My dad is a chemistry teacher, and a chemist by training. Naturally, a son who wound up as a physicist (and a daughter who married a physicist) must be a great disappointment to such a proud man. I’m kidding, of course, except the part about my sister marrying a physicist. That’s just creepy.
Dad and I constantly rib each other about our respective choices of scientific inquiry. I am fond of reducing all of chemistry to a single equation in a dusty physics textbook by reminding my father that everything he teaches his kids is nothing special, just quantum mechanics. He likes to remind me that there is chemistry, and then there is wild speculation. While in the Soudan Mine in August, I was exposed to a huge poster bearing Ernest Rutherford’s stern countenance. Beneath his photo was a famous quote, attributed to Rutherford: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” In that spirit, I sent my father one of the stamps missing from his collection!