Stephen Wolfram, PhD at 20?

  • #1
I don't understand, how can one get it so young? I refuse to believe he is just some magical being that was born knowing everything... come on, give me some way to rationalize this!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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He got his PhD whilst traveling on a space ship at 500,000km/h
 
  • #3
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I don't understand, how can one get it so young? I refuse to believe he is just some magical being that was born knowing everything
Some colleges (especially community & public ones) let really advanced kids start college at anywhere from 12 to 15. The average science/liberal arts degree can be finished in two/three years with lots of APs or taking more then 18 credits a semester. Then the phD itself can be condensed down to about 3/4 years if you take tons of credit hours, have been working on the dissertation long before the defense, and/or the committee likes you. The phD can take even less time if you go to a school that doesn't have heavy courseload requirements for the PhD; My school requires about 60 credits worth of grad courses, I remember others requiring about 30.

According to wiki, that's pretty much the path he took:
Wolfram was educated at Eton. At the age of 15, he published an article on particle physics[4] and entered Oxford University (St John's College) at age 17. He wrote a widely cited paper on heavy quark production at age 18.[2]
Wolfram received his Ph.D. in particle physics from the California Institute of Technology at age 20[5]
 
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  • #4
cronxeh
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A 20 year old is an utterly useless being. I'm sure if you were to examine their contribution, somewhere you would find the kernel of uselessness in it
 
  • #5
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A 20 year old is an utterly useless being. I'm sure if you were to examine their contribution, somewhere you would find the kernel of uselessness in it

It seems he's done more in his 20 years than you've done your entire life.
 
  • #6
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A 20 year old is an utterly useless being. I'm sure if you were to examine their contribution, somewhere you would find the kernel of uselessness in it

It seems he's done more in his 20 years than you've done your entire life.


Is that true? (Asking both)

I would like to know what kind of yardstick you are using to determine the usefulness.
 
  • #7
Pyrrhus
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Individuals that show high proficiency in certain areas are given opportunities not following the conventional procedures.

For example Arie Israel does not have a Bachelor Degree or High School Diploma. However, he is a PhD student at Princeton.
 
  • #8
arildno
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cronxeh has just become older and wiser, like myself.

We KNOW all about the uselessness and wasteful prettiness and energy of 20-year olds.
 
  • #9
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My impression (from posts here) was that Stephen Wolfram was a young newly promoted
Ph.D today. But when looking him up at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Wolfram
I find a 50 yeras old guy. Obviously he has, in spite of his early Ph.d at 20, succeeded
in making a rather impressive and fruitful carrier. So in this case not just a pusher with support from surrounding.
 
  • #10
arildno
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My impression (from posts here) was that Stephen Wolfram was a young newly promoted
Ph.D today. But when looking him up at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Wolfram
I find a 50 yeras old guy.

Indeed.

He has managed to evade the dangers of youth, and is now comfortably chubby and bald.

He needs eyeglasses, too; that is a very sympathetic trait in him.
 
  • #11
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My grandfather got his PhD at 19. I envy him so much!
But he was a music theorist so his PhD doesn't count. :D
 
  • #12
Lisa!
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Has he added any new thing to the science or world?
That's just an innocent question...

PS: This thread's reminded me of wolram(aka woolie)
 
  • #13
f95toli
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Has he added any new thing to the science or world?

Mathematica? And more lately Wolfram Alpha...
But yes, he is more famous for his work as an entrepreneur and software developer than for his more "direct" contributions to science.
 
  • #15
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Mathematica? And more lately Wolfram Alpha...
But yes, he is more famous for his work as an entrepreneur and software developer than for his more "direct" contributions to science.


Unfortunately he seems to have outdone us mortals even with his direct contributions to science, before he was 20. Wikipedia: "His work with Geoffrey Fox on the theory of the strong interaction is still used today in experimental particle physics.[6]" Also seem to remember him saying that he created Mathematica not as an entrepreneurial venture but simply to allow him to carry out experiments in the area of math he was working on at the time.
 
  • #17
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How many spikes havs stegy?
 
  • #18
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How many spikes havs stegy?
"How many spikes does Stegy have?"
You can't expect a four year old to write perfect sentences.

Anyway, it seems like Wolfram is one of the very few distinguished scientists to actually attain financial freedom(i.e not being forced into academia and such).
 
  • #19
Lisa!
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Mathematica? And more lately Wolfram Alpha...
But yes, he is more famous for his work as an entrepreneur and software developer than for his more "direct" contributions to science.

Thank you!:smile:
hmmm... Correct me if I'm wrong :Bill Gates didn't finish university and he did alot more than he's done:uhh:
 
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  • #20
Pyrrhus
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Mathematica? And more lately Wolfram Alpha...
But yes, he is more famous for his work as an entrepreneur and software developer than for his more "direct" contributions to science.

Don't tell that to some of the people around here (two-fishquant) that will only support their cases :rofl:
 
  • #21
Lisa!
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Don't tell that to some of the people around here (two-fishquant) that will only support their cases :rofl:

Honestly, I had no point:biggrin:
I was just asking some innocent questiono:)
 
  • #22
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I would have serious questions about his knowledge of basic physics. There is no way you can rush through a physics Ph.D at such a young age without skipping over a lot of stuff.
 
  • #23
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I would have serious questions about his knowledge of basic physics. There is no way you can rush through a physics Ph.D at such a young age without skipping over a lot of stuff.

Who said he skipped anything? He's just very, very smart. What most people here are failing to mention is that a PhD is a process, it is not a be all end all, nor is it someones best work in life.
 
  • #24
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I would have serious questions about his knowledge of basic physics. There is no way you can rush through a physics Ph.D at such a young age without skipping over a lot of stuff.

Why do you think that??? Because it would take YOU a lot longer to learn and understand it all??? I highly doubt that he doesn't understand basic physics. One of the beautiful things about physics is that it is very important to learn the basics before moving up in understanding it would appear he just was able to understand much faster than you or me.
 
  • #25
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Here is his first paper written when he was 17:

http://www.stephenwolfram.com/publications/articles/particle/75-hadronic/index.html

Abstract

A new form of high energy electron-hadron coupling is examined with reference to the experimental data. The electron is taken to have a neutral vector gluon cloud with a radius . This is shown to be consistent with measurements on and . At low energies, only photons couple to the gluons, but at higher energies `evaporation' then `boiling' of and occurs, allowing strong interactions....
 

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