Marty Perl is gone

Reports bring the sad news that Marty Perl died.

Here’s a look back a decade and a half. This is the beginning of Lila Guterman’s 1998 article in the Stanford Report about one of Marty’s smallest improbable adventures:

A paper airplane whizzed through the air and hit Stanford Nobel laureate Martin Perl in the head before he answered the first question in an interview Wednesday evening, April 8. He and fellow SLAC Nobelist Richard Taylor were grilled about chewing gum in front of an audience of 200 people in Stanford’s Terman Auditorium.

Their interviewer was Marc Abrahams, editor of the irreverent science magazine The Annals of Improbable Research. Abrahams was at Stanford to promote the new book, The Best of Annals of Improbable Research. The result was an evening of silly science.

Abrahams chomped on gum as they discussed the lofty topic, and he offered the two Nobelists their own sticks.

“How often do you chew gum?” Abrahams asked them.

“Whenever I get a bad idea,” said Perl, munching away.

“Same,” responded Taylor. “Never.”

The airplane-throwing audience laughed upon learning that Perl uses gum to stick his telephone to his desk and to plug vacuum leaks. But Taylor adamantly denied using chewing gum. “I’m more used to bubble gum,” he said….

This photo shows the three of us that night. Marty Perl is at right, examining his gum. Dick Taylor, who insisted on being identified as “Laureate X”, is the one in the middle with his face obscured.

abrahams - taylor - perl 1998

BONUS: It’s now 2014, and chewing gum is again of heightened interest to the research community.