Friends know I don’t like talking to people on planes. Let’s be frank, I’m not really all that into people in general. The plane modifier only serves to amplify my general dislike of talking to people.
But sometimes you get a winner. Tonight I sat next to an old guy on a plane. My first thought on boarding was, “oh great, he is totally going to have to get up and go to the bathroom at least a dozen times on this transcon flight.” My second thought was “if he talks to me, I’m going to look in his eyes and kiss him. That should stop the talky.”
Instead, somehow I broke down and said ‘hello’. He reciprocated. And somehow we were talking – not a ton, mind you, but enough to divine that he is one of the nations preeminent researchers on nuclear and radiological technology. He had his first job at Missile Command the year before I was born. A couple of doctorates and thirty-something years later, he’s in his mid-sixties and still going strong,
We talked about the new fast burn reactors that are being proposed, the state of regulation in this country which will likely hose construction of new reactors for quite some time, and why it is so hard to burn U-238. And then I asked him the question I’m sure all nuclear physicists loathe: “fusion? what think?”
His response, with a twinkle in his eye that I previously was going to use as my signal to kiss him to make sure he didn’t talk to me, was simple: “so much easier to split than unite, no?”