The Real Life Sheldon Cooper: Lubos Motl
Sheldon Cooper is without doubt the break out character of the Television series The Big Bang Theory. Everyone seems to know at least one person who is somewhat like Sheldon Cooper. However, while there may be similarities the real life person is probably different enough that it is only really said in jest. However, the similarities between Lubos Motl and Sheldon Cooper are too clear to miss even to the point that plot elements from the show reflect things that have happened in Motl’s life. For those outside of academic communities it is unlikely they would have heard of Lubos Motl, but amongst physicists he is renowned for his insightful ideas, vast knowledge, great mathematical ability and for quite possibly being one of the most difficult people to deal with in the world. Herein, the ways in which Lubos Motl and Sheldon Cooper are alike will be explored.
A lot of people find him offensive, but the same applies to Sheldon. When you step back a bit and just watch or read what is happening it is a little easier to put it in perspective and laugh at it. The interesting thing with Lubos Motl is that he manages to offend such a vast array of people. For example, he offends members of the paranormal community by negatively, perhaps fairly, reviewing their books on Amazon. Here is a quote to demonstrate from one of the offended parties:
I complained to Amazon about Lubos Motl smearing Woit’s & Smolin’s anti-string theory books as “crank” and “crackpot.” At least he reviewed those. In my case he never bought any of my books about UFOs, paranormal, quantum physics, relativity, my autobiography, etc from Amazon, he does not own them, he never read them, and yet he tagged them with insults and slurs.
He seems to have a particularly animosity towards Lee Smolin, who could be said to be his version of Wil Wheaton. While a complete collection of his thoughts on Smolin is not available, a few good ones are around. Take for example the following quote:
Smolin is a mediocre, slow thinker with a bad memory, below-average imagination, bad ability to focus and investigate details, and with kindergarten ideas
There is a great list of quotes available in word document format here. It is amazing that this collection of quotes is just between him and one person. It is a very fun read and absolutely worth taking a look at it.
The episode where Sheldon explains that he is a real physicist to his superior and is subsequently fired is so similar to the circumstances in which Lubos Motl was forced to resign from Harvard that it is uncanny. Motl was heavily critical of other academics such as Lee Smolin and Peter Woit, posting negative reviews on his Amazon books and in writing he often continues to insult them with phrases suggesting they are, “anti-scientific subhuman activist garbage”. For Lubos Motl it did not work out so well and he was not re-hired, whereas Sheldon was after apologizing.
Motl is a major advocate of String Theory, much like Sheldon, and seems to respond extremely negatively to anyone that disagrees.
Lubos Motl and Sheldon both have that strange vernacular that is just a little bit off-key. For Sheldon this comes from his country upbringing and with Lubos it possibly comes from his Czech heritage. Regardless, there is a certain similarity in their odd language use.
Despite all of his perceived character flaws, Lubos Motl much like Sheldon is very talented. His response to Lee Smolin, as shown here, demonstrates that he does really know what he is talking about at least as it concerns to physics and more specifically theoretical physics. He is somewhat less talented when it comes to other issues he debates in, such as climatology, as demonstrated here. Regardless,
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