admissionprof wrote: But if he is an avid opponent of the Big Bang and the expanding universe model, then he is a nutcase and his letter would not be valuable, even if he has a PhD.
TakeruK wrote:A LOR from someone without a PhD is "less than ideal" (to answer your question directly) but as admissionprof points out, it may not the deciding factor. I think it would be okay if one out of three letters were from someone who does not hold a PhD and who does not work in academia.
There are many good physicists who are great in one field but hold very wrong and very incorrect ideas about other fields. For some reason, many smart people think that when they are good at one thing, they are also experts in others.
Whether or not this letter will help you depends on your boss and how they are an avid opponent of the Big Bang / expanding Universe model. For example, when I hear this, I think of the many many many "crackpot" letters with theories from people with little or no training in physics that are sent to me and my colleagues about their own ideas. If your boss comes across as one of these people, then I think a letter from him will hurt you. Also, when you say he is an "avid opponent", what do you mean? Is he the type of person that is actively writing research articles about alternative theories? Does he have a reputation of attending talks on Big Bang / expanding Universe to criticize the speakers? That is, does he have a reputation in the cosmology field? If so, the department you are applying to might know about him and it can hurt you.
However, if you mean he is simply not convinced by the evidence for the Big Bang and the expanding Universe but the people reading your LORs won't know this about him, then it probably won't matter at all.
admissionprof wrote:Takeruk is correct. Plasma cosmology was a rational alternative in the 80's (although believed by a small minority), but the overwhelming evidence in the past decade or two regarding the microwave background eliminates it as a viable alternative. Of course, like cold fusion adherents, there will always be a small group that "keeps the faith". If your letter writer is known to those on the admissions committee as an advocate of plasma cosmology, they will consider him to be a crackpot and won't take it seriously. But if he is known as a good plasma physicist and they don't know about the cosmology stuff, there won't be a problem. To find out, I'd simply look at his publications in the past few years.
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