Looking Back and Forth

Somehow after Wednesday I lost track of time, in a sense, in the natural course of having another very busy week. There were several things competing for time, and some of them may be of interest to you. (Left: Some lovely pink gladiolus flowers that have sprung up in my garden.) The Nobel Prizes kept coming, of course, with some very interesting winners announced. In addition to the ones I mentioned already in two earlier posts, I’ve got to find some people among our faculty who’ll be willing to spend 10 to 15 minutes making some informal remarks about the Who/What/Why aspects of the prize at one of two lunches I’ll be hosting in the coming weeks about the Nobel Prize. I’ve mentioned this before. It is an annual event I’ve tried to get going as part of the Dornsife Commons (formerly known as College Commons) series. I’ve locked in Physics and Peace, and want to get people for all the others. This year I know that if I have problems with Chemistry, I can step in if need be, although I’d rather not have to do that – I want to broaden participation, not do everything myself. Look out for those lunches (see here) and come along!

Speaking of doing everything myself, I’ve been continuing the weeks long struggle to get support, interest, and participation for the Science Film Competition I told you about earlier. Having spent a lot of time meeting with many faculty and other parties to build support and understanding, getting lots of faculty to make announcements (one time even coming down from Santa Barbara to campus to give a ten minute announcement in a class at the film school and going up again after!) and so forth – and thanks everyone who has helped! – I decided to amplify my focus on tackling one of the most difficult obstacles, and tried to help students find each other to do the cross-disciplinary collaboration required. Getting faculty from all over USC to tell me about interested students, or have them email me directly, was how it began, but of course this is a bit serial, and extremely time-intensive. So last weekend I had the idea of setting up another blog to help with all this. Students who were looking to make connections would be registered as authors and they could contact each other through it. I spent some time setting it up at WordPress, only to discover that for them to register as authors they, have to first register with WordPress, who of course want them to make a blog (although they don’t have to), and I could see how that would just be several extra hurdles and confusion… and then I realized that I can probably host more than one blog at the place I host my current blog! So that is what I did on Sunday morning. After a short hour of tinkering I had a nice shiny new blog, sciencefilmsusc, and started letting students and faculty know about it over the next two days… The roll of names and interested students began to grow fairly steadily over the week, and I began to put several posts there also to spread information, encourage connections, and so forth. We shall see. I think that if things go well and there are several engaged students working on films, they can even come and use the blog to communicate and share. It is a little potential community… This might remind you of cvjlab, the research blog community I’d set up to encourage my graduate students to connect and share with me and each other, if you recall me talking about it here. (A wiki might have been better, but I just wanted something up fast, as the clock was ticking on the first competition deadline, and so I went with what I knew to be on the safe side…) The good news is that there are several connections being made through it (the students, all authors, can contact each other internally through a wordpress plugin that allows author-to-author messages to be sent…) and some new teams are about to register their film idea and team in the short time left to do this. (Go to sciencefilms.usc.edu if you are still looking to register your team!)

The main thing that has been smacking me hard on time this week was to do with physics research. I had to be relatively brief on Wednesday morning with my post on Quasicrystals because I was in the final push to get a paper finished and submitted to the arXiv. It worked! I was doing an exciting project with Tameem Albash on Entanglement entropy, and it is done now, and out there. We are quite pleased with the results. Perhaps I’ll say a bit more about it all in a separate post, but in case I forget, the key idea (for those of you who care) is that we’ve uncovered a lot about how the geometric (holographic) formula for the entanglement entropy encodes information about the ultraviolet (UV) and the infrared (IR) in a situation when you have an holographic dual for a renormalization group (RG) flow. This is going to be very useful in future studies if this quantity is going to be used as a probe of strongly coupled field theory in holographic settings. We really examined the situation where there are fixed point theories at either end in some detail, digging into two examples at the end to test our ideas and results, with considerable success. Anyway, it is 1110.1074 at arxiv.org if you want to know more.

Turning away from things just past and looking to things coming up this weekend, I realized that there are two or three things of interest that I ought to mention for sure, and probably should have sooner. One is the next Categorically Not!, the series run by my friend and colleague K C Cole, which has theme “Seeing”. It is on Sunday at 6:30pm and promises to be a really good one again, with Alan Alda, Shelley Claridge, and Nancy Linehan-Charles the speakers. Nancy’s a friend I’ve not caught up with properly in a while, so I hope to go along to this. Website here. Another is the next CicLAVia! That’s tomorrow, and they’ve an expanded route and probably even more fun for all. Their new website is here. I’m definitely looking forward to this! I’ve also heard that my colleague and friend Lisa Randall (who many of you will know from the world of theoretical physics because she is a well-known public speaker) is on a book tour in the area. Her new book is entitled “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. Lisa was at Griffith Observatory last night, and there’ll also be an event at The Skeptics Society on Monday evening. Website here.

Well, I think that it is time I had another cup of tea, a walk around the garden, and then a bit of relaxation time. I think I’ll set the robot going around some of the house while I get a bit of drawing done. It has been a while.


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