One finds a fairly diverse collection of characters hanging around the Crossroads Mall Chess Club, (which I sometimes inaccurately refer to as the “Overlake Mall Chess Club”). Mostly it’s men who love chess, or are retired or otherwise have too much time on their hands. In my case, it’s a love of watching others play chess. And one meets people there and one gets to know them. And they find out about one’s other hobbies, in my case physics, and they talk about their own.
In the case of Forrest LeDuc, his other hobby is divination. His regular employment is in the gold fields of north Idaho. Divination has undoubtedly been a central part of mining since before man knew how to smelt metals. I suppose that Neanderthals used divination to find flints, as well as game, other tribes, etc. Divination (or dowsing) is not taught in mining engineering, but the students, at least when I was a student 30 years ago, are exposed to divination by the miners, when they work summers in the mines. Despite centuries of suppression by the combined forces of the church and science, divining or dowsing is still in use. See the recent Mother Earth News article for a description.
Forrest specializes in the use of the pendulum, pallomancy. He says that an “entity” provides him with information through the pendulum. His primary use of the pendulum is in finding gold, in which he apparently has a certain reputation. And he has various permits and licenses that show that he knows how to safely and ecologically remove the gold that he’s found. In Idaho, he gives tours of the mining operations for the Forest department. And as yet another echo of his name, I should probably mention that when Forrest stays in the area (during the winters when north Idaho is too cold and snowy) he doesn’t live in the traditional shelter, but instead stays in a tent in the forest. The various animals of the forest avoid the usual citizens but visit him; for the mouse he has a few crumbs. For the owl a little meat. For the deer, a cube of sugar.
The pendulum can provide information of all sorts, so, what with my interest in elementary particles, Forrest decided to ask for information on elementary particles. The process of extracting information from a pendulum is time consuming and arduous. One holds the pendulum still and watches for slight movements. Of course any muscular trembles on the part of the user will appear in the pendulum’s motion. It is my suspicion that any information that arrives has been modified by the knowledge and experience of the operator.
Getting information out of a pendulum is not easy. One must adopt a “neutral point of view.” This means that one must not think that one knows the answer before beginning. Those of us who dig in the foundations of physics rather than the pleistocene gravel deposits of an Idaho gold mining district need to take a similar point of view however it is very difficult. There is a strong tendency for an education in physics to give a certainty that is not supported by the experimental data. As soon as a good curve fit and a good story appears in physics, it tends to crowd out alternatives.
The other part of the procedure of divination is error correction. Forrest tells me that he asks all questions three times in different ways and rejects information that is not assured. He says that he has the worst problems trying to pull words out that are similar to each other. In the subject of elementary particles, he says that the worst are “photon” and “proton.”
Forrest began his studies by asking for a list of all elementary particles. He said that he was very surprised to discover that there was a very large number of them, and that they were very very small. He found 39. Some have corresponding particles in the modern vernacular, but some do not. In the language of the pendulum, they are as follows:
From here, Forrest is asking for information on the individual particles. I told him that he should ask for relationships between them. So far, he’s gotten more complete information on about 10 of the particles. It takes 3 or 4 hours of staring at a pendulum to get the information on one particle. He does this at the library at the Crossroads mall and I have no doubt that the process scares small children. From what he’s told me, I understand that a certain amount of the particle description will have to do with the Bible. And so, science and religion, unable to stamp out divination, get tied together by it.
Does any of this make sense?
So far none of this makes much sense to me. When Forrest told me that he’d found 39 particles I thought that 40 would be a nicer number since 40 = 24+8+8. The 24 could be the quarks, 8 could be the leptons, and the other 8 could be gauge bosons. However, I’ve recently been working on a theory where there are 12 fundamental preons that come as a 4 of Dirac particles (i.e. spin up/down and particle / antiparticle) times the 3 MUBs of the Pauli algebra. To get 39 from that, one would need another 27 particles and that didn’t seem likely to me.
However, the day after Forrest gave me the list of 39 particles, I got a response to my “12” idea that there could be a 27 involved. Now do I understand the 27? No. I guess I really should look more into it, what with its getting backing from the “entity.” But somehow instead my mind has drifted to other things, such as the social relationship between different people working on physics. Sometimes more established workers look at the stuff I write down and sometimes I look at the stuff written down by even less established workers. Parodying De Morgan’s parody of Jonathan Swift:
Great kooks have little kooks that read their stuff and write them,
and little kooks have lesser kooks and so ad infinitum.
And the great kooks themselves, in turn, have greater kooks to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.