Just the other day I had a younger student ask me if I’d look at his research paper. Convinced he was onto something big, he wanted to run his ideas by someone he respects and trusts. I told him I would meet him Saturday (yesterday), and he brought his research paper. He was working on a mathematical research paper related to pressure in gases and came across an equation which he felt was particularly significant, and he wanted me to help him relate it to other areas of statistical mechanics.
I’m not really writing this to discuss his ideas or what I thought of them. What really stuck out to me was this intense desire in him to win an award. As we sat in the library, he went on and on about great physicists like Dirac, Feynman, and others, and the stories behind how they won the Nobel Prize or the Fields Medal for their work. That seemed to be his dream. He wants to win a big prize, be famous, respected, accepted, admired. It made me think of this video.
He specifically told me, “If this paper is as big as I think it is, we can publish this together and get into any university.” I sort of nodded my head and listened, not really saying much.
I’m very fascinated with physics and am always trying to learn more about the universe. But honestly, I don’t care about awards, prestigious schools, fame, recognition, or any of that. I’m actually the opposite. I wouldn’t want the attention that goes along with all of that. As time goes on, most of the best lectures from the top universities are being posted online on Youtube, so I have access to all of it nowadays anyways. I can buy the books and teach myself.
Like Mike Tyson in the video above, I care about my family, my friends, and the people I love. I want them to have happy lives, to experience good things, and for us all to share a good life, together.
All of this reminds me of one of the classes I’m in this semester. Being near graduation, I’ve taken all my main classes, but I have stupid classes I’ve been putting off left. They really depress me even having to discuss them, but we’ll make this quick. One of them is an English course. The professor, a younger woman, went on and on during a lecture, telling us all how we’re all future scholars, and we have to learn how to write like scholars, publish papers, and learn about that world. Entire class lectures have been dedicated to the citation system, finding the most influential papers, and when we decide to to publish a paper on our own, we’re to look at the current conversation going on and hop in.
I had no interest in it whatsoever. I don’t want to jump into the current conversation just because other people find it interesting or worthwhile. It comes down to whether or not I find it worthwhile and interesting. I could care less about what others are doing. What’s the point of advancing in some field you’re not even interested in? Just so you can be “successful”?
I just thought, well, I have little to no interest in publishing papers, and definitely not like this. If I find out something worthwhile in something I’m interested in, sure, I don’t mind sharing it. I’ll post it on this site here, I’ll post it on other free internet sites, or other scientists can print it in some journal if they want. But I don’t care about this academic world all that much. Publish or perish. Make sure to publish lots and lots of papers so you can say, “I’ve published hundreds of papers in my field. I’m an expert!” Well, good for you. Sounds like a lot of busywork if you ask me. I wonder how many people read most of these papers that are being cranked out?
As for me, I just want to better understand the universe and my place in it. Physics is one of my ways of going about that. That’s it. If other people work on the same problems that interest me, great, but otherwise, I don’t see a point to it.
People always seem to be chasing things that mean nothing. To me, I’m happy to receive an award with others if it’s a celebration of of all our hard work together, a way of remembering our journey together, but if it’s an award for just me, it’s ok, I’ll pass. I didn’t attend my high school graduation. I won’t be attending my college graduation. Most every award I’ve ever won, I’ve turned down. I’d probably turn down the Nobel Prize if I were to win it, though I worry that’d draw even more attention to me, so I don’t know what I’d do. I’m just not interested in that stuff anymore. As Mike Tyson said, “It’s garbage.”