Journal of Well Written Scientific Papers

Via Michael Nielsen I’ve found that Ben Schumacher, inventor of the word “qubit” and quantum information theorist extraordinaire, has a blog. Michael points to the following from quote from Ben:

But you know, so much of academic writing is bad. It is banal, orotund, unmusical, and stuffed with wads of unnecessary jargon. It is the sort of writing that does more to obscure meaning than to convey it. I see this stuff almost every day. I swim in it. OK, maybe I do exaggerate, a little. After all, I teach at a liberal arts college that is moderately well-known for teaching people how to write. Our faculty is full of novelists and poets and whatnot. But let me tell you, it’s here, too. It’s everywhere. It is like a fungus growing over all things, blurring their shapes — the verbal equivalent, maybe, of the ivy on academic buildings. And like the ivy, I guess, its main purpose is to conceal the shabby edifices beneath

Which made me think that it would be fun to create a scientific journal in which good writing was a requirment. No silly page limits either. You either write a killer article, which is comprehensible and well written, or your articled doesn’t get accepted. Even if you result is correct and even if your result is groundbreaking. Sure, not all journals could be this way, but it would if such a journal existed, I would certainly be a regular reader. I certainly know that there are people who are up to the task: every once in a while you stumble upon a piece of scientific writing which is so well written it just makes you cry the next time you look through Physical Review Letters.

5 Replies to “Journal of Well Written Scientific Papers”

  1. That Feynman 1982 paper is awesome because he derives Bell’s theorem without ever mentioning John Bell. I think it is a typeup of a keynote speech, so I guess Feynman can be forgiven. Feynman also points out the “conspiracy” loophole in Bell’s theorem. The paper also contains one of my favorite quotes from Feynman

    Trying to find a computer simulation of physics, seems to me to be an excellent program to follow out…And I’m not happy with all the analyses that go with just the classical theory, because nature isn’t classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful probelm because it doesn’t look so easy.

  2. If I recall correctly, in a 1986 or 1987 festschrift paper for David Bohm (proceedings edited by Basil Hiley), Feynman comes pretty close to saying that he discovered Bell’s theorem before Bell. So maybe that wasn’t a mistake.

  3. Well, I do recall that paper, being, a great fan of David Bohm. (Not that I think Bohm ever really intended his hidden variable theory to be the end all explanation for quantum theory.) However, I don’t recall that Feynman makes a claim over Bell. I wonder where my copy of that festschrift paper is. I hope I didn’t lend it to some inquiring mind.

  4. two things.
    1. i think PRL encourages bad writing.
    2. this isn’t exactly a “journal of good writing,” but check out papadimitriou’s class “reading the classics.”
    here’s an excerpt from the syllabus:

    Examples of classics:
    * Euler’s paper on the Konigsberg bridges; do you know of a translation? (or Latin?)
    * On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Alan Turing 1936
    * As We May Think. Vannevar Bush, 1945
    * First Draft of the Report on EDVAC. John von Neumann 1946
    * A Mathematical Theory of Communication. Claude E. Shannon 1948
    * The Turing Test paper, Alan Turing 1950
    * Non-Cooperative Games. John Nash, 1951
    * Letter from Gödel to von Neumann, 1956; see J. Hartmanis’s “Godel, von Neumann and the P=?NP problem,” Bulletin of the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS), 38 (1989), pp. 101–107.
    * Edmonds, Jack , Paths, trees, and flowers, Canadian Journal of Mathematics, Vol 17, No -, 449-467, 1965

    The class closes with Feynman’s 1982 paper “Simulating Physics with Computers.”
    Someday I want to teach a course like this.

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