications and applications, which is extremely difficult to realize and reverse once affected. That is, unless you speak to mainstream knowledgeable scientists discussing your ideas and works regularly as daily critique, learning and correction.
     
  17. Aug 13, 2008 #16
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    Well...if you want to do so, go ahead and do so. Its possible and its not as though you absolutely need a degree. Professions are just labels society places on people (although things may be a bit easier if its your profession...you'll have better access to information). However, if you come up with something, you'll need to make sure of it: you'll need to spend time collaborating with others (talking/discussing) and understand the scope of what you have as best as possible.
     
  18. Aug 13, 2008 #17
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    I think its more a matter of economics. How will you find time to study and do research while simultaneously working a full time job in another field?
     
  19. Aug 13, 2008 #18
    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    It's too bad the patent office gig is so much more intensive these days.
     
  20. Aug 13, 2008 #19

    eri

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    And even if you do get a paper accepted, many journals have page charges. My undergrads thought you got paid to publish in journals - they were shocked to find out my last paper cost me $2500 (well, my adviser's grant).
     
  21. Aug 13, 2008 #20

    russ_watters

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    Re: Will I require any physics degree to publish a paper???

    Only sorta similar - Einstein didn't drop out of academia, he was working at the patent office (he wasn't a clerk, he was a technical adviser) because he couldn't get a teaching job (needless to say, he eventually found one). He was a phd at the time.
     
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