32 – Seek and Ye Shall Find


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Experimental Physicist: “What is it now?” 

Theoretical Physicist: “That certainly isn’t a friendly greeting!”

EP: “Well, I’m busy. Actually working, you know? Experimental physics requires a lot of complicated equipment that’s in constant need of repair. Not to mention supervising my staff of 30 research scientists. So, every time you call me up here to your office I have to leave my basement lab, drive over to your building, and climb the stairs to your ivory tower.” 

TP: “And it’s a good thing you do. Because, all of your hard work is for naught if you grope around blindly in the dark. I am your flashlight. I tell you where to look and what to look for. Just to recap our prior conversations, I’m a theoretical physicist. You, on the other hand, are a mere experimental physicist. You need guidance. Someone to reflect on the results of your experiments and suggest refinements. New directions.” 

EP: “Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting. Hey, here’s a riddle for you! What do penicillin, radioactivity, microwave ovens, insulin, x-rays, and viagra have in common?”

TP: (sigh) “Here we go again. Yes, I believe I’ve heard this one before.” 

EP: “Then you know the answer. They were discovered by accident. By people looking for something important and finding something they thought at the time was unimportant. An unexpected side effect of a medication. Or a lab accident. The history of science is replete with accidental discoveries and observations that were completely unexpected.”

TP: “Look, we’ve been through this many times. The world has changed. We’re not living in the dark ages anymore. There are more scientists alive today than in the entire history of the human race. Accidental discoveries are over. We must focus our efforts on well-defined tasks. As you know, experimental physics is no longer conducted by a lone scientist working late into the night in their home laboratory. We now have international teams of scientists working with multi-million dollar lab equipment. We can’t afford to grope around blindly in the dark, hoping to discover new things.”

EP: “Fine. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Well, now that I’m here, what’s your request?” 

TP: “Strings. Vibrating strings. That is what you need to look for.” 

EP: “Ah, well, as luck would have it, I’m going to the symphony tonight!” 

TP: “Very funny. Look, I’m serious. You’re not making any progress on proving my version of string theory, which is clearly the correct model of the universe. It’s so elegant.” 

EP: “Yes, I’m humbled by your genius. But, my dear colleague, what exactly am I searching for? Your requests are too vague. I need specifics. I live in the real world, not in the imaginary worlds you create with your pencil and paper.” 

TP: “Well, for starters, you need more energy. Higher collision speeds. Bigger particle accelerators.” 

EP: “Then write to your congresswoman for more funding. The last time I checked, you wanted an accelerator that has a bigger diameter than the entire earth. How exactly am I supposed to do that?” 

TP: “I don’t have time for the experimental details. Here, take these.” 

EP: “What are they?” 

TP: “They’re rose-tinted goggles. Wear them in the lab. They will help you. I never work on my theories without wearing my rose-tinted glasses.”

EP: “Are you serious?” 

TP: “Look, all I can tell you is that if you don’t look for things, you won’t find them. All you have to do is believe. If you believe in string theory, then the strings will appear. That’s how it works for me, anyway.” 

EP: “Perhaps we should pray together?” 

TP: “Yes, I suppose that might help. Do you mind if I do the honors?” 

EP: “Not at all.” 

TP: “Dear Spirit of Science and All That is True, please guide us to our ultimate goal. Please help us discover the fundamental secrets of the Universe. The Holy Theory of Everything. Amen.” 

EP: “Amen. Now, can I please get back to work?” 

TP: “Yes, but don’t forget about my precious strings! Keep searching!’ 

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