艰难的学术生存之道


超弦理论之父史瓦兹,曾担任普林斯顿大学助理教授,由于没有拿到终身职位,只好去加州理工做研究员,从1972年到1985年。然后1984年他发起了超弦 理论革命,一年后被晋升为正教授。暴涨理论的提出者阿兰 古斯,MIT博士毕业后辗转若干个机构做博士后九年,在提出暴涨理论后回到MIT任副教授。苦逼的学者,只有做出突破性的研究成果,才可能在学术圈生存下来。

提出量子多世界理论的Hugh Everett III, 研究成果不被认可。只好受雇于国防部去研究国防,退出物理界。1982年,51岁时,一直坚信量子永生Everett的由于心脏病突然离世。G.茨威格和 盖尔曼同时发现夸克,因为他执意要发在PRL上,得罪了CERN的同行,文章最终没有发表。盖尔曼后来得了诺贝尔奖,茨威格则只能退出了物理学界。基础研 究有风险,做出一流工作,也不一定能生存。

上面这几个例子只是成名人物,所以能够留下记录。不出名的人,更多是早早默无声息的退出了学术 圈。 越是聪明绝顶而有野心的人,越是希望挑战大题目,越是有可能在挑战大题目的过程中失败而离开学术界。我们不知道谁能生存,谁会退出。有一个段子是这样说 的,Witten接受国会质询时,被问到,美国目前有多少弦论专家?他说有一百人。那么我们需要多少人呢?Witten说,大概1个人。那为什么要资助这 剩下的99人呢?因为我们不知道怎么把这一个人从99人中挑选出来。

要在学术圈生存怎么办?那就接受自己的平庸,做一些小的题目,扎扎实实 地做透。无法做出震动世界的工作,但至少能给这个领域有自己的贡献。降低风险,也降低了收益。当然,那些胸怀大志的人是不可能做这种选择的。对他们来说, 学术上做不出重大的成绩,还不如早点转行。以他们的聪明才智,做别的行业都很容易有成绩。

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5 Comments

  1. I was thinking about witten’s comment: democracy (& free market) is like picking the right 1 person with “right information” by sponsoring the 99 person as potential information carriers ; democracy & free mkt is therefore often very expensive & inefficient, as in most developing countries and in “socialist” Europe as well; so far democracy & free market has only worked out in US, failing almost everywhere else;

    but can humanity grow without 学术? can global society grow and develop under a centralized 伟光正 leadership, doing everything right and effective, except in 学术, innovation etc?

    for those non-USA type countries, how to balance between “学术-oriented” democracy & free market and the centralized 伟光正 leadership?

    democracy & free market at its core is all about information processing, it is all about nurturing and picking up “witten” from 99 “potential wittens”, and yes, with huge cost:

    “Witten接受国会质询时,被问到,美国目前有多少弦论专家?他说有一百人。那么我们需要多少人呢?Witten说,大概1个人。那为什么要资助这 剩下的99人呢?因为我们不知道怎么把这一个人从99人中挑选出来。”

    on the other hand, if you don’t care about “弦论” type 学术 at all, then don’t bother.

    what is my point?

    馬雲說,國家是最好的盈利模式, and politicians are the best career? largely true in many countries outside of US.

    then why working on “弦论” 学术, why not working for 國家 as a politician, and as said, most of those 99 “witten” like people are going to fail anyway.

    this is a basically “arbitrage model” in how to price professions in today’s world, mostly outside of US, and in US, most talents still choose not to all crowd into working for 國家 as a politician.

    then you could possibly have Hugh Everett III,witten, Mr Zhang etc, and only with people of those “newton, Einstein” type to emerge, and humanity will benefit from their “弦论” 学术, and progress.

    thanks for you post.

    回复

  2. “information/logic arbitrage”: you profit from information gap/spread, you know some information which others don’t know yet; you also profit from logic gap/spread, you know the ” logic/ALGO” of the system, but you as politicians 忽悠 everybody else into 腦殘, by controlling and managing medium of information and logic “energy/ information transfer”, with 色散關係 eq., piece of cake.

    this “arbitrage model” works almost everywhere, including US, just with less profit:).

    what a “学术反動” world of reality :), but that is life as we know.

    回复

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