A while back, I wrote what some might call a fairly provocative article on the promiscuity of famous physicists entitled Getting Physical. Besides getting picked up by a porn site or two and this possibly NSFW link (So what if you’ve been on Slashdot? How many science articles can claim this distinction, huh?), I received quite a few responses from some rather aghast SEED lovers questioning the veracity of my claims.
Let me just say this: I am equally SHOCKED. You fell into that tired stereotype that scientists are all asexual freezy pops? Sorry people, don’t want to ruin your next handshake with a scientist or anything, but they’re living, breathing, warm-blooded mammals like the rest of us, so, yeah, they have sex.
Anyways, since y’all were nice enough to read the article, I might as well address some of your concerns and tell you why I actually wrote said article.
#1. I am not making a link between quality of creativity and quantity of sex. That was a study published elsewhere. Nor am I saying that to be a great physicist you should have tons of sex…but hell, couldn’t hurt when you’re not doing calculations.
#2: My piece was about early 20th century physicists. Yeah, I know Newton was purportedly a virgin and that Paul Dirac was hardly Don Juan, but for a while there between the World Wars, many of the top physicists were indeed “getting it on” quite frequently and in well-documented fashion. I direct your attention to Moore’s biography of Schrödinger, Sherwin and Bird’s tome on Oppenheimer, and Fölsing’s biography of Einstein and basically anything ever written about Feynman for many further exploits. BONUS: In Moore’s book you’ll find the extra revelation that Schrödinger tried to make with 17 yr. old twins.
#3. How do I know that this is still going on? I went to grad school for theoretical physics…’nuff said.
#4. Of course, since all scientists are HUMAN (really can’t stress that enough), this is not just a phenomenon among physicists. We all do it, so careful biologists, I am gunnin’ for you next.
Now, why did I write this? Well, when I was toiling away at my now-aborted PhD, an ex-girlfriend once told me that she would only be interested in learning about physics if I could couch it in terms of something she actually cared about: Celebrity gossip. (What can I say? We probably weren’t the greatest match.) I guess she wanted something to the effect of: “Those electrons are like so repulsive? Like, I mean, ya can’t invite any two of ‘em to the club because they’ll, like, just stay on opposite sides of the room, or something? Unless, you get it like cold enough so that they have to pair up? Then things start poppin’.”
Now, since, I couldn’t really see myself prattling on about physics like a gaggle of hyper ‘tweens who just picked up Star magazine, I did the next best thing. I began reading about the personal lives of physicists, and peppered my explanations of their work with real gossip from their lives. And it worked. She could have cared less about the Schrödinger equation, but when I told her that it was discovered while Schrodinger was up in an Alpine villa having sex with his mistress, she was fascinated and wanted to hear more. Putting an, albeit sexed-up, face to the physics worked.
Hey, maybe it’s not so bad to pander to the lowest common denominator, sometimes it’s the best way to get your point across. That’s probably why you even stopped to read this post in the first place.