Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Physics Groupie Sighting

So there I was, waiting in an ATM line the other day, definitely not expecting any sort of science incident to occur. But science has a way of sneaking up on a person in the most delightful way. I sort of acknowledged the elderly woman in front of me in line with the large summer straw hat, the flowery sun dress from the 60s, and the red-painted toes and nails. OK, maybe I did notice her, she was quite a sight. But she didn’t register with me much at all until I noticed her climb into her car that was parked next to mine in the parking lot.

The car sort of matched her get-up. It was an aging red Mercury Grand Marquis, with a black leather top peeling off in large chunks. As she accelerated, the car floated along, as if suspended on a water bed, sloshing on barely existent shock absorbers. That car had seen better days, but then so did its owner.

Now in my own car, I edged closer to hers as she spent a long time negotiating a right turn out of the parking lot, I noticed something that entirely changed my opinion. There on the left side of her rusting bumper were some exquisitely old stickers. The one that immediately caught my eye was “Tuva or Bust!” Whoa! Another was a country sticker for “Tuva.” And the coup de grace was a sticker proclaiming “Feynman Lives!”

Small things in life make it all worthwhile.

[NOTE: Richard Feynman and his friend Ralph Leighton had a fascination with visiting the tiny country of Tuva. Feynman's attempt to visit Tuva is an allegory for his perpetual curiosity to discover new things. Sadly, Feynman died of cancer shortly before the visas finally arrived.]

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