Cantor’s Dilemma

Bronze cube - Keck Science Bldg Stanford University - Saad Bhamla

So, I recently went to the Swain Library to next door to my lab to pick up a book on Fluid Dynamics to read up on some theory for my project. And as I was mucking around in the library trying to make some sense of the library coding system – (seriously, isn’t there a way to make this system more human friendly, it seems to me like a bunch of alpha numerical characters thrown around randomly and then arranged on shelves) – when I saw this book called Cantor’s Dilemma by Carl Djerassi. I was intrigued, so I checked it out and started reading it.

Boy oh boy, is this book amazing or what. It’s fulto Chetan Bhagat’s, five point someone style, albeit set on a bigger stage. Where Chetan creates a drama around IIT, here the action is around a midwestern university professor who’s trying to win the nobel prize and eventually wins it with his graduate student. It had me hooked till the very end with it’s romantic twists (between Professor and young graduate student – Ahem!), Nobel prize speeches with T.S. Elliot’s poetry and the politics in academia.

All in all, I loved the book and finished it in a week.

But that’s not the point.

Here’s the real zinger.

Carl Djerassi – the author of the book. Somehow, his name seemed familiar. As if I’d heard it somewhere. Or seen it. And then I remembered something.

I ran out of my office into the lobby.

The bronze cube.. the big bronze cube in the Keck lobby.. Djerassi.. the name seemed familiar.

And it hit me.

I read the inscription on the cube.

carl djerassi bronze cube Keck Science Stanford University saad bhamla

Well. Well. Look what we have here..

Apparently, Carl Djerassi was a professor in the Chemistry Department at Stanford.

The bronze cube in the middle of the lobby in my building -Keck Sciences – that was donated by him in memory of his daughter.

Oh boy. This was exciting.

Turns out, Djerassi was one of the people involved in creating the Pill. And not only was he a professor, he wrote various playwrights and novels, including Cantor’s Dilemma.

It’s not unusual to read an academic book and realize that the author is a Stanford professor, but rarely does it happen when you read a novel.

Very cool indeed!


Btw, did I mention I finished the 100 mile bike race on Saturday? It’s Tuesday and I’m still sore. Dang!

Also, this was my 12th book of the year. Hurray! Reading challenge completed.

Good job Bhamla.


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