The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Sunday, November 28, 2010
Personal Reflections ... Science ... Spirituality ...

I wanted to share a thought that probably only occurs to you when you are get old. Well, it only occurred to me in recent years, as I am getting old. And that thought regards the winds. My thought – really a rhetorical question – is this: WHY does the wind blow so much in winter, and hardly at all during the summer? In winter it just makes you colder (and as an old guy, I don’t like to be cold). In summer, when it could do the most good (i.e., cool you down a bit), the winds hardly ever blow — at least where I live.

That’s just one of those things about the world where “serendipity” is lacking. Oh well, I guess you’ve just got to grit your teeth and pull up your collar and bear it all, until spring arrives once again.

Oh, one other interesting little observation from old age. Not from my old age, but from the old age of a Nobel Prize winning scientist. His name is Steven Weinberg, and there is a personal interview with him published in the November Scientific American magazine. I can’t help but look on a guy like him with envy. He’s a guy who knows for sure that he’s made the most of life; a guy who has really left a mark.

Weinberg helped to develop the Standard Particle Model and figured out the equations proving that electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force are really one. His theories famously predict a boson field interaction that causes things in the universe to have mass, i.e. the famous Higgs boson, which the new CERN particle collider in Switzerland is actively hunting for (unfortunately the one at Fermilab in Illinois didn’t have enough juice to pick it out; but CERN should have more than enough magnetic muscle to make that little bugger poke its head out from the particle stew for a micro-second or two, long enough to document it for posterity). This is probably the hottest thing in science right now! And Weinberg is right in the center of it.

So, you’d think that Weinberg would be one of the happiest humans on the face of the planet right now. And yet, he said something in his interview that was rather saddening. Regarding particle physics: “it’s a rather cold and lonely profession, especially for a theorist like me . . . the work I do has nothing to do with human affairs; human interests and emotions don’t enter into it . . . [thus] to get out of the ivory tower, I like to think about other things and write about them.”

Weinberg’s latest writing about these “other things” is called “Lake Views: This World and the Universe”. Actually, this book is largely about Israel (which Weinberg supports) and about religion (which Weinberg does not support). From a quick glance at the Amazon web site, it doesn’t look like a best seller.

Weinberg is a strict atheist. According to a BBC website article, Weinberg feels that modern physics reflects the “chilling impersonality” of the universe. Quote from him: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.”

It sounds to me like this guy is trapped in his own web, trapped by all the fame and achievement that he gained in life while spinning new and creative scientific views. Now in his old age, Weinberg looks out from that web and admits feeling a bit of a chill. So while I gripe about the winter winds on the aging body, the guy who I would imagine to be the happiest fellow in the Universe seems to feel an unfathomable coldness in the heart of his being.

Kind of makes my problem with Arctic cold fronts seem like a popsicle.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:34 am      

  1. Jim, I can understand Weinberg’s being unhappy. What his unhappiness proves is that being the best in one’s field is not what makes a person happy–as is proved by most celebrities who are the “best” in their fields, whatever they are. So many of said celebrities are obviously very unhappy.

    Actually, Weinberg and his attitude toward the universe seems to be one of those cases where a person looks at the glass as half empty instead of half full. Maybe he should reconsider his position on atheism, at least take a “maybe” position instead of a completely negative position regarding the universe. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 29, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

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