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Women in Astronomy

How to Collect Matches that Will Catch Fire

10 Jun 2015, 11:00 UTC
How to Collect Matches that Will Catch Fire
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  Today’s guest blogger is Abraham Loeb. Avi is the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. He serves as chair of the Harvard Astronomy department and director of the Institute for Theory & Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Avi is also the father of two young daughters and is working to make the scientific world a better place by the time they enter university.  Science can only blossom if young researchers are rewarded for acquired skills and growth rather than inherited academic ancestry.  Will a match catch fire when it scratches against the rugged matchbox wall? Knowing the answer is of paramount importance if we want to collect useful matches in our box. One way to find out is to try them all. The only problem with this approach is that by the time we will know the answer, the burnt matches will be of no value. The challenge is how to select useful matches reliably in advance? Putting this challenge into an academic context, how can we select a cohort of promising scientists before they have made their discoveries? This is the fundamental challenge of academic planning. Prestigious universities are plagued by past hirings which ...

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