I’m dining with a physicist friend. As ever, this is a most delicious and physical experience. He’s one of those truly devoted people who is enthusiastic about his math and physics. I’ve always found this kind of enthusiasm most enticing, because it’s so generous. We have tandoori chicken with wine provided for by the Bohr Institute. It’s a Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005. The combination is quite amazing – also because my friend insists on listing all the things that Libras have in common: as we are born in October we find ourselves swooning over good smell and music. I can’t accommodate my friend’s wish to listen to Mozart’s Requiem – a top favorite of mine – having recently moved some favorite CD’s managed to get lost or misplaced – but I play instead Edita Gruberova and Yoshikazu Mera, some other Mozart in between and round if off with Glen Gould playing not Bach.

It strikes me that what I find entirely alluring about scientists – when they really are that – is the fact that they live completely according to Hamlet’s philosophy: not only are they convinced that there’s more between heaven and earth – astrologically speaking – but they also don’t mind sharing odd complementarities. By the time we get to the Pu-Erh tea – which my friend knows a lot of things about, and which he brought along – we have been going from Aretino’s Lewd Sonnets to David Ruelle’s book Chance and Chaos – especially the chapter: “The true meaning of sex” - and Frank Close’s Lucifer’s Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry. Although I’m neither into zodiac signs, and symmetry only gives me a headache, I manage to respond most interestingly: the belief that there’s more between heaven and earth can only be formulated by someone who is already convinced that two plus two is not only four, but also something else.

Wittgenstein intercedes: “Knowledge in mathematics: Here one has to keep on reminding oneself of the unimportance of the ‘inner process’ or ‘state’ and ask: “why should it be important? What does it matter to me?” What is interesting is how we use mathematical propositions.” My friend tells me that one of his favorite lines – one I once delivered in another context – has become this one: “symmetry in theory only screws up the smartest question: who the fuck cares?” I think of that while Mozart is blowing the oboe.

At this late hour, I’m reminded of a favorite Einstein quote: “nothing happens until something moves.” I secretly see myself winning the newly instituted Nobel prize for entangled disciplines: physics, math, and literature. If Wittgenstein and I know nothing, and we like to keep it that way so that we can learn some more, Einstein and I like to move it. Especially things that we’re uncertain about. Good physicists understand that. Mathematicians follow suit by priming the pump, and poets fall in silent dawn condensing scent links. Bash(o)ing haikus.


Anonymous said…
Indeed, "nothing happens until something moves." So thanks for putting things in motion.

As for the rest, do remember what Feynman once said "It is of great value to realize that we do not know the answers to difficult questions. This attitude of mind – this attitude of uncertainty - is vital to the scientist and it is this attitude of mind which the student of science must acquire." In other words, be aware that you will not really provide answers to your questions so... enjoy the wine. And the tea.

Bent said…
It's always good havíng a physicist for dinner: All that is solid melts into air, as Karl predicted long before quantum mechanics came on the menu...
Camelia said…
That's a good one. Brother Marx, in spite of what else he said, remains a metaphysician.

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