Senior years

By EVA WOLCHOVER  |  August 15, 2007

Almost always the oldest in a class of five or six undergrads, Boone finds himself continuously challenged by his 19-year-old lab partners and by his professors, whom he describes as "fabulous pedagogues."

"I signed on from the point of view of somebody who wants to do a serious undergraduate course, even an advanced level course," he says. "I've found the Tufts program to be very attractive. It's inexpensive, it's intimate, and there's enormous value to having the contact, I think, with the undergraduates."

In the fall, Boone will be taking quantum mechanics for the second time. (His first was at Berkley a few summers ago.) As an auditor, he still does the homework but opts out of the exams, meaning he won't receive transcript credit for the course.

In the meantime, he also participates in peer-taught classes at HILR, as well as directing, cutting, and acting in performances by the Frances Addleson Shakespeare Players.

Sometime in the future, he'd like to start teaching an HILR course on "the 10 greatest experiments in physics," covering things such as Newton's decomposition of sunlight with a prism, Millikan's oil-drop experiment, Foucault's pendulum, and Rutherford's discovery of the nucleus.

"Most of these are things that we could reproduce in class," he says. "Provided we could hornswoggle the lab people at Harvard and Tufts into loaning us some of their equipment."

Though it sounds like an awful lot of work for someone in supposed retirement, Boone sees nothing but reward, even purpose, in what he does.

"We get to study what we like," he says. "If we don't like it, we drop it. Things like literature or philosophy are better understood as an older person. There are great Shakespeare plays about being an old man. King Lear, for one. How can you possibly understand that when you're 19? You may have a sense of it being great art and appreciate the flow of words, but there is no immediacy."

Eva Wolchover, who, though no longer a student, is at the opposite end of the age spectrum, can be reached at ewolchover@phx.com.

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