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Keith Brueckner

31 October 2014

Climbing the “Puddles Are People, Too” Rock
with Keith in Joshua Tree National Park

“Sasha,” said Keith,1“I have a rock for you. It’s named the ‘puddles are people, too.’”

This was in September 1983 in Joshua Tree National Park.2  The rock was quite difficult: a wall-like type of rock. The difficulty, in the US climb grading system, was:  I, 5.8.3  I enjoyed immensely that climb; it has become my “pet rock.”  I climbed it several times. Otherwise, I would be too lazy to repeat a climb. Keith did like to repeat the climb of a particular rock on the very same day; sometimes even a few times over. He found a whole new experience in every repetition. That was Keith at his best. He was a passionate and skilled rock climber. Keith’s passion for the rock climbing had lasted until his very last breath on September 19, 2014.

Keith had brought a new passion4 into my life: the rock climbing. We would go to Joshua Tree National Park on weekends, for a two-day climbing with an overnight stay in Keith’s condominium in Palm Desert. During the breaks from climbing and on our way back to La Jolla, we would discuss physics and general issues. When I was working on the Laser Waveguide and my other inventions within defense science and technology, (Strategic Defense Initiative5: 1985—1988, unclassified), Keith’s critical mind and his enormous experience in the defense science and technology were of great help.

Keith was the founding member of the UCSD Physics Department.  On January 28-29, 1991, I organized a conference, honoring Keith for his life achievements in research in physics.6 Roger Dashen, the Chair of the Physics Department at that time, said (January 28, 2014) that there were many people, who came before Keith, but “Keith was really unique… and he left a legacy that has lasted for over 30 years and produced, if you allow me to say so, one of the better physics departments around.”7

Roger Revelle, the founding father of the UCSD, wrote a letter8 to me (December 3, 1990):

“Dear Mr. Stefan,

“I am looking forward to the symposium in honor of Keith Brueckner at the end of January at the La Valencia Hotel. However, I am not quite sure about what you want me to say, or how long I should talk. I would be inclined to say something about Keith’s important role in starting UCSD, and how we worked together in this task. As you may know, I am in no sense a physicist, and can’t talk about his achievements in particle physics or many-body theory, let alone plasma theory and nonlinear dynamics.


“Roger Revelle”

At the Conference dinner party at the La Valencia Hotel, (January 28, 1991), Roger Revelle cited the Radyard Kipling poem, as he talked about Keith:9, 10

“ ‘Let us now praise famous men,
Men of little showing,
For their work continueth,
And their work continueth,
Great beyond their knowing.’

“This poem could have been written about Keith Brueckner. I salute him.”

V. Alexander (Sasha) Stefan
Institute for Advanced Physics Studies
Stefan University, La Jolla, California 92037

1. Keith Allan Brueckner, (March 19, 1924—September 19, 2014), an American physicist, the founding member of the Department of Physics, University of California, San Diego, California, in early 1960s.

2. Joshua Tree National Park: A desert area east of Los Angeles. It was proclaimed a National Monument in August 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3. “I” means less than 2 hours of climbing; “5” means a climbing with the ropes; “8” defines the difficulty of the climbing, (it can go up to 5.15).

4. V. Alexander Stefan, Climbing Rocks of Southern California with Keith Brueckner in: My Passion, (Stefan University Press, La Jolla, Calif., 2008).

5. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as Star Wars, was a program first initiated on March 23, 1983 under President Ronald Reagan.

6. Physics Today, November 1990; the Conference announcement.

7. The Conference video is available on You Tube:, published July 15, 2014.

8. The archive of the Institute for Advanced Physics Studies: IAPS-ARCH-December-1990-(5).

9. The archive of the Institute for Advanced Physics Studies: IAPS-ARCH-January-1991-(1).

10. The Conference video is available on You Tube:, published July 15, 2014.

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