ConCERNing Leonard

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Apartment 4A, a smoggy Wednesday afternoon in the spring of 2012

Leonard Hoftstader sat his computer.  He had an afternoon off with Sheldon riding with Raj and a little time for some research and planning.  He had a date with Penny Saturday night and didn’t have a clue what they should do.  He was pretty sure they couldn’t go back to the Gun Club for a while.  No cows available to be tipped, he would have to find something for them to do. 

If in doubt, he thought, use Google. He typed “fun things to do in Pasadena” into the search engine and hit enter.  Yelp seemed promising so he started to scroll through what was available:

Movies, museums, theater, wait these two taken together might just be the ticket.  He’d lived here for 6 years and had never been to it.  The hours were 9 to 3 and then they had to kill some time and head to this jazz and wine bar for dinner and music.  He’d have to talk her into spending the day but it could work.  He sent an email to the wine bar for a reservation.  Then a text to Penny,

“Can we make a day of it on Saturday, starting about noon?”

A few moments later she replied, “Sure what you got in mind?”

He texted her back, “The Rose Bowl Flea Market and then a Jazz and Wine bar?”

She texted right back. ”LOL sounds like fun

I love Google, he thought, this Yelp site isn’t bad either.

He was about to actually start working on a paper for the “Journal of High Energy Physics”.   He had just published some research their last month on enhancements that could be made to the Compact Muon Solenoid detector, (CMS), that was at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.  The enhancement might help detect the yet undiscovered though predicted Higgs Boson Particle.  The new article was a follow on to it with some additional data.

He opened up the document he’d been working on when his email chime went off.  The email was from President Siebert at Caltech.  He was surprised at the subject line,

Subject: Congratulations, let’s talk next week.

The rest of the email was forwarded from an email President Siebert had received from Jean-Paul Pichon:

President Siebert;

The CMS group here at CERN has been reviewing your Dr. Hofstadter’s paper on the enhancement of the CMS detector here.  It’s the opinion of the staff and myself that Dr. Hoftstader would be a welcome addition to the staff when the collider goes down in 2013 for its next enhancement and maintenance.  We would like him here before the end of 2012 so he can observe the experiments this year at 4 TeV.  Would Caltech be willing and would Dr. Hoftstader consent to joining us for a year to 18 months?  Please let me know and we can get this in the works.

Jean-Paul Pichon, Director General CERN

Leonard sat staring at the screen his mouth agape.  “Oh My God”, He thought, “They want to use my research and want me to help”.  “I could be on staff at CERN for 18 months!”

He started to reply right away that he would accept.  Then he looked at web page to the side of the email that said “Rose Bowl Flea Market”.  He paused.  He typed his reply carefully.

“I’ll need to consider it first and will talk to you next week”

He hit the send button and sat back.  He was in shock and was just starting to feel conflicted in a way that he knew would consume him until he worked this problem out.  He thought he had until Monday. What he didn’t know was the Caltech Physics Department newsletter would be out tomorrow and the first Item would have the headline of: “Dr. Hoftstader invited to join staff at CERN”.

At this point I need to remind the readers that Leonard Hoftstader is a scientist.  He solves problems based on the Scientific Method, at least he tries to.  For those of us who have forgotten the Scientific Method, and I’m not immune from that, here it is:

Ask a Question

Do Research

Construct a Hypothesis

Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion

Communicate Your Results

It probably doesn’t work as well on people and their emotions, but Leonard has to go with what he knows.

Leonard got up from his computer and paced around for several minutes, clearly agitated.  He went and got the largest white board from the closet, grabbed a hand full of dry eraser pens of different colors and headed for his room.

He put the white board against his dresser and sat down on the floor in front of it.

At the top of the board he wrote, “Is it possible to go to CERN and still be with Penny?”

He had his question, his problem.  It’s time for research he thought.  Leonard started lists.

Why do I need to go to CERN?

Prestige in my field
Working in an elite team of physicists and engineers
Visit Switzerland and Europe
To contribute to the Large Hadron Collider, (LHC)
To maybe be their when the Higgs Boson Particle is found
Because it would be so cool to rub this in Sheldon’s face.

Why do I need to be with Penny?

She makes me happy
She makes me laugh
She’s beautiful
I’m still in love with her.

Leonard looked over his work so far and put down two quick formulas:

Leonard+CERN = Professional fulfillment, recognition and status

Leonard+Penny = Personal happiness, perhaps marriage and a family.

“Well” Leonard said out loud, “We have our hypotheses but no way to test one without destroying the other.  So I just need to find a way to test them that will not destroy the sample.

He wrote down his terms of the equations:

Leonard, Penny, CERN                                                                                                                                         

Happiness, Professional Fulfillment

Three variables to outcomes, he started working different analysis and design skills on the variables.  He tried decision trees, flow charts, even Slade/Gorman diagrams.  He would need more experimental data.  He needed to see how Penny felt about things then he would have more data to add.  Leonard left the board against his dresser, never realizing that he had made the most basic mistake.  He closed his bedroom door to keep nosy people like Sheldon out.  Leonard went down the hall just as Sheldon entered the apartment.

Leonard was too nervous to hang around any of the guys right now.  He had been very quiet during dinner, eating his Thai food without saying much.  He feigned interest in the inane details of the other three guy’s day.  The nice part of having Sheldon for a roommate was that he really didn’t care how Leonard’s day went.

Leonard excused himself with a headache early and went back to his room. He worked on the board more, it was no use he was stuck.  He had two equations, two logic problems he could not reconcile.  The terms were just not compatible.

He really did have a headache now, laid down on his bed and waited for sleep.

Caltech Cafeteria another smoggy Thursday in Pasadena, Spring 2012

Leonard sat at the table by himself he’d came to lunch a little early.  Howard came striding over, his all orange shirt and pants as obnoxious as any outfit he had.  Leonard wondered if once he was married Bernadette would she help him pick his clothes out.  “Hi Howard”

“Congratulations, I just read the news.  Does Sheldon know yet I want to see his face.”

Leonard was alarmed, “What?”

Howard just handed Leonard the newsletter, it was the lead headline.  He still might be able to keep it quiet, Sheldon never read the newsletter.  Howard was looking at his phone, Bernadette says congrats also.

Leonard face fell, Oh no if Bernadette knew, Penny and Amy probably already know within minutes Sheldon would know when Amy texted him.  Leonard made a run for it.

“See you later Howard, thanks by the way to you and Bernadette.  Leonard echoed as he quickly fled to his Lab.  He turned on the “Laser in Use” warning sign over the door, locked the door and set at his lab bench.  It was going to be an uncomfortable night.

Leonard’s Car, Colorado Blvd, an early smoggy evening in Pasadena 2012

“Congratulations Leonard, I can’t imagine why they would pick you for this honor.  I’m sure you will do your usual adequate job while at CERN.”

Sheldon’s condescension was almost welcome.  It would get worse when he heard Leonard wasn’t going to go.  He had decided that afternoon in the lab. If the enhancements worked they were still based on his work, even if it was a derivative of the Swedish study.  He would get credit maybe even an award or a new big grant.  He wouldn’t be there for the possibility of the Higgs Boson, but he’d have Penny and that was enough.

It was when they got onto the 4th floor landing that Leonard broke the news.  “Sheldon, I’m not going to CERN.  I’m going to tell them no on Monday”

“Leonard why would you do that, it’s the chance of a lifetime“  Sheldon almost shouted at his friend.

Leonard started to unlock the door to 4A, “I’m not going Sheldon, I won’t risk losing Penny again even though technically were in a Beta Test right now”

Sheldon shook his head as they walked into the apartment, “What are you talking about, I know you are dating again but Beta Test”

“It’s how we’ve been working out any kinks in our relationship okay, I think it’s working out great so far.”  Leonard said as he closed the door.  What he failed to notice was Penny sitting on the steps to the 5th floor.  She’d been waiting for him to come home, tears coming on and off since Bernadette texted her that Leonard was going to Switzerland for over a year.  She got up and crept to the door of 4A and listened.

She heard Leonard raise his voice to Sheldon one last time.  “Sheldon you will not do two things.  Number 1 you will not speak to Penny about this decision of mine.  You will not try to convince her that I should go.  Number 2 you are not to talk to my mother until Tuesday next week.  If you fail to do that I will consider you in breach of the roommate agreement and end it.”

“But Leonard”, Sheldon protested.

“Sheldon please”, Leonard said in a quieter, calmer voice, “I worked this for two days on the board in my room.  The solution was for me to pick between the two, CERN or Penny.  Sheldon it only took me a nanosecond to pick Penny.  It was not even close.”

“So be it Leonard, but this is a huge blunder” she heard Sheldon say.  Then she retreated back to her apartment tears of a different sort streaming down her face.  “He chose me” she thought.

Apartment 4B, Lunch time, Friday a less smoggy day in Pasadena, 2012 it might rain

Penny waited in her apartment for her two best friends to show up.  Her girl posse she thought of them.  Both Amy and Bernadette said they would come by on their lunch hour to help her.  The knock at the door had to be them.  Penny walked to the door, the key to 4A in her hand.

“Hi guys, come with me”, she walked to the door of 4A used the key and led the girls to Leonard’s room.  The board was still against his dresser.  The girls took her through what was there.  They even had some issues with following all the different methods he’d try to use to analyze it.  Finally Amy said, “I see his error, he never tried to combine the equations.  He had a pre-concluded concept that the two couldn’t equate”.  She showed both the other girls the problem. The solution was obvious if you didn’t use the wrong logic and have preconceived ideas.

Penny looked at her friends, “Is going to CERN really that big a deal?”

Amy answered first, “It would be extraordinary to any high energy physicist. It would have them working at the pinnacle of their field.”

Bernadette added, “It really is the chance of a lifetime.”

Penny thought about it for a few minutes, she finally spoke.  “He chose me over CERN and his life’s work.”  She was tearing up.  “Let’s go back to my place, Amy we need to talk.”

Apartment 4A, Saturday, it rained last night, the air is crystal clear and smells so good in Pasadena, Spring 2012

Leonard was sitting at his computer when he heard the single knock.  He turned and saw Penny enter.  “Hey you” she said.  “Hi” he responded, “you’re early”.

Penny walked in and walked by Leonard toward the hallway.  “I heard I needed to look at something in your room.”  Leonard jumped up following, muttering but she outpaced him.  Penny reached his door, opened it, entered and turned to the board.

“I see you’re stuck, let me help”, she grabbed a red dry erase marker and at the bottom of the board and wrote: Leonard+Penny+Cern=Happiness, Love, Fulfillment.

“Pretty obvious don’t you think and you’re supposed to be a genius”

For the second time in three days Leonard was awestruck, speechless.

He grabbed her and pulled her into an embrace, her arms went around his neck as she kissed him. Several minutes later as their kiss broke Penny spoke.  “Really Leonard what girl wouldn’t want a year or more in Europe.”

Apartment 4B, late evening Saturday in Pasadena 2012

Penny and Leonard sat cuddling on her small sofa, sharing a bottle of red wine.  Soft music was coming from the iPod speakers on the counter.  They snuggled and cuddled together as if they had never been apart.  The day at the flea market and jazz wine bar had been so much fun.  Penny had a new lamp she got, and Leonard had hauled around the Rose bowl.  They had got out of bed to come out here and snuggle with a glass of wine.  Leonard suddenly thought of something.

“What are we going to do with your Apartment while were in Switzerland?”

Penny smiled, “Got it covered, Amy is going sublet it so she can be next to Sheldon and take care of him.”

Leonard’s phone on the coffee table made a beep.  He picked his phone up it was a text from Howard.

CNN website, science section” it read.

Leonard pulled up the site, “Oh” he said, “it may be a while before we get to Europe”

“CNN Headline News:  Large Hadron Collider has another Quench Event, May be down as long as 2 years to repair”

Leonard showed it to Penny, “I hope Amy hasn’t given notice on her current apartment yet”

“Me too,” She pulled him close and started nibbling on his neck and ear, “I think we’re going to need it.

A few Notes:

TeV stands for teraelectronvolt, it’s a measure of energy, let’s just say it’s really high energy.

The LHC is due to be down for maintenance for all of 2013 to go from 4TeV to 7Tev.  This should produce collisions in the realm of the Big Bang.

Oh and the flea market is actually on Sundays, but creative license.

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