How to become a GOOD Theoretical Physicist

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This is a web site (under construction) for young students - and anyone else - who are (like me) thrilled by the challenges posed by real science, and who are - like me - determined to use their brains to discover new things about the physical world that we are living in. In short, it is for all those who decided to study theoretical physics, in their own time.

It so often happens that I receive mail - well-intended but totally useless - by amateur physicists who believe to have solved the world. They believe this, only because they understand totally nothing about the real way problems are solved in Modern Physics. If you really want to contribute to our theoretical understanding of physical laws - and it is an exciting experience if you succeed! - there are many things you need to know. First of all, be serious about it. All necessary science courses are taught at Universities, so, naturally, the first thing you should do is have yourself admitted at a University and absorb everything you can. But what if you are still young, at School, and before being admitted at a University, you have to endure the childish anecdotes that they call science there? What if you are older, and you are not at all looking forward to join those noisy crowds of young students?

It should be possible, these days, to collect all knowledge you need from the internet. Problem then is, there is so much junk on the internet. Is it possible to weed out those very rare pages that may really be of use? I know exactly what should be taught to the beginning student. The names and topics of the absolutely necessary lecture courses are easy to list, and this is what I have done below. It is my intention to search on the web where the really useful papers and books are, preferably downloadable as well. This way, the costs of becoming a theoretical physicist should not exceed much the price of a computer with internet connection, a printer, and lots of paper and pens. Unfortunately, I still have to recommend to buy text books as well, but it is harder to advise you here; perhaps in a future site. Let’s first limit ourselves to the absolute minimum. The subjects listed below must be studied. Any omission will be punished: failure. Do get me right: you don’t have to believe anything you read on faith - check it. Try alternative approaches, as many as you can. You will discover, time and again, that really what those guys did indeed was the smartest thing possible. Amazing. the best of the texts come with exercises. Do them. find out that you can understand everything. Try to reach the stage that you discover the numerous misprints, tiny mistakes as well as more important errors, and imagine how you would write those texts in a smarter way.

I can tell you of my own experiences. I had the extreme luck of having excellent teachers around me. That helps one from running astray. It helped me all the way to earn a Nobel Prize. But I didn’t have internet. I am going to try to be your teacher. It is a formidable task. I am asking students, colleagues, teachers to help me improve this site. It is presently set up only for those who wish to become theoretical physicists, not just ordinary ones, but the very best, those who are fully determined to earn their own Nobel Prize. If you are more modest than that, well, finish those lousy schools first and follow the regular routes provided by educators and specialized -gogues who are so damn carefully chewing all those tiny portions before feeding them to you. This is a site for ambitious people. I am sure that anyone can do this, if one is gifted with a certain amount of intelligence, interest and determination. Now, here begins the serious stuff. Don’t complain that it looks like being a lot. You won’t get your Nobel Prize for free, and remember, all of this together takes our students at least 5 years of intense study (at least one reader was surprised at this statement, saying that (s)he would never master this in 5 years; indeed, I am addressing people who plan to spend most of their time to this study). More than rudimentary intelligence is assumed to be present, because ordinary students can master this material only when assisted by patient teachers. It is necessary to do exercises. Some of the texts come with exercises. Do them, or better, invent your own exercises. Try to outsmart the authors, but please refrain from mailing to me your alternative theories until you have studied the entire lot; if you do this well you will discover that many of these authors were not so stupid after all.

Theoretical Physics is like a sky scraper. It has solid foundations in elementary mathematics and notions of classical (pre-20th century) physics. Don’t think that pre-20th century physics is “irrelevant” since now we have so much more. In those days, the solid foundations were laid of the knowledge that we enjoy now. Don’t try to construct your sky scraper without first reconstructing these foundations yourself. The first few floors of our skyscraper consist of advanced mathematical formalisms that turn the Classical Physics theories into beauties of their own. They are needed if you want to go higher than that. So, next come many of the other subjects listed below. Finally, if you are mad enough that you want to solve those tremendously perplexing problems of reconciling gravitational physics with the quantum world, you end up studying general relativity, superstring theory, M-theory, Calabi-Yau compactification and so on. That’s presently the top of the sky scraper. There are other peaks such as Bose-Einstein condensation, fractional Hall effect, and more. Also good for Nobel Prizes, as the past years have shown. A warning is called for: even if you are extremely smart, you are still likely to get stuck somewhere. Surf the net yourself. Find more. Tell me about what you found. If this site has been of any help to someone while preparing for a University study, if this has motivated someone, helped someone along the way, and smoothened his or her path towards science, then I call this site successful. Please let me know. Here is the list.

Note that this site NOT meant to be very pedagogical. I avoid texts with lots of colorful but distracting pictures from authors who try hard to be funny. Also, the subjects included are somewhat focused towards my own interests.

LIST OF SUBJECTS, IN LOGICAL ORDER ARE ON THE SIDE. (Not everything has to be done in this order, but this approximately indicates the logical coherence of the various subjects. Some notes are at a higher level than others).