Monday, July 15, 2002

Dear Hop

Dear Hop,

A has been sad for the past two days. There wasn't any direct reason for it -- everything in her life, and between us, is going well -- but it was a more complicated sadness. I didn't try to bring her out of it right away because at its root was something important, something that that all who live with as little self-delusion as possible confront. Endings. Or rather, the knowledge and foresight that everything good (in this case, our time spent together) comes to an end -- very often a painful one. It is sad. The trick, I guess, is to know that and enjoy life anyway. A's laughter is careening out of the room above me now -- guess she figured it out.

I remember asking you and Gigi once how you confronted the prospect of death. If I remember correctly, your response was that death is natural -- that the old get out of the way and free up space for the new. It's very true of course. But it sucks! And I still don't like it. I'm with Woody Allen: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my art. I want to achieve immortality by not dying." I wonder sometimes if his plot device for "Sleeper," cryonic suspension, is actually a reasonable gamble -- sort of like Pascal's wager, only with faith in the significant advancement of technology instead of faith in an irascible old dude with a powerful and twisted sense of humor (I'm talking about god, not you Hop). But one of the main problems I see with hoping to be thawed out after cryonic suspension is that once the technology has developed to thaw out, regenerate, and reanimate a human, the chances seem good that it's going to be intelligent computers rather than humans running the show -- and why would they want to thaw out the meat? Perhaps they would have a desire, based on curiosity, to bring back some humans and keep them in a sort of zoo. It seems a long shot, and maybe not compatible with keeping one's dignity, but I'm just not so happy with the whole death idea.

Another thing I'm not so happy with is the state of research in the community of theoretical physics. I'm amazed at how much brain power has been commanded by the area of string theory. For ten years this branch of research has gotten all the "best" people -- and if you wanted a research post in theoretical physics, it was about the only way to go. (Which is one of several reasons why I find myself working on my own crazy research on a volcano in the middle of the ocean.) And string theory has not produced one single tested prediction. Not one! It's like a pretty girl with no brain -- everyone points and ooh's and ahh's at the beauty, but talk to her and she doesn't make any sense. Bah! It's enough to make me a bitter old scientific curmudgeon. But working on one's own is so hard. I constantly find myself exploring to the end of blind alleys, trying to make sense of stuff that other people should also be working on, but aren't. It's been a lonely road. But at least when string theory is finally pronounced dead, I won't be one of the riders caught on its back. Who knows, maybe when I move to Colorado with A in a month or so I'll be able to find other physicists to play with who aren't tied up in strings.

So, we're moving. We should be in your neck of the woods on the evening of August 2. Are you OK with a couple of overnight visitors that night? Also, I'd like to come by later in August, to enjoy your company as well as figure out how to sell a few of your first editions online -- I have a digital camera now so it should be easy to get them up on an auction site. One way or another, see you soon! (I hope you can say yes for Aug 2, it's the only chance to hang out with A, as she'll be leaving for Colorado sooner than I.)



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