new friends

wandering scientists

wandering scientists

I’m a hopeless romantic. I love It Happened One Night, The Far Pavilions, Life is Beautiful and stories of how couples met. Duygu and Meren met over the internet. They both contribute to a Turkish open source urban dictionary, think Wikipedia with more arguing. Duygu wrote a rant about an internal political matter and the article got so many votes that it got featured on the weekly “Top 20” list. When Meren read that piece, he started following her writing. He soon decided that he would get along really well with this guy and wanted to meet him. He just assumed a male writer but as he noticed the emotional nature of the writing, he suspected that the person might be gay. Meren finally realized the truth when Duygu mentioned something about her period. Soon after that, he wrote his first email to her and opened by complimented her writing. He went on to say, “I want to marry you.” Duygu laughs at this part in the story but with a deliberate expression he tells me, “I was completely serious.” I believe him. The rest, as they say, was history.

I started my day when Anh dropped me off at the dog levee with some leftover Mexican food from Fat Tuesday. While I ate, many dogs came by to say hi though I distrusted their motives. As always in New Orleans, friendliness permeates and random conversations occur. I meandered through the oak lined streets to the bend in the trolley line where St. Charles becomes Carrolton. A sign told me this section of track represents the oldest continuously operating street car in America. I found a nice grassy spot to take a nap and look at my new book, the Gonzo art of Ralph Steadman.

I meet Dugy and Meren for a small lunch at La Madeleine on this warm Saturday afternoon. I heard about their meeting story right away because it’s usually the first question I ask. As you can imagine when three wandering scientists meet, we talked easily and excitedly: Richard Feynman’s love of the obscure country of Tuva, scientific paths to immortality, throat singing and the possibility of God. Meren works on nanopores and molecular binding. To be specific: his team captures a molecule in a nanopore, an opening only big enough for one molecule to pass at a time. If a passing molecule binds to the bound one, it generates an electrical force that can be measured. It’s an exciting technology because it could become a way to quickly find binding molecules to treat diseases. It’s computationally intensive because the only data comes in countless electrical measurements but Meren’s good with computers. On his last gig, he helped to build a new system for the Turkish military. This made his US background check more intense than usual.

Duygu does digit regeneration work by day and work on an evolution translation project by night. The work of Harun Yaha, a Turkish creationist and rapist, was the only thing on evolution available on Turkish internet. Duygu works with a team of volunteers to translate Berkley’s evolution website so Turks can access the scientific explanation of the wondrous diversity around us. I still get excited thinking about the evolutionary pressures that caused the social structure of ants, the echo location of bats or the behavioral traits of primates.

We walked along the levee to Meren’s secret beach (I’m not revealing the location). Wet dogs came over for petting and exploration as we sat on a log overlooking the Mississippi. Duygu and Meren love hurricanes because they get to evacuate around the country for camping trips or lucking into a resort hotel room in Florida for a week. We took our picture together and finally parted on top of the levee after hours of nonstop conversation. I regret that I didn’t see more of them. Oh well. Life is long and I’m sure we’ll see each other again.

PS: They will always know where I am because they’re on my Amerika email list. I send it out to let people know where I’ll be so we can meet up or so I can find new friends that I should know. Just email me at pelger at gmail dot com if you want to be on the list. Don’t worry. I only write every few weeks and you can be removed with no hard feelings.

It’s about my only contact with the outside word. I’m terrible at keeping in touch. I used to feel lousy about this but now I realize that I just like interacting in person better. Life is long. I’ll see you or I won’t. So it goes. Or maybe I should say, busy busy busy.


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Lex Pelger

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