I am sure I’m not the only one wondering why there has been no new Einstein? or Newton? for that matter. So what made Einstein so special? Many of Einstein’s contemporaries testified that he was not unusually talented mathematically. Instead, what enabled him to make such tremendous advances was a driving need to understand the logic of nature, tied to a breathtaking creativity and a fierce intellectual independence.
Physics has become much more specialized than it was over 100 years ago. Einstein also read a lot of philosophy. Most physicists today seem to believe that “philosophy” is just idle speculation or worse, a pile of unfounded beliefs. Actually, philosophy (in it’s broadest sense) is just about making your thoughts clear, but it seems to have become a dirty word in physics. What is most important is to not be a crackpot and to get your articles frequently cited. But before you can even get to that point you must show-off how smart you are by getting higher scores – just like a game. To Einstein these things did not matter at all.
It follows that new Einsteins are unlikely to be easily characterized in terms of research programs that have been well explored for decades. Today’s push towards “teamwork” and corporate sponsorship ensures no discovery is made public without some company logo, and approved face. And most of this research is made to come up with some new product that can earn inn what that company invested in the research and more. The privatization of research has been a problem for most sciences for decades, but it’s been turning worse. Government funding of research has been decreasing in most countries for the last decade. And without government funding a lot of sciences have almost died out. Just look at the research that came out of the cold war when government funding was plentiful.
To be a new Einstein today you’ll probably need to work a lot on your own, just like Einstein did when he was working as a patent clerk at the patent office in Bern. Switzerland, and focus on areas the entire academic field has not already been over with a tooth comb and a billion dollar particle accelerator, in short, be creative.Scientists need to be driven by their own curiosity and need for understanding rather than by the quest for tenure.