Wednesday, March 21, 2012

a necessary follow-up to a statement I made to my students in introductory astronomy at Yale.

One day in the astronomy section I taught at Yale in 1980 I asked the class what the speed of light was. It was a loaded question. In mks terms (meters, kilograms, seconds) it is 299,792,458 meters/second. But in general relativity terms, all the fundamental constants have the geometrically significant value of 1. So, knowing general relativity is not familiar to most general studies undergraduates, I thought I would throw them a curveball with the possibility of a later "ah-hah!" moment. I said, "it's one." Evidently no one recognized this value as c, the speed of light, and the room was dead-faced and some were absolutely shocked and mystified. I had no intention of ruining the ahah potential and didn't explain myself, saying nothing more that class. It might have been my last session. I was shortly undergoing a mental illness relapse because I had decided to go off my medication a few months before arriving at Yale for graduate school.

My apologies to anyone only now getting this brief explanation.

A neologism by myself.

In his lifetime a man takes part as a member of many teams in sports or business; causual or serious; fleeting or enduring. Sometimes the boundaries between these teams, and the identifications of members, is not so clear. Each instance of such experience brings greater understanding of one's capabilities and potential, both as a team member and as an individual. I give to the idea of the practice of taking part in teams, as I describe foregoing, the term "teamsmanship." I think it is a new one and I find it very helpful in keeping from getting too comfortable about being a member of any one or another single team, while providing a central idea to gather all my thoughts about my ongoing development of team skills in various settings and various team memberships. It serves as somewhat of a counterpoint to the term and idea "sportsmanship," where everything is for the moment and winning or losing is today's only marker. A nation needs men to last beyond defeat, and to take victory deeper into the population.