Thoughts by Alaina G. Levine
Some people collect stamps or model trains. I collect the autographs of Nobel-prize winning scientists. I don’t have many, but my collection is growing.
After the talk concluded, I saw in amazement as the kids in the audience rushed the stage, clutching the event program in their sweaty hands with the focused goal of getting the scientists’ autographs.It was pandemonium. It was chaos (in application, not theory). The scientists were celebrities to these children.
Not to be left out, and realizing the youth often are an excellent barometer of value trends, I grabbed my program and pushed my way through the crowd.
I succeeded in securing what I considered at the time to be the most coveted of the autographs: those of Lederman and Curl. Sure, I knocked down some nerds along the way, but collateral damage is to be expected when your eyes are on the (Nobel) Prize.
Later I ran into Lederman and introduced myself. I had been working for the University of Arizona (UA) Physics Department at the time and I complimented him on his work to promote changes in physics education in secondary school. He took my business card and promised to stay in touch.
Lo and behold, within two weeks he mailed me a packet of articles and information about his cause. And as I read the literature I knew I had scored big time: he had included a personal letter to me thanking me for my help, and signed it “Yours Truly, Leon”.
So I realized I had something here. It didn’t take me long to gather more. Alan Heeger stopped by the campus that fall for a lecture and I got his John Hancock on a promotional poster with his picture. And of course, I couldn’t resist asking Murray Gell-Mann for his autograph following a seminar he gave at the UA on Native American archeology. I think he got a kick out of my request.
But like the climax of a good movie, just as I had the coveted treasure in reach, it ultimately slipped through my fingers. Here is my tale...
Stay tuned for part II!