This post is a repost of some proto-blogging I did on my department web page when I was a post-doc in Amsterdam. The web page is gone, now, so I thought I'd revise the essay significantly for the blog here.
I don't think it is too much of an unfair generalization to say that science and scientists are rather unappreciated in the United States. Folks are quite happy to reap the benefits of science and technology when it comes to their computers, iPhones, etc., but can be dismissive or indignant to scientists when their results show people truths that they are uncomfortable with, e.g. evolution and global warming.
That's not to say that other countries are necessarily much better, but I do occasionally run across pro-science efforts elsewhere that surprise me. From 2003-2004, I did my post-doctoral work at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, an experience that I will count as one of the best times of my life. Amsterdam is just a wonderfully livable, walkable city, and even on my limited salary I was able to enjoy it immensely. While there, I kept up my figure skating training at the Jaap Eden Ijsbanen, which is located in the neighborhood of Watergraafsmeer outside of the city center. I would take the bus to the rink from my apartment, and every day would travel down Maxwellstraat and past Lorentzlaan, but it didn't occur to me until near the end of my time in The Netherlands that these streets are named after the physicists James Clerk Maxwell and Hendrik Antoon Lorentz!
In fact, all streets in the neighborhood of Watergraafsmeer are named after famous scientists and mathematicians, which is really a joy for a physicist like me. So after skating at the last day of the season at the Jaap Eden Ijsbanen, I decided to wander the neighborhood and hunt down the streets of those physicists whose work in the optical sciences has been a great influence on my own life's work, combining physics & travel blogging!
I present the streets in no particular order of chronology or significance; rather I present them in the order that I wandered past them. Information about the scientists themselves I gleaned from a variety of sources, including printed biographies, internet sites, and historical articles by my thesis advisor. Pictures of the various scientists were taken from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let us begin our tour -- feel free to follow along the trail via Google maps...
Continue Reading »