Sunday, August 07, 2005

Forwarding address: Unknown

It is not only that interesting people keep dying before I get the chance to meet them, but they seem to enjoy making their exit slightly before or just after I learn of them. I remember when I found the preliminary version of E. T. Jaynes "Probability Theory: The Logic of Science" on the web. Right on the first few chapters it clarified in one fell swoop what had been to me an intellectual swamp until then. I had no idea who Jaynes was, I just knew I owed him an immense debt. I was compelled to write him an email that was really above all a way of saying thanks. It also included a question on a particular point. It took me some time to write it down. When I finally considered it ready I went to look for his email on the page...only to find that he had died just a few years before, and the page was actually handled by someone else. I cannot describe how that unexpected revelation shocked me. There was a special type of emptiness created by the fact that I had written him a letter, that now had no possible recipient. The words just hovered there, useless. I kept wondering: "where do I send it to?". Quite definitely, his forwarding address was utterly unknown...

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