John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2005 May 16
[This atricle was written before the establishment of the NYSkies 
website. It has minor editing, mostly to clean up typos]
    The month of May 2005 is a crest of celebrations during the year 
for both Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman all over New York City. 
In the week of May 9th thru the 13th, EVERY DAY there was some major 
Einstein or Feynman event in the City! 
    Of these I attended three, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 
busyness kept me from the Monday and Friday shows. All the events were 
FREE, except for Thursday's, which cost $15. As I tell below, that was 
a very well spent $15. 
    Naturally, I handed out NYC Events and NYSkies flyers at all three 
events. With diverse audiences, only certain attendees had a specific 
astronomy bent. We may see a few more folk on the discussion group and 
the Seminar? 
Tuesday 10 May 
    Rockefeller University hosted Einstein Fest 2005, a colloquium in 
its Caspary Auditorium. It consisted of five feature lectures about 
the Einstein himself or his work. The day was breezy and sunny, 
inducing me to walk to the campus, on the East River north of 59th St 
bridge, from the BMT's Lexington Av station. The festivities started at 
1 PM with an audience of some 200 academics, friends, and, oh yes,  
several NYSkiers. 
    The speakers were top-rank figures in science:
    Dr John Rigden, Washington University at St Louis (Missouri), 
'Einstein 1905, the standard of greatness'
    Dr David Greenberger, City University of New York, 'Appreciating 
Einstein's contribution to quantum theory' 
    Dr Albert Libchaber, Rockefeller University, 'Brownian motion, 
Einstein, Perrin and molecular motors'
    Dr William Carithers, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 'A 
voyage through dark energy'
    Dr Paul Steinhardt, Princeton University, 'Einstein, time and the 
future of the universe' 
    The talks divided into two neat groups. The first three were 
nonastronomy for covering historical and regular physics. The 
final two were hard astronomy and cosmology. Between these two groups 
was a lively animated recess fueled by large tasty cookies and a wide 
choice of sodas. 
    I can not in this brief summary recount the talks in detail. I can 
note that many of us think of Einstein as some 'miracle man' who was 
unknown in science until he issued his theory of special relativity in 
1905. He was in fact an accomplished physicist, who happened by 
circumstance to fall short of an academic career after his college 
graduation. He wrote good papers on various topics in physics since 
    In 1905 he published three major works, one on the photoelectric 
effect, Brownian motion, and, ta-TAH, special relativity. He 
eventually earned the Nobel Prize for the photoelectric effect, not, 
as some surmise, for relativity. The three were seminal works in 
quantum physics, atomic physics, and relativistic physics. They showed 
the existence of quanta (or photons), atoms, and spacetime. 
    Until these articles, physicists debated the reality of quanta and 
atoms. They were handy mathematical constructs that explained assorted 
experiments, but were they actual entities? Einstein showed they were. 
    It is commonly noted that Einstein did not like quantum physics. 
He didn't. What troubled Einstein was that there was no underlying 
unifying principle for the discipline. Oh, the formulae and rules 
worked, but why? 
    The last two talks were reviews of cosmology, derived from 
Einstein's general relativity. According to Einstein, there could be a 
'pressure' or 'energy density' in the total absence of mass. He played 
with this idea for a while, based on the imperfect global description 
of the universe in the 1910s, 
    He dropped the concept when Hubble and Humason demonstrated the 
expansion of space. Since space already was expanding, there was no 
need for the pressure of space. Einstein called it his greatest 
    With the discovery that the cosmic outswell seems to be faster 
than that induced by a pure Hubble expansion, the notion of a vacuum 
energy density revived. We call it 'dark energy' as a jargon term. 
    The prospect that both dark matter and dark energy may be phantoms 
from a universe 'outside' of ours is also alive now. The cosmic 
microwave radiation may be the 'seam' between us and other cosmoses. 
In them may be dimensions which intrude into ours as detached gravity 
in 'dark matter' and detached pressure in 'dark energy'. 
    The colloquium let out at about 6 PM. I walked a couple delegates 
toward the subway in 63rd St. They were also interested in 
engineering. I steered them, I didn't get their names, to check out 
the cable-stayed bridges. These are the only ones in New York City.. 
They are small , built for foot traffic. The scientists were 
impressed, but only for a few moments, They then continued in 63rd 
to the subway. 
    I lingered awhile to explore the structures. The one crosses 63rd 
St to connect two parts of the Rockefeller campus. The other spans the 
FDR Drive for access to the waterfront walk. 
Wednesday 11 May 
    This was my trip to Tannu Tuva. Well, to Far Rockaway, which is 
about 90% of the way to Tannu Tuva, so I wasn't that far short. I was 
there for the dedication of the new Feynman postage stamp at the Far 
Rockaway post office, near where Feynman grew up. The day was partly 
sunny with a breeze from the nearby Atlantic Ocean. 
    For a small nabe, the post office is a handsome edifice with a 
rotunda and ceremonial stairs. The service hall was spacious enough to 
maintain regular operations and hold the stamp celebration. At one end 
were arrayed folding chairs, a podium, large poster of the stamp, and 
table of refreshments. About sixty folk turned out for the show. 
    The show began at 10 AM with a bongo concert. Feynman was a bongo 
player in high school and kept up the sport all thru his life. Postal 
officials and local politicians gave speeches. Feynman's family and 
neighbors and classmates gave remembrances. The stamp was unveiled, 
altho it actually issued on May 4th in New Haven as part of a set of 
four American scientists. 
    The highlight presentation was by Norman Parker, an actor who was 
done up as Richard Feynman. He gave a short autobiography and related 
a few funny episodes in his life. No one could keep a straight face. 
    We then walked to Comaga Av and Mott Av, a block south of the post 
office, for a brief and happy street renaming. Comaga Av is now 
Richard Feynman Way. The family posed for photos under the new street 
    Back at the post office, the first-day covers and cachets were 
released to the crowd. Within minutes, all were gone! The cover had 
the Feynman stamp with the cancellation citing the other scientists: 
Gibbs, McClintock, Neumann. The cahcet bore a cancellation patterned 
after a Feynman diagram! I delighted some of the audience by 
explaining it, the interaction of an electron and positron via an 
intermediate photon. 
    We got an unexpected bonus! For all who showed up, there were free 
copies of two major Feynman books! I now have 'Perfectly reasonable 
deviations from the beaten path' and 'What do you care what other 
people think?'. 
    This dedication service wrapped up with eats, a thick sweet rich 
birthday cake and a variety of juices. 
Thursday 12 May
    I never heard of the Rubin Museum of Art until a correspondent 
gave me the Feynman item for it in the May 2005 NYC Events. It's on 
17th St between 6th and 7th Av, carved out of a factory loft. It has 
cultural shows in its cellar cabaret, but this night at 7 PM, it 
featured the movie 'Genghis blues'. 
    The seats were large, movable, comfortable. I could rest on a 
stable cocktail table. From the first floor cafe' some of the audience 
brought down tasty sandwiches or cakes. Tickets were $15, which I at 
first thought was a bit much for a film showing. 
    It was a lot more than just a film. The show opened with a bongo 
concert, like the one in Far Rockaway, but in a proper theater 
surrounds. The sound was fuller and richer here.
    Mr Parker ambled on stage, made up as Feynman, to give pretty much 
the same skit as in Far Rockaway. He probably never noticed that a few 
of us saw him the day before. Here he had a regular podium and stage 
chair, which he alternated between as he chatted. The laughter was far 
lighter, almost a countable number of us. I looked around. There were 
at most fifteen in the audience! 
    We took a recess to tank up at the cafe'. I passed for lack of 
hunger to chat with the others around me. One woman went to the same 
two previous events as I did. I missed noticing her. It turns out 
she's a science buff and has other similar friends. I gave her extra 
NYC Events and NYSkies flyers for them. 
    We settled down for the movie. This was a professionally done 
documentary of Feynman's trip to Tannu Tuva. Tannu Tuva is now a state 
within Russia, but was a separate country for a couple years in the 
1920s. Its exotic name and location next to Outer Mongolia fascinated 
Feynman to the point of obsession. He eventually got the Soviet Union 
to let him visit. 
    He sure had the time of his life! In spite of the scarcity of 
tourist services, this place being off limits for both foreign and 
Russian travelers, he was well cared for by the natives. They never 
saw a real American. Feynman was for them a celebrity. 
    By and by Richard learned to sing in Tuva language, hunt, kill 
sheep, cook, wear native clothes. Some of the scenes were so 
hilarious, we broke out laughing! 
    The movie brought memories of my own adventures in the Soviet 
Union in the 1970s and 1980s, when Cold War fever pressed down on me 
every where I went, or tried to go. 
    The movie let out with all of us in a festive mood, as if we were 
briefed for our own trip to Tannu Tuva.