First Draft, 6/10/07

Symmetry Breaking:
A Story in Three Generations

"We are nervous about making a commitment to one narrative."
Elizabeth McCormack, " The Trials and Tribulations of Academic Writing" (2004)

"I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance" (1841)

"It's time to paint," Arleen said. Her family had gotten used to this: every few weeks, she'd make this announcement at the breakfast table, and disappear into the basement for the remainder of the day. She mixed up her paints, and then saw what happened. What she saw came always from the inside, never from without. It was her way of taking care of herself, of making real what she knew, of materializing what she wished would be. "The wood was muggy with damp/The air heavy with dusk/The greens celeried but winter readying/The florals darkly pigmented/The wind exerting flow...."
"It's time to plant," Marian said. The screen door slammed shut as she strode outside into the spring morning. She looked around her, and listened to what the world had to say. The dandelions were blooming--that meant that it was time to plant the potatoes. She went down into the cellar, and hauled out the moldy ones left over from last winter. She sat down on the stoop, and started to cut them into pieces, making sure that each had at least one eye, so that it would sprout. Then she went to get her hoe, and began to dig. The soil was warm, and damp.
"It's time to turn on the laser," Liz said. She stepped into her lab, a windowless, noisy basement room. There was lots of tedium involved in collecting precise data. So much dreary repetitive work went into making observations that no one else is making, suitably designing the excitation scheme for the matter-field interaction, the time-ordering of the laser pulses, the polarization of the incident laser beams. She flicked the switch.