Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ageism in Science ... vs ... Leonhard Euler

I'm pretty good at keeping my cool, but now and then people say things that really piss me off.

For example: the  replier  "DB" in the following quote/reply to Peter Woit's "Not Even Wrong" weblog. I could answer DB, but Anonymouse answered it expertly, as you will see.

Two words: Leonhard Euler. If you don't know who I'm talking about, learn. Any person can make a significant contribution, at any age. Possibly not DB, but heh, there are always exceptions. :)

DB says:

History teaches us that spent theoretical physicists, i.e. virtually all over the age of 45 – engaging in speculative musings are rarely worth listening to. They may sell popular books to bamboozle an already bewildered public, but for science, their value for all practical purposes is nil. Indeed they are often Worse Than Useless, since they undermine their own prestige and that of the field they are undermining when they should be providing valuable and inspirational mentoring service to up-and-coming young talent – from where new discoveries invariably emerge.

Although never as egregious example of this phenomenon as many String Theorists, Hawking has been slithering down the road towards WTU status for some years now.

In response .....

Anonymouse says:

DB, that statement is worse than idiotic.

Theoretical physicists taken as a whole have had breakthroughs at all points in their careers. Your ageism is simply indefensible and senseless. I hope whatever field you belong to decides to treat its elder members better than you would seem to do, at least by the time you are one of them.


Steven Colyer said...

"Worse than idiotic". We have a new classic phrase. Thank you, Anonymouse. :)

Plato said...

Hi Steve,

I hope this was a chastisement of the most severe kind? Science minds just never stop looking so as we age we get a sense of the realism such opinions have about us when we feel we still have some if we have never aged?:) We shouldn't take it personal I know but arrogance seems to be breed in some of our youth these days?

Just made a comment in your Hamilton about coincidence...not just about Euler but about Poincare as well.:)


Steven Colyer said...

Plato, I have no problem with youth being "cocky", I was then, weren't you? My major objection is the whole stupid "If age counters youth, and youth has often SHOWN age Up" thing, is categorically wrong.

Yeah, sure, sometimes youth DOES show age. Scientific history abounds with examples.

But what is often left out of that is 99% of the time, or better, age shows youth.

Is all I'm saying. :-)

And yes, WHEN youth shows age, that's often when science advances. So? Not always.