Sunday, July 26, 2009

Physicist Alan Schoen Visits!

Wow! Did I ever have a treat this week! On Friday, I had a wonderful visitor to The Bluegrass Shack. I was working in the shop on instrument repair when Mike came in to introduce Alan to me. Of course, I had no idea who Alan was.

Alan is a very unassuming gentleman. He appears to be very much your average visitor...for maybe a full minute or two. Once we began to talk, it became obvious I was not talking to any "average" person. I gave up my instrument repair for the afternoon and spent the next 3-4 hours talking and playing music with Alan. During the course of this time, I learned that Alan is a published physicist who has lived an extraordinary life. He is 84 years old, but throughout our conversation, didn't seem a day older than me, though he is twice my age.

Alan studied languages when he served for our country, currently speaks seven languages fluently, and is nearly bilingual in Japanese and English. His published findings occurred while working for NASA. Although I don't entirely understand it all, he solved a mathematical equation that produced a geometric shape that he named a "gyroid." Even after reading the definition of gyroid, I am no closer to understanding it!! The shape is pretty interesting though. There is even a woman who produces sculptures of it. Here are a couple of links to look at. If nothing else, you should visit Alan's website (only if you have high speed internet) to view the fascinating geometric shapes. Alan is a mathmetician, so the equations of how to create these shapes (which is listed for each one) is lost on me...

Wikipedia Article

Sculptor Bathsheba's Website

MathWorld Website

Alan's Personal Website

Alan was trained as a classical violinist from an early age, but by his own admission, he didn't take it seriously at the time. It seems to me he was a born musician. He said he had played only a handful of times in the past 15 years or so, due to a wrist and shoulder injury which is now better. He actually came to our shop looking for a violin. (Yes, we do have a few of these!) He plays all classical music, and though he was out of practice, it was OBVIOUS he is a very talented guy! He played scales, arpeggios and movements of several different classical pieces for me, in between times telling me stories.

After a while, I suggested we play through some duets together. I pulled out a couple of my favorite books, and we played through quite a few pieces together. I don't get to do this too often, so I was having a blast! Alan was so taken with one of my favorite pieces that he bought the book. It is a book of Scottish Duets called "Scottish Airs for Pairs." I have a feeling the next time Alan comes we'll be playing some more!

Alan allowed me to take a video of him playing, so hopefully he doesn't mind that I'm posting it here. It's not an entire song, but I think you'll get the gist (of his expertise).

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