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Robert B. Laughlin

I was an extremely reclusive and introverted boy.

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My childhood home backed onto wheat and cotton fields.

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Another important aspect of our home was respect for ideas.

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At Berkeley I had my first encounter with real professional scientists.

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But the need for conflict to expose prejudice and unclear reasoning, which is deeply embedded in my philosophy of science, has its origin in these debates.

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As a consequence while we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes to wear to school we were constantly conscious of being of modest means.

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It was at this moment that I wrote my first important paper in theoretical physics. I was 32 years old, 5 years beyond the alleged age of senility for theorists.

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Western society has many flaws, and it is good for an educated person to have thought some of these through, even at the expense of losing a lecture or two to tear gas.

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My job at Stanford is rather different from the ones I had held previously in that my own ambitions must take a back seat to the well-being of the students with whom I work.

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I also taught myself how to blow glass using a propane torch from the hardware store and managed to make some elementary chemistry plumbing such as tees and small glass bulbs.

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