STANFORD, CA—Known throughout the community for his verbal outbursts and his shopping cart full of trash, area street denizen "Cosmic Stan" must have studied advanced physics at some point, sources reported Monday.
"Where's my cheese? Don't take my rowboat! Got no room!" the lunatic screamed from his regular spot near the Campus Drive bus stop. "I need space! Gimme space! Infinite dimensional separable Hilbert space!"
Though his rants seem nonsensical to most passersby, some astute listeners say they contain evidence of higher learning.
"I'd always see him around that bus stop, dressed in his ragged wool clothes, duct-taped shoes, and that plastic sheeting covered over with symbols drawn in magic-marker," Stanford Ph.D. candidate James Willard said. "Then, a few days ago, he was out there waving his tin-foil wand at random strangers, and I heard him yell, 'I demand that you buy me an ice-cream cone! My third-favorite flavor is strange! My second-favorite is top! My favorite flavor is anti-charmed!' Suddenly, I realized the guy was talking about quarks."
Willard said he spent the next several minutes listening to Cosmic Stan's rant.
"Mixed in with the usual stuff about CIA mind-control beams, talking dogs, and monkey-people, I heard him mention beta decay, instantons, density matrix, and subspaces of n-dimensional Riemannian manifolds," Willard said. "I'm not sure where he got it, but he definitely seems to have had extensive schooling in theoretical physics. Man, what could've happened to him?"
Stanford theoretical physicist Carl Lundergaard seconded Willard's theory on the loonball.
"He's definitely had some advanced training, though I'm not surprised that it went unnoticed for so long," Lundergaard said. "It's hard for the layperson to differentiate schizophrenic ramblings like 'Modernity chunk where the sink goes flying on the ping-pang' from legitimate terminology like 'Unstable equilibria lie on the nodal points of a separatrix in phase space.'"
Lundergaard said he first became intrigued by Cosmic Stan in December 1999, when the homeless man threw a chicken bone at him and said, "Components of the Weyl conformal curvature tensor." The professor said he initially suspected that Stan was repeating a phrase "from a textbook he'd found in the garbage." Then, several weeks later, the screaming nutcase shouted some things that indicated a strong grasp of high-level science.
"As I was buying coffee in the quad one morning, Stan came by waving those roller skates he sometimes wears on his hands," Lundergaard said. "I distinctly heard him say, 'I can't be in two places at once! I can't meddle in my own affairs! I can't destructively interfere with my own future plans! What do I look like—the uncollapsed wave function of an electron?' He was referring to the seemingly paradoxical aspects of wave/particle duality as illustrated by the 'two-slit' experiment in electron diffraction. Stan wasn't just mouthing phrases: The crazy homeless man knows his stuff."
Added Lundergaard: "I almost approached him the other day to see if he had any ideas regarding the general solution for the relativistic force-free equation describing the structure of the pulsar magnetosphere, but he was busy smearing a plastic doll with glue."
Cosmic Stan also appears to be versed in other academic subjects, Lundergaard said.
"He seems to have a working understanding of several of the higher maths, including Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, category theory, and algebraic topology," Lundergaard said. "He also seems to be quite interested in the subjects of religion, sexuality, fast-food restaurants, Ferdinand de Saussure, malevolent evil, '70s TV shows, and shadowy authority figures."
Lundergaard said he has no knowledge of Cosmic Stan's past, but theorizes that his nickname derives from the physics term "cosmological constant."
"You have to wonder how this happened to him," Lundergaard said. "Was he calculating the transition amplitudes between the unperturbed eigenstates due to the presence of the perturbation in order to determine transition probabilities in time-dependent quantum phenomena, and the next day, strapping a TV antenna to his head?"
Perched atop a bicycle rack on Marquette Street, Cosmic Stan was asked for comment.
"Who you? You've been balderdashed! Doodads! Wood glue, dammit!" Cosmic Stan said, glancing around wildly and cradling a partially disassembled transistor radio. "Fock space! Spin polarization! The Clausius-Clapeyron equation obtains! The incident field is representable by a plane wave vector potential! You gotta believe me!"