Well, not you and me particularly, but with some historical figures. This was sort of spurred by Keith Olbermann’s story about Michele Bachmann’s list of people with whom she would like to have dinner. I could not imagine a dinner with only six to eight folks, including me, wherein I could meet everyone that I would want, so I have set up a series of dinners with diverse groups of folks that I would love to get to know. By the way, K.O. will be in a future installment if there is enough interest in this series.
Tonight’s installment will include a dinner with physicists (or their historical counterparts) that are both living and dead. Here are my rules: 1) I am not personally acquainted with anyone mentioned (a chance meeting, like on a flight does not count), 2) within certain limits, only a maximum of eight people can attend. More than that would make highly interactive conversation difficult, and 3) there is no language barrier.
As a bit of entertainment first, here is Rick Nelson with Garden Party. Just substitute the word “Dinner” for “Garden” and you will get it about right.
For my physicists dinner party, using actual people, I would really enjoy the following company: Archimedes, Aristotle (just for the rest of us to torment him), Sir Issac Newton, Benj. Franklin, Marie and Pierre Curie (I count married couples as one), Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking. For this exercise, Professor Hawking can also eat.
We would start out in the afternoon with some cheese, simple crackers, and nice, light German wine, just to stimulate conversation. I thing that Stilton would be the cheese of choice, with some celery salt and Zatarian’s Creole mustard with the crackers. We would get to know each other during those two hours, with just light banter.
I shall not bore you with the details of the conversations, but suffice it to say that Aristotle was pretty much taken down to the silly position that he deserves. To a person, we all condemned him for setting back science with silly, nonexperimentalist, and speculative ideas that only seemed to explain the facts. Since he was only recently brought to our time, he actually showed a bit of remorse for getting things so, so wrong. It all seemed so logical to him.
Dr. Franklin said it best. “Young man, logic is no substitute for knowledge, and your “knowledge” was superficial. You made perfectly good logical conclusions based on false premises. I can indeed forgive you for making logical conclusions, but I blame you for almost fifteen centuries of darkness because of your blind acceptance of false premises, any number of which could have been disproved it you had only gotten off of your arse and conducted a few, simple experiments. But you preferred to speculate about fact. For this, I can not forgive you.”
Professor Hawking was bit more merciful. In his synthesized voice, he made this statement, “Sir, you speculated about many things that you did not know. I have done similar things, and have been incorrect many times. The difference is, I believe, that I have the advantage of having over 2000 years of empirical and theoretical information that you did not have. I can not condemn you, because you were using the best information that you had at the time. However, I do agree with Dr. Franklin that you set back human understanding for centuries because of your authority. Erroneous conclusions are often accepted because of authority, and you were the greatest one until Galileo made his discoveries. You, sir, are responsible for him being excommunicated and to live under what was essentially house arrest until his death. But I do not condemn you.”
The Curies offered this, “When we started on our discoveries, only Henri and Wilhelm had an any idea about what were seeking. (They were making references to Henri Becquerel and Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen for their discoveries of natural radioactivity and X-rays, respectively, and knew both of them). We were able to find the common source for these things, but not completely. We wish that the professors Schrodinger and Heisenberg were invited, but Translator set his table too sparsely. He is not that good of a host, since we dead folks can come back for discussion.”
I had to step in then. “Friends, please realize that this is a dinner party, not a scientific meeting. I appreciate all of you being here, but if we had one hundred visionaries, dinner would be a very noisy affair.”
Professor Einstein chose to speak, after he loaded his pipe. (At my table during dessert, smoking is acceptable. Just not during the main course). As he lit it, I smelled a scent that was not tobacco at all. Now I understood how he got his insights. “As I see it, all of us are trying to figure out how the universe works, from the very small to the very large. We really have very sparse data to show it. I think that I was just lucky that the eclipse was timed exactly right for me to illustrate General Relativity. If it had not been for that, I would have been little more than a raving lunatic. But I know this: the things that we accept as sound theory or even fact are contaminated with our perceptions of reality. I think that Gott puts a haze over our eyes and minds, to keep the real story away from us until we cross over to another realm.”
Sir Issac, never a patient person, shot up then. “By the living God, all of you speak nonsense! I have information that none of you EVER will have, thanks to Sion, but I can tell you this! Give me bodies with mass and gravity, and I can tell you where they will be 1000 years from now!” He stamped his foot loudly. “Everything can be calculated!” Of course, I had been slipping him a supply of applejack, a favorite British drink, with a good amount of alcohol.
Just then the telephone rang, and Professor Heisenberg wanted to address the people. “Issac, I have deep respect for you, but you are wrong. You look at the very large, and I look at the very small. There comes a point where merely observing something changes it, so things are uncertain. Listen to Albert. He figured out why the orbit of Mercury does not follow your physics. I am at the bar with Louis and Paul (Louis De Broglie and Paul Adrian Marice Dirac), and Translator was kind enough to put the webcam and microphone so that we could hear and see all of you. Aristotle, I think that you are outvoted. Nice try to make sense of things, but without experiments, you could not succeed. Your culture sort of make that so, however.”
We could overhear Werner Heisenberg taking a question from Louis as Neils came back from the restroom, “Werner, can you buy me another beer? I am uncertain if I have enough money for another one.” OK, geeks, jump on this joke.
I chimed in, “Thanks for all of you to make your thoughts known. I think that we have beaten Aristotle up enough for one night. He seems to like the German wine, and has had about nine glasses. I do not think that he will be a threat to learning for several centuries.” Both the dinner party and the remote bar folks burst out with laughter. I continued, “Well, he was just a man, but one with very wrong ideas. He used logic very well to “prove” incorrect things. Logic is a two edged sword, and if your “facts” are incorrect, your conclusions are apt to be as well. Hey, where is Antoine?” Just then my cell phone rang. Antoine Lavoisier was calling from Paris. “Hello, Doc? I am sorry that I could not make the party tonight, but I am very confused. Sometimes I think that I am losing my head!” “OK, buddy, get some sleep and breathe a bit of that azote to make you get sleepy.”
Archimedes finally spoke. “Eureka, this barbarian wine is wonderful!” Then he sort of collapsed. I regretted that we could not hear more from him, but there will be more dinners, reader interest allowing.
Well, it was getting late and all of us were tired, but fired up with the discussion. Aristotle actually apologized for misleading the western world for almost two millennia, and we all forgave him. He did the best that he could at the time. Unfortunately, my dinner parties are coordinated with a certain Doctor, and he allows me to have them as long as the time line can never be changed, and that none of us remember anything at all about them. I seem to be a bit immune from his telepathy, so I can write my experiences here before I forget them. The Doctor does finally wipe my memory, but not instantly. As a matter of fact, I remember going places with him, but that is a completely different story. I like that guy. I want to have dinner with all 12 of him soon, along with his many companions. That would be a feast!
Please let me know what you think about this extremely experimental piece of writing. I enjoyed composing it, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. I hope that everyone gets a nice, tasty bite. There are infinite variations, and perhaps, if there is enough interest, I could cover a topic and group of people that you like.
If you can come up with a scenario similar with this, please post it in the comments.
Crossposted at Docudharma.com and at Dailykos.com
fun fantasy dinner?
I might also invite Galileo and Richard Feynman and make it a weekend at a country house.
I suppose I’d dump some of the older ones (Aristotle, Archimenides) and focus more on physicists from the last 300 years — but that’s just me.
Anyway, Doc, it’s an interesting thought experiment: thanks for a fun read.