Gavin interviews his father Tom about life, religion, and science. Tom worked for 31 years at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, and being 76, has experienced the ups and downs of life, and how to maintain optimism. Tom is half of Gavin's origin biologically and helped inspire the podcast. We hope you enjoy this episode, as our personal origin.
TOM: 00:00 What I don't like is people lying. That drives me crazy. And there's a lot of lying goes on in society just so people can stuff extra money into their pockets.
GAVIN: 00:12 What Origin, from muse to manifestation: exploring why and how people create things. What Origin is a series of interviews with guests exploring the origins and motivations behind what they create. We delve into personal experiences in order to examine and explore the creative process and learn what can help keep people motivated to manifest what they desire. We hope to spread inspiration to listeners in each episode. You can learn more about our podcast at whatorigin.com. And tip us a coffee if you enjoy the show. There's a link there, and I guess we're sort of sponsored by caffeine. We enjoy our tea and coffee.
GAVIN: 00:54 Anyways, on this episode, I interview my father. He had a big influence on me and I think he was part of the reason I wanted to do this podcast because his answer to a lot of things, I would say, "Is there a God?" He says, "I don't know. There could be. We can't prove it." Things like that. And growing up in that environment and also hearing the sort of echoes of the golden rule of morality that I was taught in elementary school and middle school. Sharing and things, it sort of inspired me that someone was able to maintain that throughout their life. There's just a lot of ways that people don't follow what we learned growing up. And he's a physicist. He's an interesting guy. Not trying to hype him up as the perfect father, but he has an interesting way of looking at the world and an interesting way of just operating day to day. As part of this creation process of my own podcast, I had to interview him, make myself a little bit vulnerable and put some of his thoughts out there. So I hope you enjoy. He's 76 and he's seen a lot of life. And I think that he brings a positive message. If anything, we would like to inspire you and make you feel like there's still optimism and reasons to go forth and create in the world. So without further ado, let's start the interview.
GAVIN: 02:22 Part of the podcast is trying to give people advice not to just sit around and feel sorry for themselves. So, you know, there's always something to do.
TOM: 02:35 I think one problem that I see ... I like to read. And now, I go to a near library. And I used to also subscribe to the New York Times-
GAVIN: 02:49 By the way, he loves shuffling his change while he thinks. So that's the ambiance.
TOM: 02:55 Right now, I only subscribe to it on Tuesday with a science section. But I do make it to a library at some point and read through all the New York Times. So I'm surprised at how many people will sit there and watch TV for hours and hours but not read much. To me, reading is of very much value and I learn a lot from reading things, even in the newspapers. And I started reading, I think, New York Times, I think when I was 16 many years ago.
GAVIN: 03:29 So what would you say if you had to tell people what advice to be motivated day to day? What mentality to have? Things are tough, and life, and politics, and everything's getting down; what's the secret to keep time?
TOM: 03:47 I think try to be fair and try to be honest. Okay, there's different societies in the world. In China, and the US, and so forth. But don't discriminate against people because whether they're a man or a woman or because they're from China or whatever. Just try to work with everybody and treat everybody equally. Try to read things from different points of view. And I think television is somewhat used abusively. When people watching so many hours of movies and hours and hours of American Football. I don't get it.
GAVIN: 04:26 But what do you tell yourself in the morning? What's your-
TOM: 04:28 I tell myself I'm lucky to be alive. I lost my oldest sister at age 26, my best friend at age 52. So I try to do as good as I can on any given day and try to treat everybody fairly.
GAVIN: 04:43 Do you think part of the problem is we don't treat people fairly in, say, the United States? We just don't think about ... It's a number; we don't think about people as individuals or we don't value their contributions?
TOM: 04:57 Well, there are problems. Yeah, in all societies. So I try to be fair to everybody. I think that's the best. And try to respect everybody and treat a person ... When you meet a Chinese person from China, you should treat them as well as you treat somebody from the United States. What I don't like is people lying. That drives me crazy. And there's a lot of lying goes on in society just so people can stuff extra money into their pockets. And it sort of has ... That causes a problem in our society.
GAVIN: 05:34 What was it about physics that you liked so much?
TOM: 05:38 Sort of seemed to have ... Seems to me like a real search for the real answer of solving certain problems. And it seemed to me like a lot of the other things that people teach and stuff, it's not really as precise. So I like the precise nature of things like physics where you're trying to solve a problem that hasn't been solved before. And then you get an answer. And then you can prove that it's the correct answer and so forth. So I worked for 31 years at Stanford, for Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. From when I moved back to California in 1975, I got a job at '76 at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. And I worked there from '76 to, well, 2008. Though I still do a little work there. I still edit some science things.
GAVIN: 06:26 What are some big things that have affected your life?
TOM: 06:29 Three big things that affected my life. Well, there are many things. But okay. First, having my older sister pass away, okay? Then later on, having my best friend pass away in 1994. But in 1970, there's ... If you Google and say Sterling, S-T-E-R-L-I-N-G, Hall Bombing, a good friend of mine was killed on a Monday. And it was his son's third birthday. And I knew him very well. And that was summer of '70 where I was writing up my PhD thesis. But in February, I was off teaching already. Even quite in my PhD, whatever. And somebody had thrown some fire bombs near that wing of the physics building, which also was the wing that my office was in. And so when I came back for the summer of 1970, I was very nervous. And well, remember the Vietnam war was going on and stuff.
TOM: 07:27 So University of Wisconsin Madison had something called Army Math Research Center, which they allowed to be ... It was either on the third of fourth floor of the physics building. It had nothing to do with physics, but that's where they allowed them to be. So when I heard about those fire bombs in February or whenever they were, I came back that summer, and I was very careful what I did. Because I was very nervous in a building where somebody threw fire bombs. Of course, I wasn't sure anything bad was gonna happen. But it happened. And the guy that got killed was a good friend of mine. And his wife was in physics too.
TOM: 08:03 And I always remember seeing him on a Friday, which must've been the 21st of August, I guess, 1970. And I see him going into Rennebohm's Drug Store. And I always remember saying, "Hey, Bob, how you doing?" "Oh, good, Tom, but we won't see you for the next two weeks. We're leaving on Monday. It's my son's third birthday. We're going to San Diego for a vacation." And he had two daughters that were twins that were just over the age of one and then his son was gonna be three. So I said, "Okay, Bob, I'll see you when you get back." Well, that Monday, the 24th, I think it was, I was driving my car. I didn't hear anything about a bomb. And I didn't listen to my radio. I was driving my car passed near the university and I looked over and saw some police cars and fire trucks over near the physics building. But I didn't know what it meant. And went out to have my car have the oil change and something else. I drove out, I think that's west.
TOM: 08:57 Amazingly, that guy, Robert Fassnacht, he had gone home, I think to eat like 11, 11:30. He came back to do a couple more hours work and then ... Because he's going on his vacation. But unfortunately, four individuals drove a van up with explosives in it. And they did ... And then went off in some other car. But they did call in the police department and said that a bomb's gonna go off in the physics building. Well, the police on the way over there, the bomb went off already. And that killed Robert Fassnacht. And that sort of made impression on me because I really liked the guy. And he was against the Vietnam War too. And he didn't do anything wrong.
TOM: 09:37 It sort of makes ... I never went to war. I always had a physics exemption from going to the Vietnam War and stuff. And I wouldn't have gone anyway. I absolutely would not. I didn't support the Vietnam War. In fact, I worked on the Wisconsin Convention in 1968 in Chicago for Eugene McCarthy to be president. But Hubert Humphrey aced him out on that convention. And Johnson had already said he wasn't gonna run again. I did what I could against the Vietnam War, and I thought that we were gonna have to pull out of there. And sure enough, eventually, we did. But that was a big tough time.
GAVIN: 10:18 So how long were you Catholic?
TOM: 10:20 Up through high school and stuff. But when I got to the University of Illinois, I didn't ... I started to think about some of the things that I didn't like about it. And so I went and tried to see if I could convince this priest in University of Illinois to do the changes that I wanted, which one was to stop doing everything in Latin. To make it English. And the other thing I said was that I don't see why you should not allow priests to marry. And also, I said, "I see nothing wrong with women being priests. They're obviously smart enough to be scientists. Why do you people think they shouldn't be priests?" So, but the priest ... They did change from Latin to English, but they wouldn't allow priests to marry or have women be priests. So then I just said, "Well, then, I'm leaving." So that made me leave the Catholic church because ... Even though my family's heavy in it. Because to me, why would you discriminate against women and be a big shot in the church? I mean, women are very smart. Look it ... I work with some very smart women scientists. Why would you think that they weren't that smart? I mean, they still don't allow women to be priests, right? But I want to be fair and I didn't want to be unfair to women and support some institution which was trying to tell me that women are inferior.
GAVIN: 11:36 Okay, goodbye.
GAVIN: 11:44 Thank you for listening to this episode. We'll have a number of follow-up episodes. And you can find out more and follow us at whatorigin.com.