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How to become a famous scientist?

  1. Mar 17, 2016 #1
    Like Richard feynman, einstein, and michio kaku?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2016 #2
    Have you read their biographies? Maybe you'll find clues. First thing is to think if fame is what motivated them. If it didn't, then you may have a problem.
  4. Mar 17, 2016 #3
    I have read their biographies, i know they were not motivated by fame, i also know that they became famous making awesome theories, but i'm curious to know how can a scientist become famous (without making theories that change our vision of the universe), what should a scientist do to present science shows at the television?, does he decides to do it or the ones from tv Shows and science programs ask him for it?
    What makes the difference between a "normal" scientist and one that becomes a public figure like michio kaku? I know that fame is not the motivation of a scientist (it's mostly passion and curiosity) but i think everyone wants to be famous or known for something
  5. Mar 17, 2016 #4


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    I think a big part of becoming a "scientific celebrity" comes from having a passion not just for knowing science, but for sharing it and being good at sharing it. So it's not like you just make some kind of advancement and media people come knocking down your door. If you look at Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson, they didn't become famous overnight. They've been tireless promoters of science for years. They've written countless columns, books, appeared on little talk shows, etc. Eventually the more main stream media began to seek them out when larger scale opportunities came up.

    It's also important to remember that for every Bill Nye out there, there are thousands of other science guys and gals out there who do the same kinds of things, albeit on a smaller scale.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2016
  6. Mar 17, 2016 #5


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    I wonder how many famous scientists actually set out to become famous scientists, as opposed to simply doing their thing well, and enjoying it, and happening to become famous because of it?
  7. Mar 17, 2016 #6


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    I know that is rhetorical, but it is worth considering how old/far along in their careers they were when they became famous for being a public face (if not for a discovery, like Einstein).
  8. Mar 17, 2016 #7


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    Michio Kaku is not in the same league as Feynman or Einstein.

    Einstein and Feynman made major contributions to physics, whereas Kaku has mostly popularized science, as in popsci.

    Why the concern with being a celebrity or achieving fame? How about making a substantial contribution to the field and otherwise just doing a good job?
  9. Mar 18, 2016 #8


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    I think Choppy is correct. If your goal is to become a scientific celebrity you first of all need to be a good enough scientist to actually get a job somewhere, ideally a professorship if you want the media to use you as an expert. However, you ALSO need to be very, very good at communicating science which is a skill all in itself. It then takes quite a while (years) to build up a reputation as a good communicator.
    You guess you can potentially improve your chances by doing other things outside of science. Brian Cox is probably the best known of all TV/media physicists in the UK, he is a very good science communicator but he also used to be a minor pop star (he played keyboard in D:Ream) which in itself makes him more interesting to the media.
    A more conventional way would be to get a position as a science communicator, although that is probably only possible for people who are already established,a good example would be The Simonyi Professorship in Oxford (now held by http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/professor-marcus-du-sautoy.html [Broken], previously by Richard Dawkins)
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  10. Mar 18, 2016 #9


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    If this is your goal, you'll never become one.

  11. Mar 18, 2016 #10
    I believe that to be a common neurosis of the current age.

    One must always be careful of projecting one's self onto others as it so often factors as a rationalization for one's personal dispositions.
  12. Mar 18, 2016 #11


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    Or you could pursue a LONG 15 minutes of fame by adopting / writing an Immanuel Velikovsky view on some far out analysis of an existing as of yet unexplained event (or another such as Erick von Daniken). It was pure poppycock, but these books sold so well that a real scientist felt he had to step forward and dispel the aforementioned baloney. Its far easier to be THE ridiculed Immanuel Velikovsky (who had serious deficiencies in education, obviously), than it is to be the soon to be renown scientist who corrected all of Velikovky's misconceptions to an uneducated book buying public. But hey, he got published, famous and fairly wealthy until a snot nosed new kid on the block with an astrophysics degree decided to challenge his money making books.
    Of course, not many here would likely choose THAT path. But if being a FAMOUS published scientist (soon to be relabeled Charlatan), sounds good to you, well, there is the path above!
  13. Mar 18, 2016 #12
    I'm going to withdraw my assertion that the desire for fame is neurotic. Becoming famous advances one's rank in the troop. Ultimately I would think that would be biologically adaptive behavior (I don't know if Velikovsky actually impregnated more women because of his fame, but that kind of thing).

    Still, it's bad for science. If one is strongly motivated by a desire for fame, when the time comes to decide that your paper must be trashed rather than fudged your mind may trick you into justifying the fudging . And if one is running an experiment or building a theory and one outcome advances you and the other does not, then the mind may systemically sweeten the odds by biasing one's reading and interpretations of results.

    I think science is done best when motivated by a sincere curiosity about nature and existence, along with a deep respect for and love of the kind of truth provided by the scientific method.
  14. Mar 19, 2016 #13


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    No book form biography for Kaku
  15. Mar 20, 2016 #14
    I read
    I read on wikipedia about him and as a book i read physics of impossible
  16. Mar 22, 2016 #15
    There's a Professor in my department whose main focus seems to be getting on TV and trying to become famous. He seems to spend more effort doing awful interviews and filming for some terrible science shows than he does doing physics research and publishing papers.

    I don't think he's the next Lawrence Krauss, but he probably does. He's also, apparently, a huge dick to his students.
  17. Mar 22, 2016 #16
    Would you mind asking him if his fame is making him a more successful breeder?
  18. Mar 22, 2016 #17
    Fame is a double edged sword. It enables and inhibits.

    For example, popsci famous would provide more funding, but also limit which areas in which you could work in a couple of ways.

    Anything too far out there would get you ridiculed.

    And your time would be limited. No bongo drumming in South America for example, even though it might help you understand quantum standing waves.

    I dislike fame on a personal level, but don't have a problem with those who seek it. Good luck.
  19. Mar 30, 2016 #18
    I only have a problem with it when there is a problem with it. Some degree of fame is essential to a successful career as an entertainer. There is little opportunity for if to engender conflict of interests in that context--no problem. But if one desires fame in a field where it is not intrinsic, then I do foresee problems.
  20. Mar 30, 2016 #19


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    Actually, the problem here isn't fame. The problem with this thread is that the motivation here is to become a "famous scientist", not a good scientist that later on become famous.

    Feynman, Einstein, etc.. all were good scientists that produced amazing body of work that propelled them to fame. In other words, the foundation of that fame was their excellent work. The rest took care of itself.

    Doing science, especially physics, for the wrong reason will get discouraging very quickly. If you don't have the love and affinity for it, you will despair soon enough when you are up at 2 am in the morning, trying to struggle with one of JD Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics problems. The process is tedious and hard. If you don't have the drive to do it, you'll give up easily. Doing it just to gain fame is doing it for the wrong reason.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the OP is getting the message.

  21. Mar 30, 2016 #20
    There are many ways to become famous as a scientist.

    Bill Nye, Neil Tyson, Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Brian Green all have done real science... but nothing paradigm shifting. They're as much educators as they are scientists. These people come around several to a generation and probably famous due to marketing more than anything else. The problem is that their fame is shorter lived. Most of these men will be famous for their entire life and probably for many years after (Sagan is still very popular among young people,) but in a century or so, people will still be talking about Einstein, but Bill Nye the Science Guy will be a footnote in your history books.

    Einstein, Tesla, Newton all made paradigm shifting revelations. These people come about very rarely. Still, it always helps to have a hook. Einstein would probably be long forgotten by now if he didn't have that mad scientist look to him (not his ideas, but the man himself.) Tesla also had a mad scientist feel to him, and like Einstein, almost everyone knows what he looks like. Maxwell is just as famous to scientists, but honestly, I couldn't describe his appearance like I could the other two.

    I haven't even mentioned one of my favorite "famous scientists:" David Attenborough. Unlike most other science educators who made real contributions to science first, then later became famous, he was always a journalist. But he was extremely passionate and got the world interested in science.

    If you want to be famous without doing all the back-breaking science, there are other possibilities. One of my favorite men ever was David Attenborough. He wasn't a scientist, but every scientist in the world knew who is was and respected him as a man of science.
  22. Mar 31, 2016 #21


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    I think all of the examples you list above are people whose first and foremost motivation was based on their passion for and love of their particular branch of science that was their interest (and that includes science journalists like David Attenborough). I don't think the first and foremost reason for pursuing their field was motivated out of a desire to seek fame as an end goal in itself, but they had become famous either through their research (e.g. Einstein, Newton, Feynman) or through their ability and love of communicating and sharing their love and passion for their subject in a public, accessible way (e.g. Nye, Tyson, Sagan, Green, Feynman again).

    So I am in complete agreement with ZapperZ -- seeking to become a "famous scientist" as the OP is asking for is a silly goal to pursue. The message that one should take away is that one has to be motivated by an interest in, passion for, and love of science to become a good scientist, and fame may come as a consequence, at least for some.
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