[Physics FAQ] -
Last updated by DK 2017.
Original by Philip Gibbs June 1996.
Useful Physics Resources on the Web
The world wide web is a rich source of information about physics. The Physics FAQ is not the place to put
together a complete list of them so I will concentrate on databases that are packed with useful content such as
physics news. (Editor's note: many of the original links that this page referred to no longer exist, but I have
updated the ones that are there.)
- American Institute of Physics
- The AIP publishes and archives a number of informative newsletters. This is a good place to look for
brief reports on recent discoveries.
- High-Energy Physics Literature Database
- This is a good site to search for the latest in literature on high-energy physics, as well as more general
- The American Physical Society
- They publish some of the most important Physics Journals such as Physical Review. On-line
access to those is restricted but the News Room is a
- The Institute of Physics
- Another journal publisher with a News section.
- Particle Data Group
- This is where you will find the Review of Particle Physics containing values for all manner of physical
constants. They have also put together an educational feature
called The Particle Adventure.
- John Baez's Papers
- Useful information on developments in physics including the archive
of This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics. John has
also put together a tutorial on General Relativity.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology
- Another site with convenient tables of physical
- The Laws List
- An alphabetically ordered list of laws and principles of physics by Erik Max Francis.
- Eric Weisstein's World of Physics
- Another alphabetical list of physics definitions and equations by Eric Weisstein.
- MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive
- This is an extensive archive of historical information which has good coverage of physicists and astronomers
as well as mathematicians. Go straight to the
search page and enter the name of
your favourite physicist or topic.
If you still have not found what you are looking for, try the usual search engines such as
Duck Duck Go,
It is also a good idea to search old usenet posts using Google
Don't believe too quickly the top-voted entries on physics-discussion sites such as "Physics Stack Exchange", or
the conversations on "Physics Forums". The answers given on these sites are often supplied by members who are
driven to raise their "site star" rating, and such answers can tend to be what is naively believable rather than
what is correct but possibly sophisticated. Also, a form of voting on such sites gives rise to an abuse of
power, such that long-time members can vote down good answers and close down entire conversations.
Another site not to take too seriously is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is probably fine if you want to know the
population of Bolivia, but you should take it with more than a pinch of salt when looking to learn physics.
The reasons are several:
- Wikipedia's entries are generally a reflection only of widespread opinion, rather than knowledge.
(That's also true of "Physics Stack Exchange" and "Physics Forums".) The entries also tend to reflect the
opinion of the last man standing, after all the rest have given up on editing a page whose corrections keep
getting overturned by louder voices.
- Because a typical entry tends to have several authors, there is generally no oversight into whether the
notation used is self consistent throughout the entire entry. Each contributor will swear by his own
contribution's notation because he saw it in a book, without necessarily realising that different books have
different notations and conventions that conflict when thrown together onto one page.
- Wikipedia entries are not peer reviewed. They are reviewed by Wikipedia contributors, but these
contributors are not necessarily experts in the subject. Real experts are seldom bothered to spend their
time competing with non-experts over who can last the longest in a Wikipedia battle.
- Wikipedia has done a good job in redefining knowledge to be that which is most commonly believed by the
majority rather than that which is agreed upon by specialists or that which is correct.
- Wikipedia contributors seem often have an obsession with listing or labelling irrelevant and spurious
concepts and jargon, which can serve only to obfuscate what should be a simple subject.
- Wikipedia redefines fads as canon. A good example is its favouring of abstruse and pretentious
mathematics in pages on physics where that maths is simply not relevant or not necessarily correct.
Mathematical obscurity is a modern fad, and the more abstruse you can make a Wikipedia page on physics, the more
likely it will be accepted by other contributors, who simply get cowed into accepting the new contribution. A
non-physics example of this redefinition of what is correct is the oft-found replacement of the date appellation
"BC/AD" with "BCE/CE". Another non-physics example is re-spellings of place names according to what is
currently popular. A seemingly obsessive use of macrons, such as in the Maori language, is also a very modern
- Wikipedia also redefines extreme political correctness as the norm. That tends not to affect its pages on
physics, but the problem is always potentially present as a way of rewriting history, be it physics or otherwise.