It is beyond belief that not only am I again writing a post about the premature death of a colleague whom I have known for decades, but that I am doing it about two of them.
Over the past weekend, two of the world’s most influential and brilliant theoretical high-energy physicists — Steve Gubser of Princeton University and Ann Nelson of the University of Washington — fell to their deaths in separate mountain accidents, one in the Alps and one in the Cascades.
Theoretical high energy physics is a small community, and within the United States itself the community is tiny. Ann and Steve were both justifiably famous and highly respected as exceptionally bright lights in their areas of research. Even for those who had not met them personally, this is a stunning and irreplaceable loss of talent and of knowledge.
But most of us did know them personally. For me, and for others with a personal connection to them, the news is devastating and tragic. I encountered Steve when he was a student and I was a postdoc in the Princeton area, and later helped bring him into a social group where he met his future wife (a great ...