The Frontal Cortex

This truth thing is difficult:

In 1977, Steven Weinberg, then two years shy of the Nobel Prize in Physics, decided to do a little of what some theorists call “ambulance chasing.”

He heard a rumor, while spending a year at Stanford, that collisions at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory were spitting out weird triplets of particles known as muons, which are sort of fat electrons. Dr. Weinberg canceled reservations at a lodge in Yosemite National Park to spend the weekend with his colleague Benjamin Lee, trying to concoct a theory to explain the trimuons.

But the only theory he and Dr. Lee could come up with was ugly. A few weeks later it turned out that the triplet effect wasn’t true.

“I’ve always been embarrassed that we managed to come up with a theory,” Dr. Weinberg, now at the University of Texas at Austin, said recently.

Dr. Weinberg said that 30 years later, he still has not gotten to Yosemite.

“And we never got trimuons either,” he added.

Reminds me of a William James quote: “Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?”

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    July 4, 2009

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