Cormac McCarthy has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
The unusual timing of the award together with McCarthy’s lack of accomplishment in the field has caused consternation among some. Brian Greene, string theorist and professor at Columbia University since 1996, upon being informed of McCarthy’s prize, angrily huffed, “What’s he ever done for us other than to prove the cosmic futility of the quotation mark?” Followup questions about whether, in his opinion, the mark violated the Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy went unanswered.
Others, more intimately acquainted with McCarthy, are taking a more stoic, wait-and-see approach. Murray Gell-Mann, recipient of the Physics Nobel in 1969, is a close friend and colleague of McCarthy’s. Reached for comment, he opined that perhaps the Nobel committee was taking a similar approach to the one they took with President Barack Obama in 2009. “McCarthy’s a brilliant man, there’s no question about that. And he did proofread The Quark and the Jaguar. And he talks to all of us [at the Santa Fe Institute] at lunch.”
“You know, there was that little NPR show he did with Lawrence Krauss and Werner Herzog,” Gell-Mann continued. “And I’ve always thought he was really onto something with that whole Suttree/Antisuttree thing.”
McCarthy, usually more loquacious, Tweeted in response, “Well, very good.” In an interview scheduled to run on Oprah Winfrey’s Web site tomorrow, the author opines that whenever he has been “real down,” similar positive events have occurred. “Once, I ran out of toothpaste,” he added, then stared wistfully off into the distance for several seconds.
“When you see that one small moment….” sighed Werner Herzog, a tear rolling down his right cheek. “All your doubts are erased. McCarthy creates worlds within worlds.”