On discovering the work of James P. Sethna at Cornell University

Homepages(s): Cornell,

ReferencesNature Reviews Physics 4 501-503 (2022)

https://www.nature.com/articles/s42254-022-00491-x https://arxiv.org/abs/2208.03365 (PDF)

First email: 24 January 2023 @ 8:06 AM

Dear Prof. Dr. James Sethna:

I was unaware of the concept of “power laws” but have been fascinated by scale invariance since exploring Planck’s base units with a high school geometry class. We had drilled down inside the tetrahedron and its octahedron (following Zeno). In 45 steps (dividing by 2) we were down among the particles, and in another 67 steps we were visiting with Max Planck. We also multiplied those edges by 2 and in just 90 doubling we were out observing the current expansion. We were using Planck Time and assumed one infinitesimal sphere per unit of Planck Length-and-Time.

We were having fun with numbers and geometries. We didn’t know about the pitfalls and important opportunities in studying an emergent scale with all its variances and invariances. We knew nothing about power laws, but because of your work, we will!

Now, back in the early 1960’s I was told that my uncle, Steve Fish, earned a PhD in physics from Cornell. He taught physics at a high school and opened a nursery to grow exotic plants (unfortunately his life was cut short). In 1975 I was at Harvard to study The Finite and Infinite with Arthur McGill. In the early summer of 2001 I was visiting Princeton to gift John Conway with perfect, clear-plastic models (octahedron/tetrahedrons) that I had specially manufactured.

I am anticipating learning a lot from you and to sharing that with hundreds of students and scholars around the world and thought you might want to know.

Thank you for all that you have done and are doing.