The bipartisan physics caucus grows by one

Bill Foster, a particle physicist at Fermilab, won a special election in Illinois last week to become the newest member of the House of Representatives. He’s the third physicist in Congress! The other two are Rush Holt (D-NJ), a former professor at Swarthmore and assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, and Vern Ehlers (R-MI), who has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Berkeley and used to chair the physics department at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

Why three physicists and no mathematicians? Maybe because physicists are much more likely to have experience overseeing large pots of money — and by extension, to have experience asking people for large pots of money, a critical skill for aspirants to public office.

There is one Congressman with a Ph.D. in math, first-termer Jerry McNerney (D-CA). But in his professional life he’s an engineer. And algebraic topologist Daniel Biss will be a Democratic candidate this fall for State Representative in Illinois. Are there any other mathematicians in state legislatures?

If you’re running for office and want to cash in on this physics trend, you might start with Chad Orzel’s enjoyable post explaining how to talk like a physicist. Some of his suggestions are indeed things I say all the time, without thinking of them as markers of membership in the math tribe: for instance, referring to difficult things as “non-trivial,” or bad things as “sub-optimal.”

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One thought on “The bipartisan physics caucus grows by one

  1. Daniel says:

    I was rooting for that physicist to win ;P

    I told several people last week about talk like a physicist day, and they always asked how do physicists talk? I just said that, to zeroth order, they could try to talk like me. Although, I find that I talk like a mathematician a lot more – saying that things are within epsilon of each other, modding out by things, and taking intersections of various sets in everyday conversation. I’m also starting to talk about things with zero measure, though I’m still somewhat hesitant about this, because I don’t really understand how measure theory works.

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