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Resources for Physics

Super Nova Hadron Collider Bending Light

Richard Feynman once described doing physics as being like watching a chess game without knowing how to play, trying to figure out the rules through observation. This guide to resources in physics tries to make the library a less mysterious place by describing places to find information quickly and ways to delve deeper into the literature of the field. It is far from complete; don't hesitate to ask a librarian for assistance if you aren't finding what you need.

Table of Contents:

Indexes and Databases
  • Energy Citations Database
    A service provided by the Department of Energy. Many of the cited texts are technical reports that may be difficult to obtain except for recent work which is often linked to full-text access; also includes citations and abstracts to articles publishished in journals.
  • General Science Collection
    A collection of over 200 journals covering such topics as particle physics, advanced mathematics, and nanotechnology. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).
  • PROLA (Physical Review Online Archive)
    The American Physical Society's online archive for Physical Review (1893 - 1969), Physical Review Letters (1958 - 4 years ago), Reviews of Modern Physics (1929 - 4 years ago), Physical Review A - D (1970 - 4 years ago), and Physical Review E (1993 - 4 years ago).
    1893-4 years ago
  • Science Reference Center
    This database contains full text for nearly 640 science encyclopedias, reference books, and journals. Topics covered include: biology, chemistry, earth & space science, environmental science, health & medicine, history of science, life science, physics, science & society, science as inquiry, scientists, technology and wildlife. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).
  • Scitation (AIP Physics Journals)
    Online access to the tables of contents of journals published by the American Institute of Physics plus other sci-tech publishers: indexing for over 600,000 articles are included in this e-journal portal. The Gustavus community can access the full text of selected publications, including the Physical Review Online Archive (PROLA), Reviews of Modern Physics, American Journal of Physics, and Journal of Chemical Physics. See PROLA to connect directly to the Physical Review Online Archive.
  • Web of Science (Web of Knowledge)
    The Science Citation Index Expanded, the Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Besides indexing a wide range of journals in the sciences, social sciences, and history, this resource allows you to search for articles that cite a specific author or published work. Coverage from 1997 to the present. Click on the "Web of Science" tab to limit your search to one or more specific citation databases.
Reference Works
  • Background Information
    • Dictionary of Astronomy
      Oxford UP 2003 Rev edition
      A short specialized dictionary of terms, people, and observatories world-wide.
    • Dictionary of Physics (Macmillan)
      London: Macmillan 2004
      A technical encyclopedia with many brief articles that define terms and explain concepts. Includes some longer review articles. Intended for a fairly specialized audience, this work is based on an updated version of the German Lexicon der Physik.
      • Location(s): Ref QC 5 .D538 2004, 4 vols.
    • Dictionary of Physics (Oxford)
      Oxford UP 2000 4th edition
      Defines thousands of terms and offers longer entries on important topics. Also provides brief biographical entries.
    • Dictionary of Pure and Applied Physics
      Boca Raton: CRC 2001
      Defines over 3,000 terms in the fields of accoustics, biophysics, medical physics, communication, electricity, electronics, geometrical optics, low temperature physics, magetism, and physical optics.
      • Location(s): Ref QC 5 .D485 2001
    • Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Bristol: Institute of Physics 2001
      Includes 700 long articles on topics and themes in the field as well as hundreds of shorter articles that define terms and profide profiles of people and institutions.
      • Location(s): Ref QB 14 .E534 2001, 4 vols.
    • Encyclopedia of Physics
      New York: VCH 1990 2nd edition
      This one-volume handbook provides easy access to brief discussions of basic concepts in physics.
      • Location(s): Ref QC 5 .E545 1990
    • McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
      New York: McGraw-Hill 2007
      Covers topics in the sciences in detail, giving technical discussions fully illustrated with charts, diagrams, and photographs.
      • Location(s): Ref Q 121 .M3 2007, 20 vols.
  • Handbooks and Specialized Topics
    • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics Handbook
      Woodbury, NY: AIP Press 1996
      Covers the key concepts, formulas, techniques, and results of atomic, molecular, and optical physics in a one-volume handbook. The articles, written by experts in the field, are intended to be basic and comprehensive. Topcs covered include angular momentum theory, hyperfine structure, gas phase reactions, classical trajectory and Monet Carlo techniques, and De Broglie optics.
      • Location(s): Ref QC 173 .A827 1996
    • Encyclopedia of the Atmospheric Sciences
      Amsterdam: Academic Press 2003
      Offers lengthy technical articles written by over 400 scientists from a variety of disciplines on topics from accoustic waves to climate change, atmospheric chemistry to remote sensing.
      • Location(s): Ref QC 854 .E522 2003, 6 vols.
    • Encyclopedia of Vibration
      San Diego: Academic Press 2002
      A technical encyclopedia, covering the physics, mathematics, and engineering aspects of vibration. Classical topics such as damping principles, rotating systems, and wave propogation are covered, but developments in the most recent two decades receive more attention.
      • Location(s): Ref TA 355 .E52, 3 vols.
  • History and Biography
    • Dictionary of Scientific Biography
      New York: Scribner 1970-80, with supplements
      Offers long profiles of important scientists, from early times to modern, with consideration both of their lives and technical aspects of their work. Each biography is followed by a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
      • Location(s): Ref Q 141 .D5, 18 vols.
    • World of Physics: A Small Library of the Literature of Physics from Antiquity to the Present
      New York: Simon & Schuster 1987
      A three-volume collection of key texts in physics from antiquity to the present, presented with informative introductory essays. An excellent place to find primary sources in the history of ideas in physics.
      • Location(s): Ref QC 7.5 .W67 1987, 3 vols.
Browsing for Books
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of physics.
  • Q Science
  • QB Astronomy
  • QC Physics
    • 170-197 Atomic Physics
    • 221-246 Accoustics
    • 251-338.5 Heat; Thermodynamics
    • 350-467 Optics
    • 501-766 Electricity and Magnetism
    • 770-798 Nuclear and Particle Physics
    • 801-809 Geophysics
    • 811-849 Geomagnetism
    • 974-999 Climatology
  • T Technology


Print journals are housed in the periodicals collection on the first floor of the library.
  • American Journal of Physics
  • Astronomy
  • Physics Teacher
  • Sky & Telescope
  • General Physics Sites
      From the Institute of Physics, includes a database of recommended Websites ranked by level of sophistication as well as general information about physics, physicists, and the history of the field.
    • Physics Web
      From the Institute of Physics; includes a "Best of Physics Web" feature sorted by subfield with interesting articles on new developments and issues.
    • Scirus
      A search engine for science web sites and journal articles (which may not be available for free).
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Mast
      Provides data from NASA missions.
    • NASA
      The site for the federal space agency, including material for the general public as well as scientists.
    • NASA Astrophysics Data System
      Offers four bibliographic databases containing more than 3.6 million records. Also has links to full-text of many articles, reports, and even digitized books.
    • Map-a-Planet
      Customize and download your own maps of moons and planets.
  • History of Physics
    • Chymistry of Isaac Newton
      From Indiana University and supported by the National Science Foundation, this site offers primary sources that highlight Newton's work on alchemy, some of which has never been published in another form.
  • Reference
    • Physical Reference Data
      From the National Institute of Standards and Technology; includes constants and spectroscopy data.
  • Teaching Physics
  • Technical Publications
    • arXiv E-Print Archive
      A freely-accessible collection of highly technical papers in the sciences, particularly strong in the area of high-energy physics. The object of the archive is to diseminate research findings quickly, so articles are not peer-reviewed (though some first posted in the archive are later formally reviewed and published). This was an early and important attempt to use the electronic environment for science research.
    • DOE Information Bridge
      Free access to Department of Energy (DOE) research and development reports, some of which relate to biology and environmental sciences.
    • Scitopia
      A search engine/portal that searches the electronic libraries of 21 science and technology societies as well as U.S. patent information and government documents on the Department of Energy Information Bridge site. Three million documents, including peer-reviewed journal content and technical conference papers, spanning 150 years of science and technology can be searched using Scitopia.
Photo Credits (L to R)

Supernova N49 -
The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN -
Bending Light -

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