Monday, June 11, 2012
Pressures on Swiss patent clerks
This is today's xkcd comic.
A. Einstein is the only man to get a Nobel Prize in the sciences for work done in his spare time, while working some other day job. That is part of his mystique. Ever since, he is used in all sorts of arguments about human potential, sponsored research, and paradigm shifts.
The myth is exaggerated, of course. Einstein was not some disconnected dilettante. He studied physics at top European universities, and received the equivalent of a PhD in physics. His famous 1905 papers were based on work he did as a student, and he discussed them with professors. One of his 1905 papers was a polished version of his dissertation. The details are in his biographies. He worked as a clerk because he could not find an academic job. His relativity paper gets the most credit, but it was not really so original.
It would be nice to see a true example of physics being advanced by someone outside the meanstream establishment. It ought to be possible, since all the leading knowledge is published. I just don't know of any good examples.