One of the few fears that can really grab hold of me, especially before a long plane ride or (as was currently the case) a time of enforced inactivity, is that I’ve read all the really good books. A book that is well-written, thought provoking, and can immerse you in its reality is so rare. During this recent period, I had very little that fit this description. So I opened a book I hadn’t read in 25 years, Particle and Luck, by Louis B. Jones. Would it hold up? It does, and has snared me in the life of Mark Perdue, the archetypal absentminded physicist and his quirky journey around the Marin and the Berkeley campus. Here are a few excerpts.
“The houses passing under his sight beside the freeway, as Roger pulls off at the exit, seem rubbed to vanishing by the years of going unnoticed by billions of drivers. Yet solid matter somehow persists, unobserved, a vibrant cone of standing particles, visible to the deluded eye, a singing duet held up in formation by a magic spell as powerful as lightning, undiscoverable.”
Or this passage about visiting a lawyer:
“Roger says…’I hate to seem like a cheapskate, but are we paying for your time right now? I know you guys charge for every six minutes, isn’t that so?’
Mr. Person doesn’t answer until he’s standing behind his desk grasping his lapels, and Mark suddenly knows that Victor Person is a recent graduate, and this is a law practice with few clients. ‘As I said on the phone, Mr. Hoberman, Mr. Perdue, I have a complete rates-and-remuneration disclosure, which is available to every client for his inspection, and it’s automatically furnished to the client as a matter of record upon entering into an agreement.’ He smiles a bit hopelessly.”
What a treat to be back in the funny, difficult world of this bemused physics professor. Thank you Louis B. Jones, I’m so glad I have all your books. When I’m done with this, perhaps I’ll reread Ordinary Money.