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Just a note October 23, 2008

Posted by dorigo in books, personal, travel.
Tags: ,

Just a note to say that i regret not having participated in the threads developed from the recent “political” posts – I am going to answer the comments today, if I have something meaningful to say.

Yesterday was a rather stressful day, since I left Venice at 8AM, flew to Zurich, then to Geneva, had a tough meeting at CERN, talked to a few people, jumped on a flight to Munich, then to Venice, and came back home at 11PM. Under those circumstances, I can well say I feel excused…

PS: I could not resist filing this post under the “jet-flying clown” tag. That is how Robert Rathbun Wilson, then Fermilab Director, addressed Carlo Rubbia and David Cline in 1976, during a rendez-vous which was later dubbed by Cline “the Tuesday evening massacre”. Rubbia was then teaching at Harvard, and flew to Geneva and to Chicago on a weekly basis. Cline and Rubbia were proposing a proton-antiproton collider to Wilson: the machine which won Rubbia a Nobel prize, and the idea on which the Tevatron was later based. In earnest, Wilson was right to be mad at the guys -they would have pissed off almost anybody with their continuous attempts at manipulating the lab schedules and plans-, but his timing was wrong… The full story is masterly told in the book I am reading, “Nobel Dreams” by Gary Taubes. A must-read.


1. Peter Woit - October 28, 2008

Hi Tommaso,

Thanks for the story about Rubbia, I’d never heard the “jet-flying clown line”. Brings back my experience as a student taking a class from him around 1978. At the time he was flying in each week to teach the class, and more than once students arrived at the classroom to find that Rubbia hadn’t made it due to planes not being on time.

When he did make it, the class was quite an experience, with Rubbia a real force of nature. I remember once getting up the nerve to ask a question, sitting in the second row of the classroom. He pushed aside the chairs in the first row to come and enthusiastically explain the answer to my question, a couple inches from my face. Impressive, but left me a bit intimidated about asking more questions…

2. Andrea Giammanco - October 29, 2008

Peter, in this case it’s better that you never go on holidays in Italy, what you describe is considered a normal way of explaining something to somebody🙂

3. dorigo - October 29, 2008

Well, I wouldn’t say in the whole of Italy Andrea… Maybe in Puglia!
Not in Gorizia though. Rubbia is definitely a piece of work.


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