I had dinner
tonight with Freeman Dyson, and I was quite impressed
with a number of things about him.
First, Dyson is a kook magnet. He gave a talk this afternoon at Haverford and was questioned by: a man who wanted to explain his non-mathematical disproof of Gödel's incompleteness theorem, and who wanted a critique of three limericks he'd written about Schrödinger's Cat; a person who wanted to know about the connection between language and God; a person who believed in hidden variables. But Freeman Dyson listened to what these people had to say, and thoughtfully replied. A lesser person (like me) could very easily have been frustrated with and brushed these people off, and I found it very admirable that he did not.
Foremost, Dyson strikes me as being thoughtful (and knowledgable) about a wide range of topics. He has interesting things to say about math, physics, war, nuclear arms, children, biology, politics, religion, science fiction and so on -- or he has a book to recommend or an insightful question to ask if he isn't familiar with the topic at hand.
Finally, Freeman Dyson seems almost permanently amused. Whether he is speaking or simply sitting and watching other people, he is always smiling.