Thursday, July 12, 2018

A flood of memories

The flood of 2018. Park Science Center. The lowest point in the 
chemistry wing was under 8" of water.
I have taught at least one class in this room almost every year for the last 32 years.  I gave my job interview talk in this space, albeit in a less modern incarnation.

I stood at a standard demonstration table, complete with sink and running water. I used an overhead projector much like the one on the cart in the corner, putting my used transparencies to the side as I worked through my talk (what work did I talk about?  no idea!).

Midway through my talk I heard the sound of water running into the sink.  I looked over to see that I had knocked over the cup of hot chocolate I was drinking in the hopes of defrosting after a walk across campus in a sudden snowstorm for which I was woefully unprepared. All over my stacked of completed transparencies.

I thought at that moment I might have lost any chance at the job.  I'd spent all day reassuring experimentalists that the reason I was a theorist was not "bad hands" — in other words that I wasn't clumsy in the lab. Thankfully everything was draining in the sink and that no one asked to see any of the wet, sticky sheets that had been my carefully prepared talk.

The water has receded, but not the flood of memories it unleashed.

Well before the flood, I wrote a piece for Nature Chemistry which features a brief tale of this classroom: "Talking to Pauling's Ghost"

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