Sunday, 21 June 2009

harmless, harmless

A couple of anecdotes from George Feher’s essay “The Development of ENDOR and other Reminiscences of 1950’s” (in Foundations of Modern EPR, pp. 548—556).

On visit of Wolfgang Pauli to Bell Labs in 1957:
The management of Bell Labs was always very proud and a bit self congratulatory on their fame and accomplishments. At the end of the day everybody connected with Pauli’s visit gathered in the conference room and formally said good bye to Pauli who, as usual, was nodding his head with closed eyes. “Professor Pauli, what do you think of our research?” asked the director, fully expecting a pat on the shoulder. The frequency of Pauli’s nods increased and after what seemed an interminably long time, he simply said: “Harmless, harmless”.
About Ernest Lawrence:
He considered labs and offices as sacred places in which strict standards (his) of behavior had to be followed. One day he entered an office and saw a young man with his feet on his desk munching a sandwich. Lawrence discretely closed the door to give the man a chance to shape up. Alas, when he reopened the door, the man had neither changed his position nor his activity. Lawrence became very irate, started shouting, and that’s when we students gathered in the corridor to witness the scene. During all this, the young man calmly continued to munch his sandwich with his feet on the desk. Finally, when Lawrence was close to apoplexy, the department chairman R.T. Birge arrived and quieted Lawrence. Upon which the young man calmly said: “I don’t know who you are, Sir, but I work for the telephone company”.

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