I have been interested in physics since I was a child. Being pretty sickly, I was often in bed and would listen to science programs on the radio. Albert Einstein was still alive then. I had trouble tying my shoe laces and my mom told me ” Don’t worry, Einstein can’t tie his shoe laces either.” That was probably not true but it created a life time identification with this great man.
Over the years, I have read many books on quantum mechanics and cosmology. They were books written for lay people like myself. I certainly do not have the math “chops” to read University Level Textbooks. Recently, I read “The Particle at the End of the Universe” by Sean Caroll. Previously, I had read his book “From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time“. After I finished it, I sighed and told my wife that I thought I understood about 70% of what I had read and that this was the usual problem. I wished I could just spend a few hours with a Physicist like Sean Caroll who was both knowledgable and articulate and ask some questions. She has a tradition of giving me a present for each night of Hanukkah and was missing one present. Since it was actually Hanukkah at the time, she contacted Sean Caroll who fortunately lives in Los Angles, where we live during the winter months, and made what she described as” odd request”. She asked if she could “hire” Sean to spend a few hours with me answering my questions. He found the request charming and said yes. In addition, Deb suggested that Sean and his wife, Jennifer Quellette, who is a science writer and has a blog on Scientific America called Cocktail Party Physics, could join us for dinner at Nobu. When my wife told me about my present, I was both excited, thankful and scared.
We worked on dates and I picked one that would give me a few months to make sure I was prepared for my session with Sean Caroll. I went back through all the things I had learned and created a five page document of questions organized by topics shich as “the Big Bang”, Fields and Particles, the Higgs Field, and the nature of Space.
Last night was my session and we got through about 90% of my questions. I will be processing what I learned for weeks or even months. Sean and I spent more than two hours going through these questions. I felt a bit insecure because although Sean is very easy to be with and was very patience with me, when I had some problems understanding some things such as the meaning of “spin”.
After our Q&A session, the four of us had an amazing dinner and great conversation. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity and so thankful for the thoughtfulness of my wife.