“Solving” the Two-Body Problem

The two-body problem is a classical mechanics one, in which the motion of two interacting particles must be determined. I’m not a physicist, so I don’t know how hard it is to solve. In career terms, the two-body problem involves two partners, both with professional aspirations, trying to end up in close geographical proximity…so that they can live together, support each other, and maybe even raise a family. The career two-body problem is atrociously hard to solve exactly, but I’m convinced that approximations do exist. Unfortunately, those solutions may be somewhat unique to each set of particles, errrr, people.

I believe that the two body problem is in no way unique to academia, but is pervasive for all sorts of couples where both have advanced training, skills, or licensures that limit them geographically. A boat captain coupled with an architect might have to eliminate the inland US from their search, for example. In academia, where a year in which a dozen jobs in your specialty are advertised is considered a pretty good year, the problem is simply intensified. If both partners are academics, it’s intensified to the nth degree.  Continue reading