It is 8:20am, and only now is the sun appearing from behind the mist that seemed to cover the world since I got up this morning at 6:00am and since I boarded the Amtrak train at 7:30am, bound for Santa Barbara. We’ve arrived at beautiful downtown Northridge, and have another two hours and a half to go. I’ve got my bike folded neatly in the luggage rack above me (I tried not to look too smug when passing two cyclists struggling a bit to find room for their giant bikes in the space remaining to them), have had my second slice of multigrain bread smeared with whipped cream cheese and homemade fig jam (I made a batch a few weeks ago) and an sipping coffee while catching up on various things, such as telling you what I am doing. I think I’ll stop writing for the blog now, getting back to thinking about some physics I want to put into a new paper, looking out the window at the landscape as it opens up more (we’ll be running through farmland, and then along the seaside soon!), and letting my mind drift and be open to those expansive kinds of thoughts that typically come in when I am sitting on a train watching the world go by. I don’t get that with driving up here, since so much it put into driving safely and so forth, one’s mind is never fully free. I love train travel, and I love this journey, even though I know there’s no good reason why in the 21st Century in the USA it should take three hours. (Three and a half on the return – I mean, really).
Ok… back to stuff.
Oh, wait – Why am I going to Santa Barbara, you ask? Is it another “jump on the train and see where I end up” sort of day? (See an earlier post.) No, I’m going up there (actually my stop is Goleta) to spend a bit of the week at the Institute for Theoretical Physics so as to renew my Theoretical Physicist membership card and license. Huh – you did not know that it is illegal to have detailed thoughts about how the universe works without a permit? There’s a network of centers around the world where we must go from time to time to register and re-qualify… There, I’ve let the cat out of the bag and so you might not hear from me again and this blog post might disappear.
The above paragraph is the sort of “humour” that getting up too early and going on a long train ride is wont to spark. Sorry about that. (We’ve stopped in beautiful downtown Simi Valley. From my window I can see two rabbits sitting alongside the track watching the train…) I’m going to spend a little time at a workshop, the theme of which is to apply various methods frmo string theory to issues in condensed matter physics. I’ve talked about this here before some of you may recall, along with similar issues in applications to nuclear physics. It’s fun and instructive to think about how the seemingly arcane ideas that string theory uses might be applicable to actual desktop experiments. There’s a lot to do in this area, and happily more and more people are getting involved.
We’ve passed Chatsworth, and plunged back into thick fog and mist now…There is no more sun. I hope this is temporary…