Taking astrophysics to new places
Taking his astrophysics skill set and making it do other things, Claude Théoret and his partners at Exvisu are "figuring out ways to quantify zeitgeist on the blogosphere and Twitter." Huh? "I am still, in a lot of ways, an astrophysicist," Théoret says. "In the old days, I used to look and try and make sense of what was going on around the galaxy, where there’s a lot of background light and thousands of stars. My job was to try and find black holes. And now, what’s happening is that all the conversations people are having online, they’re leaving residual data like the stars leave in the sky, and I’m just trying to figure out ways of mapping the interactions between all these people."
What is your training/schooling?
PhD in high energy astrophysics from McGill.
How did you get into this line of work?
It was [my time in] Paris [and related to] what we called sociology of innovation, [or] trying to figure out how scientists worked together. It was a form of sociology that was trained on scientists because they left written records of their interaction. Fundamentally, scientists interact in a way that they’re a tribe, like any other tribe.
Are you in this line of work by accident or design?
What inspires you?
If you have a table, everything on the table’s already been done, everything outside of the table is what is to be done, and as a physicist, you want to be on the edge of the table.
What skills do you need in your profession?
In the same way as the musician needs to have complete knowledge of all the blues scales, or whatever harmonic minor scales [until you don't have to think about it], you have to have that same familiarity with tools to analyze data. This is a brand new field.
What challenges you most in your line of work?
Making it economically viable.
Worst career advice you ever got?
The guy told me to quit my undergrad and start a company to automate things at Northern Telecom.
What makes you keep doing this?
Amazing co-workers, and the 1.0 nature of the work. We’re the first people who are commercializing this. This has never been done before outside of academia.