Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam

Here's a story I never thought I'd see outside the AAS newsletter. The astronomy job market is in the doldrums. Those who get coveted tenure-track positions keep them long past traditional retirement age, and thanks to federal penny-pinching, few new research positions are opening up.

According to FOXNews.com's Sebastian Thaler:


Are we to tell our children that the universe is good for looking at, but that when it comes to choosing a career, it's best to keep one's gaze firmly bound to Earth? In effect, that's what's happening now.

So go ahead, make a wish upon the first star you see tonight — and wish luck upon whoever wants to study it.


Well, I could have told you that. But catching the story on FOXNews.com was a surprise--like opening the New York Times and finding your face on the front page.

Not to compare FOXNews.com to the front page of the New York Times, of course, but you get the idea. And when you consider how small the astronomy community really is (the American Astronomical Society claims about 6,500 members, not all of whom are even active researchers), and the granularity of the story (even the Astrophysics Jobs Rumor Mill got a mention), the my-life-is-news sensation isn't quite so crazy.

Is this how Heidi and Spencer feel?

1 comment:

Karen said...

Fascintating. Who knew anyone in the real world cared about the plight of the 125 annual new PhDs in Astronomy!

So I got interested about who this Sebastian Thaler (who wrote the story) is. According to his Amazon.com review site (or at least one belonging to a Sebastian Thaler): "In my own words, I'm a senior copywriter for the Scientific American Book Club and the Discovery Channel Book Club in New York City". And (through the magic of Google) I also found a 1989 NYTimes letter to the editor from a Sebastian Thaler describing himself as a Columbia College Astrophysics major. So I guess the story is pretty close to home for him. Why FOX.com cares is another guess!

Oh, and there's a newer Astrophysics Job Rumor Mill. This one is a wiki site - the old one was no longer being updated.