Quantum Hoops (1)

January 3, 2009


I probably first heard about Caltech in late high school or early college.  My friend Dante Giarrusso, currently a mathematics professor at Saint Lawrence University, was excited by his discovery of  the popular Caltech physicist Richard Feynman.  Dante’s usual practice was to invite me to his house for a pot of coffee and then give me a mini-course on his latest discovery.  There were a few times when the experience was a little arduous, but I will always be grateful to him as much for the enthusiasm as  for the knowledge.  Intellectual curiosity was not all that common in our neighborhood.

Much later, in the early 2000’s when my son was preparing for the SAT,  I looked at typical entrance  scores for various universities and was surprised (probably due to the Easterner’s typical regional bias) to see Caltech at the top of  the list I was perusing.  Since my son was a baseball player, out of curiosity I took a look at the Caltech baseball program:  to describe it as dismal would be an exercise in understatement.  Basketball results were as bad, if not worse.

In subsequent years, I checked on Caltech basketball from time to time.  The only connection I had with that university was my use of  articles on scientific education, written by its former president ( Nobel Prize winner) David Baltimore, as texts in an obligatory science integration component for my math students who were envisaging careers in the Health Sciences. Then I discovered the video Quantum Hoops:  great title, great logo.  By chance, a friend and former colleague, lawyer and political scientist C.F. Levine, had a contact at Caltech.  Through her he obtained a t-shirt with the Quantum Hoops logo from the university bookstore.  So I had a Quantum Hoops shirt to wear even if I hadn’t yet seen the video.

Chance events are a common occurrence in fiction, but as the consecrated saying implies, reality is more random than fiction.  At the end of  September, my wife Barbara and I were spending a week in the Bay Area, visiting California for the first time.  We had purchased tickets to a Giants game at AT&T Park and the afternoon of the game we were wandering in the city, leisurely making our way to McCovey Cove.   The Martin Luther King Memorial  was on our way to the ballpark.  There had been a large event of some kind in Yerba Buena Gardens the previous day:  clean up in the area was winding down.  I was wearing my Quantum Hoops shirt, a decision based on not wearing a Giants logo to the game against LA: not that I like the Dodgers, but their catcher Russell Martin had once played ball with my son and we are still friends with some of his family.  Out of feelings of solidarity with the Martin family, it was probably best to avoid exaggerated partisan commitment to the Giants that day.

I was surprised to be approached by a young lady who was helping with the clean up, even more surprised when I realized that the  shirt drew her attention.  She had in fact worked on the video and was impressed by seeing someone in SF wearing the shirt.  Of course, meeting  someone who was actually connected to Quantum Hoops was totally unexpected.  I probably don’t know more than three people who even suspect that Caltech has a basketball team.  It turns out that Laurie was credited as Executive Producer of the video. I  promised her to actually purchase the video, so I now have to both acknowledge our meeting and confirm that I have kept my promise.

With Laurie Langford in San Francisco

With Laurie Langford in San Francisco


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