Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chapter Four, Part One

FOR THE harbor area of Los Angeles, the day was normal enough—or so Tom Watkins thought as he pulled his little sport job into a parking lot and waited for the attendant to give him a ticket.

“And you still want to return to Germany?”

“I don’t think I have much choice in the matter. I firmly believe that one must be consistent. Every one of us is born into a certain environment, has a native language and specific thought patterns, and if he has not cut himself off from this environment very early in life, he will feel most at home and do his best work in that environment. Now history teaches us that, sooner or later, every country is shaken by revolutions and wars; and whole populations obviously cannot migrate every time there is a threat of such upheavals. People must learn to prevent catastrophes, not to run away from them. Their whole organism is specialized for finding safety on mountainous terrain.”

The resumption of international contacts once again brought together old friends.

“But, surely, we do know what we mean when we speak of the ‘meaning’ of life,” I objected.

In the summer of 1939 I lectured at the universities of Ann Arbor and Chicago. In the bay, a tug had a bone in its teeth; a great liner was coming in from the depths of the blue Pacific; and just beyond the parking lot, a huge concrete warehouse looked to be quite substantial and real.

"But that doesn’t mean,” I asked, “that temperature is not an objective property?”

So far the attendant got, then stopped speaking as an intolerably bright light flared in the sky. In the summer of 1939 I lectured at the universities of Ann Arbor and Chicago. Its distance was hard to estimate but its brightness was not. We call all those species ‘fit’ or ‘viable’ which prosper under the given circumstances. When it flared in the sky, the sunlight seemed to fade away into a dim glow.

“I consider it marvelous,” he said, “that Paul should be so uncompromising in his defense of all that can be expressed in clear and logical language.”

The parking lot attendant looked straight at it. Differential observational situations—by that I mean the over-all experimental setup, the readings, etc.—are often not complementary, i.e., they are mutually exclusive, cannot be obtained simultaneously, and their results cannot be correlated without further ado.

“I know just how you feel, and I have told myself the same thing thousands of times.”

There is no reason why the addition of this element should cause us any fundamental difficulties. No Sound accompanied the light. Not yet.

“There it is.”

Tom Watkins did not need anyone to tell him what this light was.

The resumption of international contacts once again brought together old friends.

Isn’t it odd that, throughout this discussion, no one should have mentioned quantum theory?

There are some fish that can produce electric shocks and so defend themselves against their enemies. There are others whose appearance is so perfectly adapted to life in the sand that they completely merge with the sea bed and so fool all predators.

“It is quite obvious that in this game we are using language quite differently than we do in science.”

My visitor now made as if to go, but I asked him whether I might not play him the last movement of the Schumann concerto—as far as this could be done at all without the help of an orchestra.

"Come on, man! There's no time to waste."