Watch Out for Buddha-like Smiles!
A reminiscence of Gen Shirane at the
time of his 65th birthday
by Jens Als-Nielsen
Age is a well-defined quantity, but it may be difficult to estimate if
the only input information is the appearance of the person - the
physiological as well as the psychological behaviour pattern. When I
first came to Brookhaven 20 years ago to spend a sabbatical year, I
enjoyed very much the research atmosphere in the neutron scattering
group; enthusiastic, impatient, optimistic, young. It was a
contrast to some experiences in my home country (it can hardly have
been from the Physics Department at Risø, though!). So
after I had arrived I remember a lunch table conversation with the
Brookhaven neutron scattering group. I was loudly elaborating on
philosophy that people should be forced out of science in their
mid-forties so that they would not stand in the way for a dynamic and
stimulating evolution. I hardly noticed the characteristic,
smile on Gen's face while I went on and on, but when I finally finished
Gen said: "Jens, do you know how old I am? I am exactly 45!"
This man, among us youngsters considered with a mixture of fear and
admiration, with his jet black hair, energy beyond any of us, impatient
and hot-tempered, was not exactly what I had in mind in suggesting
"beruf-verbot" for senior scientists.
The most amazing thing is that apart from the hair color, the situation
is still the same as 20 years ago. I have drawn three conclusions:
Be cautious about estimates.
Age may be an irrelevant variable.
Watch out when Gen smiles like a Buddha.
Last Modified: Wednesday, 26-Jan-2005 16:46:01 EST