Father’s Day has come again, and I’ve been thinking of you. I have a little photo of you on my dresser, from when I was a little guy, when you were working on the Hollic’s farm that summer. I think it’s my favourite photo of you because you look suntanned and happy.
Anyway, I was chatting with Kim the other night, and she was very excited about a cancer treatment that was based on research done at TRIUMF at UBC. I know you were proud to have worked there, and we’re still proud of it today. It’s very cool to know that you were part of the team of RF technicians and engineers who helped to maintain equipment for the Cyclotron. In Grade 5, my teacher, Mrs. Atkinson, asked me if my Dad worked at the atom smasher at UBC. I didn’t really know what she was referring to until you explained how the particles get whipped up to near the speed of light, and then get smashed against gold targets so that the various particles break off and can be studied. Atom Smasher makes me picture a big hammer and anvil arrangement, which is kind of funny and old. Even back in Grade 5 I think I understood that if was really high-energy beams going through special pipes. You explained it as best you could. I’m sure I asked way too many questions.
You always seemed to have an interest in physics, and things electro-mechanical. Since we last spoke, I’ve read a *lot* of physics by many of the big thinkers. I’ve read Einsein’s book on Relativity a couple of times. I think it was rewritten for a general audience, but some of the calculus near the end was very cryptic and hard to follow (the Lorenz Transformation, and his final arrival at the famous equation, e=mc^2).
Stephen Hawking is also an incredible teacher of cosmology and large-scale physics. A lot of these fellows seem to get very philosophical and even a bit religious in some of their wider views. I think that means that the science they’re exploring is hitting on the same big questions that philosophers and theologians have wrestled with over the centuries. I think that in the future, science, philosophy and religion will continue to merge.
You and I never really talked about big ideas like that, but I have a sense that you thought about some things like that on your own, in private.
I really wish you and I had talked more.
Anyway, happy fathers day, Dad. I love you.