It’s pretty simple. Like the title says, I am qualified to do Avi Loeb’s job, and he is not. Let’s take a look. Avi Loeb, what would you say you do around here?
In addition to being the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard, Dr. Loeb is the Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC), the Founding Director of the Black Hole Initiative (BHI), the Chair of the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee, and the Chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. Big deal. Sounds like a lot of budget meetings.
Besides being on committees, Loeb writes books. Textbooks, which apparently were not selling to Dr. Loeb’s satisfaction, because he had to go and write Extraterrestrial, a book which is as much about Loeb and his opinions on topics such as the Spanish inquisition, his vacations, and his complaints about CERN as it is about his views on the interstellar celestial object, ‘Oumuamua. I have also written a book (although it is a science fiction novel — because irony is dead, Dr. Loeb is not a fan of science fiction, citing its “bad physics”), so I think I’ve got him there.
He also meticulously maintains his webpage’s list of press interviews he has been in (last updated: February 11th). This same personal website also auto-plays an advertisement for Extraterrestrial, which is just annoying. What is this, MySpace? My website (kaitlinrasmussen.com) is never updated (as is proper for a university faculty member) and does not blast ads. Checkmate again.
But Kaitlin, you may ask, how did Avi Loeb come by this job? Well, friends in the academy, buckle in, you’re gonna love this one. He essentially walked into Princeton and inquired! Fresh out of his PhD, Avi Loeb was accepted as a member of the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study, entirely skipping the line of applicants for a position he was objectively not qualified to occupy. How do I know this is objective? Because his PhD is in plasma physics, and the position was in astrophysics, as he fondly recalls in his autobiography. Having successfully weaseled his way into the upper echelons of astronomy in a single shot, he was cheerfully received at Harvard five years later, where he has been ever since.
And what about me? Well, friends, I went to a little something called public school. With an astounding 3.1 high school GPA, I was admitted to the best goddamned school in the world, Florida State University, where I worked my literal ass off for twelve semesters to get into the most adequate grad program in the world, University of Notre Dame (God, Country, Notre Dame, amiright?). During my time there, when I wasn’t consuming alcohol (against the contract I signed) or having premarital sex (also against the contract I signed), I was again, busting my ass to do normal graduate student things like “teaching” and “research” and “taking classes” and “being so homosexual the administration yelled at me.” After I defended my thesis (in a basement, over Zoom, during a pandemic), I got to do the most fun activity academia has to offer: the job search. My fellow academics, do you know this feeling? The soul-crushing, mind-rending, serenity-obliterating process of baring your soul to the void for evaluation? Are you familiar with the process of deciding just how much trauma you, a marginalized researcher, must regurgitate, to be weighed against your CV? Can you remember?
Avi Loeb can’t.
Speaking of being a marginalized researcher: Did you know that Dr. Loeb has thoughts about diversity? Yes, we all have thoughts on diversity, but his are good enough for Nature because he is a very important man. His thoughts on diversity are as such: a list of times in astronomy that some men said “this is impossible” and another man said “well, actually — ”. If this were an exam, I would give him a ten percent score for including a single woman on his list. But this is not an exam, so I give him zero points on the merit that he does not understand what the very word “diversity” means.
Now, most importantly, I can promise this: I won’t spew horseshit about aliens in order to garner clicks and interviews from the genuinely curious. I won’t go on the Joe Rogan podcast. Friends, I will not even berate the esteemed Dr. Jill Tarter on a public Zoom call like only a complete jerk would, seriously, do you even know who she is? She’s been doing this for forty years for chrissakes and you think she’s just a pawn in your game to sell books. Avi Loeb, you make me sick.
Anyways, you need a new professor of astrophysics, and I’m your [GENDER REDACTED]. Sure, I have exactly one first-author paper, my h-index is 7, and I have been in my field for exactly six months. But if Princeton can take a chance on some dude who strolled into the office one day, you can take a chance on me. I’m here, I’m queer, I’m ready to listen to my peers.
My email is email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.