Wednesday, October 05, 2005

October is the cruelest month

It's that time of year again, alas. Yesterday I received the annual e-mail from my brother, the Lutheran theologian:
Dear Ben,

Well, here we go again. Our sad yearly ritual of commiseration. I have heard that you did not get that phone call from Sweden yet again, and I am, for lack of a better word, devastated.

Devastated and bitter. the Swedes were such staunch defenders of the Lutheran Reformation during the Thirty Years War (what some places in Bavaria still call "The Swedish War"). But since then it has been pretty bleak and paltry stuff, mostly. And their country looks like Minnesota. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I guess, but you can't expect terrain like that to breed heroes, or wise judges.

So the prize goes to, what, optics!? How lame. Dress it up and call it frequency combing if you must, but it still sounds like flashlights and laser tag to me. I am not impressed, and I believe the American people are not impressed, either. I'm not suggesting any military options at this point -- but all options for action are on the table. We probably won't go to war with Sweden over this (can you go to war with a country as passive and bland as modern Sweden? I doubt it.). But wrongs must be righted, and someday, somehow, this one will be.

I hope I get invited to the party!

To which I answered:
Your condolences are, as always, no comfort whatsoever. It's all a racket you know. Oh yeah, Glauber may have invented the whole coherent state formalism for quantum optics. Sure, sure, we all have to study his papers in grad school. Let me tell you, it's just a fad, a momentary forty-year hiccup of quantum mechanics fashion. And of course the Nobel committee is always hung up on the newest new thing. Putzes.
And don't get me started on the other guys, Hall and whats-his-name. Who cares if you can make fundamental measurements to fifteen significant figures? Sheesh. My calculator doesn't even have that many digits.

Well, at least it wasn't as bad as last year. Quark confinement! As if anyone were interested in knowing why protons and neutrons hold together. At least this year the laureates were talking about photons and things. I've actually mentioned photons in some of my papers -- one or two, anyway. That makes me a photon guy too! So why not give some of the prize to me? I mean, I'm not bitter or anything, but when it comes right down to it, why not?

I do appreciate your tact, though. Just such a delicacy of feeling kept me from bringing up the shocking travesty that the Templeton Prize people perpetrated last March, when they passed you over and gave their lousy 1.5 million bucks to . . . well, to a physicist. Again. For the seventh time. (OK, eighth time if you count Stanley Jaki.) Creeps.

Better luck (to us both) next year,

And this morning comes his reply:
Thanks a lot for mentioning the Templeton thing. Sheesh. I was just getting over it.
Well, we must bear life's disappointments. At least the Cards are in the playoffs. For the rest of us, there is always next season.