The Strangest Man

Paul Dirac

Picked up a book this past fall about Paul Dirac entitled The Strangest Man.

Who is Paul Dirac?

Aside from being the “mystic of the atom,” he was a brilliant mathematician who shared the Nobel Prize in 1933 with Erwin Schrodinger for his contributions to the very complicated field of quantum mechanics.

What’s quantum mechanics?

I don’t know.

Well, I sort of know, but If I tried to explain it, I would be wrong. Let’s just say for now it involves lots of really complicated math and little tiny pieces of stuff so small you can’t even picture them in your mind. If you could, they would be too big.

It has to do with Schrödinger’s cat somehow. Now there’s some really strange stuff.

Anyhow, Mr. Dirac was an interesting chap. Very strange. “The strangest man,” according to his people who worked with him.

What was perhaps most unusual about him was his idea of what an answer to a math problem should be.

Beauty.

You read correctly. Two plus two equals beauty!

Mr. Dirac insisted that in order for an answer to any equation to be correct, it had to be beautiful. Isn’t that wonderful? Beauty as an answer to a math problem!

While beauty motivated his number crunching, it did nothing for him socially. He was very shy, never spoke much and took no interest in girls. But he loved doing math!

One of his associates called Dirac, “the most remarkable scientific mind which has appeared for a very long time.”

Mind you this was in the heyday of Albert Einstein.

When Dirac did speak, his words were so few and so abstruse, they often became the center of amusing stories told by his colleagues.

It is said one time Dirac visited an art gallery in Copenhagen to see an exhibit of Impressionist painters. Upon seeing a portrait of a simple pencil sketch of a boat, Dirac quipped, “This boat looks as if it was not finished.” Speaking of another picture he said, “I like that because of the degree of inaccuracy is the same all over.”

Dirac also disliked poetry and is well-known for a quote he once said to a friend during a walk.

“In science, you want to say something nobody knew before, in words everyone can understand. In poetry, you are bound to say something that everybody knows already in words that nobody can understand.”

Dirac, however, secretly adored Mickey Mouse films and kept this fact from his scientific colleagues for a long time.

There is simply no one way to describe the strange and unusual life and interests of Mr. Dirac. Indeed he was perhaps “The Strangest Man.”

So what, though, right? Who cares?

Well, maybe you’ve been called “strange” by others. Maybe you have odd tastes or don’t socialize much. Maybe you really like math or another subject but you’re too afraid to say so around your friends. You want to be cool but the requirements of “cool” are wholly unsuitable to your temperament.

That’s ok. Take heart. “Cool” folk aren’t usually the ones who win Nobel Prizes. It’s the oddballs, the recluses, the outcasts, the people with eccentric hair, and the strange ones who write books, direct movies, climb mountains and make scientific discoveries. Don’t squash your gifts just for the sake of being “cool.” Live out the weirdness God gave you and don’t be ashamed that you enjoy school, or like to study bugs or want to design and build space stations.

God has created you for a purpose that will glorify Him, and yes, it might seem a little strange to normal people, but that’s ok. They have a calling too. Let the Lord Jesus lead and shape you for what He has in store for you and don’t be discouraged if you don’t exactly fit other people’s idea of “normal.”

Now this isn’t a license to rebel, but to live your life in submission to the Lord Jesus and His love for you. He knows the plans He has for you (Jer. 29:11). Let Him do the leading.

If life’s got you on edge because not a few people have called you “weirdo” or “strange”, do what David did and pray these words back to your Creator. He loves you. He too knows what it’s like to not have people understand you, who falsely say all sorts of things about you and against you. Talk to Him.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”