Rumors Available Again

The Theoretical Particle Physics Jobs Rumor Mill has a new home. It’s no longer at the University of Washington, now it’s at the College of William and Mary Physics department.

Now that it’s available again, the Rumor Mill has the striking news that Harvard has chosen for a faculty position one of its postdocs: Lubos Motl. Lubos is well-known as undoubtedly the most rabidly fanatic string theorist around, always willing to heap abuse and scorn on anyone who questions the idea that string theory is the language in which God wrote the world. Unlike many string theorists though, he actually knows what is going on in the field and is someone who can give you an accurate view of exactly what the state of the theory is (all you have to do is strip out his ravings about how string theory is unique and the source of all good ideas in physics and mathematics). He’s also not foolish enough to swallow the “Anthropic” nonsense that is becoming ever more prevalent among string theorists, and it’s a been a bit scary recently to see him acting as the voice of reason in the subject.

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10 Responses to Rumors Available Again

  1. Peter says:

    I think you may already be better informed about this than I am. I took a course from Georgi when he was still a junior faculty member (and sharing an office with Witten) and remember when he got tenure. Coleman had already been tenured for quite awhile when I got there and I didn’t know he had started on the tenure-track. The others you mention got tenure after I shifted over into mathematics and wasn’t paying much attention to exactly what was going on in the Harvard or Princeton physics departments.

  2. gut says:

    Besides Maldacena, were Vafa, Georgi, and Coleman the only particle theory folks (in recent times) who started off their careers as junior faculty at Harvard and eventually got tenure? Was Klebanov the only recent particle guy at Princeton who started off as a junior faculty at Princeton and eventually got tenure?

  3. Peter says:

    Since Harvard and Princeton generally feel that they can hire just about anyone they want directly at the senior level, they mostly don’t tenure their junior people who are nominally on the tenure track. So, for those people the reason to take the job is not so much that you are likely to get tenure there, but you’ll be in a very good place for quite a few years and in a good position to jump to a tenured job elsewhere. I remember that one of my fellow Princeton grad students, Jon Bagger, did this, going from a tenure-track position at Harvard to a tenured one at Johns Hopkins where he is now. It also is not unheard of for these places to end up promoting one of their junior people. But, while at many less august places the idea is that if tenure-track people do reasonably well, they can expect to get tenure, this isn’t the case at Harvard or Princeton.

  4. gut says:

    Is there any truth to the folklore stories that assistant professor jobs at places like Harvard, Princeton, etc … aren’t much more than the functional equivalent of an “extended postdoc” that lasts for 6 or 7 years? On the surface, Harvard doesn’t seem to give tenure very often to folks who start off their careers there as an assistant professor.

  5. D R Lunsford says:

    Chris –

    The antropic principle has many forms. Here’s one

    F = ma


    Because I said so!

    Then there’s the Dirac equation with “anthropic coupling” in psiberspace

    (ym dm + im ok you’re ok) psi approx = 0

    Note that this eqn includes an explanation of “Me” generations.

    Of course there is a background-free version

    R_mu_nu_and_Tyler_2 = NULL;

    This one is easy to simulate on the computer.


  6. Chris Oakley says:

    Am I to assume that the “Anthropic Principle” means that we postulate that “we are lucky winners of a Monte Carlo simulation in which every choice was tried and one survived?” [NB: borrowed words]. I would not mind clarification here.

  7. Thomas Larsson says:

    John Horgan wrote somewhere that Ed Witten was “the most naive ironic scientist I ever met”.
    He hadn’t met Lubos Motl.

    It is sad, really. Motl is undoubtedly very hard-working and technically skilled, perhaps even a genius. In another time, he could have used his brilliance to advance physics rather than to do the opposite.

  8. D R Lunsford says:


    You’re no fun 🙂

    I always imagined a place like Princeton would be just intellectual paradise. But, I’ve had friends who took PhDs at MIT, Princeton, etc. and they all seem glad to be away. I suppose in retrospect the situation at Ga. Tech in fact *was* a sort of paradise, with an unlimited copier budget and open stack library with complete series of all the major and minor journals back to inception – and a nice college bar/pizza joint about 2 blocks away and the beautiful city of Atlanta before it got too big.

  9. Peter says:

    I don’t have a lot of contact with the physics department here, although I know quite a few people over there and talk to them every so often. My knowledge of the short list for their latest job comes from the Rumor Mill. Their latest theory hire is not a string theorist.

    I first met Brian around the time he got his Ph.D. more than fifteen years ago, and interact with him regularly since he joined the department here nearly eight years ago. When he first heard about my anti-string activities a few years ago he offered me 10% of any bump he saw in sales of “The Elegant Universe”. I haven’t seen any cash.

    Math department faculty meetings are pretty boring, as well-run faculty meetings should be.

    Hmm, whoever you are, your IP number is very local. You should probably be stopping by Math 421 sometime to say hello so I can tell you the real dirt that could never be discussed in public.

  10. Tim says:

    Do you have any contact with the Columbia physics department? Regardless, has their hiring been exclusively string theorists?

    Also, what is your interaction with Brian Greene? Any interesting Math department faculty meetings?

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