You know Dr. Bok, of course?
The one born in Holland, you know, 75 years ago, who came to America at the age of 23 and landing of a Saturday, say, got engaged to be married by Monday and taught, as you well remember, for 28 years at Harvard and got mad when there was some slackening of support of research into the Southern Milky Way and taught for 10 years at the University of Arizona and --
"Hello," said Bart Bok to some friends in the National Academy of Sciences lounges yesterday, "yes, it's true I'm the centerfold this month in Scientific American."
Like, ah --
"Burt Reynolds," said Bok, "you're thinking of Burt Reynolds. Not surprising. My girlfriend Jackie asked me the same thing. It's my article about the Milky Way that's the centerfold. A lavish treatment. You read Sky and Telescope. [Astronomers assume you do, no need to ask if you do.] My article is in the April Sky and Telescope, too.
"Now that I've retired, I ask only that I not be named to committees, not be asked to teach graduate students, not be asked to apply for grants. As you get old, you can't do two or three things at once, you get all mixed up. I want time to think.
"I fell in love with the Milky Way as a boy of 12 -- I was a Boy Scout in Holland -- and now at my age I am once again an amateur of astronomy."
Outside the quiet lounge more than 1,000 members and guests of the National Academy of Sciences prepared for the 118th annual meeting with a Grade A buffet in the academy garden, billowing with old box bushes and superby grown tulips.
A certain number of Washington regulators were spotted, since the garden party has gained the reputation over the years of being well worth the effort of getting gussied up for. Adm. Walter Innis, Frances Humphrey Howard and Julia Helms were navigating between the roast beef and midget eclairs (asteroids of equal gravitational pull), but most of the people were distinguished scientists with or without Nobel prizes, and most of them looking in vain for some friend or other, for in the great sea seven whales have troubles meeting up.
"Everything Dr. Bok told us about the Milky Way 10 years ago, everything we had to believe, we are now told we must not believe; it's all different," said a friend, hoping to bring Bok right up to the hook.
"Rather say we must now see it in an amplified context," said another fellow who understands how you change everything without seeming to contradict earlier pronouncements.
"The Milky Way," said Bok, not getting drawn into all that, "now appears to have 10 times the mass we formerly thought. It is of the magnitude of the Andromeda Nebula, for instance. We once thought it was a minor galaxy. Now we see it is a very respectable galaxy indeed.
"I had such a rewarding time in India," he said, fetching out a snapshot. "That's me and my girlfriend in front of the Taj Mahal. That's her soft drink bottle. She is always drinking those things so she doesn't dry out."
Dr. Carroll Williams, professor of zoology at Harvard, and an important figure in the world of pesticides (far beyond Harvard), of course. He hit on the basic point (a friend of his said) through a curious route. Some insect cases -- cocoons, you might call them -- did not produce the expected metamorphosis. Why?
At the risk of giving comfort to those who suspect newspapers are to blame for everything, it may as well be stated with it turned out newspapers on which some of the cocoons were resting has done something to the cocoons. Something in the newspaper gave false signals to the developing pupa and in effect aborted ist proper development. It is understood it was The Boston Globe that did this. Anyhow, Williams was soon on to it, and the general principle of causing the pupa not to develop correctly is seen to have wide possibilities or great capabilities to control the gypsy moth, for example.
Retiring academy president Philip Handler greeted guests by an amazing globe of clear plastic filled with water, set on a multi-terraced crystal base that caught the light and made rainbows. The water inside the globe leaked and a man surreptitiously mopped it up every few minutues from the marble floor. Opinion was split whether the water was supposed to slop out or not. Avant-grade folk thought it was supposed to.
Frank Press, who becomes academy president in July, was the nucleaus of infinitely patterned electrons through the reception, all wishing him well, from Joseph Duffey, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Anne Wexler, through a fine assortment of well-domed scientists and ladies looking (some of them not all that hard) for their husbands.
Have you seen Andrew Huxley? Oh, you know Sir Andrew. The new president of the Royal Society. He was right over yonder a minute ago, I believe. If we just wander over, I have no doubt we'll . . .