José Garcia and Karl Garcia

Recorded January 14, 2010 Archived January 14, 2010 00:00 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: SFB000655


Jose Garcia (74) talks to son Karl Garcia (46) about his life and how he became a physicist.

Subject Log / Time Code

Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in a small town.
Math was his favorite subject.
Traumatic childhood memories.
Sailing through the Archipelago
what Jose likes about teaching.
Practical jokes on the job.


  • José Garcia
  • Karl Garcia

Recording Location

San Francisco StoryBooth


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00:03 My name is Carl Garcia. I'm 46 years old today is January 14th, 2010 weather in San Francisco, and I am the son of JT Garcia.

00:19 My name is Jose De Garcia. My age is 74 today's date is January 14th. And 9 2010 location is San Francisco. And I am the father of Carl Garcia.

00:35 So tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What was your community like?

00:44 I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I grew up in a little town called alcalde New Mexico, which is 30 miles north of Santa Fe On The Taos Highway.

00:57 And this little town had

01:01 Between 500 and 1000 people in it was a little small small farming community.

01:09 Which one was on the very close to the Rio Grande River?

01:16 And the Rio Grande Valley there and

01:22 Were you related to a lot of people in there and I'll call day or with a family how close?

01:30 This is a community that probably was started in the 1590s.

01:38 And was isolated then saw nobody for 3 300 years probably accept people who already live there. So they are responsible for the Indian people.

02:03 What is DCM is a farming Village? Was that really the main?

02:09 Focus of the of the community life

02:13 There was

02:17 There was a

02:20 Guest Ranch Dude Ranch also there which was just Farms that have been taken over and turned into an estate for somebody which then later became a dude ranch.

02:35 But otherwise it was the main life that there was a irrigation ditch that had been separated from the river upstream and came right through the village basically.

02:51 And provided the water for the for the fields and farms in between the river and the irrigation ditch.

03:00 People grew crops. What kind of what was what was the crop money crop? There wasn't really

03:11 A money crop if you like they didn't sell to the outside world cuz there was no real outside world that this was a self-sustaining community.

03:21 So that the

03:25 There was no industry and no.

03:34 No, no sale to to the world. Really.

03:39 And this has been going on for at least three hundred years. So this was just sort of normal daily operations center is 300 years.

03:52 So you what did you want to be when you grew up wouldn't when you were a kid you and aspired to?

03:59 It depends on what age right at some point. I'm sure I wanted to be a cowboy.

04:06 And another point I probably wanted to be a policeman.

04:10 I would have made a lousy policeman.

04:16 Okay, but

04:25 Brooklyn school teacher

04:29 So soap schooling was important to you.

04:34 Schooling was very important to me. I was good at school. And so my life was focused around school and my parents very much valued education. So

04:47 For that reason

04:49 And because I was good at it, I couldn't always enjoyed thinking about going to school.

04:57 Do you want to a local school through elementary school? And then I went to Local Schools through elementary and middle school and then I went to high school in Santa Fe a boarding school. My parents thoughts at the local high school was not going to provide a sufficiently high level of Education.

05:21 For me to be able to access College easily. And so that's why I went to the boarding school, even though they couldn't afford to pay for the pool Freight of the boarding school.

05:33 I never write because your mother was the postmistress part part time.

05:45 My father worked for the work did a variety of things works works progress administration. He was a timekeeper on a road project for several years and then became a social worker after that.

06:01 So most of his career was as a social worker, but they aspired to you to go to college that was a that was a that was a big important for anything worth more than big dream. They hadn't gone to college I had

06:15 A little bit of college and of course or two.

06:21 They wanted to go to college I think so. What was your favorite subject? What what did you say?

06:34 But I liked all of school.

06:38 It was exhilarating to be in school.

06:43 I've always liked learning. I still like learning.

06:49 So how did you set that have a sort of a hard decision will go to the same school, but then to go away to college was that was that a tough decision or just because it was the dream than that was the just the way things were going to be like I had already been away because of the boarding school experience. So that's going to college was not very traumatic was not hard.

07:16 I went to New Mexico State University as as a co-op student.

07:22 Because that's the way I could earn my way through college. I worked 6 months at White Sands Proving Ground and then went to school one Summer and One summer school summer session.

07:35 And did that for five years and was able to work my way through college degree.

07:42 And as I had to choose a major

07:46 And it seemed to me that physics was the hardest thing I could choose so I chose it. I didn't have any clue what it really was about. I had a high school Physics course, which was terrible. I had a great chemistry course that I love.

08:03 The same person Todd Bowles, but he was a chemist and I really like chemistry and he wasn't that thrilled physics. So

08:14 Honeywell, I chose physics just because it was the hardest thing the queen of the Sciences, right?

08:28 So at boarding school show you where there was an all-boys school all boys school, so students in a class typically

08:43 Do you would go home on monthly? I would go home.

08:48 Monthly but I went to my uncle's who lived in Santa Fe every weekend.

08:54 Can we listen to the radio together and watch some very snowy TV?

09:05 Santa Fe gets very cold in the winter. So you stay indoors a lot.

09:12 Being called a being a farming community and

09:20 Probably had lots of Freedom during the Summers and stuff to run around and

09:26 My parents didn't have a farm. So I didn't have to go hold the corner and all of that. My father was away working with the

09:38 With the road construction project and my mother was at home.

09:43 But working part time at the post office. So well, she was doing all that there was a lot of free time. Yep.

09:51 I like I got to help him in the post office time.

09:55 Sort mail on Samsung through some of the simple simple tasks.

10:03 Yeah, so we had to

10:07 There was lots of time to go play go go down to the river.

10:16 Ride horses

10:19 My cousins had sheep and

10:22 Catalan they have my cousins to Salazar since it's right across the street from me.

10:30 I was very close to them and

10:34 So I used to go herd sheep and I used to go pick the fruit and then go sell the fruit.

10:41 The day

10:44 Produced

10:48 She also talked about I think I remember some stories about running across roofs and things like that.

10:55 In The Villages or am I the Village housing was interconnected in many ways.

11:06 And so you could run almost the entire length of the village by saying on the roof, but you have to jump occasionally across gaps.

11:19 Yeah, that was not approved Behavior.

11:28 The one pick one sort of memory from your childhood that sort of really stands out that sticks in your mind, but

11:37 Good bad to know something traumatic that happened or what whatever what would you pick? I was an only child. So I was very favored very beloved. And so when I was

11:52 3

11:53 Small

11:57 They were Plastering the inside of the house.

12:01 And so there was a bucket with water in the middle of the floor and they were dipping their trials and in the bucket of water and I would go stick my hands in the bucket of water.

12:14 And I was told not to do that because I was in making a mess.

12:18 And so I went away from welcome back and get us some more.

12:23 And then eventually my father.

12:27 Got pretty tired of this behavior and spank me.

12:31 That's the first spanking I ever got.

12:35 And I was so shocked that I lost my voice.

12:40 And I couldn't nothing came out. I tried to say say stuff and nothing came up. So my mother was pretty frightened by all this so they were rushing me off to the doctor to see what was wrong.

12:56 And I was never spanked again.

13:03 But it was pretty traumatic success.

13:10 Understand you got a Fulbright scholarship when she went to college and I did at the end of college. I was able to go to Germany for one year and for a summer in a year and they both ways.

13:30 Spent the year in Germany did some

13:35 Studied physics as the graduates beginning graduate student there

13:41 And that that was great. It was a wonderful experience.

13:48 So is there somebody from rural New Mexico getting to go across the country and then across the ocean and to a foreign country must have been almost magical in some sense. I'm in a completely different world. The college was getting than University.

14:15 And getting a university was where the Max Planck Institute Saul started the Max Planck Institute are the German equivalent of National Labs.

14:26 And so at that time they were all in goettingen then we were only a half dozen of them now. There's 40.

14:37 On every subject that you can think of and at that time they were

14:42 Summon, there was one in physics 1 in

14:46 Hydrodynamics, but they were all German famous. German scientists were had at least a foot in getting an if they didn't actually have a professorship there. So it was a great experience.

15:06 So you were able to interact and learn study with some of the greatest minds and in physics, right? Let me know that really was the the cream-of-the-crop at that time there and their Heisenberg was Nobel Prize winner and famous physicist developer of quantum. Mechanics was was there I I took a seminar

15:33 He was a really gentle man. He was small and chubby.

15:39 Had a very religious family oriented guy.

15:44 Very gentle so he wouldn't say if somebody was writing something that was wrong on the board. He wouldn't say you're wrong about that. He would say there may be another way of looking at this.

15:59 And then he'd go up and show how wrong it was bugging me gently.

16:07 So, how do you think that?

16:09 Changed you are affected you but I mean

16:17 You know that's growing up in a in a small some people take backwards.

16:25 Areas to you know, all the sudden conversing with you know, our greatest mind.

16:33 Well, one of the things that I absolutely did for me it was convinced me that I wanted to be a physicist.

16:40 I wish you weren't sure I'm not so bad. I wasn't sure until then. I was always good at school and very successful at doing all this and so whatever subject I wanted to study. I was very confident. I could have done well in it.

16:58 And I thought I was going to go in to be an MD.

17:02 And then my Junior and Senior year as a physics major, I thought maybe I should be an empty.

17:08 And then I got this full bright and was there for a year?

17:13 And by the end of that experience, I was absolutely sure. I wanted to be a physicist. It was great. Great fun like those guys were having a ball.

17:25 And they were brilliant send them cuz I wanted to emulate them.

17:32 Nmd. I never I never heard that.

17:36 Yeah, well, it wasn't very firmly held belief either Ryan thing. I didn't know what I wanted to do.

17:49 So part of that part of your besides your academic accomplishments and Steph Curry or is filled with all sorts of organizations that either you have found it or have lead, you know, we had a good very strong influence on what motivates you to give so much of your time and effort to others.

18:17 I've always.

18:19 Strive to help people achieve fulfill their maximum their potential that's been important to me. And then another thing other thing that motivates me is leveling the playing field are many people who didn't have the opportunities I had.

18:40 And maybe they were brighter than I was I didn't know but if they don't have the opportunities they can't get there from here. And so leveling the playing field something that's been important to me. So most of the organizations have been associated with have either to do with helping people.

19:00 Maximize their their own potential or

19:05 To help those who have less access to

19:11 Skills and education than than others, but that's what motivates that kind of community oriented behavior.

19:26 Helped helped establish

19:30 Organizations that provide scholarships to minorities and women in science

19:37 And currently I'm still trying to do that.

19:44 It's important to me. It's important work because the country cannot fulfill its potential and without the individuals being able to do that.

19:55 And science being

19:57 An important way for them to fulfill that potential there's an additional Factor if you are a scientist.

20:06 You have

20:09 A great life

20:11 I've traveled my volume traveled with me all over the world.

20:17 Two meetings and two non sabbaticals and leaves of absence.

20:23 And so you get to meet people from all different countries speaking all kinds of different languages.

20:33 I certainly enjoyed our time in Sweden and I think you did too.

20:41 So I was some really good shape and size.

20:55 Broaden the perspective mean I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and

21:02 You know all I knew was that area and this was that was about 10 years old, I think 10 or 11 years old and to know there was another world out there another country people solving, you know, the same human problems we had but in a different way with a different set of values and somewhat different set of values was

21:29 I opening but it was a really was an amazing experience and there were all kinds of people from other places there too. Not too sweet.

21:40 Menu, would you rather have an international school, right?

21:47 Yeah, it was on.

21:49 And end up also to be in a different country is is make you very independent. I think I in some sense it. I you know, I traveled buses alone. I you know, I did a whole bunch of things which I don't think I ever would have done it.

22:05 And you had to do.

22:09 That made it was forced, but it was good. I think I really

22:14 Grew up in some sense that we didn't have a car and so we would go shop grocery shopping on the bus.

22:23 Hand carry all the stuff home.

22:27 I love that.

22:30 Yes, right.

22:43 So then we went some.

22:48 Sailing in the archipelago

22:53 That was fun spent those for the week or something on the boat.

23:01 Don't forget those things. But once again, I'm in the not a lot of seas around Tucson, Arizona, so, you know, just put not have

23:08 Been able to do that car. I mean, I agree with you completely I think science is a universal language and some sense that you know, people can connect to and then once you've connected then experiences and things open up following

23:33 Right and

23:36 You went to Indonesia with us?

23:40 After your injury

23:43 And that work no nothing Tanisha to us trade-in value.

23:50 And that worked very extremely well and you learned that the Australians are a little more flexible about how they deal with.

23:59 People were injured like just pick you up and put you on the

24:04 On the vehicles that are necessary and no problem, mate.

24:10 Yeah, that was once again sort of.

24:14 I think that's one of the things I really learned.

24:19 From you it was the The Traveling being able to see and I love traveling. How do you how do other people experience life how do they have they solved the common problems that we all have in different ways and you know, there are many more ways than just the the American way and I think that's something I've learned to appreciate from all the travels that you were able to do and somewhere and some are better but not all.

24:53 But it just opened your eyes to it. I mean, that's the problem with you if you don't travel or don't understand try to learn how other people are living then you just get into a ride. You never really sort of.

25:10 Think about it new way or think about something. It's just three hits easy to to get stuck in a in a one way of doing things.

25:21 There are other ways and they they may be good and they may not they may not exploration is itself if you don't find another way absolutely demand.

25:39 The exploration itself in the process of exploration is a freeing experience.

25:46 Yeah.

25:54 Your teaching career is run the gamut from horses all the way from non-scientists up to graduate level quantum mechanics, which is

26:05 How do you know if you believe in physics is the queen of science then, you know graduate level quantum mechanics might be the

26:13 Top of the pyramid if he will do what excites you about teaching.

26:22 What floats your boat?

26:25 The ability to express something in ways that are understandable to others.

26:32 And to get them to react to that understanding.

26:37 He's very exhilarating.

26:39 Meth really is exciting to be able to touch another mind.

26:48 And I mean, I'm thrilled by the subject, right and I think it's just fantastic that I understand this stuff and can explain it to somebody.

27:01 And it's very nice to be able to talk about quantum entanglement right now.

27:07 And know that you don't know that much about it.

27:13 And then nobody else does either.

27:17 And that it might be a big deal.

27:21 And that there might be another universe.

27:31 So that's

27:33 Again, trying to help people to maximize their own potential is part of what drives me.

27:42 But learning new ways of expressing things. It's also important thing. I learned in Layton my physics career that just straight lectured doesn't really do it for most people.

27:57 And that you really need to give them to the mental pictures that will help them understand how to draw that picture in their heads North to get them to draw it in their own heads.

28:10 And and that isn't sometimes an equation.

28:17 Usually not for most people for another physicist. It might be an equation. But for most other people it almost certainly is not they need the picture first and and the thought processes that come to an equation later.

28:34 And it took me a while to come around to that viewpoint.

28:43 But it was really exciting when I was able to do that.

28:47 And it worked that was what was really changed the atmosphere in the class.

28:54 Palpable most definitely

29:00 And people would come up and tell me about it. All right, it's felt really good.

29:06 So they were very excited. That was there was an opening up a new world the new world for them.

29:15 Are there any students were really stood up to over your course is a teacher. Oh, yes.

29:24 The last graduate student that I had

29:35 He is a professor at Louisiana State University.

29:40 Kevin Schaeffer

29:42 You know, can I have

29:46 He was a brilliant student who started late. He's screwed up his undergraduate career completely.

29:54 And we he had C's and D's and important courses.

30:01 And I took him on as a graduate student.

30:06 Has he was able to?

30:10 Change all of that and decide that he was really really focused on on the kind of physics he wanted to do but it had to be his way.

30:22 I learned from him that you can't tell other people how to do science, right they have to decide how to do the science you can lead them to water if you like.

30:35 But you can't force him to drink in that way right that that's

30:46 It's just amazing that we can think that we can talk to each other and think the same thoughts to me.

30:56 If you consider how our brain works.

31:00 We take the visual and auditory clues that we give each other.

31:06 And we massage them and turn them into bits of information in our neural networks.

31:13 And I have nothing to do with the stimulus.

31:18 And they think this picture in your head, you know, it could have been told a lie, but it isn't we see the same thing and we interpret and when I speak to you you you hear what I have said if you're listening.

31:34 I think it's don't you think that's fantastic. I think it's just fantastic and it is amazing.

31:45 And that we can convert this into a unit Universal science right that we can all speak and understand the natural world out there that's outside of our bodies and has nothing to do with this new process that I just talked about.

32:00 I want to rock falls right now and how it falls in the details of Howard Susan how it always falls in the same way every damn time.

32:13 And that you and I can have that thought together, right and then we both understand the same thing when we say

32:21 X equals 1/2 g t squared right?

32:29 It is sort of a combination of

32:32 Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years of

32:36 Building up those opposed neurons communication

32:42 All of that

32:47 It's fantastic when you think about it.

32:56 I know you were considered somewhat of a practical joker around the physics department. I never tell me about one in this area.

33:14 Probably the

33:17 Longest range one was when we were in Stockholm living in Stockholm.

33:24 The people in the group in Stockholm and I cooked up a scheme or we would ride one of the professors that was still in Arizona. I'll let a letter which purported to come from Berlin from a famous physicist doing the same kind of work that he did.

33:45 And telling him that that all everything he's doing is a waste of time because he's ate already done at 30 years before and that he should you should just look up this article in the on the island are physique and the savings of the trouble of its doing the next set of experiments.

34:04 She might think about doing so we typed up the letter gave it to our friend who lived in Berlin who happened to be visiting there. He mailed it from Berlin.

34:19 And the guy received it and was just amazed that this man was still alive actually, but he didn't know that.

34:34 So did he give up his work?

34:39 He put in a phone call to do the group in Stockholm because he was working closely with red and and said did you know that so-and-so was alive?

34:53 And they Hampton hard and he said no we didn't know.

35:02 So for about a month and thought that all that was he worked on the reply to the man and told him but the work you've been doing and

35:14 Then we told him that every for the letter came from he was pretty unhappy. He didn't think it was funny.

35:28 But it took an international collaboration to pull that off, right?

35:32 That's her sophisticated.

35:35 It had the proper stationary from The Institute for this guy used to work for the dead man used to work.

35:43 Amazon mailed from Berlin film mail from Berlin proper

35:47 Improperly sealed

35:51 I think he still has that letter framed.

35:59 So what do you think has changed over you went to college in the fifties and graduate school in the sixties and stuff what's changed for college students sense since then, how do you think life is?

36:13 Different especially with an emphasis on Hispanic students

36:24 I think Hispanic students are no longer a rarity in the end College which they were at the time.

36:32 I think

36:37 Well

36:42 I went so I went to relatively small.

36:47 College classes for 30 people or something classes in modern research universities or Four Freshmen or hundreds of people, right?

37:01 And that's that's a big difference YouTube you feel like a cipher in those big glasses. I think much more so than I ever did in my 30% classes.

37:15 But I think there are many more opportunities now, I think people are recognizing that.

37:22 That the whole populace needs an education and that we need the talent that is being wasted if we don't educate everybody.

37:31 So so I think there are many more opportunities.

37:37 I think that that money is still much more of a problem. I I was relatively poor when I was going through school.

37:46 But

37:48 There wasn't it was okay to be poor. I think it's much harder to be poor now and I think in some ways and so I think people think they need more money now.

38:02 I mean when we were in graduate school.

38:06 I was earning 3 or $400 a month.

38:11 And I was for the family and that was for everybody, right? And that was it.

38:20 I know there were times when we would have preferred to eat something else.

38:26 But we knew there was going to be an end to this process right? We're not going to be poor forever.

38:32 And so

38:35 So that the instant gratification which I think is become much more prevalent in our society. I mean, that's the whole of Rise of credit cards and you know, you want it now and maybe you'll pay for it later.

38:49 Yeah, that was that was that was not evaluated at least in our family.

38:56 Mattered very much rain

39:03 So what what did you think of our family life?

39:09 Hotter than the travel

39:12 Obviously the travel is great. I thought

39:19 I thought it was a very open nurturing family it really I've always thought that I

39:30 Max out my potential in the sense of you know, everybody has a certain potential and you can either be above or below it and I think I've I've performed to above my potential because of the environment that's that I was that I was raised in so