The last few posts and comments on them have been intense and serious. Time for something lighter. Yggdrasil noted that he’d sent me a link to an article relevant to my last post. I did have it printed out and took it up to band camp in August, but one of the coaches was writing a paper on the mathematical structure of scales using group representation theory as one tool. I’d happened to take up a book on the subject since representation theory of groups is said to be important for chemical quantum mechanics, so I never got to Y’s link. Then I lost the paper.
But I did find it, and a brief look showed that it appears to be full of statistical mechanics. The reader is probably thinking at this point — this is something lighter?
But the statistical mechanics took me back to a course I audited in grad school taught by none other than E. Bright Wilson (the Wilson of Pauling and Wilson). He was an incredible lecturer. He never used a note, and started each lecture at the very basics of SM, moved quickly to where he’d stopped the previous lecture and took off from there. I’d never seen anyone with such an incredible command of his subject (even including John Wheeler, Woodward rarely lectured — the seminars were pretty informal).
I do keep up with a few old friends from grad school, and somehow this year the talk got around to Wilson and his course. My friend (now 45 years away from grad school and chair of a chemistry department) turned dark, muttering that Wilson gave him the only C he’d gotten in his whole life.
4 years ago I went to my 50 year high school reunion. About 48 years ago it was absorbed into a regional high school. It was such a small school (212 students in 4 grades) that anyone who’d ever gone there was invited. We were too small to even play 6 man football but we did have a basketball team. Since we were the smallest high school in the state, we played schools 4 and 5 times our size and regularly got clobbered. I was a fair player, good enough to start my senior year, but nothing like two guys the year ahead, who both made all county.
So I show up at the reunion wearing my basketball warmup shirt (which I could actually fit into) and looked for other high school jocks. One of the two stars was there. He’d gone into coaching, and we started talking about the old days. I made some polite noises about how good the two of them were. Star #1 reminisced about the night he’d scored 30 points (this was high school ball with 8 minute quarters), but he turned dark and said “that son of a bitch (star #2) scored 45 points that night”.