Physics Fridays with Fuchs: Honesty from an Experimentalist?


Every Friday during the month of March, This Side of the Pond will feature correspondence drawn from Coming of Age With Quantum Information: Notes on a Paulian Idea, a collection of more than 500 letters between physics luminary Christopher A. Fuchs and his friends, mentors, and other pioneers in the field. In our second installment, Fuchs writes to Herb Bernstein, a physics professor at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and his “more radical soul brother.”

Letters to Herb Bernstein

29 November 2000, “Anecdote”

Too bad you’re not coming to Vienna. I’m letting the soul (but not the libido) of Schrödinger slowly seep into me.

Let me tell you a quick anecdote while I have your ear. It’s one you’ll appreciate given your great respect for Ludwik Fleck. I was talking to Experimentalist X the other night, asking him to evaluate his various students so I could tumble over in my head whether any should be approached about employment at Bell Labs. Sadly, one of his students didn’t get the highest of recommendations. The main point was that the student didn’t seem to appreciate the difference between making an experiment happen and keeping himself/herself busy with work. “If a part doesn’t work, don’t waste time trying to fix it – kill it, and get a new one,” he said. “It can be tough in the lab. It’s almost as if you have to look at your equipment and say, ‘I will you to work’. You have to command nature. And Student Y just doesn’t seem to have that.”

Have you ever heard anything more marvelous come directly from the mouth of an experimentalist?

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