Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'Frank Wilczek'

Quark open marriage

May 13th, 2016 · Comments Off on Quark open marriage

Sidney Coleman poker game, 2007
Wikipedia is not a blog. Fortunately, this blog of mine IS a blog, and it’s my blog, and I made it. So I can say what I want.

I just posted some (likely soon-to-be-deleted) comments to a talk page in Wikipedia, praising a 2011 book by Oxford’s Frank Close, The Infinity Puzzle. His book just arrived at our doorstep today–mail can be slow here!

I heard through the grapevine that the book had a lively chapter about 2004’s Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded to Frank Wilczek (my husband, so forgive me for putting him first), his thesis advisor David Gross, and the grad student of a dear friend of ours (Sidney Coleman) named David Politzer. Frank Close bases his account on interviews with all three of the laureates in question. Not surprisingly, there are some contradictions among the different accounts, about who said what to whom in 1973.

I don’t remember much about “asymptotic freedom” in 1973, but I do remember the excitement of first seeing Sidney Coleman that springtime in 1973, wearing a green velveteen suit in Princeton’s upmarket streets. Or Sidney’s suit might have been purple, I know he had both. My young soon-to-be-husband Frank Wilczek pointed him out to me as one of the grand sights of universal great science, and I was glad to be impressed by this eccentric genius. Here are some more memories, from my (most likely soon to be deleted) comments:

In the summer of 1973, after the initial papers all had been published, Sidney Coleman (thesis advisor to David Politzer) lectured as usual at the Erice Summer School. Frank Wilczek, who had turned 22 in May 1973, and who had married me on July 3, 1973, left for Erice on July 4, 1973, where he served as the “secretary” for Sidney’s lectures. Frank won the prize that summer as “best student,” so his airfare and all fees were paid for. When I learned this, I said, “If we had known this would happen, we could have afforded for me to go to Erice with you.” Frank said, “Betsy, if you had been there, I would never have won that prize.” He is probably right! I imagine the lecture notes from that particular summer school would also be a useful resource on the history of this topic.
“Asymptotic freedom,” as a description of quark interactions, is a term coined by Sidney Coleman. Sidney had a bigger vocabulary than any 5 normal people of your common acquaintance, but in later years he jokingly said to Frank, “I did you a bad turn when I suggested that name.” What would have been better, I wonder, in an era of god particles and theories of everything? Left as an exercise to the reader.

Wikipedia lists “asymptotic freedom” as an article of medium importance. With such an incomprehensible and boring name, it is lucky to get to “medium”! What if it had been named “Theory of Everything”? I am sure that in 1973, nobody yet had claimed that descriptor. Or “Theory of Negativity” (since the beta function has negative sign)? That could surely have sparked some op-eds and sage disagreement from non-science pundits.

Even those names are inadequate now, when so much of science has become marketing (as can also be said for politics and even university practice.) Today, any science theory needs a name that combines relevance with edgy assertive “please quote me on this.”

Maybe, “quark open marriage”? You heard it here first.

p.s. Frank is asleep now, so don’t blame him for my indiscretions.

p.p.s. We both miss our friend Sidney Coleman, who died before Frank Close’s book was published. Sidney’s widow Diana Coleman remains a dear friend, and an energetic organizer of Sidney-memorial poker games. Diana is working with Sidney’s former student David Kaiser on a book of Sidney’s letters, which I am sure will be wonderful!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Nobel · Science

Hotel fun, fun, fun till Daddy took the microwave popcorn away

January 18th, 2015 · Comments Off on Hotel fun, fun, fun till Daddy took the microwave popcorn away

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a time when @frankwilczek was on sabbatical, so that the Marriott Residence Inn of Tempe AZ became our temporary home.

We spent fun time with our children in the Marriott Residence Inn of Austin, TX, over Christmas break. Contrary to what your image may be of Texas, this was a smaller location with smaller rooms and a much less useful kitchen (no actual oven, and double beds rather than queen size.) Still the presence of children makes up for a lot, and the nearby-ness of Austin’s amazing Drafthouse Ritz Cinema makes up for almost as much.

But I digress. The point of this blogpost is that the delicious hotel-provided free microwave popcorn here needs to cook for about 5 or 10 seconds less than the Popcorn setting on the admirable hotel-provided microwave oven. So that tonight, we ended up setting off our smoke alarm, which is very very loud. And which predictably caused the nice people at the front desk to call the Tempe fire department.

If you should experience this exciting event, here is my advice. Drench the smoking bag of popcorn under your faucet asap. This stops it from making new billows of black popcorn smoke.

Call the front desk (or send someone down there) to alert Tempe’s Fire Department that nothing is currently on fire in your hotel room. Turn on the fan of the microwave. Prop open the door to the hallway with one chair or even two. Open some windows. And the hideously noisy alarm will stop making noise.

Then you can smile quite complacently and write a blogpost…

I almost left out the best part! When I went downstairs to the front desk with my dripping, formerly smoking bag of popcorn, the very sweet people behind the desk (besides calling the Tempe Fire Department, etc.) asked me, “Would you like another bag of popcorn?”

I love you, Tempe Downtown Marriott Residence Inn!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · Pilgrimages · Wide wonderful world

What hath Twitter wrought?

September 5th, 2013 · Comments Off on What hath Twitter wrought?

What hath Twitter wrought? by betsythedevine
What hath Twitter wrought?, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Last week, Frank Wilczek asked Twitter if anybody knew the name of a very odd object (we posted a video) seen at Susty’s Restaurant in Northwood, NH.

Richard Askew (@ricaskew) not only knew the answer to Frank’s question, he also knew where Frank could buy kinetic forks for himself!

@FrankWilczek Kinetic Fork

Yesterday, Frank’s new toys arrived in the mail and this morning we took even more videos because … surely Twitter is waiting to see what we found!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · geeky · Metablogging · Wide wonderful world

Life in the Frank Wilczek lane

August 15th, 2013 · Comments Off on Life in the Frank Wilczek lane

Life in the Frank Wilczek lane by betsythedevine
Life in the Frank Wilczek lane, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Doing my bit to get this little vignette added some day to a learned biography of Frank Wilczek:

Me: (sitting in living room, working on Internet stuff) (silence)
Frank: (sitting on porch, working on physics stuff) (laughing and laughing)
Me: (still in living room, not working) What? Oo, what’s funny, what?
Frank: (walking in from porch with open book in his hand, full of enthusiasm) It’s a great quote from Wittgenstein!

And if you didn’t know yet that he’s a sweet-natured guy, he agreeably posed for this picture with his great quote in view on top of the new Viking book he bought at the supermarket and is having fun reading.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · geeky · Wide wonderful world

Ice Cream Odyssey #3: Dips on North Main Street in Concord, NH

July 23rd, 2013 · Comments Off on Ice Cream Odyssey #3: Dips on North Main Street in Concord, NH

Ice Cream Badge #3: Dips on North Main Street in Concord, NH by betsythedevine
Ice Cream Badge #3: Dips on North Main Street in Concord, NH, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Today (July 23, 2013) Frank and I played hookey from both our to-do lists to continue on with our plan of 40 ice cream cones (in honor of our 40th anniversary.)

Once the hookey plan had been formulated, we completely did it in spades. We went out to lunch at the Weathervane over near Concord. We went to a very enjoyable movie (20 Feet From Fame) at an art house theater in Concord. We bought some health foods at the Concord Co-Op in Concord. And finally, we made our way to a new destination called Dips, where you can make your own frozen yogurt dessert from Stonyfield Yogurt and NH dairy products plus really awesome toppings including my favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

I tried three different flavors of frozen yogurt: Original Tart, Salted Caramel, and (sinfully sweet) Cotton Candy. All were super, but I couldn’t finish my cup.

If you are wondering what became of #2, Frank and I had breakfast together last week in Great Neck on Long Island (NY) and our breakfast was (yum) frozen yogurt with granola topping. Sadly, neither of us now remembers the name of the restaurant, but we definitely will go back there.

If you are still reading this .. please, go buy yourself your own ice cream cone!

Tags: food · Frank Wilczek · New Hampshire! · Wide wonderful world

Ice cream Odyssey #1

July 10th, 2013 · Comments Off on Ice cream Odyssey #1

Ice cream badge by betsythedevine
Ice cream badge, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Frank and I have a wild and crazy idea for celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary — we are going to visit a whole lot of local places that serve ice cream cones. Maybe even 40 of them, although that would take time. So I’m making some numbered badges to keep count of our progress.

Arnie’s Place ( 164 Loudon Rd., Concord, NH) was our first ice-cream-Odyssey destination. It’s part of the NH Dairy ice-cream trail. Delicious ice cream, lovely people serving it, and the place itself is enough to lift your spirits. I recommend it!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · New Hampshire! · Wide wonderful world

First Nobel gold for Higgs? 10 chocolate coins

October 6th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Nobel gold chocolate coins by betsythedevine
Nobel gold chocolate coins, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Back in 2005, Uppsala Castle hosted a gala physics dinner where two MIT physics professors, Frank Wilczek and Janet Conrad got into some jokey trash talk about the existence (or not) of Higgs particles. Years later, neither one could clearly remember all the details, but one scribbled notepad recorded details of a bet between Frank and Janet about when, whether, and at what energy, a Higgs particle would be found.

Frank bet Nobel chocolate medals, at 100 to 10 odds, that CERN would find a Higgs before the end of 2012 with a mass less than 150 geV. And in July 2012, ATLAS, CMS, and Fermilab all announced finding the same Higgs-like signature at about 125 geV. So Janet conceded and gave Frank his prize: 10 golden Nobel chocolates, at another lovely festive event at Uppsala Castle.

And I even got one of these pieces of chocolate for having suggested the second Uppsala Castle Higgs particle party, as recorded in this YouTube of Frank’s talk there.

Although Frank was dubious about this party idea, I sent email to Uppsala physicist Antti Niemi, asking if he didn’t think Uppsala might enjoy being part of the end of this story — and the rest was history, by which I mean hard work by Antti and by Uppsala University’s Tord Ekelof to bring this idea to fruition. A very good time was had by all the participants, including an audience of about 500 people who came to hear talks by Tord, Frank, Janet, and Fabiola Gianotti, the head of ATLAS at CERN.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · Science · Wide wonderful world

Frank’s mom with bearded Frank

February 21st, 2012 · Comments Off on Frank’s mom with bearded Frank

Mary with bearded Frank by betsythedevine
Mary with bearded Frank, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

I’ve been spending more time in the real world, less time in cyberspace. Sorry for the increasing delay between actual blogposts.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Wide wonderful world

Baby snapping turtle rescue squad

September 10th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Baby snapping turtles surf very small waves by betsythedevine
Baby snapping turtles surf very small waves, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Frank and I found eight baby snapping turtles, over the course of a long sunny afternoon, being bounced by some very mild waves against the glacial sand beach of our local lake. This probably relates to a story we heard in July about a very large snapping turtle who unexpectedly hung out on the very same beach for a couple of days. This surprised all the locals because the sand beach is much too clean a part of the lake to harbor much food for turtles of any size.

So Frank and I gently moved our new turtle colonists, one by one, into a murkier backpond with a lot more algae and plantlife and algae, where snapping turtles have lots more to eat. And where snapping turtles abound, and have done so, all of the many years we have seen turtles around here.

To say that the turtles did not appreciate our interest would be a very big understatement. But no fingers or toes were bitten off during this rescue, to their disappointment and our satisfaction.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · New Hampshire! · Wide wonderful world

Put a little raccoon in your afternoon

September 3rd, 2011 · Comments Off on Put a little raccoon in your afternoon

Racoons by nickhull
Racoons, a photo by nickhull on Flickr.

Just one, not this many, but still an adventure. When I got back today from lunch with Frank, I noticed that the lid had come off our big garbage can. I picked it up out of the driveway and casually replaced it, and was greeted by a hideous angry very long-echoing growl.

Something was in garbage can, and not happy about it.

I went in the house, grabbed a big broomstick, and bamboozled Frank to come help me to rescue … whatever it was. There is a vantage point over our driveway, behind a big fence, where one can poke garbage cans until they fall over without being eaten up by any monsters that might be inside them.

I successfully knocked off the lid and the growls re-began. We could peek into the garbage can. A young raccoon was down in there. A young raccoon with very deep baritone growl: “Rrrrrowwwwrrr. Don’t even think about making me angrier than I already angrily am.” Tipping the garbage can over was harder than I expected. Push–teeter–push–teeter–rhythmic push–teeter–totter–topple.

The raccoon did not even spare us a dirty look as he angrily stomped away from the scene of the crime. Hey look, pal, we did not ask you to rob our garbage!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Frank Wilczek · Wide wonderful world