So, what’s going on? I still have cancer. Well, since I’ll have it for the rest of my life, that’s hardly a surprise. It may kill me some day, or something else may, like giant mutant angry frogs intent on punishing me for my mistreatment of their normal sized brethren when I was 9 years old. And I’d deserve it. And truth be told, I’d rather go out via frogs – big ones, and angry. As they came rushing at me, I would relax in the knowledge that weirdness does exist, and not everything is dominated by gaslighting world leaders, and – closer to home – gaslighting pop sci proponents like Kaku and Greene in their desperate attempts to stay relevant and admired by a world of fuzzy, quadrupedal, ruminant muggles. Oh, well, it’s a living. And theoretical particle physics is dead now anyway. (Ignore all pop sci articles that look like this: “Blah blah blah LHC blah blah fifth force blah blah new physics blah dee blah muon blah?” Well, ignore them until they appear in reputable places without the question mark, or words like “may”, “could”, “might”, “god”, or “cwazy wabbit”.)
You know, I’ve never been part of the human race. It took me a long time to realize this, that people with whom I associated viewed me as an amusing oddity, but always something separate. True, I spent nearly 6 decades with annoying hormones – the gundam pilots I wrote about earlier – attempting to turn me into a biological puppet, periodically wresting control of my life and will to serve their own selfish ends. But, yeah, once told I had an incurable disease, and presented with a series options for how to confront and control it, using the advice of my oncologist, and lots of googling, a therapy was devised – and very quickly implemented – that has left me pilotless, a gundam with free will. I’d always wondered what it would be like, and here, in the final years of my life, I am finding the experience fascinating. It has definitely removed me still further from humanity, the collective. Age gave me a change of perspective, but this change was more profound. At times I feel like one of MCU’s Watchers, and the odds are slim that you know what this means, but I look upon humanity, and all the fucked up crap they get up to, as an analytical cosmic intelligence might. Whoa! WHOA! Where are you going with this, Geoffrey? Take a chill pill and let’s get back to what you’d planned to do with this blog. Fuck’s sake. You’re just this guy writing on an iPad. (No, I’m not.) What? What did you say? You had better behave yourself, young man. (Pfft. [Gestures rudely.])
Great equations in physics … fuck
Before I carry on, I have to rectify a misapprehension you almost certainly harbor regarding the Dirac equation. As noted recently by PW, this is pretty much universally acknowledged to be one of the great equations of theoretical physics. Sure, and of course it is, but what makes it great – even revolutionary? There are lots of such equations that involve derivatives, ultimately integration, and a slew of analytical methods. Theoretical physicists are addicted to analysis, occasionally sniffing topology, and many harbor a conviction that more and deeper applications of analytical methods will cause unification to be born Athena-like from the forehead of analysis. But the Dirac equation is not great for the ways in which it is similar to everything else, but the manner in which it is different, and that difference is algebraic. It is architectural. This algebraic/architectural aspect of the Dirac equation is generally minimized by mainstream analytical TPers; it is an embarrassment. “And that is why you fail.”
As I have mentioned elsewhere once or thrice, upon retiring I wondered how I would take it, being set adrift after an adult lifetime of something resembling labor. Within little more than 24 hours I realized I had become Bertie Wooster, whose independent and labor-less lifestyle I had always found so attractive in the many works of P.G. Wodehouse revolving around this character. I began to write books that no one would ever read, but which brought me joy in their creation. Then I shifted to blogging when covid shut down foreign sources of memoir inspiration.
Wodehouse’s oeuvre is light on deep philosophical musings, and of horror and science fiction there is none. Still, in my technical writing I have droned on frequently on mathematical resonance; Wodehouse’s writing, in my cranium, creates a literary resonance that comes close to simulating an almost chemical addiction. So, for example:
“His whole attitude recalled irresistibly to the mind that of some assiduous hound who will persist in laying a dead rat on the drawing-room carpet, though repeatedly apprised by word and gesture that the market for same is sluggish or even non-existent.”
I mean, see? If you don’t, that’s ok. For many people, especially in theoretical physics, I am, to all intents and purposes, that hound, and the dead rat is my collected works in maths and physics. Cornell tried to shoo me out of the arXiv, and, failing that, shunted me into gen-phys, basically the doghouse out back. Still, I will persist in laying the dead rat on their drawing-room carpet in hopes they will see its superiority to their dead mouse, which is looking considerably more oogy than my rat.
I’ll finish with more Wodehouse, to lighten the mood of those deserving of mood lightening. You will know who you are by whether or not your mood is lightened.
“When I entered the establishment, he was leaning over the counter, his gaze riveted on some sort of merchandise which was being shown him by the gentlemanly assistant. To prod him in the hindquarters with my umbrella was with me the work of an instant.
“‘Ahoy, there, Stilton!’ I cried.
“He spun around with a sort of guilty bound, like an adagio surprised while watering the cat’s milk.
“‘Oh, hullo,’ he said.
“There was a pause. At a moment like this, with old boyhood friends meeting again after long separation, I mean to say, you might have expected a good deal of animated what-ho-ing and an immediate picking up of the threads. Of this, however, there was a marked absence. The Auld Lang Syne was strong in me, but not, or I was mistaken, equally strong in G. D’Arcy Cheesewright. I have met so many people in my time who have wished Bertram was elsewhere that I have come to recognize the signs. And it was these signs that this former playmate was now exhibiting.
“He drew me away from the counter, shielding it from my gaze with his person, like someone trying to hide the body.
“‘I wish you wouldn’t go spiking people in the backside with your beastly umbrella,’ he said, and one sensed the querulous note. ‘Gave me a nasty shock.’
“I apologized gracefully, explaining that if you have an umbrella and are fortunate enough to catch an old acquaintance bending, you naturally do not let the opportunity slip, and endeavored to set him at ease with genial chit-chat. From the embarrassment he was displaying, I might have been some high official in the police force interrupting him in the middle of a smash and grab raid. His demeanour perplexed me.”
Aaah. It’s like reading a good book while lounging in a hammock in the dappled shade of a palm tree that bends to and fro in a light tropical breeze off an azure sea. A refreshing drink, perhaps sporting a miniature umbrella, is sitting within reach at a nearby table. Bliss.