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What proportion of physicists are autistic?

  1. Oct 24, 2012 #1
    I just wondered. I'm applying to study physics at university next year and I was speaking to someone who has just started her PhD. I asked if it would matter at all that I have Asperger's (I have a couple of issue in certain situations but I'm pretty socially functional) and she sad that I wouldn't be in much of a minority at all, a great many physicists have High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    It kind of made sense to me, seeing as a lot of physics is a massive amount of dedication to the level obsession, and physicists are known for often being a little socially unusual or eccentric, and these are all common autistic traits, plus many autistic people have a good natural aptitude for maths.

    So it just made me wonder, if you work or study in physics, to your knowledge is there a higher proportion of autistic people in physics (and I suppose maths too) than in the general population?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2012 #2
    Depends on the subfields of physics. Experimental particle physics don't have as many autists as other subfields, for instance.
  4. Oct 24, 2012 #3
    Got a reliable reference for that statement?
  5. Oct 24, 2012 #4
    Would a professor working in experimental particle physics be a good start?
  6. Oct 24, 2012 #5
    Not really. If you got a peer reviewed paper on the subject that researches the topic, then show it. If it's just first-hand experience, then that's not good enough.
  7. Oct 24, 2012 #6


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    The professional physicists' milieu is more ACCEPTING of "weirdos" than other work communities.
    Thus, you will find a higher proportion of Aspergers' there.
  8. Oct 24, 2012 #7
    Sigh. Do you have any reliable references for that??
  9. Oct 24, 2012 #8
    micromass, I appreciate that you aim to get posters to stick to hard evidence, but I believe the OP (correct me if I'm wrong, Mojo) was just asking for the general, personal observations of people working in physics, and that posts about the topic would be taken as such.
  10. Oct 24, 2012 #9
    Nice mouth. People with Aspergers always speak well of you.
  11. Oct 24, 2012 #10
    micromass is not asking for evidence from the OP, he is asking for evidence from the poster who made some claims about relative abundances of autists in physics fields.
  12. Oct 24, 2012 #11
    Would you really bother to check it even if he did?

    Anyone who's been around a couple physics departments knows there's a lot of weird kids hanging about. In my experience though, people who are actually successful in physics are fairly normal and have average to good social skills.

    And no I don't have a reference, it's just my experience working with different research groups and meeting lots of people who have careers in physics.
  13. Oct 24, 2012 #12


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    Me, Me, and not the least, MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  14. Oct 24, 2012 #13
    Can we get off this autists are weird kick?
  15. Oct 24, 2012 #14


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    I agree.
  16. Oct 24, 2012 #15
    Who said I'm referring to autistic people? I resent that anyone who's weird is excused by being labeled with Aspergers. I'm responding to Arildno's comment.
  17. Oct 24, 2012 #16
    I realize that. My point was that the OP is clearly just interested in hearing about people's general experiences regarding the question at hand, and probably would not be taking claims made in those posts as peer reviewed research. I think a response that would have better facilitated answering the OP's questions would be to ask the person making the claim, "What makes you say that?" rather than, "Do you have a peer reviewed study proving it?" This was meant to be a casual topic, not a fight to demand published evidence.
  18. Oct 24, 2012 #17


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    When a claim is made as fact, if you are asked to provide acceptable, mainstream, peer reviewed scientific research, then you MUST provide that research. It's not an option. It prevents the thread from deteriorating into a mess of misinformation.

    Also, please show respect for those that suffer from autism spectrum disorder.
  19. Oct 24, 2012 #18
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  20. Oct 24, 2012 #19
    I guess there just would have been zero confusion on the matter if he had prefaces it with "I have found..." or "In my experience..."

    on subjects like these, which are not always treated lightly by all, I guess it's helpful to be clear on what you're saying in order to reduce misunderstandings
  21. Oct 24, 2012 #20
    There is a difference between

    "Physics has more autists than other fields"


    "In my experience, I have met more autistic people in physics departments than in other fields"

    The first is not allowed without reference, the second is.
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