Proto Aries

Filed in Aries

Reading this profile of the gifted physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed, i kept thinking “Aries” and voila he IS.  April 5, a Haute Aries and  triple one at that – Sun, Retro Mercury and Chiron all the sign of the Ram.

The whole article is worth a read but here are what i think of as the “Aries” bits.

Get Nima Arkani-Hamed going on the subject of the universe — not difficult — and he’ll talk for as many minutes or hours as it takes to transport you to the edge of human understanding, and then he’ll talk you past the edge, beyond Einstein, beyond space-time and quantum mechanics and all those tired tropes of 20th-century physics, to a spectacular new vision of how everything works.

Colleagues point to his knack for simplifying impossibly complex problems…

…But while many top physicists shy away from stagecraft, Arkani-Hamed functions, colleagues say, as a “messiah,” a “Pied Piper,” an “impresario.” Arms in motion and dark hair spilling to his shoulders, he weaves together calculations, thought experiments and historical precedents into narratives, confidently outlining chapters to come.

Arkani-Hamed’s mission — simple to state, but so all-consuming that he barely sleeps — is to understand the universe. “I don’t feel I have any time to lollygag, at all,” he said this summer in Princeton.

“It has taken enormous persuasion for him to take this from a total fantasy, a losing fantasy, to something which has a fighting chance.”

There are very few things in life where what you want to do for idealistic reasons and what someone else wants to do for Machiavellian reasons are identical. And when that happens, you should just do it. You should just do it!”

(His caffeine intake peaked several years ago at 15 to 16 espresso shots per day.)

“Being Nima’s student was like having Usain Bolt as a track coach…”

“If I look at the high points of my physics career thus far, many of them occurred because I (consciously or not) tried to follow Nima’s example: pursuing one’s own ideas with unbridled enthusiasm, politely disregarding naysayers and tackling obstacles head-on. And drinking espresso.”

He resisted real-world distractions, like parking rules. As a young professor at Berkeley, he insisted on parking in the mostly empty lot near his building rather than the faraway space assigned to him, leading to an epic war with a parking attendant that landed his face on a “Wanted” poster and helped drive him from Berkeley to Harvard.

“I sleep the way lions eat,” he explained — “very little for stretches of time, punctuated by huge and delicious feasts.”

He was very stubborn. I remember once he hiked about 11 hours at the age of about 4. I asked him to come onto my shoulder and he refused.”

Nima’s talk breathed life into those that deep down feel that we need a bigger collider to make real progress. … It wasn’t making a case about practicality, it was a bold call to action, a moonshot, and he basically called out those that didn’t see it that way as cowards and those that did as having courage.”

Thoughts?

Image:  Beatrice De Gea     Quanta Magazine

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19 thoughts on “Proto Aries

  1. Oh yea, I remember him from the documentary about the hydrogen collider.
    Even in that, I was like ‘This man is a genius, but hoooooooly fuq would it be a buggy trip to even stand next to him.’

    I love his line about his sleeping as lions eat…it’s a good one…what would everyone else’s be?
    I think mine would be a bear. seasonal, varied and in the winter I do the bare minimum whilst sleeping loads, but there doesn’t feel to be much of a difference between waking and dreaming.

    • Unfortunately the collider is being used to attempt proof of old ideas.
      Smashing particles together to find the little bits they are trying to prove exist is incredibly primitive. In a hundred years it will look like that scene from a movie I saw recently where 2 ape like men discover how to start a fire by smashing 2 flints together.
      A bigger collider is just a bigger rock to smash stuff. They are on the wrong track. All of them !
      In all this time they have had, surprise surprise …we found the thingy that we’ve been looking for.. sort of .. well it’s like the thingy we’ve been looking for ..
      NOTHING ! That’s what they have achieved in nearly 30 years ! All in an attempt to prove something that’s wrong ! And they know it.
      I have 1 word for you.. funding.
      Here is my simple equation for a complex problem. Collider = Funding

      • just thought of this.
        ““My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. It’s what it was really like. It was crazy. And the way we made it was very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle. There were too many of us. We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little, we went insane.” —Francis Ford Coppola, Cannes Film Festival, 1979.

      • Part of a poem by Lawrence Durrell goes,
        “… And by the lantern of the finite mind,
        set out to discover only what we find!
        Natures cruel version of Kant’s double bind.”
        Which is basically what you said, but I like it in poem format 😀

        • Thanks Pi. I liked the Coppola one too. You’ve sent me down the rabbit hole of the concept of the double bind and it pretty much explains the human condition in so many ways. We claim to know more and more but still we have no answer to ‘why’.

        • The theory that really has all of these characteristics is ‘dark matter’. In short.. well the universe and all its bits should weigh X amount. Somehow though it only weighs one tenth of that ? Hmmm, there must be stuff that we can’t see that weighs the other 90%. Let’s spend billions finding it.
          As opposed to, we may have got the weight thing all wrong.

  2. Not sure i understand the Usain Bolt reference.
    Just because someone is naturally talented at doing X doesnt mean they would be a good coach. A lot of the best teachers can’t do X well but they can teach it well!

  3. The simplifying complex concepts is definitely what we do. The reason of course is so we can move on 🙂 like let’s stop all this psychobabble and get on with it. Let’s actually achieve something ! (We can come back to this nonsense later..as if ) It’s that 3 yo child like power we seem to maintain, not unlike the story of the kings new clothes. It aggravates the hell out of the career intellectuals who love the club like labyrinth and lingo they build around them to exclude the average man and keep everyone in check, in the dark. I worked in a physics business for some years and employed particle physicists without having any training in the black art. I can tell you I needed all my child like common sense on a daily basis or I would have been totally bamboozled. When an expert in particle physics says no, that’s not possible it takes a 3yo to tell them yes ! It can. And tell they why it can 😉

      • regardless of whether you agree with what they’re doing, the specialist can help us because they specialise. The manager’s job is to manage, not to necessarily know all of the details. It’s a good thing DL that you could boil it down to one syllable sentences, that’s what helped you do your job well. And the physicists probably appreciated that, because their job is physics, not management. We can’t be all one thing or all the other. That would be boring and also mean that we didn’t do as many cool things 🙂

  4. pursuing one’s own ideas with unbridled enthusiasm, politely disregarding naysayers and tackling obstacles head-on.=sooo Aries

    But I also think Saggo, as in quest for deep knowledge

    • But an Aries WOULD beef with the parking attendant, while Saggo would rollerblade to work…

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