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Re: Today's jaw dropper


Dewey warned me that I, a philospher, was emailing to physicists. In spite
of his caution, I find the responses very appropriate and challenging, I
would rather talk to physicists than philosophers on this topic.

In effect, Brian separates the questions of innovation from being a good
teacher, a good researcher, or a model of moral behavior. With the
advantage of having his comments, I would rephrase my comments to suggest
that creativity/innovativeness/... is not conveyed from teacher to pupil,
but that other important characterstics may, (if we are lucky and do well)
be transmitted. Although the elusive/suspect concept of brilliance
probably cannot be conveyed/ communicated/transmitted, I think that
teaching and research skills definitely can be. And I think that we
ordinary non-Einstein mortals can succeed in this process, if we work at it

I regret that you pin all your hopes for success on a unitary factor called
'brilliance', a pseudonym for intelligence, I suppose.
This is almost unAmerican! There are results that show that more
than a quite modest surfeit of 'brains' does not go with greatly
increased life-success... I would like you to think that a good
experimental researcher can rub off some helpful research traits on a
student researcher.

Well, that was not very well expressed--I guess I was taking over from the
previous thread the idea that "success" means getting a Nobel prize. Very
few do, and so if we are to have any workable conception of what it means
to be successful we need to expand it, as you suggest. For me this is easy
since there is no Nobel in philosophy. Personally, I was very much
influenced, though I only recognized the extent much later, by a professor
who was a model of both teaching and moral rectitude. I still measure my
successes/failings by the standard of his behavior.

This counts as nothing more than personal speculation: but these folks
were not principally experimentalists. Theorists have much less accessible
skills and talents to demonstrate to those around them.
Good point! Philosophers, I at least, are prone to group physicists into a
single group ignoring important differentiations such as
theorists/experimentalists. I hope to have learned from this exchange
and not do it again.

I don't think Einstein ever had an academic position where he would have
had students.

You are discounting his months(!) at Prague.
His son describes it best in retrospect ( though he was but 6 at
the time...) "He had to lecture" [on a schedule bw] "on experimental

No, I am not *discounting* them, I am just exhibiting my ignorance of the
details of Einstein's life. I was wrong in my claim above. But does
anyone know what students he had during this period/ what became of

Richard Grandy
Philosophy & Cognitive Sciences
Rice Universityi