Important Scientific Papers

For the discussion of the sciences. Physics problems, chemistry equations, biology weirdness, it all goes here.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

CalvinBall
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:34 am UTC

Important Scientific Papers

Postby CalvinBall » Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:07 pm UTC

Hey folks
My resolution for the school year was to read a physical science paper and a natural science paper a week.
I jumped into a nature subscription with both feet, but am now considering that I'd like to read more foundational works.

What would this forum consider to be, say, the 20 most important scientific papers published since, say, 1900.
I'm sure this has been considered earlier, but for the life of me I could not find it.

User avatar
yurell
Posts: 2924
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:19 am UTC
Location: Australia!

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby yurell » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:11 am UTC

Hmmm, I'd think Einstein's paper on special relativity would be one of the first papers I'd get anyone to read; it's wonderfully written and easy to understand while conveying all the necessary information and themes. I think this is the right link (it was published in 1905 and so is out of copyright).

I would also suggest the first laser by T. Maiman, although this is behind a paywall.
cemper93 wrote:Dude, I just presented an elaborate multiple fraction in Comic Sans. Who are you to question me?


Pronouns: Feminine pronouns please!

User avatar
Charlie!
Posts: 2035
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:20 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby Charlie! » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:26 am UTC

There are probably lists of important papers out there for specific fields.

Depending on how much quantum mechanics you know, the famous Quantum Teleportation paper is a good read, or you could go for the no-cloning theorem if you want something easier.
Some people tell me I laugh too much. To them I say, "ha ha ha!"

mercutio_stencil
Posts: 293
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:36 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby mercutio_stencil » Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:40 am UTC

The Watson and Crick double helix paper is a classic. The Sanger insulin thing is pretty famous as well.

If you want most influential and most cited, any paper outlining a now commonplace procedure, I think it might be the paper in which the Bradford Assay was described is one of the most cited papers of all time.

Or you can milk this paper for all it's worth
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Ad ... ne.0000005

qetzal
Posts: 862
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 12:54 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby qetzal » Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:27 pm UTC

There's the classic Luria & Delbruck paper that showed that mutations arise spontaneously, rather than as a direct adaptive response to selective pressure. Paper (pdf); [url=http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luria–Delbrück_experiment]Wiki description[/url].

There's also the Hershey & Chase paper that helped prove that DNA is the hereditary material, not protein. Paper (pdf); [url=http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hershey–Chase_experiment]Wiki page[/url].

PS mercutio_stencil: I don't recall hearing that about Bradford; instead, I heard that was true for Laemmli's paper on polyacrylamide gels for proteins.

PPS Not sure why the Wiki links aren't formatting!

tooyoo
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:39 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby tooyoo » Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:19 pm UTC

I think there's a very obvious answer to what the most important papers are - just look up the top cited work of nobel laureates. Yes, not everything that's good gets a Nobel Prize, and not everything that gets the prize is of equal standard, but it's probably the most objective criterium you can think of.

If you're interested in particle physics (possibly tricky to read), you'd want to look at:
Steven Weinberg, "A model of leptons"
Gerard 't Hooft, Martinus Veltman, "Regularization and Renormalization of Gauge Fields"

User avatar
Sizik
Posts: 1255
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 3:48 am UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby Sizik » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:50 am UTC

qetzal wrote:There's the classic Luria & Delbruck paper that showed that mutations arise spontaneously, rather than as a direct adaptive response to selective pressure. Paper (pdf); Wiki description.

There's also the Hershey & Chase paper that helped prove that DNA is the hereditary material, not protein. Paper (pdf); Wiki page.

PS mercutio_stencil: I don't recall hearing that about Bradford; instead, I heard that was true for Laemmli's paper on polyacrylamide gels for proteins.

PPS Not sure why the Wiki links aren't formatting!


The dashes (which aren't hyphens) and the 'ü' aren't ASCII, so they're not valid URL characters.
she/they
gmalivuk wrote:
King Author wrote:If space (rather, distance) is an illusion, it'd be possible for one meta-me to experience both body's sensory inputs.
Yes. And if wishes were horses, wishing wells would fill up very quickly with drowned horses.

TechnicalNaturalness
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:17 am UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby TechnicalNaturalness » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:58 am UTC

In my opinion this is not the best way to go about doing what you really would like to do, which is to get a more serious introduction into science.

(As an aside, the 20 most influential papers will highly depend on the field and interests of the person making the list, so I would say there is no such thing as the top 20 most influential papers.)

Now I don't know much about where you're coming from--what's your background, what are your interests, etc. So I am assuming you are high school or early college age and have a general interest in 'science' but haven't narrowed down to a specific field.

Papers are hard to read even when you are starting off grad school, they almost always require the reader to provide some of the context of the paper and to understand the overall logic that they , and certainly will not explain things from scratch. To really get all the information out of a paper takes a lot of work and thought. In my experience putting a strict deadline on how long it will take you to read the paper will end with you leaving it before you get much out of it. This can leave you discouraged and make it less likely you'll stick to your schedule.

It is also hard to 'learn things' with no specific goal in mind, especially without a specific field in mind. It is a sad fact, but you cannot be an expert in more than one subfield of science, and to really understand the interesting parts of field you have to commit to it and stick with it for a long time.

If you are interested in browsing different fields, I would recommend looking at textbooks for fields you're interested in and getting a sense for what the different fields are 'really' about. What topics do they expect freshmen to know? What problems are people worried about now? What were the major advances in the field? Many of these are probably not popularized heavily so you might not have heard of them even if they were actually extremely important. For example, in theoretical physics, in the 1970s Wilson developed a whole scheme for looking at renormalization that is really the way that modern physicists view this topic. It is enormously important, but few people have heard Wilson's name outside of theoretical physics. You obviously will be able to go into more depth with the intro topics than the research questions, but the idea of this would just be to get a sense of what different fields are about, so you would know 'what you would learn' if you were to pursue that field.

However I would recommend picking the field you are currently most interested in (even if the choice is somewhat arbitrary), and then rephrasing your question as 'what are good introductory materials to learn about X'.

For example, if you are interested in particle physics, and assuming you've had at least high school physics, there are several directions you could go. If you wanted a good grounding in the underlying physics and/or math that you will need to build on to understand more interesting stuff there are great books like Kleppner for mechanics or Purcell for E/M. There are also lecture notes by David Tong that look really good: a survey of modern physics at http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/tong/concepts.html and an intro to mechanics at http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/tong/relativity.html. You could look at http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~hooft101/theorist.html. If you want to dive into more advanced stuff that you can probably tackle early on you can certainly start to learn special relativity. Einstein's special relativity paper is actually pretty readable. The Feynman lectures on physics (which are also great) discuss special relativity as well. There's also a book by French from the 60s which is great, and the previously mentioned Tong notes have an intro to special relativity. In my opinion you also could learn some basic quantum mechanics, but I don't have any resources I can recommend for that. I certainly would not try to read anything about Quantum Field Theory, the Weinberg and 't Hooft paper cited above will be way over your head, which is fine--no matter what field there is a lot to learn about.

The short answer is that there is a ton of stuff to read, but it really really helps to have a specific field in mind. It also helps if you can connect with a teacher of some kind who you can ask questions to... If you're in high school you might be able to find teachers who know their stuff at a more-than-high-school level, but you might not. In college you might be able to find a professor willing to do some kind of independent study. Or you might be able to find people on a forum who are interested in the same things, my impression is that here there are a lot of physics / math / cs people, but fewer chemists and biologists (could be wrong though).

CalvinBall
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:34 am UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby CalvinBall » Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:43 am UTC

Thanks team, this was perfect. I did my schoolin' in biochem, so foundational papers in particle physics and molecular bio are afield enough to be very fascinating.
Has anyone read Hawking's anthology On The Shoulders Of Giants? It seems a little too cosmology focused for what I want in this project, but I loved his math one (God Invented the Integers) so maybe down the road.
Obviously, if anyone else can chime in a suggestion I'd be thrilled

tooyoo
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:39 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby tooyoo » Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:57 am UTC

CalvinBall wrote:Has anyone read Hawking's anthology On The Shoulders Of Giants?


No. I haven't. But continuing in the great tradition of blog posts that have not that much to do with the original question: If you're interested in Einstein, and prefer books over papers, Abraham Pais has a highly rated scientific biography of the man. In other words, some chapters detail scientific developments, while others focus on biographical aspects. I'm bringing this up 'cause it looks a bit similar to the giant shoulder thing.

Hit SHAZAM! to find it at amazon.

Edit: I forgot something important. What makes this nice is that Pais was a theoretical physicist himself, who actually met Einstein. So he is in the rare position of being able to comment on scientific aspects (such as whether Einstein could have been aware of Minkowski's work), while also having a knack of writing biographies - he wrote a few more, on Oppenheimer for example.

User avatar
jmorgan3
Posts: 710
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:22 am UTC
Location: Pasadena, CA

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby jmorgan3 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:40 am UTC

mercutio_stencil wrote:If you want most influential and most cited, any paper outlining a now commonplace procedure


Or, if you want a break from the heavy stuff, try a not-influential and too-much-cited paper outlining a procedure that's been around for hundreds if not thousands of years: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/conten ... 2.full.pdf
This signature is Y2K compliant.
Last updated 6/29/108

User avatar
elliptic
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:21 pm UTC
Location: UK

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby elliptic » Tue Aug 14, 2012 4:00 pm UTC

On a different note (and in the field of engineering rather than pure science) how about Claude Shannon's "Communication in the presence of noise", which underpins all modern digital communications technology (including of course the interwebz from which you'll be downloading it).

Aside from its significance it also happens to be a model of clear and systematic development, straightforward maths applied to some clever abstractions, generating very profound results.

Scow
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:46 am UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby Scow » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:23 pm UTC

I agree with other the other posters that this question depends on your field of interest. It should also be noted that some of the best science wasn't discovered "over night" and, therefore, publications span many years, journals, and articles. Understanding the beautiful nuance may require that you read tens or hundreds of articles on a given topic. TechnicalNaturalness seems right. If you don't have a good foundations in a given research problem, it can be difficult to glean much from any article. Still...I applaud your efforts!

Since I spend most of my time studying surface chemistry, this is my favorite:

Cassie, A. B. D.; Baxter, S. Wettability of Porous Surfaces, Trans. Farad. Soc. 1944, 40, 546-551.

This paper demonstrates that the water repellency of a ducks feathers is due to the feathers' structure more than the water proofing agent. It was cited at least 270 times this year alone. The Royal Society of Chemistry currently hold the copyright on this one. Depending on your resources, a good inter-library loan service might help you track it down. (That is what I had to do).

User avatar
The Geoff
Posts: 144
Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:22 am UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby The Geoff » Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

This is a fascinating one:

The Unreasonable Effectiveness Of Mathematics In The Physical Sciences (E. Wigner)
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html

More of a philosophy of science paper, but a classic that brings up all sorts of interesting questions, and nice plain language too.

johnny_7713
Posts: 555
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:31 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby johnny_7713 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:02 pm UTC

jmorgan3 wrote:
mercutio_stencil wrote:If you want most influential and most cited, any paper outlining a now commonplace procedure


Or, if you want a break from the heavy stuff, try a not-influential and too-much-cited paper outlining a procedure that's been around for hundreds if not thousands of years: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/conten ... 2.full.pdf


Was this paper meant to be satirical (in a 'your reviewers are so bad, I snuck this past them' kind of way), or did someone seriously get away with publishing a paper on how integration works and then naming it after herself?

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:38 pm UTC

Her reply to the comments on her article is here.

Why I call it Tai's model. I never thought of publishing the model as a great discovery or accomplishment; it was not published until 14 years later, in 1994.
Because of its accuracy and easy application, many colleagues at the Obesity Research Center of St Luke's-Roosevelt I lospital Center and Columbia University began using it and addressed it as "Tai's formula" to distinguish it from others.
Later, because the investigators were unable to cite an unpublished work, 1 submitted it for publication at their requests.
Therefore, my name was rubber-stamped on the model before its publication.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
Charlie!
Posts: 2035
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:20 pm UTC

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby Charlie! » Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:37 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:
Later, because the investigators were unable to cite an unpublished work, 1 submitted it for publication at their requests.


So basically, blame her friends too :P
Some people tell me I laugh too much. To them I say, "ha ha ha!"

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Important Scientific Papers

Postby bigglesworth » Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:38 pm UTC

Basically.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.


Return to “Science”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests