Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Laying Golden Eggs

J. C. Ward was a distinguished physicist, who had published not very many articles in his career. But the name is ubiquitous because some of the work is essential in quantum field theory, and in other fields. But he felt that he could not lay such golden eggs with any regularity, and he did not see how he could produce regularly however the quality. Ideas he considered worthy were rare for him.

(I should note that few scientists can lay golden eggs with any regularity, and most who are  productive mostly produce just the normal white ones, brittle as they are.)

Ward preferred to be at a third rate place or nth rate place where he did not have such pressure to being at a first-rate place with the pressure and the sense that he was inadequate to the task.

Many of us might say much the same as Ward, but  what we do produce is much less significant than Ward's work. In other words, most of us are not too good to lay regular eggs. And as far as I can tell, Ward himself had no such high opinion of himself, but an acute sense of what he could and could not do.

Your productive colleagues are ordinary hens, maybe once in a while laying a double yolked egg. You very productive colleagues are likely to hit one out of the ballpark (a bad analogy for actual eggs, to be sure) once in a while, and more likely contribute to a subject area.

As I said, almost no one who I have met who disdains producing ordinary eggs has ever laid a golden one or even a double-yolked one.

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