I’d Be Happy To … For $250 an Hour

In Science by Brian Koberlein5 Comments

Yesterday I got an email asking for a favor. I’ve never met this particular person before, but they had this revolutionary new approach to relativity that could explain away dark matter and dark energy. Could I please just read through the 40-page tome and give them feedback. It’s so simple it must be right. They just need a little help with the details. I get similar emails about once a week. Please look at this theory, if you could just fill in the math, if you just read it you’ll see I’m right. Usually they call upon the importance of their work to urge me to do it. Sometimes they kindly offer to make me a coauthor of their paper. Not once have any of them offered to pay me.

I usually just ignore these emails, but I think I’ll start responding. I’d be happy to, for $250 an hour. Paid in advance.

If you are emailing me, it’s presumably because you know that I’m trained in astrophysics. Maybe you’ve come across my blog, or you saw me listed on my university’s website. I have a skill you’d like access to, and you’re asking for personal feedback on work that will take time to understand an analyze. Paying $250 an hour for such work is actually quite reasonable. Whether or not you agree, that’s my going rate.

Like most scientists, I got into my field not for the money, but because it’s what I’m passionate about. I’m fortunate to be employed as a scientist so that I can make a living doing what I love. And there’s a great deal I’ll do for free because of that love. You want me to give a talk about astronomy or physics? I’d be happy to. Have a question about my field, I’ll try to answer it. Want me to talk science on your podcast or TV show, I’ll try to fit it into my schedule. The universe is an amazing place, and I’ll do what I can to tell the world just how amazing it is.

But our time on this rock is limited, and in my case I can either spend my spare time communicating science to the general public, or I can spend it working on your pet theory.

So, you want me to vet your personal theory? As they say, show me the money.


  1. Pretty reasonable, actually. 250$ an hour for consulting sounds quite cheap when you take into account the level of training.

  2. Within the comic/illustration world, this kind of personalized services are called “commissions”. Usually artists have a list of fees for different kinds of work. A portrait is X much, fanart on a famous character X much, original concept art X much, and so son.
    So maybe you too can have a list of fees for “science commissions”. X much for reading about your ‘revolutionary’ idea, X much for helping out with the math, and so on.

  3. If it would unify quantum mechanics and gravity, while explaining dark matter and dark energy, $250 per hr is nothing. The equations would probably show that $250/hr = 0.

    That said, here’s a business suggestion. Insist on payment up front.

  4. I’m also a professional astronomer. I’m happy to answer these requests provided they can answer questions of mine, eg explain the tensorial nature of the Christoffel Symbols and explain second quantisation. (None have given answers to this yet.) I try to be supportve & not dismissive, and I spell this out in my FAQ: http://physics.open.ac.uk/~sserjeant/faq.txt

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