One of my colleagues was recently at a dinner party comprised entirely of Scientists, and, at some point in the evening, one of the Scientists asked the others the following question:
If you could make a pact with the Devil and become supersonically, cosmically famous -- of the order of magnitude of Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin -- within your lifetime, but on the condition that you die within 6 years, would you do it?
I wasn't at the party, but when my colleague told me about this, my response was "That's insane. Of course no one would make that bargain."
Au contraire. Some of the men at the party said they would make that bargain, including one man who has a young child and who claims to be an atheist (and therefore who presumably doesn't believe he would be able to enjoy his cosmic fame after his death). He later confirmed to me that he was serious about this and wasn't just being dramatic (or inebriated).
How bizarre. I hope his child doesn't ever learn his thoughts on the fame vs. family issue, and I wish I hadn't heard about this pact-with-the-devil party game incident. Knowing that this particular person would be willing to trade time with his family for stupendous fame has altered the way I think about him. I'm not sure why -- I've always felt that some of my colleagues and I are not of the same species as each other -- but now I am thinking we must be from different phyla.
8 years ago