Monday, May 2, 2011

Conversations with Henry: That man was a genius

Henry: Linus Pauling had an answer for that little orbital problem you mentioned here.

Me: Pauling had answer for everything. The greatest chemist ever.

Henry: He was an interesting guy. You knew he was up here with me for a while? He had a falling out with Cal Tech.  I remember he used to come to seminars and always sat in the first row. He was well past retirement age then. Anyways, he tended to nod off when the lights went down during talks. Especially if the speaker showed too many dahls of slides.

Me: What are dahls?

Henry: A dahl is a unit of boring slides. Named after a famous crystallographer who used to put people to sleep at his talks. A "dahl" is approximately 10 boring slides. You do remember what slides are?

Me: Yeah. They were considered an improvement on overheads.

Henry: Linus Pauling was first and foremost a crystallographer. One time (I remember this clearly) he woke up when the lights went back up and asked the speaker a devastating question about a structure -- I mean the man could demolish arguments in his sleep. It was like he threw an intellectual dart at the speaker and hit him right in the forehead.

Me: Heh, I heard people used to say that about you too...

[Henry smiles]

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