Better to be Lucky than Good?

The arXiv paper below looks at stochastic dynamical models that can transform initial (e.g., Gaussian) talent distributions into power law outcomes (e.g., observed wealth distributions in modern societies). While the models themselves may not be entirely realistic, they illustrate the potentially large role of luck relative to ability in real life outcomes. We’re used to …

More

Big Tech compensation in 2018

I don’t work in Big Tech so I don’t know whether his numbers are realistic. If they are realistic, then I’d say careers in Big Tech (for someone with the ability to do high level software work) dominate all the other (risk-adjusted) options right now. This includes finance, startups, etc. No wonder the cost of …

More

Theory, Money, and Learning

After 25+ years in theoretical physics research, the pattern has become familiar to me. Talented postdoc has difficulty finding a permanent position (professorship), and ends up leaving the field for finance or Silicon Valley. The final phase of the physics career entails study of entirely new subjects, such as finance theory or machine learning, and developing …

More

The cult of genius?

In one of his early blog posts, Terence Tao (shown above with Paul Erdos in 1985) wrote Does one have to be a genius to do maths? The answer is an emphatic NO. In order to make good and useful contributions to mathematics, one does need to work hard, learn one’s field well, learn other …

More

Global Impact Initiative

MSU will be hiring over 100 new professors (beyond ordinary hiring such as retirement replacements), primarily in science and technology areas that address key global challenges. Priority areas include Computation, Advanced Engineering, Genomics, Plant Sciences, Food/Environment, Precision Medicine, and Advanced Physical Sciences. MSU total funding from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation …

More

Value-Added College Rankings

New report from Brookings estimates value added (in terms of economic success) by university, controlling for input factors such as student quality and family income. This is just the first step toward outcomes-driven rankings of universities that will be far more useful than the existing rankings, which are largely based on prestige. Brief summary. See …

More

The rich (and powerful) are different

Discussions at the meeting I just attended are off the record, so I have nothing to report. But I will link to some previous posts of relevance: Creators and Rulers How the World Works Educational background of US elites A word cloud produced from the collective bios would feature: Harvard, Stanford, Goldman Sachs, Rhodes, Marshall, …

More

Talent management, part 2

Last week I wrote about recruiting new faculty to the College of Education, and this week I turn to another important part of our efforts at developing and retaining faculty: the reappointment, promotion, and tenure review process, or RPT as it is known here at Michigan State. Like most universities, MSU has very detailed guidelines …

More

Women in Weed Science article

-E. Hill Today the Weed Science Society of America released an article about women in weed science, which is particularly relevant since there are two women professors in weed science here at Michigan State University along with two staff members and several graduate students trained in the discipline. Please take time to read the article at …

More

Scientists are not that smart

This article I am describing is more of an opinion piece than a scientific study, but I think it does cover some important points head-on for why non-scientist members of the general public may have false assumptions about scientists being smarter than non-scientists. I have had people tell me before that I must be really …

More

Letter of resignation

Dear <chairs>, I am resigning my Assistant Professor position at Michigan State University effective January 2nd, 2015. Sincerely, CTB. Anticipated FAQ: Why? I’m moving to UC Davis. Do you have an employment contract with UC Davis?? Nope. But I’m starting there in January, anyway. Or that’s the plan. And yes, that’s how this kind of thing happen. …

More

Wandering physicists

This is funny, and does capture the tendency of physicists (not just old ones) to wander into other fields. But the cartoon avoids the hard question (perhaps best addressed by historians of science) as to the actual value brought to other fields by physicists. See, for example, Physicists can do stuff, Prometheus in the basement, …

More

Why lactation rooms matter

An important and timely blog post by Carrie Glenny at the University of Washington was published this week about the necessity of available lactation rooms at workplaces.  New mothers that choose to breastfeed need to pump milk every few hours, and this can be very hard to do in workplaces without private offices.  Take a …

More

Success, Ability, and all that

I came across this nice discussion at LessWrong which is similar to my old post Success vs Ability. The illustration below shows why even a strong predictor of outcome is seldom able to pick out the very top performer: e.g., taller people are on average better at basketball, but the best player in the world is …

More

The Direction of Kindness

I was recently reading the script for a commencement speech given by critically-acclaimed author George Saunders to the graduating class of 2013 at Syracuse University. His message serves as a poignant reminder about letting go of the trivial things we so often become enamored with – things like accomplishment and success that seem anything but …

More

STEM pays

Peak annual earnings for engineering graduates were even higher at $98k. Source: How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment: A Report on Earnings and Long-Term Career Paths. When I was a new faculty member at Oregon I was told with great earnestness by our President (a JD with limited understanding of STEM or …

More