Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What does it take to become a top physicist?

Why do so many extremely talented young upstarts totally flop as they move to more advanced physics?

share|cite|improve this question

closed as not constructive by David Z Aug 6 '12 at 2:33

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  1. How to become a good theoretical physicist by Gerard 't Hooft (Nobel Laureate)
  2. Hang out here :-)
  3. Always remember the reason why are you doing physics. Here is my reason (and it also happens to be Richard Feynman's too :)

    Physics is like sex. It may produce some practical results. But that is not why we do it.

    Becoming the greatest physicist of all the times (yeah... just like dear old Albert) is ambition. Finding out new physics and solving unsolved problems is challenge. But the point is doing physics. Nothing else matters.

  4. Reason for despair of most of the people (including of course me) is that we think is that all the good ideas are already taken.

    a. When Max Plank went to a professor and said that he wanted to do physics. The professor said physics is finished, there is nothing more to do.

    b. After electron was discovered Max Born said physics as we know it will be finished within a week.

    c. Aristotle had invented theories for every other thing. But.. you know what happened when Galileo, Newton turned up.

  5. To be a top physicist you MUST read hell lot of science fiction along with the serious books.

  6. And finally, a must watch video for despaired souls ;-)

  7. Don't take it very seriously. Don't take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway :)

share|cite|improve this answer
The claim that "you MUST read hell lot of science fiction" is completely unsubstantiated and basically absurd. – Mark Eichenlaub Feb 19 '11 at 21:36
Imagination is very important. I think science fictions help you build it. – Pratik Deoghare Feb 19 '11 at 21:40
@TheMachine I think watching Sesame Street builds imagination. Look, your post claims that it is necessary to read science fiction. Unless you have evidence that all top physicists read science fiction, then your post is completely misinformed. If reading science fiction builds imagination, wouldn't writing it be much better? We should amend to say that to be a top physicist you must write science fiction in addition to research papers. What if you just don't like science fiction? You seriously contend you should spend your time doing something you don't like rather than doing physics? – Mark Eichenlaub Feb 19 '11 at 21:51
It is just a suggestion, a personal opinion, a strong recommendation. By "MUST" I don't mean it is a necessary condition and you can't become a good physicist if you don't read sci-fi. I just mean it is a very good idea to do so. I think, you are taking "MUST" word mathematically :-) – Pratik Deoghare Feb 19 '11 at 21:58
In bold, "you MUST read hell lot of science fiction" had me laughing :) I tend to find that most scientists have no interest in fantasy at all. – John McVirgo Feb 19 '11 at 23:38

What is a top physicist? Can you name a few? If you do, you will see they have little in common except 100% devotion. So that is necessary, but there are no sufficient criteria.

share|cite|improve this answer

Do not Despair :) .

What does it take to become a top physicist?

To start with one has to be a physicist. A physicist is one who studies physics because of a burning curiosity about how the material world works and tries to satisfy it by going to graduate school and accumulating knowledge .

Now a "middle of the drawer" physicist has in addition to be either very good in math if aiming in theory, or be very good in experiments if aiming to be an experimentalist, and be able to use the accumulated knowledge in research at the frontier of the unknown.

Top physicist is a bit of luck and a bit of attention and dedication to science politics and university politics etc.

Why do so many extremely talented young upstarts totally flop as they move to more advanced physics?

Define "extremely talented" . If they burn to learn physics and they are good in maths why would they flop? Unless it is the "soft generation syndrome": lack of direction and persistence, giving up at the first hurdle.

share|cite|improve this answer
Very good answer! Some of the requirements for success in a physics career are not tested very well during school or university. One is simply drive and persistence. Some people are very talented at solving problems and doing course work, and so shine at the early stages of training, but then don't have the right personality type to persevere through the next stages of a career, which require persistence, patience, and resilience in dealing with inevitable setbacks. – Ted Bunn Feb 19 '11 at 20:29
nice answer, sounds as if you speak from experience. – John McVirgo Feb 19 '11 at 23:25

A great brain and hard work are required to be a top physicist. To be an average or below physicist is possible through a deficiency in one and a surplus in the other (I would consider myself to be moderate intelligence but a very hard worker which makes up for it to some degree). As you can see, one of these traits is naturally obtained and the other can be acquired.

There is the common perception amongst non-physicist laymen that all physicists are pretty much equally intelligent. Nothing could be further from the truth. We live on the upper end of the bell curve which is hardly constant.

share|cite|improve this answer

it is pretty hard :D i tried for myself but failed , you will need

  • Good qualifications to enrole into a Ph D. program to learn more

  • An University affiliation to get your articles published with other scientist

  • A good imagination

  • the Help of other more intelligent teachers ...

good luck

share|cite|improve this answer