This made every meal an ordeal for Dirac: he had no talent for languages, and his father was an unforgiving teacher. Whenever Dirac made a slip – a mispronunciation, a wrongly gendered noun, a botched subjunctive – his father made it a rule to refuse his next request. This caused the young Dirac terrible distress. Even at that time, he had digestive problems and often felt sick when he was eating, but his father would refuse him permission to leave the table if he made a linguistic error. Dirac would then have no option but to sit still and vomit. This did not happen just occasionally, but over and over again, for years.
-from The Strangest Man: The Secret Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom
I was/am working on a piece about the final collisions at the Tevatron, the premiere atom smasher in this country. That sprawling beast of a story, about the history and legacy of the sprawling underground beast that is the Tevatron, dominated the past three months. Particle physics is a lovely and dangerous subject for writers. Read the rest of this entry »