Altered Saturday Plans

river in aspenWell, I was supposed to go for an early morning hike to start off the day, but it has not happened. It was just meant to be a short one, since I’m staying in a little cabin out of town not too far from the start of a lovely trail. Then I was to go to the farmer’s market (more on that later) and then after lunch go to pick up my ticket for the chamber music concert I’m to go to this afternoon. (I say “pick up” and not “buy” since I was the lucky winner (well, one of them) of a little ticket lottery at the Aspen Center for Physics for tickets to concerts in the neighbouring Aspen Music Festival. Hurrah!)

Well, the hike did not happen. Why? Well, at about 6:30pm yesterday while scribbling fragments of equations and furrowing my brow while sitting in a cafe in town (a change of venue after a day at the Center(re) sitting in the office, you see), I began to realize that a computation I was stuck on might actually be becoming unstuck! Various parts of the puzzle were beginning to look more promising. I went home after that (cafe closed at 7:00pm) and thought about it some more while making dinner and over dinner scribbled more and more fragments, trying to see if a pattern would emerge, and it indeed has started to do so. This took me into the night, partly rederiving things in my notebooks that I did almost precisely a year ago on this problem (the last time I really did a strong concerted push on this project), but frustrated by the fact that various papers containing facts that I wanted to look up were unavailable to me since my pleasantly secluded cabin has no web connection.

I went to bed thinking I’d rise very early, go to the office to download those papers and check if my thoughts were on the right track in the light of their content. That would satisfy my curiosity enough to push the whole thing into digest mode – perfect for a morning hike. Well, this was all scuppered by my waking up inexplicably at 2:30am (it happened a couple of times earlier in the week too… same time as well) and being suddenly wide awake. I resisted the temptation to get on the bike and tear down to the Centre in the wee hours of the morning, and instead decided to listen to the radio and read a bit to get back to sleep, also enlisting the aid of a cup of camomile tea. I decided to read a bit of the excellent novel I’m immersed in (Haruki Murakami’s “A Wild Sheep Chase”), since digging back into the physics would certainly keep me up until sunrise.

So the early morning hike plans were put aside altogether, since I woke later than I had planned, since I did not want to be dozing off during the concert. The physics continues – the papers I looked up indeed gel nicely with my new track (turns out I should be counting spacetime fermions, not bosons! That prefactor of -1/12 should be written as a 1/24 times a -2, absorbing the latter into the energy!… oh never mind… I’ll try to explain later). I’ve done the farmer’s market, and will happily do physics (and this blogging coffee break) for an hour or two more, before setting off to the Music Tent.


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3 Responses to Altered Saturday Plans

  1. Blake Stacey says:

    -1/12 = -2/24. . . hmmm. . . a constant term in a Hamiltonian produced by normal-ordering an infinite sequence of terms involving creation and annihilation operators?

    Random guessing aside, I just wanted to say that I really like the word scuppered. It sounds like afternoon tea gone horribly wrong. I don’t recall seeing it anywhere other than the Cluracan’s story in Sandman: World’s End, but my memory is a long way from infallible.

  2. Jude says:

    Cool. It’s always fun to read about your mental processes during a breakthrough.

  3. nige cook says:

    It must be great that you can work things out fast enough in mathematical physics that it becomes that exciting, and you look forward to checking related research papers the next morning! Enthusiasm and motivation are infectious and I’m a little curious about what you’re working on. Whatever it is, I hope you continue to have fun with it.