Crazy-old-guy syndrome among theoretical physicists

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When I saw this funny text in John Preskill’s blog post I smiled broadly and wanted to share it with you.

“I suppose most theoretical physicists who (like me) are comfortably past the age of 60 worry about their susceptibility to “crazy-old-guy syndrome.” (Sorry for the sexism, but all the victims of this malady I know are guys.) It can be sad when a formerly great scientist falls far out of the mainstream and seems to be spouting nonsense.

Matthew Fisher is only 55, but reluctance to be seen as a crazy old guy might partially explain why he has kept pretty quiet about his passionate pursuit of neuroscience over the past three years. That changed two months ago when he posted a paper on the arXiv about Quantum Cognition.”

John Preskill is an influential physicist. He is the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech. He has an impressive CV. Most importantly, he is a great communicator. I recommend his blog Quantum Frontiers highly.

I couldn’t resist making few comments on the “crazy-old-guy syndrome.” There are only few academic job openings in the physics departments in US research universities every year. There are hundreds of well qualified candidates for each theoretical physics position. Under these circumstances young physicists cannot take risks. They don’t want to be labeled as outsiders or crackpots. When they approach retirement they start thinking freely but it is often too late. They don’t have the energy to pursue their “crazy” ideas.

This “crazy-old-guy syndrome” does not apply to me. My craziness started when I was much younger.


About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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