By BoLOBOOLNE payday loans

The Strangest Man in my family

A new biography of my grandfather has just been published called "The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius."  I’m quite excited about it for a number of reasons I’ll describe below.  The summary of the book on the publisher’s site is great:

The first full biography of Paul Dirac, the greatest British physicist
since Newton – and one of the strangest geniuses of the twentieth
century, who may have suffered from autism.

Paul Dirac was a
pioneer of quantum mechanics and was regarded as an equal by Albert
Einstein. He predicted, purely from what he saw in his equations, the
existence of antimatter. The youngest person ever to win the Nobel
Prize for Physics, he was also pathologically reticent, strangely
literal-minded and almost completely unable to communicate or
empathise. His silences were legendary and when he spoke, he betrayed
no emotion. Through his greatest period of productivity, his postcards
home contained only remarks about the weather. He is said to have cried
only once, when his friend Einstein died.

I’m very much looking forward to reading it, mostly because somebody
wrote a whole book about somebody in my family. I recently met Francis Crick‘s granddaughter and she said how fun it
was to read her grandpa’s biography and wished somebody would write
them about all of her relatives!  I’m waiting for Amazon to ship me my copy, but they say it’ll still be a couple of weeks, although apparently I can get it faster from Amazon.co.uk so I might just do that.  I’ve had a few chats with Graham Farmelo, the author, over the last few years as he’s been working on it, but I hadn’t been in touch with him recently and was tipped off to its publication by the Economist’s book review.

I’m also very happy to see that Graham is being upfront about the possibility that Autism or Asperger’s was at the root of his strangeness.  Many of us in the family suspected this, but it hasn’t been talked about publicly much if at all.  I’m happy to see this out in the open especially with the dramatic rise of Autism in the world today.  When people hide or just don’t talk about medical conditions, it creates a stigma that makes them that much harder for the afflicted to deal with.  Moreso, my grandfather can be a role model of what is possible to accomplish even with a potentially debilitating condition like that.

I’m also happy that it will provide authority to improve his wikipedia page.  I’ve tried making corrections and additions myself in the past, but I quickly learned that wikipedia’s editorial policy does not allow me to include anything I know about my grandfather in the article, until it has been "published" by somebody else, otherwise it’s "original research."  I include the quotations because the definition of publication is rapidly becoming less clear these days — is this blog published?  How about an IM conversation in a chat room that is persisted at a public URL?  But I digress — this policy is big part of why wikipedia is the important modern reference that it is, so I can’t really begrudge it.  And now that Faber & Faber has blessed Graham’s work into dead trees, wikipedia’s policy will allow his extensive research to be included on their summary.

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