There Goes the Weekend

viscosity_scatterI’ve no idea why I do this to myself. I was just about managing things schedule-wise and aiming to make sure I have some fun on the weekend when the following thing happened. I went to Monday’s departmental colloquium and before it, ran into Moh, our organizer this year. I’d been trying to see if there was still room to schedule a speaker I’d thought of inviting, and he mentioned that the dates we’d earlier discussed had all been filled. Then he mentioned that he was desperately trying to find a speaker for next Monday, and was thinking that he’d have to simply cancel it that week.

This was at 4:05pm. Now watch how rapidly I move to ruin a perfectly good schedule for myself. I hesitate, and then suggest that if he really really can’t find anyone, I could probably dig around and put some material together for a colloquium. I’ve got to write one soon anyway since I promised to give two in Canada next month… he said he’d let me know. I thought some more… Yes, and although I tend to write things the day before, and that Sunday I’m supposed to be serving on a book fair panel (see here), I could try to see if I might be able to do something. I’d let him know on Wednesday. 4:07pm.

4:08-4:12pm I wander off upstairs to the bathroom, return, all the while thinking about it. I find a seat in the lecture theatre and watch it fill up. The colloquium is about to start… 4:15 pm I grab my pen and ask a student next to me for a page from his little tear-out notepad. I scribble “Moh. I can do it. Go ahead and announce it now to let people know. Thanks. -cvj”. I hand it to the person in front and ask them to pass it on to the front to get to Moh. He receives it just before the colloquium starts and so announce it.

So, it took ten minutes or fewer to have my entirely internal machinery poke away at me until I talk myself into finding time to write a talk. This isn’t really a great time to find time to do this, as I’ve a lot else to do. Why did I do it? Well, I don’t really know for sure. Moh had been trying to fill a slot sometime this semester with a speaker from the high energy physics area, and so it seemed like it would help, but also it is a fun topic to talk about and fun to share with those colleagues who will listen. As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts (see links below and e.g here), there’s some really exciting contact with experiments that several of the techniques in string theory we’ve been developing for almost a couple of decades are making and so it is really great colloquium material. It ought to be fun. If anyone comes. The next thing I had to do was write an abstract and a title for advertising, and so I scribbled one last night:

“Surprises at Strong Coupling and How to Cope”

The last six years have seen some remarkable phenomena emerging from experimental systems in diverse areas of physics – nuclear, atomic, and condensed matter – over an impressive range of temperatures (from micro Kelvin to several trillion Kelvin – 19 orders of magnitude), densities (26 orders of magnitude), and experimental scales (desktop experiments to giant particle accelerators 4 km around). These experiments have uncovered a new type of behaviour for matter, that appears at extremely strong coupling, in a variety of systems. The traditional techniques for understanding these systems have proven unequal to the task of modelling or predicting many of the properties uncovered. Perturbation theory fails, and various strong coupling techniques also fail. This talk will describe an exciting new set of powerful tools that seem to capture much of the new strongly coupled physics, and may point the way to new phenomena and insights into various important emergent phenomena at strong coupling, such as high-temperature superconductivity and quantum phase transitions.

So there’s something in there for everybody, I hope, and let’s see if I can actually find time to write some slides to do it all justice.


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