On my way home from Madison, WI, I had a connecting flight to Minneapolis.
I sat next to an elderly man, with a bald pate but for a ring of wispy wild white hair.
Liver spots told tales of probable sun exposure, and he moved slowly, but surely.
I noticed he was reading "War and Peace", in a very large library hardbound version. He was a little over halfway through it.
I asked him how it was, and with a slight inhale, he responded,
He then told me a little more of his view on the Tome, and conversation shifted.
He asked what I did, when I replied that I was an engineer, he told me that he had originally gone to Johns Hopkins for engineering, "But I didn't like the engineers. So I switched to physics."
Turned out he had gotten his PhD in physics at Hopkins back in the late 40's / early 50's, and did work at the Applied Physics Laboratory out there.
He then told me he was once in a lab "where all the glass was etched and the plants were all dead. Now, what etches glass?" he asked, in a somewhat wheezing voice.
"Acid?" I responded.
"Yes. What kind of acid?"
I wondered if he ever taught classes.
"...Hydrofluoric." He explained that the lab he was in was using fluorohexene (-hexane?) to separate out uranium from ore.... for one of the atomic bomb projects.
It's amazing who you sit next to on a plane sometimes!