Archive for the ‘the bomb’ Category

math and the bomb (song for my father)

September 9, 2006

working in the math library today as i often do. for months there’s been an article up behind glass on the bulletin board from the times, an adulatory interview with one of the faculty here, a math prof named peter lax who won math’s “version of the nobel” (the abel) and who worked on the bomb at los alamos. a quote from there has long rankled me, both as a human and as your son. in it he breezily says, i paraphrase, “and los alamos was important for seeing how weapons work and for how high speed airplanes travel through the air.” and i’ve always been angered by that and wanted to say, “is that really all it taught us? shouldn’t scientists, and the rest of us, have drawn some pretty harrowing ethical lessons as well?” in any event, i just got up to go to the front desk to get some scrap paper – no shortage here for all the math nerds with their calculations and i need to brainstorm on old fashioned paper some ideas for my dissertation meeting in, oh, 15 minutes – so i’m at the desk and there’s an aged, stooped man talking to the head librarian and she’s being understandably incredibly solicitous and respectful and i realise, it’s him, it’s the man from the times photo whose quote i’ve read and reread every time i wait for the elevator back to fresh air, it’s peter lax. and i wanted to tap him on the shoulder and talk to him about what rankles me. and the librarian caught me looking at his back in an excited, expectant way but then, for better or for w., i thought better of it. could be he’s a pretty old dog. anyway, a dad moment i wanted to share. xo m.

ivy mike nuke