Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Physics and believable lives

And the second set of questions from the women of Dragonsept, as I draw closer to the end of this readthrough of my book:

1. Physics? For some reason I have a hard time placing you as a physics major. What led you to an interest in it? And what did you plan on doing with it when you finished college?

When I was 9, I read A Wrinkle in Time, wherein the female Dr. Murry is a theoretical physicist. I went to my (chemist) father: "Daddy, what does a theoretical physicist do?" So he gave some examples, and I nodded and said, "That's what I'm going to do." And he said, "Okay," and I went back to my room and A Wrinkle in Time.

When I was 12, I read A Brief History of Time and walked around drunk on it for days.

It's funny to me that so many people have a hard time seeing me in that role, because I really was Marissa Lingen, Girl Physicist, and I can see where it still has its tendrils into all sorts of aspects of my life and thinking. You can take the girl out of the lab etc.

One of the things that doesn't get expressed much in my life at the moment is how much I love applied math. I really, really, really do. It's a very beautiful game, applied math. I loved poking my nose around things and finding out how they went. I loved watching quantum effects actually happen in the lab. I loved -- this is why I was in physics, and if I ever went back, this would be why -- I loved that all this crazy freaky stuff was our best approximation for how the universe actually is. And I loved that it didn't have to be anything but a best approximation, that there would always be something else to poke around and squint at and figure out.

I loved the Franck-Hertz experiment in Modern lab (nobody is going to ask me what was my favorite and my least favorite, so I'm going to tell you all anyway), and I hated Millikin Oil Drop, but they were part of the same big gorgeous thing. (I hated Millikin Oil Drop because it involved sitting in a dark, tiny, oil-smelling room and watching oil drops go up and down in an electric field through a microscope and timing them. It was enough to kill everybody's eyes, and mine were not great to begin with. But seeing the quantization of charge on those infinitesimal oil drops: that was cool.

2. If for some reason you were forced to stop writing (agreed, that would suck mightily), and you were given the opportunity to do anything else in the world. What would it be?

ladysea asked something like this, too; check your house for psychic brain waves!

As I think about it some more, I think maybe if school districts were still hiring gifted ed specialists, I'd want to do that. Kathy Kinkle was my gifted ed specialist when I was in first and second grade, and she changed my life immensely for the better. She had me doing writing exercises that college kids are assigned, because she could see that I was ready for them and needed them. I think it would be neat to have a group of kids I was supposed to pay that much attention to helping figure out what was cool about themselves. I think regular classroom teachers can ideally do this, too, but in practice the way our classrooms are set up don't always encourage it. I think it's a miracle on the teachers' parts and great credit to them when they manage to do it within the bounds they have.

3. As I understand it, you know how to make lefsa from scratch? Would you be able to/interested in teaching someone else (me?)? I'd like to adapt a lefsa recipe to be gluten free, but of course not knowing how to make it to begin with, it would be difficult at best ;) (for what it's worth, I'm also planning on adapting a phyllo dough recipe...yes, I like really flat breads ;) )

Sure. I'm not sure I could guarantee soon, but in general, yep.

It's going to be very hard to make lefse gluten-free, I think; the flour is a fairly major part of it. You can have rice flour, or no? I think the texture would be very different with rice flour. We'd have to experiment.

(Minicon, for some reason, started my brain party-planning as a background process. I'm already thinking about what we can have that's vegan, low-carb, and/or gluten-free for markgritter's thirtieth.)

4. Turn about's a good thing ;) 0 if you could go back ten years to tell your former self something, what would it be?

Relax. A great many of the things you think you can't have, you can. A great many of the people who seem important to you now, are. Trust yourself, take deep breaths, work your butt off, and you will get through it all. You have already hit the local minimum of this ten-year period. Things are currently as bad as they will ever be. These years you have just finished are not, in fact, the best years of your life.

Also, after dinner when you're driving through Utah? Dawdle. Dawdle like mad. You have a date with a deer you'll want to avoid.

5. What is the most unbelievable thing you've experienced up until now? (Unbelievable to you).

My entire life is pretty unbelievable, actually. That I get to do so many cool things with so many cool people. I just can't believe my family and friends. If I had been allowed to fill out a requisition form ten years ago, I wouldn't have thought to ask for half of what I got. Even the ones I might have asked for categorically (item: matched set of close friends to take care of each other when I'm not around; item: sibs-in-law who combine best aspects of family and friends; etc.) are much cooler in practice than they would have been in the description. ("And she frightens our other friends' toddlers with dinosaurs? Cool, all right. Wait, but it's the other one who's the geo-paleogeek? Drawing maps of these people is hard.")

I am not what one might call content with our current situation. A few weeks ago I said, "It feels like I'm hip-deep in everything," and dd_b gave me a funny look and said, "You are hip-deep in everything." There are lots of major things in need of fixing, completion, whatever around here. Fairly immediately, too, not just long-term projects like "have a cool life and write nifty books." So the situation is often suboptimal. But the people are just amazing. I wouldn't trade the people I got for the world.

I am a sap. Sad, sad truth.

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