Paper 1

Instructions for Paper 1


Write a referee report on Einstein's 1905 paper on special relativity.

Due Date

Ses #7


4–5 double-spaced pages. You should use standard margins (1-inch to 1.25-inches on each side of the page) and a 12-point font.


Your grade on Paper 1 will contribute 25% of your final course grade.

Imagine you are a young assistant of Max Planck's in Berlin in 1905. As an editor of the Annalen der Physik, he hands you a new submission by a relatively unknown researcher named Albert Einstein. The paper is entitled, "On the electrodynamics of moving bodies." Based on the opening 4.5 pages of the paper (that is, the portion of the paper included in the course readings), write a 4–5 page referee report on the submission. Does the author justify his conclusions to your satisfaction? What is your recommendation: Publish it, ask the author for revisions, or reject the paper? What revisions should the author undertake before you would deem the paper worthy of publication?

To fulfill the spirit of the assignment, you should pretend that you have never heard of special relativity before; forget what you already know about the subject from present-day classes and textbooks. Based on the readings and lectures we have already covered in class, try to imagine what Einstein's submission might have looked like to a physicist back in 1905. You are not required to draw explicitly on other readings or materials to complete the assignment—all that is required is a close reading of the text by Einstein—but if you do choose to bring in material from the other sources, either for direct quotation or to paraphrase, be sure to include footnotes to all your sources.

To help guide your referee report, consider the questions that today's journals, such as the Physical Review, ask their own referees to consider:

  • Does the paper contain enough significant new physics to warrant publication?
  • Is the paper scientifically sound and not misleading?
  • Is the paper well organized and clearly written?
  • Are the subject matter and style of presentation appropriate?
  • Are there appropriate and adequate references to related work?

You should use specific examples from the readings and from lectures. When drawing on readings, use standard footnote conventions and include a bibliography of sources cited at the end.