5 and 15 February 2008
It was not something you normally see in the Center for Philosophy of Science. Peter Gildenhuys was sitting cross-legged on the floor of his office. He had a large piece of poster board in front of him. He was sticking photos to it and then little numbered tags to the photos. "He's doing his kid's school project," I thought, before I realized that this made no sense at all. He has no kids. He has a dog and dogs don't have projects.
Then I remembered. The Center has been hosting visitors, conferences and talks for many decades. Hidden away at the back of file drawers and in sagging boxes are lots of memorabilia. We have many photos of familiar faces. However we began to notice that these faces were familiar to fewer and fewer of us. While it was once unthinkable, there are more here now who won't recognize Peter Hempel's face than those who will.
We had decided to do something about it and Peter was given the job. He was working on a stack of photos. He showed me the post it note that said that these photos were to be filed once the then director had written the names on the back. The note was dated 1994. Flipping the photos over, we saw that those names had not been written.
Peter was arranging the photos on the board with tags numbering the faces he could not identify. That was most of them. Next to it was a sheet with numbered slots into which the names could be written.
I glanced over the photos on my way back to my office. It was diverting and then engrossing, rather like looking over someone's shoulder when they are doing a crossword. You suddenly realize you know what 5 across is.
"Oh look, it's Michael Redhead!" I said. "But who's that with the beard? I think I know him, but the name is eluding me."
By this time, Joyce has wandered in. She too was getting caught up in the game.
"Him?," Joyce interjected, "The one sitting next to Frances Earman?! It's John Earman."
"That's John? Oh, yes. It has to be. That's certainly Frances. We were all younger then!"
Over the days that followed, more names were added to the list as one or other old-timer and even some new-timers wandered past.
Today, Adolf Grünbaum is speaking on "Is Simplicity Evidence of Truth?" Adolf's presence was likely to draw a good crowd from across the years. So we set up the board in the conference room. It provided a colorful backdrop to the talk. Joyce had carefully instructed me to announce the board and make a plea for help. And I had carefully determined that I would do just that. Yet when the moment came the idea fled and I forgot.
It didn't seem to matter. A little crown gathered around the board before the talk and in the break. Little debates broke out over just who was who. Balazs scored. "That's Lazslo's Szabo's wife. And that is not how you spell Laszlo!" And who is that, I asked Jim Lennox, hoping he would know. His thought was the same as mine. "Is it Ken Waters with a moustache years ago?"
John D. Norton