Five reasons why I was in a good mood yesterday

  1. I went on my first hot-air balloon ride (click here for photos). We landed in a Mennonite farm a half hour’s drive from Waterloo. Seven kids came out of the farmhouse to greet us, wearing caps and bonnets. These were the best-behaved kids I had ever seen in my life: they literally walked in formation, and only the oldest one spoke to us, the other six remaining silent. Having a balloon land on their farm was not at all a new experience for them.
  2. I saw this xkcd cartoon, which succinctly captures a point that I’ve been trying to make for the last fifteen years, in arguments against conspiracy-mongers and other associated doofiati.
  3. I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker article about the Large Hadron Collider and the future of particle physics. I hereby nominate her for a Pulitzer; this is one of the best popular science articles I’ve ever read.
  4. I saw Spider-Man 3, a profound philosophical drama that spoke to me on numerous levels. It is indeed true that with great power comes great responsibility; that we all have the capacity for good; and that, if we wish to vanquish the evil without, then we must first confront the arrogance within. My one complaint is that the Sandman was not a particularly effective villain. Let’s face it: sand just isn’t scary.
  5. I got a job offer from MIT.

[Note: To clear up any confusion, I'm now lucky enough to have several great offers, and have not yet decided where I'm going, even unofficially.]

48 Responses to “Five reasons why I was in a good mood yesterday”

  1. Sean Carroll Says:

    What is this “MIT” you speak of? No link or anything?

  2. Scott Says:

    Sorry about that! Added.

  3. Joe Says:

    Congratulations on the job offer. Will you be in Waterloo over the summer at all, or are you moving on?

  4. John Sidles Says:

    How exciting … my sincere congratulations! I am referring of course to Spiderman III (and just to mention, should you ever become a middle-aged father yourself, the Sandman character will seem far more sympathetic … trust me).

    Oh yeah, congratulations on the MIT offer too! You didn’t say you were taking it … but in your shoes, I probably would.

    There are at least three MIT programs that our UW QSE Group greatly admires: The Keck Center for Extreme Quantum Information Theory (xQIT), Isaac Chuang’s Quanta Group at the Research Laboratory for Electronics (RLE), and the MIT Computation for Design and Optimization (CDO) Program.

    Needless to say, from a QSE perspective these groups comprise a unitary enterprise. Did you see any evidence of trends in this direction at MIT? In particular, did the CDO folks interview you? If so, what did they say?

  5. Osias Says:

    OMG!!! Mit? does it mean the end of the blog?!?!

  6. Not even right Says:

    Oh, that means you may work in collaboration with Peter Shor.

  7. Aggie Says:

    …that we all have the capacity for good; and that, if we wish to vanquish the evil without, then we must first confront the arrogance within.

    Not sure how seriously the Spiderman comment should be taken, but I’m curious where you stand on the existence of “good” and “evil”. This seems to be the basis of many religions (and American movies), so I’m interested whether you believe that there exist some entities which we call “good” and “evil” and that people can be “good” or “evil”; or do you believe that people just behave in a way that is a result of how we evolved (to be selfish sometimes and altruistic at other times)? Or do you think something completely different?

    Congrats on the job, BTW. And nice pics!

  8. anonymous Says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!

  9. Matt Hellige Says:

    Congratulations on all five!

  10. Andy D Says:

    Congrats, Scott!

  11. Anon Says:

    Congratulations, Scott! Hope to see you around next year =)

  12. The Message That Is Sent | Cosmic Variance Says:

    [...] On a meta level, it’s interesting to contemplate how hiring and tenuring will ultimately be effected by blogs. Scott Aaronson is blogging at least some occasional facts about his job search. The proliferation of online rumor mills has already taken a lot of what used to be quasi-private information, shared among the old-boy network but invisible to outsiders, and put it out there for everyone to see. I can imagine a similar kind of effect if we ever get to the point that a critical mass of job- and tenure-seekers are blogging about their progress. [...]

  13. Robin Hanson Says:

    Congrats Scott! Great news.

  14. Aaron Bergman Says:

    Congrats.

  15. wolfgang Says:

    Congratulations!

    PS: I guess you will be closer then to your favorite string theorist…

  16. Scott Says:

    Thanks so much, everyone! To be clear, I have several great offers, and have not yet decided where I’ll be going, even unofficially.

  17. Oyster Says:

    Mazal tov!! :-)

    Akh, you give us such naches.

  18. Scott Says:

    Aggie: I don’t know what it would even mean for good and evil to “exist” as abstract entities, but I’m certainly willing to say that there are good and evil people. For me, phrases like “vanquishing the forces of evil” are just shorthand for something else — for example, “refuting those who believe quantum computers can solve NP-complete problems by trying all solutions in parallel.”

  19. Scott Says:

    To answer Joe’s and Osias’s questions: regardless of where I end up, I will be in Waterloo for much of the summer, and (did you even have to ask?) I will continue blogging in my copious free time as a professor.

  20. Nagesh Adluru Says:

    Hearty congratulations Scott! Thanks for going to continue blogging:)

  21. Bill Kaminsky Says:

    Congratulations! I can say from personal experience MIT is a swell place. Indeed, it’s so swell I’ve taken the 6+ year route through grad school. :) Moreover, once the legal battle with Disney is over, we’ll officially be able to use the slogan “It’s the Happiest Place on Earth,” and retire our old slogan “I Hate This F@#$ing Place (IHTFP)“.

    [Don't worry. It's only sleep-deprived undergrads and the t-shirt manufacturers who cater to them that say IHTFP. For everyone else, MIT's really the Happiest Place on Earth.]

    All the best, whatever your final choice is!

  22. Michael Brazier Says:

    Congratulations!

    On abstract entities: what does it mean to say that algorithms exist? I can point to descriptions of an algorithm, but the description of a thing isn’t the thing (or, if it is, descriptions of good prove that good exists.)

  23. Scott Says:

    Michael: Algorithms exist in exactly the same sense that positive integers exist, whatever sense you take that to be. It’s not a question I’ve ever lost sleep over (though I grant that Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, etc. had some good fun with it).

  24. Carl Brannen Says:

    Congratulations on MIT! And, you’ve convinced me to go see spiderman…

  25. Ari Says:

    Many congrats, Scott … you know, I’ve heard that this “MIT” place is like the Caltech of New England. :)

  26. Johan Richter Says:

    I think it is obvious evil people exist. I am not so sure good people do.

    Congratulations on the job offer(s)!

  27. Sarang K Says:

    Great Scott,

    Hurray!

    Congrats for the offer. I know you really deserve it all. My only concern was that with a nascent field like QC, there are not enough people to evaluate talent like yours.

    I really wish you do swell of research… and not get dragged into the occasional MIT/ Princeton snootiness.

    Also, please, please keep updating the blog, even if you are doing it once per quarter. It helps us unwashed masses understand the nuance and beauty of fascinating Game of Life the universe is.

    Let there be light…

  28. Anon Says:

    “and not get dragged into the occasional MIT/Princeton snootiness.”

    Is this snootiness something you’ve observed, or are you just making it up?

  29. Osias Says:

    Oopsss, I was so disturbed by the MIT news that I forgot to congratulate you! Congratulations, Scott! Parabéns!

    It seems that Massa-somethig Institute of Technology is not all about technology, right? I mena, stuff you do is pure science, as I see.

  30. joe Says:

    Well done on the job offer, Scott!

  31. Cosmic Variance: Tenure, job searches, academic freedom, and the blogosphere « Identity Unknown Says:

    [...] On a meta level, it’s interesting to contemplate how hiring and tenuring will ultimately be effected by blogs. Scott Aaronson is blogging at least some occasional facts about his job search. The proliferation of online rumor mills has already taken a lot of what used to be quasi-private information, shared among the old-boy network but invisible to outsiders, and put it out there for everyone to see. I can imagine a similar kind of effect if we ever get to the point that a critical mass of job- and tenure-seekers are blogging about their progress. [...]

  32. Dani Fong Says:

    Did Princeton finally get going and make you an offer as well, Scott?

  33. Scott Says:

    No, Princeton said from the beginning that its priority this year was in computational biology.

    Everyone: can you maybe hold off on further questions for 2-3 weeks?  Thanks! :-)

  34. aravind Says:

    congrats scott, and this deluge is the price you pay for having
    become a rock star! i hope we don’t start seeing your
    balloon ride pictured in the national enquirer :)

  35. Ryan Williams Says:

    Awesome. Congratulations!!

  36. Craig Says:

    Well, that’s amusing. I saw your balloon go by from my living room window the other day. I remember the CHYM logo. I even pointed it out to my daughter, who got a kick out of it. If only I had known it was you. (I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, but if only I had known.)

  37. Dani Fong Says:

    “No, Princeton said from the beginning that its priority this year was in computational biology.”

    I’m surprised you didn’t appeal to the study of the limitations of quantum microtubules, and so forth. Ah well.

    Go forth and soak up your dream academic appointment, whatever that may be.

  38. David Gelbart Says:

    Congratulations!

  39. Bart Selman Says:

    Congratulations, Scott! — Bart

  40. Science After Sunclipse Says:

    A Quarter of Everything…

    I have just two quibbles with this New Yorker article on the Large Hadron Collider to which Scott Aaronson directed my attention. First, throughout her informative story, Elizabeth Kolbert consistently abbreviates “Large Hadron Collider” a…

  41. Johan Richter Says:

    “No, Princeton said from the beginning that its priority this year was in computational biology.”

    Sounds like you forget to tell them about your insights into the evolution of biting vaginas and its connection to complexity theory.

  42. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    What is this “MIT” you speak of?

    Actually Scott misspelled MITT. He got an offer to work for Mitt Romney’s campaign. That’s why he was in the Boston area.

  43. wolfgang Says:

    Scott,

    a sixth reason to be in a good mood 8-)
    P=NP is finally proofed in arxiv.org/abs/0705.1442

  44. aravind Says:

    Actually Scott misspelled MITT. He got an offer to work for Mitt Romney’s campaign. That’s why he was in the Boston area.

    Romney must be happy to be getting the support at last of leading evangelicals such as Scott ..

  45. the reader from Istanbul Says:

    Congratulations, Scott.

  46. Stanford Student Says:

    Hey,

    Congratulations on your offer at MIT. I heard you also got an offer at Stanford. I’m a CS undergrad at Stanford, and I’ve just discovered your blog. I’ve never read a blog that makes me jump up and say “yes!” to as many posts as yours does. I really hope you consider Stanford.

    – Jason

  47. morgan Says:

    Thank you for providing the plural of doofus! The xkcd cartoon was delightful! Congratulations on your job offer at MIT as well.

  48. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

    Is this the time and place to mention all the T-shirts handed out to prefrosh at MIT that had a big “MIT” on the front, and smaller letters (which they didn’t notice until later) that said: “because not everyone can go to Caltech”? Or the campus newspaper given out at MIT which was written and printed at Caltech?

    I am really hoping that Scott gets a great offer from Caltech. Or that he tells Princeton that his work contains all of Computational Biology as a proper subset.

    Hey, I got OUT of Logic and Complexity and Quantum Computing because I’m not as smart as Scott, and that’s why I’ve ended up publishing Computational Biology.