I went to high school with a lot of really smart people. Like, really really smart. Even so, Adam Riess has done pretty darn well for himself.
Here’s the article where he talks about discovering dark energy, and last year he won a Macarthur “Genius” grant for his work. And now it looks like he’s been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
Not too shabby, eh?
Of course, when I picture Adam, I don’t picture a scientist, I picture a 16- or 17-year-old guy I hung out with a lot. We shared an independent study (graphics in Pascal) our senior year, and spent all but the last week hanging out in the chemistry classroom playing a contraband copy of TETRIS on Mr. Spancake’s computer. (Whenever we got the high score, we used silly puns of our names, like “Jeneral Tet” and “Jen X”. Crazy times.)
I read Piers Anthony’s Blue Adept series in high school and programmed my own version of “the game” using all the games, musical instruments, and obstacles we could scrape together. (In Blue Adept, opponents take turns selecting factors in a computer until the options are narrowed down until just one contest. It could be composing poetry or skiing or horse racing. Our options were less exciting.) In the book, all the players had code names. In our game, Adam’s code name was “Ace.” Guess that turned out to be true, too.
(Or maybe John was Ace, and Adam was Dart? Uh oh! A little help here Carolyn???) (I could never settle on a code name for myself because, like now, I’m not particularly good at any one thing. I used “Aura” to indicate an undefinable je ne sais quoi. Sadly, it didn’t help me win.)
Then there was the time Adam and I taught “Meet the Computer” at the high school’s evening adult school, and had to stare down a room of surly adults who did not want to be taught by “kids” and who kept trying to shove their 5.25″ floppy disks into the drives backwards. (Adam did all the talking. I had performance anxiety even then.)
I think of all the photos I have — in all their 80s glory. I remember all of us getting ready for the prom… after playing volleyball until the very last minute and scrambling to shower and change. I remember all our dates and what everyone wore. (I don’t remember anything about the dance or the party after at all.)
Good times, good times.
It’s hard to remember that we all grew up. (Maybe because I didn’t.) It’s hard to remember that most of my high school friends are married and have kids and careers — and Genius grants! When I think of us, I think of us stuck at 16, awkward and hopeful, terrified and clinging to each other with late-night Dungeons and Dragons and cut-throat games of Talismen.
Anyway. If you see this, Adam, good for you! Way to change the world, dude. I’m proud to know ya.