Freeman Dyson has one of my source minds. He as a physicist occupies Einstein's chair at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. He is now 91 years old (young). I track him regularly mostly through his writings for the New York Review of Books where he is a regular contributor. His book Origins of Life is one of my most prized, and sits on my select bookshelf. It extends the contents of What is Life? by Edwin Schrodinger which is at or near the top of all of my most treasured volumes. Freeman has done much to enlarge my, our, realm. His daughter Esther is one of the stars of the computer world
But it was his wife, Imma, who catalyzed my contact. She, like my wife Ruth Anne is a distinguished long distance runner. We were on the runners' bus as we sat shivering in the predawn gloom outside Hopkinson where we were in anticipation of running the Boston Marathon on Patriots' Day in April 2006, 26 miles was just over the hill.
The hours before a marathon are always a test for the anxious runners. On this year it was bitter cold so we lingered in the bus as long as we could before the starting congregation. Our wives were chatting. I recognized a person huddled sitting alone performing his husbandly task of crew, as I was. I sparked as one of my heroes was close at hand
Quickly I introduced myself and proposed my theory that running is a universal good since it acts as an agent to express the good genes that underlie health, as a specific reaction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I had written a paper "Aging As Entropy" in the past and used it as a platform to frame my theory as to why exercise is good for everything. I guess that I am a closet physicist down deep. Freeman was very welcoming and warm and cordial and he indulged my chatter between his chattering teeth. I was so elated to have the opportunity to explore my crude understanding of the Second Law to one of the great minds without complaint.
Last year 2013 was the year of the bombing. We were there. I had looked forward to a reprise of our conversation as I had counted on Imma being a participant.
She wasn't, so I'm left to reflect back on that cold, dark encounter that I had with Freeman Dyson. Serendipity at its best.
Dyson,F. Origins of Life 1999 Cambridge Univ. Press
Bortz,W. Aging as Entropy 1986 Experimental Gerontology.