By that time I had learned the lesson of the importance of choosing the supervisor when it comes to doing postgraduate work. So that way I ended up choosing a topic in applied mathematics and completing my Masters degree in 8 months.
After that, perhaps because I still had the astrophysics itch and for personal reasons for wanting to be in New Zealand, I applied to do a Ph.D. in astrophysics, in New Zealand. I liked the research topic and the supervisor who was offering the project.
The supervisor had a certain passion for teaching that I have found rare in my years of schooling.
Since I knew by this time the state of modern physics when dealing with theories and their interpretations, I was glad to have found a research project that offered a semblance of rationality. It involved the improvement of the methodology of data modeling and analysis.
Why did I quit then? My most personal reason would be that my passion for writing had far beyond caught up with me. But then, it was not like I had lost my passion for science suddenly. And it may have been possible for the two passions to co-exist if I could isolate the research problem I was working on from the problems of the world of academia and the irrationality rampant in the field of physics in general.
But being in an environment that made me feel helpless about the irrationalities of modern physics and the consequential depression that would follow, which was also detrimental to my writing, made it so that physics research could not coexist with my writing pursuits.
However, being involved in Metaphysics of Physics provides an environment that doesn’t make me feel helpless about the irrationalities in the philosophy of science and physics since that is what the show is all about, doing something about it. So in a way, it worked out for the best for me.
Not to say that every rational mind should feel helpless in academia. Just be prepared to be an outcast in the community for having radically different ideas, and perhaps get inspired by the great figures of history who faced similar problems for their radical ideas and triumphed.
What other specific things from personal experience did you not like about academia?
We used to have an astrophysics journal club every week where everybody had a turn to read and review a research paper and discuss it with the group.
Now, if you had told me when I was younger that I was not going to enjoy an astrophysics club, I would not have believed you! Alas, I would have been wrong! The discussions were always so abstract.
You would think that essentially, experts should be able to read a research paper, analyze the abstractions and bring it down to concretes of our physical world and explain it to the non-specialized in the group. That would have made the club so much more interesting.
But then, of course, that was only remotely possible to some people in the group whose area of expertise allowed this kind of sanity. I didn’t expect this at all of the theoretical cosmologists in the group, for instance.
Nope, not with their discussions about cosmological implications of string theory and multiverses and so on. It is not even possible to talk about these topics in such a way, to relate it to the physical world. You can’t do that with floating abstractions.