Sunday, February 18, 2007

Late bloomers

I'm not sure how much this Wired article on the disparity between young genius and late bloomers applies to the world of physics. I might know better if I could slog my way through the whole article. But I will take this opportunity to mention that I get in awful moods sometimes when I see a good paper out by a "competitor." I sometimes do feel like an "also ran"...I wonder what movie actors feel like. You make a movie, and then you wait to get another offer or script (unless you're real hot). Do you immediately have doubts? I used to get in a great mood when I started writing up a paper, only to feel bad once it was accepted (well a couple days later). And I'm not a real competitive person. I wonder if I could fully accept my rung on the totem, whether that would mean I'd get really lazy...is this competitive streak necessary to the self-discipline needed in academic research? Is there anything similar in industrial/commercial physics, or is it just "my salary is bigger than yours?" kind of rivalry?

3 comments:

Uncle Al said...

You must pay the mortgage. That is employment. That is sincerely kissing a long line of asses lest one turn and use you as toilet paper.

Will you be more than a bus driver? Do you do anything interesting off the books, on paper or in glass? That is bootlegging. Remember the Eleventh Commandment and keep it wholly: THOUGH SHALT NOT GET CAUGHT.

Picasso was celebrated after others tapped into the income stream. Lenny Susskind submitted the landmark 1970 paper on nascent string theory. Referees unanimously told him to go to Hell.

Lenny went to Hell... but it didn't stick. Lenny had something to say.

CarlBrannen said...

Schroedinger and Schwarzschild wrote their famous equation at fairly advanced ages.

If the next advance in your end of physics is due to something explosively new, then it will probably be a kid. On the other hand, if it is another way of looking at theory that has long been ignored, then older hands will prevail.

Doug Natelson said...

Angry - you're not alone in your experiences. It's amazing how quickly the 'high' of a new result fades and the need to put the nose down reappears. I also think things like webofscience and the current trend of issuing press releases for papers (even lame ones) makes it waaaay to easy to keep an eye on one's competitors. I'd rather not know in detail how everyone else is doing!