Well it’s certainly true that many ideas in science have not been tested for many years later. Einstein’s work wasn’t really vindicated in detail until almost a century later. The first evidence came fairly quickly, but the really strong evidence came a century later. And another example was a particle called the Higgs-Boson which was predicted by Higgs, and indeed other people in the 1960s, and was only discovered by a huge instrument — CERN in Geneva — 50 years after it was proposed.
So there are many cases when you have to wait a long time, because it’s often very hard to test some theoretical idea, and so theorists have to be patient. I think they should do something else while they’re waiting, and not get focused and obsessed with some idea. But of course, many scientists do have to work for literally decades to develop some technology, and I’ve been privileged to know some people who’ve developed space projects, gravitational wave detectors, et cetera. That’s been a literally multi-decade project with no guarantee of success at the end. I think what I especially admire are the people who persevere against all the odds in a long-term project which may not succeed. It’s not surprising that some of those people are rather obsessive in their style, because otherwise they wouldn’t be motivated.
But I think as a theorist one can flit from one idea to another. You have an idea and then you go into something else. But if you’re an experimenter developing new techniques, you may literally have to spend years and years on that. And they’re the people who I think we should admire most, because they stake a good fraction of their lives on something which may amount to nothing, but they hope it pays off and it’s wonderful when it does pay off.