“What is the purpose behind the search for scientific laws, in any field? Clearly, it’s divination- foretelling the future, and controlling it.Most of the modern technologies we enjoy, rely on, detest, or fear -cellphones, electric power grids, CAT scans, and nuclear weapons, for example - have been developed by using the basic principles of quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory, and relativity, all of which were discovered by cerebration.The classic tools of twentieth-century divination have indeed been those of physics. More recently, physicists have begun to employ the same tools in finance.
Part of the reason for the influx of physicists to other fields was the1970s collapse of their traditional job market: academia.Thirty years earlier during World War II, the invention of radar and the construction ofthe atomic bomb confirmed the usefulness of physics to postwar governments. Shocked by the successful voyage of Sputnik, the Departments of Defense and Energy began to fund pure research more copiously, and physicists seeking grants to do such research weren’t above playing up the spin-off benefits of their work. Physics departments in the 1960s grew and academic posts multiplied. Inspired by the subject and supported by scholarships, a wave of ardent graduate students entered the field.
The good times didn’t last. By the end of the Vietnam War a deteriorating economy and a public revulsion with science in the service of war put a large dent in research funds. During the 1970s and 1980s,many theoretical physicists who had once hoped to devote their lives to fundamental research were forced to become migratory laborers if they wanted to remain in academia, taking temporary short-term positions in universities and national laboratories wherever they became available.Many of us eventually gave up the struggle to find even a low-paying semipermanent academic job and turned to other areas. We sought physics-related jobs in a variety of fields—in energy research or tele-communications, for example. Former colleagues of mine began to work on alternate power sources at the Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden, Colorado, or on the mathematics of oil retrieval at Schlumberger in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Others helped develop advanced switching systems at AT\&T’s Bell Laboratories in New Jersey.” from “My life as a quant” by E. Derman