Sunday, January 30, 2011

Most courageous postdoc: Daniel Bedingham

Last year in September, the Foundational Questions Institute, FQXi, called for nominations for the "Most Courageous Postdoc Prize." The candidate should have demonstrated extraordinary passion for unraveling the secrets of the universe and big unsolved problems in FQXi's focus areas. The idea for this price came from my last year's mini-grant proposal.

An external panel of experts reviewed all the nominees... and the winner is: Daniel Bedingham.

The FQXi website features an interesting interview with Daniel, where you can learn more about his work and the path that lead him there. He is one of the very few physicists I know of who have left academia and returned.

Many congratulations to Daniel!

18 comments:

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Congratulations to Dr. Bedingham for his return to foundational theoretical physics, as there certainly aren’t enough so inclined. Hats off to you also Bee, as not only being the originator of the idea for this prize yet also for putting money where your mouth is; or rather where you heart and mind are.

After reading the short bio I was happy to learn him being one inspired by the late J.S. Bell to find ways of dealing with some of the long outstanding issues surrounding QM, instead of simply like most others ignoring them or worse dismiss all such concerns as not relevant and thus unimportant. I do hope that Daniel soon will find a full time position as its clear to me physics is more in need of such people then the financial system. It is people like him that have me hopeful that more will come to understand that success is something to be more considered in terms of meaningful contribution, rather than simply personal gain.

Best,

Phil

Eric said...

I can't help but wonder why more physicists can't be like Daniel Bedingham? The philosophy operating just beneath the surface in physics today seems to be a bottom up approach. It is "we will deal with current assumptions at the cutting mathematical edge as if they are all modeled somehow in nature". Inevitably that philosophy will turn things inside out where the cart is leading the donkey.

Physics seems to be at a crossroads now where there are two paths to take. The first is the easy lazy decision to assume all previous assumptions created by mathematical modeling are "literally" true. An example of this is the many worlds camp. The second is to retrace the bread crumbs back in time and reexamine if we somehow left the path and are now following mouse droppings from a mouse that ate the bread crumbs.

Uncle Al said...

You are so naughty, Bee. Do it! Always be in front of the mob carrying torches, pitchforks, tar, feathers, and spreadsheets. Onlookers will think it is a parade.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

again the problem with mainstream physics. Good that FQXi announces a prize to someone like Daniel Bedingham. It's a pity, that he had to work part-time as a banker.

Best, Kay

Steven Colyer said...

I'd love to be a banker. I'm tired of being poor. But yah, follow your passions, and your assets be damned. Works for me. The Porshe will have to wait.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Steven,

no-one wants to be poor, but your decision is right.

Best, Kay

Steven Colyer said...

Thanks Kay, but it's not starting out well. All the papers I submit here are rejected. Well at least I'm trying, and that is in fact the most prestigious journal in the sense it's the toughest to be published in. (many thanks to Bee for that link)

Eric said...

Well, I can say one thing for the Dr. Bedinghams and the ones who follow in his path: they are earning incredibly good karma. Of course karma works on a statistical basis because (naturally) it's part of physics.

In other words he's boosting his average good karma greatly but in the mean time statistical deviations from that average take their toll. Always take the long view.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Steven,

what are you doing in reality and what are you regarding as poor ?

Best, Kay

Steven Colyer said...

In reality I'm doing several things:

1) Looking for a full-time job. These are hard to come by in the USA at present, as the recovery on Wall Street is very much NOT reflected on Main Street. Also, I'm 54 going on 35 physiologically (long-lived Eastern European farmer heritage, thanks), but anyone 40 or over here has a hard time finding a full-time job. Phil Warnell reports the situation is opposite in Socialist Canada.

2) Self-studying my BRAINS out about Mathematical Physics. It's my hobby, not my profession. This pays zero dollars per year, but, it's a long road I'm taking and enjoying. Someday, I hope, to make a contribution. If not, I hope to help the next "new" Euclid/Fibonacci/Euler/Newton/Gauss/Einstein/Pauli/Dirac, wherever that person is.

"Poor" is relative. If you follow your passion, you are at worst tied as the richest person on Earth, regardless of what your bank statement says.

Or ... you can major in Law, Finance or Accounting. :-)

Personally, I am in debt thanks to the 2 new cars we had to buy to bring our total to 4. Never owned more than 2 cars in my life, and only then as His and Her cars. But I have 2 kids who commute to Rutgers, and 1 more going to Lehigh next year most likely. So I should probably change my middle name to "Debt."

But I really can't complain, I know lots of people in worst shape than me. That's what happens when the USA exports its blue collar jobs to China and and white-collar jobs to India, and good for them. We are "Global" now, right? Right, and thanks to the "thieving Bushes" (redundant) the # of jobs in the USA dropped from 21 million to 14 million overnight, and most of the lost ain't coming back.

So right now I'm looking to be a Freight Loader for UPS to help pay the bills, but at least we paid our mortgage off 13 years ago, and I have a credit rating of 814 (paying one's bills helps LOADS), so I'm good.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Steven,

I'm 47 and because of an illness became unemployed in 2000. Now I'm working on a Ph.D. thesis in Theoretical Physics, which I can hopefully end this year. I cannot work very much every day.

I'm single. I'm poor, but I can at least do what I love, so I am rich too, a bit like you.

Best, Kay

Eric said...

Steven, get yourself one of those elastic back supporters. I'm serious. I used to work for the airlines as an avionics guy and the baggage handlers all wore them. The last thing you need is for your back to go out. I should know because I'm even older than you - 58.

Steven Colyer said...

Well, I'm very sorry to hear about your medical condition. Good luck with that.

But a big GOOD FOR YOU on the PhD Physics thing. It's tough for sure, and tougher the older you are, not because of neuron loss, but because a 40 yr old has tons more responsibilities than a 26 yr old. But hey, at least you're single, so that helps in the responsibilities department. Not that there's anything wrong with NOT being single, more like you can focus on your own needs rather than sharing. There's pros and cons to everything, I suppose. (and the grass is always greener in direct proportion to the light shining upon it).

So WHICH part pf Physics attracts you the most, Kay?

Steven Colyer said...

Answering my own question from Kayzum's blog: "After working in the computer business, I returned back to theoretical physics. I am interested in gauge theories and loop quantum gravity."

Cool, me too. So, answer Peter Woit's question:

Why U(1) x SU(2) x SU(3)?

That should keep us all busy. :-)

Thanks for the tip Eric, you old dog. Been around the block more than a few times and have more than a few pelts on your horse, have ye? Bill Parcells said that. King of coaches, save Lombardi.

Christine said...

Hi Bee

I am sorry to learn from your latest tweet that you are sick. I hope you get better soon. I have sent you a couple of days ago an email with details about our gifts to Lara and Gloria -- our package will arrive in a few days to you. I hope the girls are doing fine. Take care.

Best,

Christine

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Yes, thanks, I got your email. Didn't yet have time to reply it seems... I guess in the first line I'm sick of sitting around in doctor's waiting rooms ;-) but sounds like there's more fun to come. Best,

B.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Yes, I imagined there was something going on, since you usually reply so fast. I hope you get better soon. Take care,

Christine

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Steven,

thank you for your words. I'm interested mainly in gauge theories and spontaneous symmetry breaking. The standard model is thus also one of my interests.

Best, Kay