Sunday, July 19, 2009

More from Pais: Einstein and bordellos?

More excerpts from the memoir (A Tale of Two Continents: A Physicist’s Life in a Turbulent World) of Abraham Pais. See earlier post.

p. 375: ... In early September we went back to Berkeley ... The physicist Otto Stern, a Nobel laureate, lived in retirement in the area. He had known Einstein well when both were in Prague, where - he told me - they would visit bordellos together, "quiet places for discussing physics." ... :-) [See also here.]

One November morning I stood in the shower when the doorbell rang... It was Don Glaser, beside himself with excitement. "I just received ... the Nobel Prize! Now I'm a free man, I can leave physics." He did not care at all for the recent style of doing experiments in large teams [modern experimental particle physics]. Indeed, soon after he returned from Stockholm he became a molecular biologist.

I met with Glaser (inventor of the bubble chamber) once when I was a grad student, about the possibility of working on computational neuroscience and vision (his focus at the time). Had I gone that route I probably would have bumped into Jeff Hawkins, who was there doing biophysics.


Ian Smith said...

"Indeed, soon after he returned from Stockholm he became a molecular biologist."

Huh? Despite the Nobel how did he get any fundinng with no experience in the field?

A good thing though if true. Giving up the useless for the useful.

Steve Hsu said...

If you look at the history of mo bio you'll see it's full of converted physicists. The fact that the jump had been made before certainly gave credibility to someone like Glaser.

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