Today is the 149th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. I’m probably just suffering from a bout of dewy eyed pastoralism, but when was the last time a book which was readable by the general public was also a major work of science? (Not Here That’s For Sure)
And you will say “but science it is so complicated nowadays!” and “but science is so big these days!” And you will say “only smart people can understand string theory!” and “there is so very much that one must learn in order to even understand today’s science!”
So then you will go back to your little corner of the scientific world, and hack out the four pages for your submission to Physical Review Letters. You will use the proper jargon and site the proper sources (where by “proper” here we mean: “most likely to get your paper accepted.”) Your publication count will rise and the halls of academia will whisk you upward into the far reaches of the ivory tower. You will climb this tower and find yourself a small padded room labeled “tenure.” Comfortably there you will look down over the small steps you have taken, and wonder, “why am I here?” and “wow am I exhausted!”
A scientific life lived in short breaths, one publication at a time, until it’s too late, and no one can even understand what you are doing.
It is with some irony that I note that throughout his life, Charles Darwin had health problems, largely attributed the pressure he felt in his own “academic” life.