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Showing posts with label Up. Show all posts

How to become a physicist like Isaac Newton?

how to become physicist like isaac newton

Did you know that Isaac Newton's mother wanted him to become a farmer? He was 16 at the time and busied himself by building model windmills and sundials to take his mind off farming, an occupation he hated.

Was Newton a child prodigy? Well, his teachers did think so and he invented calculus by the age of 22, so the answer to that question might be yes. However, one can imbibe Newton's three qualities as a teenager to become a physicist like him...


Newton was way more inquisitive than his schoolmates. He always wanted to get to the bottom of things and never gave up before quenching his curiosity. This would sometimes cause him to end up alone though.

It was one summer afternoon that he was resting in the shade of an apple tree in their farm. It is said that a fall of an apple encouraged Newton to investigate the force of gravity. Was this the first time that things fell to the ground?

No. Millions saw the apple fall before Newton, but nobody ever bothered to ask why it did. This questioning attitude is the hallmark of a physicist or any scientist for that matter.
There might not be immediate answers to most your questions. However, when all other people give up chasing them the scientist continues to dig deeper – it's a game after all. As Feynman said: There is a pleasure in finding things out.


How to feed curiosity? By experimenting. Experiments come in two kinds: theoretical or practical. And Newton was well versed in both. That is why, he not only invented something as complicated as calculus but also Newton's disc, as shown below:

how to become physicist like isaac newton disc

Once again the idea was inspired by nature itself. Newton was mesmerized whenever he saw the rainbow over his house in Woolsthorpe. This led him to questions about the behavior of light which he investigated with glass objects.

After completing experiments, Newton illustrated his findings with a color circle, popularly known as Newton's disc, in 1704. He divided the circle into component colors and it would appear white when spun really fast.


Newton was a keen observer of things so he carried around pocket notebooks to record any interesting activities of the day. After he obtained his BA degree in 1665 the university shut operations due to the ongoing plague.

He returned to his village and revisited the notes from his university days. It was there and then in Woolsthorpe that private studies of his notes would lead him to discover the binomial theorem which in turn gave rise to calculus later.

Newton also had recorded life and work of notable previous philosophers such as Descartes, Kepler and Galileo. Hence, his most famous saying: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Newton took great pleasure in writing or drawing things down. Taking notes would ensure that he wouldn't miss any good ideas. For example, the following is an original drawing of Newton's reflecting telescope:

how to become physicist like isaac newton

Newton would spend most of his time alone, thinking. He would completely engulf himself in the process of ideation. Much of the human civilization today is built upon Newton's ideas and drawings. We enjoy our lives at his expense.

Summing up

Sure one has to go through college and rigorous training in order to become a professional physicist. But we can learn from Newton that ideas are lying around everywhere, waiting to be noted down and drawn.

He famously said: To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me. So, let's mimic Newton's infinite curiosity, adopt his approach and do experiment in the backyard. For who knows what is possible?

7 Lessons To Learn From Richard Feynman

7 life lessons richard feynman motivational

Richard Feynman (1918–1988) was a Nobel Prize winning American physicist whose life was a combination of his intellect, uncertainty and a childlike curiosity.

Although he was a late talker and did not speak until after his third birthday, we know Feynman best as the chatty one.

His life is a story of constant growth: First, as a student, then as an eminent physicist and ultimately as a beloved teacher. Following are seven motivating lessons from Feynman's life.

1. Pursue a hobby

Feynman has said: "Fall in love with some activity and do it. Because, nobody ever figures out what life is all about and it doesn't matter." Feynman used to draw on canvas in spare time. He also learned Portuguese just so he could impress his colleagues in Brazil.

2. Explore the world

Everyone wants to win but no one wants to play the game. That's what Feynman meant when he said: "Everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough." Try new things and work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best.

3. Carve your own path

The essence of Feynman's autobiography is: "Don't think about what you want to be, but what you want to do." Don't care about what others think. However, keep up some kind of a minimum, such as a degree, so that society doesn't stop you from doing anything at all.

4. Keep learning

Feynman has said: "It is important to admit when you do not know." There is no shame in not knowing. The only shame is when you pretend that you know everything. So, read as many books as you can. Be as practical as you need to be.

5. You only live once

Feynman was the first to profess this popular life mantra when he said: "Of course, you only live one life. So, make all your mistakes now, and learn what not to do." Thus, life is a process of constantly growing up.

6. Blind belief is dangerous

Feynman mentions in his autobiography: "Have no respect whatsoever for authority; forget who said it and instead ask yourself, Is it reasonable?" In other words, do not blindly believe anyone and make up your own mind about the world.

7. Enjoy the process

Feynman did not become a scientist for honors or recognition. He said: "My interest in science is to simply find out more about the world." So, no matter what you choose to become in life, do it because you love it deeply.

Biography of Madame Curie

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

A leading figure in the history of sciences, Marie Curie was prohibited from higher education in her native Poland. Many years later, she became the first woman Nobel laureate. She remains the only person to win the most coveted prize in two different sciences. This is her story.


Maria was born in 1867 in Warsaw (Poland) which was then part of the Russian Empire. She was the fifth and youngest child of well-known science professor Władysław Skłodowski. Her mother, Marianna Bronisława operated a reputed boarding school for girls in the big bustling city.

When Maria was seven years old, her eldest sibling died of typhoid and then three years later her mother lost the battle to tuberculosis. At the same time, Władysław was fired from his job due to pro-Polish sentiments and the family eventually lost all the savings.

In the middle of crisis, Władysław decided to join a low-paying teaching job. The Russian authorities at the school banned the usage of laboratory equipment so he brought it home and instructed his children in its use. In this way, Maria was taught to experiment at an early age.


For some years, Maria was home-schooled. But her father recognized her talent for scientific thinking and learning. Therefore, despite economic troubles, she was admitted to a prestigious learning centre for girls. Maria graduated with a gold medal in 1883 aged sixteen.

She was unable to join any regular institution of higher education because she was a woman. Her father then suggested to join the "secret flying university" a Polish patriotic institution (often in conflict with the governing Russian Empire) which welcomed women students.

During this time, she fell in love with a young man (who'd later go on to become a prominent Polish mathematician), Kazimierz Żorawski, his name. The two discussed marriage, but Żorawski’s parents rejected Marie due to her family's poverty and Kazimierz was unable to oppose them.

Higher education

Maria returned home to her father in Warsaw. The loss of relationship with Żorawski was heartbreaking for her and Władysław was devastated seeing his daughter in pain. Three years later, in 1890, he was able to secure a more lucrative position again and arranged for Maria to reach Paris.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie
Maria and her father

Maria proceeded her studies of physics and chemistry in the University of Paris where she would be known as Marie. She focused so hard on her studies that she sometimes forgot to eat. In 1893, Marie Skłodowska was awarded a degree in physics at age 26.

In 1894, she began her research career with an investigation of the magnetic properties of various steels. That same year French physicist Pierre Curie entered her life; and it was their mutual interest in natural sciences that drew them together.


Eventually they began to develop feelings for one another and Pierre proposed marriage. Marie returned to Warsaw and told her father that in Pierre, she had found a new love, a partner, and a scientific collaborator on whom she could depend. Władysław agreed.

But she was still living under the illusion that she would be able to work in her chosen field in Poland. Pierre declared that he was ready to move with her to Poland, even if it meant being reduced to teaching French.

Things hadn't changed though as she was denied again because of her gender. A letter from Pierre convinced her to return to Paris and work with him in his small laboratory. In 1895, they were married and for their honeymoon, took a bicycle tour around the French countryside.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

The Curies also got going with their research work in a converted shed (formerly a medical school dissecting room) which was poorly ventilated and not even waterproof. But they were very dedicated scientists and hardly discouraged by such problems.


In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts spontaneously emitted a penetrating radiation that could be registered on a photographic plate. Marie was intrigued by this new phenomenon (she coined the term radioactivity) and decided to look into it.

She hypothesized that the radiation was not the outcome of some interaction of molecules but must come from the atom itself. She began studying two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite, and discovered that both pitchblende and torbenite were far more active than uranium itself.

Marie concluded that the two minerals must contain small quantities of radioactive substances other than uranium. In 1898, the couple announced their discovery of Polonium and Radium, elements previously unknown, which were far more active than uranium.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

Four years later in 1902, the husband and wife team was able to separate 0.1 gram of radium chloride from a ton of pitchblende, a remarkable achievement, for which the duo shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Henri Becquerel.

The award money allowed the Curies to hire their first laboratory assistant. However, the Curies still did not have a proper laboratory. Upon Pierre Curie's complaint, the University of Paris relented and agreed to create a new laboratory, but it would not be ready until 1906.

In 1906, walking across a street of Paris in heavy rain, Pierre was struck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under its wheels, causing his skull to fracture. Marie, by then a mother to two beautiful daughters, Irène and Ève, was traumatized by her husband's death.

She continued to work in the new laboratory hoping to reach greater heights in physics and chemistry as a tribute to her husband Pierre. In 1910, she isolated the pure radium metal; and also defined a new unit  of radioactivity called "curie" in the memory of her late husband.

Affair & death

In 1911, Marie was on the front pages of local tabloids as a "foreign home-wrecker" after having an affair with French physicist Paul Langevin, a married man who was estranged from his wife. The news was exploited by her academic opponents, one declaring her "a detestable idiot."

There's no denying that the affair was painful for Langevin’s family, particularly for his wife, Jeanne, but at the time when the news broke out, Marie was giving a lecture in Brussels. And when she returned to Paris, she found an angry crowd outside of her house and had to seek refuge, with her little daughters.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences honored her a second time despite the Langevin Scandal. She was awarded the Prize in Chemistry for isolating radium hence becoming the only person to win Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

A month after accepting her 1911 Nobel Prize, she was hospitalized with depression and a kidney ailment. During her time at the hospital, she received a letter from Einstein, essentially saying, "please ignore the haters." Marie returned to her laboratory after a gap of about 14 months.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

From then onwards, it became very difficult to focus on the sciences and even more so during the World War I. Also perhaps because Marie could not forgive herself after the incident. The war ended, and she was invited to Warsaw in a ceremony, laying the foundations of the Radium Institute.

Curie visited Poland for the last time in early 1934 (before the second world war) where she died of aplastic anemia, a condition due to long exposure to radiation. Her final resting place was decided Paris Panthéon alongside her husband Pierre. In 1935, a life-size statue of Maria Skłodowska Curie was established in a Warsaw park facing the Radium Institute.


She used to wear the same dress to laboratory every day, "If you are going to be kind enough to give me one," she instructed regarding a proposed gift for her wedding, "please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory."

She refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do their research unhindered. Scientific endeavors were more dear to her than monetary benefits. In fact, she even gave much of her Nobel Prize money to friends, family, students, and research associates.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

The curies were not religious and Marie was agnostic by choice. Neither wanted a religious service for their marriage ceremony. She wore a dark blue outfit, instead of a bridal gown, which would be worn by her in the lab for years to come. One of the guests quipped, "Skłodowska is Pierre's biggest discovery."

Today, the radium is used to produce radon, a radioactive gas which is used to treat some types of cancer. At the time of their discovery, a new industry began developing, based on radium (as in self-luminous paints for watches), but the Curies did not patent their discovery and benefited little from this increasingly profitable business.

Marie had the strong conviction that her work would provide important benefits for the rest of humanity, "I am one of those who think that the world will draw more good than evil from new discoveries," her passion for science was aroused in her early years, and remained intact until her last breath.

In her final years, she advocated bravely for invoking a scientific approach in the people, "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less," she would say.

10 Recommended Books For Physics Students

best physics book beginner 10 recommended physics books india

The following is a complete (all-you-need) list of books that every physics student has to have in their library at home. From popular science best-sellers, to comprehensive guides and textbooks, this has it all. Want to study physics? Then read these books!

A brief history of time

Hawking wrote the book for non-specialist readers with no prior knowledge of physics and astronomy. He clearly possessed a natural teacher's gifts: easy good-natured humour and ability to illustrate the complexities of the subject through well thought out analogies.

The book has sold more than 10 million copies in 20 years, and was translated into more than 30 languages by 2001. You may like to know: what makes it everyone's favorite? There are many, many things, including:

  • A concise introduction by renowned astronomer, Carl Sagan, who declares Hawking a worthy successor of Newton and Dirac
  • A whole range of topics (from the big bang to black holes) makes it the single best book on astrophysics for the common reader
    10 recommended physics books india
  • Illustrations by award-winning artist, Ron Miller, add to the beauty and mystery of science
  • Mix of history and philosophy of physics and narration by Stephen Hawking

All in all, the book is a masterpiece, suggested to anyone who's driven by their curiosity. It infuses our thinking and questioning with a spiritual aspect: was there a beginning of time? why there's something rather than nothing? is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? and, is there a god required to create it?

Feynman lectures Vol.1

Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman, has often been called "the great explainer", particularly because of this book, which is held in high regard, especially by teachers, and even by leading physicists of the current times.

There are 52 chapters in the first Feynman book alone, and each topic has been presented with unwavering enthusiasm and insight. The book is based on a series of lectures delivered by Feynman (on the request of California Institute of Technology) to undergraduate students. Even professors attended the lectures!

The Feynman lectures on physics are beautiful books, which will teach you a considerable amount of the long-view of physics. They will also inspire you and have you feeling as though you really understand physics for the first time in your life. Mainly mechanics, radiation and heat is recommended for the start.

Mathematical Methods

What is physics without maths? Plain observation, to be honest! Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to get yourself familiar with mathematical methods in order for you to translate the physical reality into concrete concepts and language. There are hundreds of books available but none of them as good as this one:

What makes it stand out from the crowd? As you can tell from the image, it is a thick textbook (1362 pages) of math, containing 31 chapters: from preliminary algebra, to beginner and advanced-level calculus, from complex numbers to quantum operators. In short, whatever's required to do physics and engineering, the book has it!

Quantum mechanics

This book written by renowned American physicist and professor Leonard Susskind is an excellent introduction to quantum mechanics from the ground level (pun intended). It contains in-depth physics as well as minimum mathematical tools required to tackle the most bizarre field of science.

One may also consider the book by David Griffiths which is more mathematically inclined than Susskind's book. The book is full of illustrative examples and numerical exercises at the end of each chapter. For fun and non-serious reading, buy Graphic guide to Quantum mechanics.

For the love of physics

In this book, Professor Walter Lewin will introduce a mystery and then show how you can understand it with just a little bit of physics. 'The' Bill Gates himself has endorsed the book by saying, "The book captures Lewin's extraordinary intellect, passion for physics, and brilliance as a teacher."

According to Walter Lewin, "Teachers who make physics boring are criminals.. and if you hate physics, you have probably learned it from the wrong teacher." Because, he says, "Physics is naturally interesting!"

For more than 40 years, Professor Lewin has honed his singular craft of making physics not only accessible but truly fun.This book has his stories, his research in physics, tips on teaching, and serves as an all-round motivation for students, to love and enjoy physics of everyday life.

10 recommended physics books india

When you finish reading the book, you will feel blessed, reminded of the tiny miracles of physics, happening all the time, around you. According to one review on Amazon, "If you like physics, this book's for you. If you hate physics, this book's for you. Lewin is phenomenal!"


Published by Einstein himself with the aim of giving an exact insight into the theory of relativity to those readers who, from a general scientific and philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical toolkit of theoretical physics.

Both special and general versions of the theory have been included in the book. Einstein has succeeded in putting across the fundamentals of his theory for undergraduate students before they can decide to go deep in the field.

Handbook of formulas

If you want to keep important notes, key terms, definitions and formulae of physics by your side, then this book is made for you. It is about 450 pages thick and recommended for revision purposes in all exams, especially for classes 11 and 12.

The chapters have been illustrated with well-designed diagrams and illustrations with examples. The book is a handy book, which can be used as ready reference. On the whole, the data is precise and presented in a form that can help students in the long run.


The word "cosmos" has ancient origin but popularized first by American astronomer Carl Sagan in the twentieth century. In this book, he has told the story of fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution, science and civilization, in the most comprehensible and exciting way.

This book has 13 chapters on a range of topics: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and philosophy. In one sentence, "it is amalgamation of the sciences" in one book, a complete text that every mind passionate about learning must own.

In fact, the book also became an inspiration for the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, who went on to become an astrophysicist himself! He followed further in the footsteps of his hero and created a TV show of the same name, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

Written some 38 years ago, the book single-handedly managed to draw the attention of people towards the wonders of science; for the first time in history, science no more seemed alien and became a thing of familiarity. Cosmos is relevant even today, for the data, the thought processes, the inferences remain all the same.

Halliday Resnick Walker

This well-known textbook is often called the bible for physics. It is recommended for high school students to prepare for competitive examinations like IIT-JEE. In 2002, the American Physical Society named it the most outstanding introductory physics text of the 20th century.

The textbook covers all the fundamental topics in physics:

  • Mechanics
  • Waves
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Optics
  • Special Relativity
  • Quantum theory
  • Nuclear physics
  • Cosmology

It is as good as its Indian equivalent Concepts of Physics by H.C. Verma. The book by Professor Verma is divided over two parts but this book is 1300 pages, all-in-one, making it the first choice of many aspirants.

Autobiography of Feynman

Richard Feynman was an artist, a story-teller and an everyday joker whose life was a combination of his intelligence, curiosity and uncertainty. This book is his autobiography written with his friend Ralph Leighton.

According to one review, "It is a good funny read for everyone who loves physics and common sense. Easy and engaging language which takes you back in those days when Feynman stood tall among all giants of physics like Bohr, Bethe, Oppenheimer etc."

Why is this book included in the list? Firstly, because it is entertainment coming from a Nobel Prize winning scientist! Of course when you're tired of struggling with maths and physics, you want to have some fun, and if reading happens to be your hobby, this book has numerous hilarious anecdotes from Feynman's personal life.

Second, this book also is motivational in nature. Feynman has continuously reminded his readers that even the idiotic, ordinary or average folk, can go on to achieve great things in life. He has then given valuable tips on how to learn and how to teach physics. So overall, this book is a good read for any physics student.
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