Not a Free Lunch

Yesterday saw a mass desertion for a while here at the Aspen Center for Physics. Howie Haber (UCSC) organized a large group (twenty-two) of participants (and some of their guests) of the program entitled “LHC: Beyond the Standard Model Signals in a QCD Environment” (info here), to go for a group lunch at the excellent Pine Creek Cookhouse, 12 miles away up Castle Creek Road. And, I should mention, 1700 or so feet up. The latter is significant since about two thirds of us, led by Howie, cycled up there! It takes a while (times ranged from 1 hr 20 minutes to about 30 – 40 minutes more than that), and there are about two or three major long, punishing hills to deal with, but it was worth it!

Here are some (not all) of the cyclists at the destination (restaurant is a low-slung cabin-style affair out of shot to the right). Howie, our organizer, is in the middle at the front. (Click for larger view):

Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics

(Er, for the record, I’m slightly embarrassed by wearing socks with my sport sandals – a personal no-no – but I wanted to protect my feet from 12 miles of pedalling friction, so made an exception.)

Here are some random shots of happy arrivals (click each for larger):

Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics

Here are the two tables we had inside (click either for larger view):

Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics Lunchtime ride up to Pine Creek Cookhouse from Aspen Center for Physics

I won’t try to name everyone (if you’d like to have a go to test your knowledge of some of the great and the good in particle phenomenology, go right ahead in the comments), for fear of making unfortunate mistakes.

Finally, just for fun, here’s a little video of bits of the wonderfully thrilling descent after lunch. It’s coasting most of the way at high speed around some wet (it rained just before we set out) bends. I joined Patrick Fox (Fermilab) and Tilman Plehn (CERN, Edinburgh) on the way down and got them to wave at the camera as we sped along.

That was fun – with excellent lunch and conversation as a bonus!

An interesting side note about judging a book by its cover. My usual struggle to get people to open their minds about bike wheel-size continues. blog on a bike!You’ve read previous posts about the Brompton (pictured right) several times (click here for some). People just assume that there’s going to be something wrong because it does not look like a standard bike. Everybody seems to look at it and just decide arbitrarily that it is somehow not a “serious” bike, and that clearly “those small wheels” are somehow a problem. So I explain patiently that the gear was invented a very long time ago and that the so-called standard wheel size is not much more than a convention. For most things people do with bikes everyday, those standard wheels are just unnecessarily large, really, and there’s no direct relation between wheel size and speed or ability to climb a grade. This never really helps (although I’m happy to say that physicists tend -though not always- to get it immediately once I explain).

To my personal amusement, I’ve encountered a number of cyclists with all their fancy biking gear while at Aspen who say well-meaning but, frankly, patronizing things about “how well I’m doing with those cute small wheels”, only to find me staying with them for a long way, or passing them. Yesterday was a lot of fun in that regard. I resisted the temptation to ring my cheerful little bell as I went by when it happened a couple of times.


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8 Responses to Not a Free Lunch

  1. Jude says:

    It looks as though the guy on the right needed his seat elevated a little so he’d have a straight knee on the down pedal. Looks like it was a fun day.

  2. Yvette says:

    -sigh- Reminds me how much I miss my bike. Two more weeks!

    Regarding the Brompton, I remember mentioning them once to my mother and her not only knowing all about them but thinking they were the most normal thing in the world. This required further investigation, upon which I learned that not only did my mom have one at my age but that was the predominant bike of choice when she went to uni! (Mind this was back in Communist Hungary, which was a somewhat different world.)

    I made a note to mention that next time Bromptons came up here though, as it seemed a detail that wouldn’t go unappreciated. 🙂

  3. Clifford says:

    Excellent! Except I presume you mean “folding bike” and not Brompton per se since they would not gave been around back then…. but point taken. Thanks!


  4. Pyracantha says:

    If a physicist is not athletic (or disabled), is he/she losing out on important meetings?

  5. Clifford says:

    I don’t understand the question. Do you mean important athletics meetings? Like the Olympics? Perhaps so. But I don’t understand the relevance to physicists, particularly. Please let me know what you mean.



  6. Pyracantha says:

    It seems to me that physicists are more likely than non-physicists to be athletic and participate in daring endurance sports like mountain climbing or mountain biking or marathon running. Your physics meeting seemed to prove this. Reading the post again, though, I see that one third of the people attending did not bicycle up the mountain but presumably reached the lofty conference (“Beyond the Standard Model”) some other, more conventional way.

  7. Clifford says:

    Hi Pyracantha,

    (1) Some people choosing to go off to lunch together has nothing to do with physics. The physics is done at the physics center, where people arrived by plane, taxi, and car, as is totally normal. They did not have to use any “athletic” abilities to get to the physics center. There is no discrimination against people who choose not to cycle or other such thing.

    (2) Some people chose to go on a cycle ride. This has *nothing* to do with being athletic. This is just a bunch of people of all abilities who wanted to go out to cycle for fun. I would not describe any of us as especially or unusually athletic. Look at that pictures and you see a very ordinary cross section of people.

    (3) I don’t know many mountain climbing physicists, to my knowledge. Actually I know two. I know physicists who go on hikes, but that’s hardly a “daring endurance sport”. It is literally a walk in the park, with maybe somewhat stronger shoes than normal and a pack lunch.

    (4) I don’t know any mountain biking physicists at all, in fact (as far as I am aware). I know some who ride mountain bikes, but none who actually do real mountain biking (involving, you know, mountains) for a sport.

    (5) I know one physicist who ran a marathon or two.

    (5a) I’m sure I can think of a few who have done the odd other sport of daring (one parascender, a few undergrads who have done sky-diving), but hardly more than the usual cross-section of society.

    (6) I know hundreds of physicists, so unless I am sampling a weird cross section of them, the data in (3), (4), and (5) would seem to run counter to your impressions that we’re all mostly running around doing dangerous sports and leaving out people who don’t. Whereever you got the impressions you got, I’d like to suggest that you re-asses your impressions, since they’re coloured by some pre-conceptions. See below.

    (7) It is hard not to notice that since 1995, whenever I do a post about some physicist (or more than one) doing something involving hiking or other exercise, you are likely to pop up out of the blue and make a comment that almost seems to want to punish us or make us feel guilty for being ordinary human beings with totally normal ranges of interests, or otherwise point out some horribly negative interpretation of events. I recall showing a picture of some on-going physics conversation/seminar, and your only remark is that this one picture confirms your suspicion that it’s a boys club. I discussed star gazing at night, and all you could think to say was that it’s ok for me, but women would be worried about being attacked. I showed a picture of a lovely staircase dappled with sunlight and shadows, that it is nice to go for a walk down, and you popped up to declare that it’s a harbouring place for muggers and rapists. This post seems to confirm for you that we’re running an exclusionary elite athlete’s club. There are several more examples.

    You’re entitled to your opinions, and I welcome your comments and questions, but it would be so much nicer if you balanced it out with the odd positive comment at least a small fraction as often.

    It is nice that you read, form an opinion, and so forth, and so I apologize for sounding negative and if I seem to be getting at you, but it does get to be a real drag to be made to feel like a pile of crap almost just for being alive and sharing some pictures of the occasional normal leisure activity.



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