Albert Einstein Article

Who said that we scientists can't have a little tongue in cheek fun every once in a while?

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If Einstein was a genius, why didn't he cash in on it?

By Joseph C. Prindle

Wed Jun 29, 6:47 AM ET

If Albert Einstein were alive today, I would have one piece of advice for him. Get a real job.

A century ago, Einstein radically increased our understanding of the universe. His brilliant papers of 1905 - proving the existence of atoms, unleashing the bizarre world of quantum mechanics and discovering the theory of relativity - represent one of the greatest intellectual achievements in history.

And 100 years later, science is still a lousy profession. Why? Let me spell it out for you: m-o-n-e-y. Or lack of it. I should know; I was a scientist. Educated as a physicist (like Al), I once worked as a rocket scientist, protecting America from things that go boom in the night. But when a friend landed a part on a Disney show and made more per episode than I did in a year, I sobered up. Fast.

We as a nation give lip service to science, not cash. There is a double standard that people in science should be above capitalism. If we invent a cure for cancer, we should give it away for free. If we discover a renewable energy source, we should post it on the Internet. But if someone writes a movie like I.Q., they should get an agent, make a pitch and then retire.

No residuals, just bupkis

Being a scientist is a lousy job because we have no financial incentives. Every time the movie Elf gets played, a check is sent to actor Will Ferrell's house.

What does Einstein get every time the theory of relativity is used? Bupkis. Nada. Nothing.

The theory is taught every day in classrooms around the world. It is used to calculate the trajectory of the space shuttle to get our astronauts home safe and to determine the age of the universe. Where are the residuals?

Want to be a scientist? Do the math first. Shaquille O'Neal made $27.6 million this year playing in the NBA. He played for 2,492 minutes. That's $11,000 per minute. Labor statistics show that the average starting salary for a graduate with a master's degree in chemistry is about $45K annually. Let me help: That equals 38 cents a minute.

So when anyone tells me they're a scientist, I quote Brad Pitt from the movie Fight Club when Edward Norton tells him how smart he is. "Clever? How's that working out for you?" And I follow it up with "Oh, yeah, Mr. Smarty Pants, own any California real estate?"

I'm currently enrolled in my own 12-step scientist recovery program, so I have a few ideas to help make being a scientist more attractive.

1. Let Hollywood take over the Nobel Prize ceremony. Get John Travolta and Tom Cruise to host. As Scientologists, they cover the science angle. Throw in some beautiful, scantily clad women, slick production values, shameless self-promotion and overblown hype, and you'll have a hit. It'll make being a scientist cool.

2. Adopt-a-geek. Instead of adopting an underprivileged child, adopt a starving scientist. People could help pay to send them to graduate school or get that dental work done. They could consider it a community service and get a tax deduction.

3. Brain tax. When a person does something stupid - endless supply - they have to pay a tax to support scientific research. So if someone gets caught talking on their cell phone in a theater, that's a $100 fine for a needy scientist.

A scientist's wisdom

If you want to understand the universe or be a genius, that's fine. It's called a hobby, not a job. To you recent graduates who just received degrees in the sciences, I say to you, bummer. But it's not too late. Get an MBA or go to law school. For those still undecided, major in anything else. You'll thank me later.

Leave altruism to the rich. They can afford it.

Joseph C. Prindle is president of C X-STREAM, a digital media company based in Santa Monica, Calif.

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Albert Einstein at the Swiss Patent Office

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former"

- A. Einstein