March 21, 2009
March 10, 2009
The New York Times has an article about Wall Street Physicists today.
Emanuel Derman expected to feel a letdown when he left particle physics for a job on Wall Street in 1985.
After all, for almost 20 years, as a graduate student at Columbia and a postdoctoral fellow at institutions like Oxford and the University of Colorado, he had been a spear carrier in the quest to unify the forces of nature and establish the elusive and Einsteinian “theory of everything,” hobnobbing with Nobel laureates and other distinguished thinkers. How could managing money compare?
But the letdown never happened. Instead he fell in love with a corner of finance that dealt with stock options.
“Options theory is kind of deep in some way. It was very elegant; it had the quality of physics,” Dr. Derman explained recently with a tinge of wistfulness.
I've always found it funny that the people who quit academia and go into finance are viewed from within physics sort of like sell-outs or quitters or as unsuccessful in some way. At least by the people I talk to, as sort of an undercurrent in the conversation. And yet, by any reasonable standard, the vast majority of society doesn't care about science at all, and cares a lot more about the ability to buy yachts.