Niels Bohr—great guy, a saint, I swear to God, a real sweetheart, but … oh, man, what a talker! Let's say you run across him on the street. "Yo, Niels!" you say. "How's it hanging?"
You know what he's going to reply? Something like, oh, "It is, indeed, perhaps the greatest prospect of humanistic studies to contribute through an increasing knowledge of the history of cultural development to that gradual removal of prejudices which is the common aim of all science."
See what I'm saying? There's no response to something like that. But you try anyway: "God damn. Do you eat with that mouth?"
But he's right back at you with, "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."
"Oh, man, you are so full of shit, I can't believe it!" What else are you gonna say?
Niels just grins. "How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress."
"You're making me dizzy with all your yapping."
"Anyone who is not dizzy after his first acquaintance with the quantum of action has not understood a word."
"Are you laughing at me? You better not be!" You're starting to lose your temper.
"There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them."
Now you put a fist right up under his schnozz and say, "You're asking for a knuckle sandwich, and I'm just the guy to give it to you."
"Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think."
"Hey, you're the one who can't talk straight! You're goofier than a funhouse mirror!"
"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."
"Look, man. You got something to say, just come right out and say it."
"It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature."
"You think so, huh?"
But Niels just shakes his head sadly. "Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation but as a question."
What are you gonna do with a yutz like that, huh? Nothing, that's what. It's all you can do. So you just turn around and walk off. Over your shoulder, maybe you say something like, "You're just plain nuts."
"Your theory is crazy," he tells you, "but it's not crazy enough to be true."
© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.