The Boring World of Niels Bohr


The espionage scandals in the news prompts us to revisit how physicists have been under surveillance by the US government, to sometimes hilarious results. During World War II, Niels Bohr (and his son) visited Washington D.C., where they were under secret surveillance. The following declassified report confirms the standard suspicion of quantum physics.


I type here the relevant part of the report on Niels Bohr:

Both the father and son appear to be extremely absent-minded individuals, engrossed in themselves, and go about paying little attention to any external influences. As they did a great deal of walking, this Agent had occasion to spend considerable time behind them and observe that it was rare when either of them paid much attention to stop lights or signs, but proceeded on their way much the same as if they were walking in the woods. On one occasion, subjects proceeded across a busy intersection against the red light in a diagonal fashion, taking the longest route possible and one of greatest danger. The resourceful work of Agent Maiers in blocking out one half of the stream of automobile traffic with his car prevented their possibly incurring serious injury in this instance.

In conclusion, yes, quantum physicists are very dangerous, but to themselves.

Werner and Paul Adrien Maurice on a Steamer

Is this the interaction picture?
Is this the interaction picture?

W. Heisenberg and P.A.M. Dirac, two of the founders quantum mechanics, were on a steamer boat from America to Japan. Heisenberg, a social butterfly, would participate of all the social activities, while Dirac, always very shy, would just sit quietly and watch.

“Heisenberg, why do you dance?” Dirac honestly inquires. “Well, when there are nice girls it is a pleasure to dance.” Heisenberg responds. Dirac turns silent for a few minutes, involved in deep thought. He finally questions, “Heisenberg, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?”

According to Heisenberg, this is a true story.

Lord, grant me chastity and continence… but not yet.
-St. Augustine

Nobel Prize vs. NBA

Heard on the streets of Cambridge.

In 2004, Richard Axel won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the “discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system”.

Richard Axel, Nobel Laurate Richard Axel, Nobel Laurate

As a teenager in NYC, he attended Stuyvesant High School, one of the most competitive public schools in the nation, an institution that focuses on math and science excellence. His height made him a key player of his high school’s basketball team.

Axel recalls his most memorable experience as part of the team; it was when he faced on the court Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, the other team’s center. Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the highest scoring player in NBA history.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the only man to face a Nobel Laureates and Bruce Lee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the only man to face a Nobel Laureates and Bruce Lee

Axel has the ball, and tries to pass Alcindor’s defense on the left. Alcindor stops him. Axel goes to the right, Alcindor stops him again. Face to face, Abdul-Jabbar says to Axel:

“So, which way are you going to go now, Einstein?”

After intimidating the Nobel Laureate, Kareem proceeded to score about 50 points in that game.

Nobel Prize vs. NBA? NBA wins.

“Any sufficiantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from a yo-yo.” -Enoch Root

A fishy affair

The nobel laurate in physics, extreme weirdo, inventor of the delta function ($$delta$$) and my own personal hero Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was presented with the following puzzle:

Three fishermen come back from the sea, celebrating the catch of the day.  They land their boat and set up camp. After much drinking (rum?), each collapses in their respective tent. Fisherman #1 wakes up and, after relieving himself, decides to get his share of the catch. He counts the fish, realizes it is not a number divisible by three, throws away one fish to the sea correcting the situation, and takes a third of the remaining fish into his tent. Fisherman #2 wakes up later, goes to pee too, and also decides he is going to get his share of the catch. Unaware that Fisherman #1 already took his part, Fisherman #2 wants a third of the fish he sees. It is not a multiple of three, but he throws away one fish and takes a third of the fish and goes to sleep. Fisherman #3 wakes up after, and does the same: he throws away one fish, takes a third of the fish, and goes into his tent.

What is the smallest number of fish for which this would happen?

I’m not going to spoil the puzzle by revealing the regular answer, but I can tell you Dirac’s answer.  A weird answer, but correct nevertheless.

Dirac prefered to sleep on his left side.
Dirac prefered to sleep on his left side.

Dirac’s answer was minus two fish.