Alan: It is a common observation among ambulance drivers that "we never remove dead bodies from seat belts."
For sheer stupidity, refusal to wear seat belts rivals decades of decades of assertion that tobacco was not carcinogenic; the current belief that global warming is a hoax; and the commonplace assumption that Republicans can buy a clue.
The GOP is to intelligence and insight what a black hole is to light.
Famed 'A Beautiful Mind' mathematician John Nash, wife, killed in N.J. Turnpike crash
John Forbes Nash Jr., the brilliant Princeton University mathematician whose life story was the subject of the film "A Beautiful Mind," was killed with his wife Alicia on Saturday in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Nash was 86. Alicia Nash was 82. The couple lived in Princeton Junction.
Police said the two were in a taxi traveling southbound in the left lane of the turnpike when the driver of the Ford Crown Victoria lost control as he tried to pass a Chrysler in the center lane, crashing into a guard rail near Interchange 8A in Monroe Township, according to State Police Sgt. Gregory Williams.
The couple was ejected from the car, Williams said.
"It doesn't appear that they were wearing seatbelts," he said.
The second vehicle also crashed into the guard rail, Williams said. The taxi driver was extricated from the vehicle and flown to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with non-life-threatening injuries. He was identified as Tark Girgis, 46, of Elizabeth. A passenger in the Chrysler was treated for neck pain.
The crash was reported at 4:30 p.m. The couple were pronounced dead at the scene at 5:18 p.m., said authorities.
A spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office said no charges were expected to be filed in the case.
Nash had been in Norway on Tuesday to receive the Abel Prize for Mathematicsfrom King Harald V for his work, along with longtime colleague Louis Nirenberg, for their work on nonlinear partial differential equations.
Reached at his home Sunday, Nirenberg, who had known Nash since the 1950s, called him a "wonderful mathematician." After flying back with the couple back from Norway, he said they got into a taxi at the airport for the ride back home together.
Nash, a West Virginia Native, shared a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the year before he joined the Princeton mathematics department as a senior research mathematician. He is known for his work in game theory and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, depicted in the 2001 film, "A Beautiful Mind," starring Russell Crowe.
In a Tweet, Crowe today said he was stunned. "My heart goes out to John &Alicia & family," he wrote. "An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts."
A Beautiful Mind
Nash, born in Bluefield, W.Va., grew up in West Virginia and received his bachelor's and graduate degrees from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). He received his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton in 1950.
Named early in his career by Fortune magazine as one of the most promising mathematicians in the world, Nash is regarded as one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century. He set the foundations of modern game theory— the mathematics of decision-making—while still in his 20s, and his fame grew during his time at Princeton University and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he met Alicia Larde, a physics major. They married in 1957.
They were a study in contrasts. He was lanky, lean and eccentric, and often with a sly smile. Alicia, a San Salvador native who still retained an accent, was always the family anchor.
But by the end of the 1950s, the voices in his head began to overtake his thoughts on mathematical theory. In his biography, Sylvia Nasar described how Nash accused one mathematician of entering his office to steal his ideas and began to hear alien messages. She noted that when Nash was offered a prestigious chair at the University of Chicago, he declined because he was planning to become Emperor of Antarctica.
Alicia had him involuntarily committed several times, including twice in New Jersey, at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and Carrier Clinic, creating such a rift in their relationship that they divorced in 1962.
Nash, despite his illness, continued to teach and took research jobs throughout the 1960s and 1970s, returning to take up his old life with his former wife and their son. Alicia, who took a job as a computer programmer for NJ Transit, continued to support both her ex-husband and their son.
As Nash aged, however, the schizophrenia symptoms began receding in the late 1970s and the voices in his head faded.
"I had been long enough hospitalized that I would finally renounce my delusional hypotheses and revert to thinking of myself as a human of more conventional circumstances, and return to mathematical research," Nash later wrote for the autobiography that described his recovery.
Alicia remained his caretaker while he battled his mental illness. The two remarried at their home in 2001 and in later years became major advocates for mental health care in New Jersey when their son John was also diagnosed with schizophrenia.
"He was a wonderful man," said state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), who has been in the forefront of mental health legislation in the state. "He helped fight for all of us. He was very candid about his illness and we're all better off for it."
Neighbors said that despite his celebrity, Nash maintained a modest demeanor.
"We all knew that he was this sort of famous person," said Fabian Ponce, who lives near the Nash's modest two-story Princeton Junction home. But Nash could often be seen walking, rather than driving, around their quiet neighborhood, Ponce said. And it was not uncommon to see Nash eating local restaurants with his son, he added.
"That's what struck me about him," Ponce said. "Despite his eminence in his field, and the movie, he was just so down to earth."
On Sunday afternoon, a handful of residents began to congregate outside the Nash home. One neighbor, Gabriel Morales, said he was traveling northbound on the New Jersey Turnpike Saturday afternoon and witnessed the aftermath of the accident.
Hours later, Morales said he passed by the accident scene again as he traveled south on the turnpike from Newark International Airport.
"You could see a vehicle that was similar to a taxi, but it was mangled," Morales said.
In Princeton, Dan Corica, a graduate of the university, said he often saw Nash on campus.
"He was a recognizable presence on campus and we were always excited when we saw him having meals in the Frist Campus Center," Corica said.
The campus was mostly empty today because of the holiday weekend, but Dano Kim, who studied mathematics at Princeton and earned a graduate degree in 2007, said he spoke with Nash from time to time.
"He was very inspiring to talk with him," Kim said."He was very different from what I read in the biography because there, there was very strange stories. But when I was talking to him he was very kind and sounded like a very normal person."
The last time many at Princeton saw Nash was in late March, when the university held a celebration following the announcement that he had won the Abel Prize with Nirenberg.
Nash and his wife had attended the informal campus reception, where colleagues took turns lauding the mathematician. The prize—which came with an $800,000 prize that Nash would split with Nirenberg—was considered the pinnacle of his career.
"The Abel Prize is top-level among mathematics prizes," Nash said in his soft voice at the event, according to an account written by the university's press office. "There's really nothing better."
Though Nash was best known for his work in game theory, the Abel Prize recognized his other groundbreaking work in geometry and partial differential equations.
At the reception, Nash quietly discussed his work with fellow mathematicians and Princeton colleagues, according to those who attended. He wore a suit and an orange tie with a drawing of Princeton's Cleveland Tower, one of the university's landmarks.
"Short of getting the prize myself, there is no one the prize could go to that would make me more happy," Sergiu Klainerman, a Princeton mathematics professor, said during a series of informal speeches at the reception, according to the university's account.
"The prize has redressed a historical anomaly in the public," Klainerman said, referring to the popularity of Nash's game-theory work. "We mathematicians know very well that [Nash] did far deeper work much later. These are the works for which he is finally recognized today by the most prestigious mathematics prize."
Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber called Nash and his wife special members of the community.
"We are stunned and saddened by news of the untimely passing of John Nash and his wife and great champion, Alicia," said Eisgruber. "John's remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges."
Staff writers Kelly Heyboer, Sue Epstein, Vernal Coleman and Ashley Peskoecontributed to this report.
Ted Sherman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Myles Ma may be reached at email@example.com.