Friday, July 20, 2007

Small, small world

Having just finished Cantor's Dilemma by Carl Djerassi in a day, I can't help but thinking what a small, small world this is. OK, that's nothing new. But the way in which practically everything is connected to everything else continues to amaze. Probably because many of the connections happen in our own minds---and who knows how often---only there..

Take Cantor's Dilemma (the novel). A real page turner. As it so happens, it deals a lot with reproducibility of a scientific experiment. Sounds familiar, when you deal with scientific workflows, their automation and reusability. So there's one link to some of my other interests. Or how about this: Cantor's Dilemma (the paperback) was lying on top of "A Different Universe" by Robert B. Laughlin, a Nobel laureate in Physics from Stanford. On May 22nd this year he gave a lecture at UCD. Surprisingly few people showed up (I suspect absence of PR/advertisement was at least a contributing factor). He gave an interesting talk with (too?) little physics in it. Anyways, I bought the book and asked the famous author to sign it. In his talk, Laughlin mentioned how getting the Nobel wasn't such a big deal after all (lots of eating he mentioned). He also mentioned in his talk (and his book, Chapter 7) a trip to the Neckar valley in honour of the 60th birthday of Klaus von Klitzing, Nobel laureate of 1983. After the talk, while having the book signed, I chatted briefly with Laughlin about the Neckar valley -- which happens to be where I was born.

So Djerassi's book was lying on top of Laughlin's; I had started the latter first, but finished the former sooner.. (eh? Yes.) But there's another connection: Djerassi describes in his novel quite a bit of detail what's going on at the Nobel festivities. This is a nice connection I think -- a novel by a scientist about some interesting happenings surrounding a (fictious) Nobel prize for cancer tumorgenesis; and real Nobel's book on "reinventing physics from the bottom down".

It's a small world indeed. And don't me get started on musing where all that life came from ... or those atoms for that matter...


Powers-Of-Ten said...

Small world? A book by Laughlin related to one by Djerassi via someone reading them both at the same time? Har, har.. what vanity on behalf of the reader.

How about that Laughlin personally knows Djerassi and writes about it in the very book!

OK, I admit: Just like everybody else, I see connections everywhere, including where they aren't.

In this case, it was a bit the other way round: There was a superstrong connection between these to books (and the respective authors!) that I only discovered after reading up to page 195 in Laughlin's book: They guy actually knows Djerassi.. they seem to be buddies..

Now, what I learn about Djerassi via Laughlin's book throws some interesting new light on Djerassi's novel..

Fun this small world..

MP3 e MP4 said...
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