In recent years many people in the particle theory community have been wondering what’s going on with the Stanford theory group, as it has become dominated by work on things like the anthropic landscape. It turns out that, for a while now, there was someone there who even they were wondering about. Her name is Elizabeth Okazaki, and evidently for the last four years she has
attended graduate physics seminars, used the offices reserved for doctoral and post-doctoral physics students and — for all intents and purposes made the Varian Physics Lab her home
According to the Stanford paper, students interviewed said that Okazaki:
claimed to be a visiting scholar in the humanities, looking to provide an interdisciplinary perspective on string theory. On several instances, she has said that she was working with Physics Prof. Leonard Susskind, one of the world’s most respected string theorists.
Susskind told The Daily that Okazaki was not officially associated with him or his lab in any way.
“As far as I know, she has no official connection with anyone in the physics department,” Susskind said. “In fact, as far as I can tell, she has a very limited knowledge of physics itself.”
The story in The Stanford Daily on-line has a long associated comment thread, containing (besides a lot of nonsense) some comments from people in the Stanford physics department that provide more insight into the situation.
The San Francisco Chronicle article quotes Stanford graduate student Surjeet Rajendran about the situation as follows:
A university has a lot of weird people… Some of the faculty are weird, some of the grad students are weird. So you don’t really know who’s who. And you feel rather, I guess, rude asking them, ‘What the hell are you doing?’
For another perspective on this, see Scott Aaronson’s posting on The Groupies of Science, where he makes the point that “Science Needs More Groupies, Not Less”, and argues that:
When we discover a stowaway on the great Ship of Science, why throw her overboard when we could make her swab the decks?
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