I also taught myself how to blow glass using a propane torch from the hardware store and managed to make some elementary chemistry plumbing such as tees and small glass bulbs.
My mother, who was professional schoolteacher, was particularly concerned about our formal education and even went so far as to start a private school together with some other parents so that our intellectual needs would be met.
The questions worth asking, in other words, come not from other people but from nature, and are for the most part delicate things easily drowned out by the noise of everyday life.
My childhood home backed onto wheat and cotton fields.
At Berkeley I had my first encounter with real professional scientists.
In parallel with the development of my interests in technical gadgetry I began to acquire a profound love of and respect for the natural world which motivates my scientific thinking to this day.
As a consequence while we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes to wear to school we were constantly conscious of being of modest means.
But the need for conflict to expose prejudice and unclear reasoning, which is deeply embedded in my philosophy of science, has its origin in these debates.
It is an interesting fact that during my tour I was never allowed access to computers, radios, or anything else that I might damage through curiosity, or perhaps something more sinister.
It was at Bell Labs that I first made direct contact with real semiconductor experts and thus began to fully understand what amazing materials they were and what they could do.
It was at this moment that I wrote my first important paper in theoretical physics. I was 32 years old, 5 years beyond the alleged age of senility for theorists.
One of the terrific aspects of MIT in those days was the enormous variety of experimental work that either took place there or was talked about in seminars by outside speakers aggressively recruited by the faculty.
Over the course of time this gave us a deep respect for ideas, both our own and those of others, and an understanding that conflict through debate is a powerful means of revealing truth.
I was an extremely reclusive and introverted boy.
To this day I always insist on working out a problem from the beginning without reading up on it first, a habit that sometimes gets me into trouble but just as often helps me see things my predecessors have missed.
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