Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What kind of scientist are you?

"As I reflect on the scientific careers of the people I have known these last thirty years, it seems to me more and more that these career decisions hinge on character. Some people will happily jump on the next big thing, give it all they've got, and in this way make important contributions to fast-moving fields. Others just don't have the temperament to do this. Some people need to think through everything very carefully, and this takes time, as they get easily confused. It's not hard to feel superior to such people, until you remember that Einstein was one of them. In my experience, the truly shocking new ideas and innovations tend to come from such people. Still others — and I belong to this third group — just have to go their own way, and will flee fields for no better reason than that it offends them that some people are joining in because it feels good to be on the winning side. So I no longer get bothered when I disagree with what other people are doing, because I see that temperament pretty much determines what kind of science they will do. Luckily for science, the contributions of the whole range of types are needed. Those who do good science, I've come to think, do so because they choose problems that are suited to them."

Lee Smolin, "The trouble with physics" (p. 95).

I think I belong to the second group of scientists who need to think through everything very carefully and get easily confused, although don't expect shocking new ideas and innovations to come out of me! What about you, dear reader?