• Noisy wrote a new post, Confessions of a Former Asshole Physicist, on the site Skepchick 7 months, 2 weeks ago

    As a physics professor, it’s my main job to teach my students to think about forces and fields, solve engineering problems, and understand what an image of a black hole can tell us about the nature of spacetime. […]

    • I have a copy of that book on my desk! I haven’t gotten to it yet, though, because if the book doesn’t have a spider on the cover, it gets a lower priority right now.

    • Am I missing something on that twitter thread that makes you think this is a great response?

      It seems like the author’s response to a complaint about “the author makes a convincing case that Newton would have never revolutionized physics if he hadn’t been just such an obnoxious person” is to follow up with something like “And I also showed why today’s academic culture may have made it harder, or impossible, for him to be such an obnoxious person.”

      That’s not a great response, that’s a terrible response. It’s extremely hard to read it without seeing an implicit finish like “Which means that the attitudes of today’s world of academia would have lost us Newton’s achievements, and may be actively stifling many other potential discoveries and large scientific advancement.” .

      Maybe the book makes the case differently, showing the advantages of trying to prevent people in academia from being assholes, but that twitt certainly doesn’t state that, and doesn’t present any opinion or value judgement to counter the publisher’s description.

      • They way I read that comment, it seemed to say that he DID address how being an asshole was detrimental and shouldn’t be tolerated today. But honestly, I can’t tell if the author actually does that without reading the book. (And, usually when someone disagrees with me on Twitter it’s full of vitriol so maybe I was also delighted that his wasn’t!)

        I’ve received comments from people who did read the book that have differing views on how well the author actually did just that. ¯_(?)_/¯

        • Differing views… Differing from Yarondav or differing from each other?
          I haven’t read the book (actually, never heard of it before reading this post) but I also wasn’t sure what the tweet meant. Is the author saying “In the olden days, horrible things were done all the time but we are much better than that now and everything is perfect” or is he saying “as awful as things can be now, they used to be much much worse. We can make things better, have made things better, and should continue trying to do so”? I think Yarondav took it the first way, and so did I.

          Being obnoxious can be protective and comforting for someone who is insecure, but I don’t think it helps them achieve anything, at least not in a position that doesn’t require you to browbeat other people into doing what you want (and even then it is not, in my experience, the most effective way of being a “leader”.) However, Newton’s accomplishments didn’t in any way, depend on getting other people to dig holes or carry heavy objects, or even, like Hubble’s or NASA’s “computers”, do calculations for him*. Who knows how many productive discussions never happened and opportunities were lost because Newton was feuding with someone or was off in a snit?

          • Hey, Buzz!

            Differing from each other I think. Or at least some folks really enjoyed it and others did not, all folks that I’m pretty sure agree that things aren’t perfect now and we need to work to improve them.

            You’re right, it could be taken as “well things are fine now!” but that would be incorrect cuz they ain’t. I think I took it as the second interpretation you mentioned.. Hey, call me optimistic 🙂

            Fraser Cain tweeted at me that HE got from the book basically what you describe in your second paragraph, that Newton lost out on collab opportunities for being, as you say, “off in a snit.” (I love that term.)

            My feeling as I read more interpretations of Newton’s behavior is that it indeed hid a massive insecurity, which actually makes me feel really bad for the guy.

    • I created an account just to post this.
      It’s amazing how publishers still want to sensationalize everything. Thankfully the author corrected your misconception about the book. I’ll put this on my list of books for my kids to read in a few years, when they’re old enough for it to be more appropriate.