How are well-known physicists/astronomers viewed by the physics community?


Today, I have seen such an interesting question on Reddit. Here it’s the some well-known (popular) science writers.

  • Carl Sagan
  • Richard Feynman
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Brian Greene
  • Michio Kaku
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson

There’s to much answers to the question. The most rated is below.

Neil deGrasse Tyson / Carl Sagan

Very good popularizers of science. Did reasonable research back in the day (e.g., the level of an average prof at a good research university); but aren’t famous for their own research — is famous for their ability to bring science to the masses in an appealing way. EDIT: I’m not a planetary astronomer. Looking back Sagan did have a lot of very important contributions to planetary astronomy. Not Feynman/Bethe/Wheeler level but very good. NdT seemed to do very good work to get his PhD, but then seemed to move to focus primarily on popularization of science.

Stephen Hawking

Overrated because of his disease. Had a prof in grad school who was another big wig in black hole/gr research in the 1970s and Hawking gets nearly all the credit for it. But of everyone listed (except Feynman) is the only one who is famous for his own research. E.g., he’s easily one of the best 20 GR physicists of our time. But people often think of him as the next Einstein, Newton, Pauli, Fermi, etc when he’s really not.

Brian Greene

Friends at Columbia claim he’s quite annoying about his veganism. (E.g., will be upset if there’s any meat served at a department event). Personally, when I was in undergrad thought elegant universe was well done. Much better than Hawking’s BHoT.

Michio Kaku

Used to be well respected physicist, but goes way outside his expertise and his popularization is often just plain unfounded speculation. Also embarrasses himself a lot by doing the standard annoying physicist stereotype (that like many stereotypes has a basis in reality a lot of the time).

Richard Feynman

Top notch research and very funny anecdotes, and very often idolized by physicists. Some of his anecdotes are a bit sexist or childish or petty, but amusing and hey the 50s-80s were a different time. He’s definitely a genius who also brought science to the masses. Only one of the above list who did Nobel worthy research, who also popularized a lot of science, and had lots of interesting anecdotes.

Another good one :

Actually, I should point out that Sagan was a very prolific and well-respected researcher as well, more so than Tyson at any rate. Tyson has more devoted himself to the popularization of science (and astronomy in particular) than Sagan did. And frankly, I love Tyson for that. Yeah, most people don’t know Sagan for his research work, but he was very important in the beginnings of studying planetary habitability.

Your analysis of Michio Kaku is right on. I personally can’t stand him.

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