PriceFest

John T. Whelan, Loyola University New Orleans jtwhelan@loyno.edu

On March 2, 2003, the day after the 19th Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting, the one-day ``PriceFest'' was held at the University of Utah to celebrate the 60th birthday the day before of Richard Price. The festivities were hosted by Richard's longtime colleague Karel Kuchar (Utah), who likened individual descriptions of Richard to the blind men's descriptions of an elephant in the old parable. Each teacher, collaborator, colleague, or student could describe parts of Richard's trunk, ears, legs and tail, with the whole picture coming from the synthesis of the different perspectives. This theme continued throughout PriceFest, as each speaker presented his or her perspective on Richard's life, work, and personality.

Kip Thorne (Caltech) began with ``The Early Richard Price'', an account of Richard's days as a Caltech graduate student. He painted a picture of the years between 1965 and 1971 as a time of social and scientific upheaval. Quasars had just been discovered, ``black holes'' were about to be named, and Tommy Gold had proclaimed at the first Texas Symposium that relativists ``might actually be useful to science''. Kip described how Richard gained confidence in himself and his work, from TAing a Relativity course despite never having taken one, to deriving the power-law tails which carry away ``hair'' in black-hole formation in the face of contemporary literature which maintained otherwise. He closed his tribute to an esteemed protégé and family friend with the observation that ``each generation of scientists often underestimates what the next generation may achieve.''

Jorge Pullin (LSU) continued with ``Richard Price, Car Talk and The American Journal of Physics'', which explored Richard's role as a pedagogue and communicator of physical knowledge. This consisted mostly of a review of Richard's many contributions to the American Journal of Physics, which are collected at http://www.phys.lsu.edu/faculty/pullin/rhpajp.pdf .

After an interlude in which Richard's sister, who had been unable to attend the banquet the night before, gave her belated contribution to the roast, David Kieda (Utah) continued with ``The Hidden Side of Richard Price'', the results of a web search which revealed Richard Prices ranging from an 18th century congregational minister to a private eye.

Richard's former officemate Bernard Schutz (AEI, Bernie & the Gravitones) provided the perspective of a contemporary with ``Catching Flies and Journalists with Richard Price''. A member of the class which came to Caltech immediately after Richard's, Bernie listed as his mentors Kip, Frank Estabrook, and Richard. He credited Richard with teaching him not only how to do research, but also how to deal with the press. At the time this included Los Angeles Times writer Jack Smith, who came across a Caltech chalkboard with Price's theorem (``Everything that can be radiated, will be radiated"), Schutz's converse (``Everything that is radiated, can be radiated") and their synthesis (``Radiation does its own thing").

Carlos Lousto (UTB) concluded the fête with ``The Late Richard Price'', from the perspective of one of Richard's many younger collaborators. The common theme of these collaborations, ranging from quasinormal ringing to quasistationary inspiral, seemed to be the conversion of postdocs (including both the speaker and yours truly) from quantum gravity to astrophysical relativity. Carlos also gave proper credit to the contributions of Richard's dog Sunny.

By the end of the day, the speakers had assembled a picture of a scientist who has had a remarkable impact not only on the field but especially on the people around him.


Jorge Pullin 2003-09-15