The only things I got…

The only things I got done yesterday were a) meeting with the guy to approve the graphics for the SH t-shirts and mugs, and b) reading Lonely Hearts. Ah well. The guy actually came out to my house, since I don't have a car; how nice is that? In some ways, Salt Lake is still very small-townish. I'm enjoying the cosmologist book, but my enjoyment is being interrupted by fierce pangs of missing Kevin. There's lots of descriptions of various scientists who remind me a lot of the math guys at Chicago, who were my main social network for a few years. They were terrific -- smart and interesting and much cooler than they realized at the time. :-) This book is mostly about personalities, really -- how who these people were influenced the kind of science they chose to do. It's fascinating how much personality does come into it, especially stubborness and desire for glory. Not that all math-science people are necessarily motivated by glory, but for a good percentage of the top-level ones, I think it's a big factor.

Also interesting are the occasional comments from the academic wives. In the two cases discussed so far, both women were academics themselves. One, Allan Sandage's wife, was an astronomer herself, who found it difficult to keep up with her husband's intense astronomical demands, and it sounds like she drifted away from her work as a result. Sad. The other was Stephen Hawking's wife, a linguist, who couldn't even begin to understand what he was doing (and didn't seem to mind that much). Hawking had Lou Gehrig's disease, and she had an interesting perspective on how that affected their (generally very happy) marriage:

"I think it takes great single-mindedness," she said about science, "and I think it means that you cannot really devote yourself to anything else at all. In a way, you see, there is a certain poetic justice in Stephen's condition. Because, given the initial tragedy of his situation, in fact it has meant that he's been able to devote himself completely and utterly to his work. There's simply nothing else that he can do."

Was that a problem? I wondered. "Well, for me there's nothing unusual about it because I knew there was nothing else he could do. I can imagine how frustrating it must be for some physicists' wives when they expect help from able-bodied husbands which is not forthcoming. I have no illusions on that score."


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