Celebrity Leakthrough

My exchange with Dr E over intersecting with Amanda Palmer reminded me of a post from a few years back, where I described minor connections with celebrity – living across the road from Norman Wisdom’s Aunty, knowing someone who had his boots stolen by Donovan and so on. Sometimes I get the feeling of a ghostly parallel universe of celebrities, which occasionally leaks through into ours at weak points in the space-time continuum.

Sometimes there are astronomical versions, but it only really works with impressionable postgrads and postdocs. Later on you get jaded and you’ve met everybody anyway. As a spotty astro-yoof, after my first observing run at CTIO, I caught a tourist bus back down the mountain and found myself sitting next to a long haired hippy type who turned out to be Kip Thorne. He hadn’t been observing – theorist and all that – but was just being a tourist with his also-groovy wife, looking at the telescopes. I had been reading Misner Thorne and Wheeler and had assumed that whoever constructed that five inch thick masterpiece must be a god-like alien only temporarily passing through our galaxy. Finding the god on a bus was kinda weird. He probably said all sorts of deep things, but all I remember is that he complained that the CTIO compound had American airbread.  Never seen him again of course and he wouldn’t know me from Adam.

I am sure there is some kind of story about Dr E being ill on the back of a bus full of famous astronomers, but can’t quite reconstruct it.

So if anybody has spilled beer on Fred Hoyle, or has been to the same hairdresser as Martin Rees etc etc, do let us know.

21 Responses to Celebrity Leakthrough

  1. Tony Foley says:

    I gave a Fisherman’s Friend to Tony Hewish when he had a sore throat and was giving a talk to some undergraduates. Does that count?

  2. CALIFORNIA magazine, in an article on “The Man Who Invented Time Travel”, even ran a photograph of me doing physics in the nude on Palomar Mountain. I was mortified—not by the photo, but by the totally outrageous claims that I had invented time machines and time travel.

    —Kip Thorne

    Top that, ye mortals!

  3. Let’s see….Astronomers? I showed Saul Perlmutter how to find the loo at the IAU General Assembly in Manchester. Other famous people? My mother used to work for Wernher von Braun. Though she quit when I was born, she sometimes went back to his office to visit, and I remember drawing on his chalkboard when I was 2 or so.

  4. The “celebrity leakthrough” title might bring you visitors looking for pictures of Britney Spears without her knickers.

    • andyxl says:

      Today’s search engine terms leading to my blog do not include Britney Spears. Strangely, there were two occurrences of “download supermongo astronomi”

  5. Pippa Goldschmidt says:

    When I was introduced to him at some sherry-type do at Imperial, Bill McCrea thought I was Michael Rowan-Robinson’s daughter

  6. Martin E. says:

    err… I interviewed Saul Perlmutter for a postdoc position on AGNs. When he told me about his thesis work I said “that sounds good; you should keep doing that.” So I claim 2-degrees-of-connection to a Nobel Prize. [On the other hand when I reminded him of this he couldn’t recall it at all. clearly a suppressed memory.]

    ps I did throw up just outside a bus full of X-ray astronomers at the SanDiego HEAD meeting in 1979. No doubt that was why it was the last HEAD meeting until I restarted them in 1994. Right.]

    pps I also stood behind Chandrasekhar on a Boston Harbour boat trip when the AAS was there. Mike W. can confirm it, and what a groupie I was.

  7. telescoper says:

    I keep getting Tom Shanks confused with Tom Hanks, if that counts.

  8. David says:

    At a conference on AGNs in the late 80’s, Martin Schmidt bought me a beer and we chatted for over an hour. I was not even a doctoral student then and I was very flattered that he took an interest in what I had to say. As I recall, he was also wearing one of his bow ties.

  9. Keith says:

    I once had a conversation with Fred Hoyle about food poisoning. He had been researching what not to eat at banquets. I think it was a byproduct of his research on germs from comets.

  10. KW says:

    At a big public talk in Amsterdam (I think for the Strings ’97 conference, I was an undergrad at the time), Stephen Hawking accidentally drove his wheelchair over my left foot, on his way to the stage. It really hurt.

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