The Fifth Feeling – All Episodes!

Recall the mock science doc I pointed you to earlier, the Fifth Feeling? Well, all the episodes are now online in HD, on Funny Or Die. You can see the remaining episodes (3, 4, and 5 since I posted) now, or watch them all, since they look great in HD. (Or maybe because you’re simply a huge Ray Wise fan from the good ol’ Twin Peaks days..?) Here’s episode 1 again to get you started if you’ve not seen the setup, and from there you can jump to the others*:

Ok, ok. I can’t resist posting episode 4 as well, because that doorstep conversation cracks me up every time… [...] Click to continue reading this post

Talking

…Again. I’ll be on the road again this morning. Heading to California State University Long Beach. They invited me to give a colloquium a while back and I agreed, and when I returned from New York last week I realized I needed to urgently spend a chunk of time thinking about what I was going to talk about, and designing a set of slides for it. The last couple of days saw me devoting a lot of time to it. Eventually I decided to dig back into ancient times (the 1990s) surveying some of the interesting things we’ve learned about strong coupling phenomena (involving unexpected reorganization of degrees of freedom and the number of spacetime dimensions at times), and then discuss what it all might be good for in view of work going on in the last decade or so.

Come to think of it just this moment, this is a chance to do a tribute to David Olive, who passed away earlier this month. (He was one of my professors when I was at Imperial College in the ’80s.) Ideas of strong/weak coupling dualities and their utility were given a huge boost by his work in this area from decades ago, perhaps the most famous being Montonen-Olive duality… I must remember to mention that in the talk. (See here for an archive of 2004 talks in celebration of his work. I borrowed the image to the right from there. I do not know who took it.)

Here’s the title and abstract: [...] Click to continue reading this post

Sweet Preparations

It’s Thanksgiving! If you’re in the USA, I hope you’re having a good one so far. It is time for Asymptotia to take a trip to the kitchen, this time to make a dessert contribution to a meal at some friends’ Thanksgiving dinner party. I was going to make an apple pie, like I did some years back for a Thanksgiving, but apparently one of the other guests is bringing one. So I went with another simple and reliable preparation, an upside down cake with something seasonal on it. I went to the farmer’s market at Barnsdall Park yesterday (I missed my usual, the Hollywood one, since it is on Sunday and I was in New York that day) and saw that they had pluquats (crosses between plums and apricots), and they were the prime candidates for the cakes (plural since I decided to do two). I made them earlier today.

It started with chopping up the fruit into thick slices and making the topping. This is made from a stick of butter (half a cup – I am using US measurements), melted in a skillet and then cooked for a few minutes on a low flame with 3/4 cup of sugar and some spices (nutmeg and cinnamon, ground – my addition). I put that at the bottom of the ten inch pan I had ready. (I did two copies of everything, by the way) Then I [...] Click to continue reading this post

Components

Here’s the first slide of my TEDYouth talk from Saturday. It was time consuming but fun to draw all those hands and tiny items of various sorts. The whole talk was about what I call “hidden structures”, which in a sense is what my field (high energy physics, particle physics, cosmology, string theory, etc.,) is all about. To help motivate it all, I started by talking about opening up your smart phone and figuring out how it works by taking it apart and discovering the components inside, and using the rules of how to put them together to deduce the structure of other things (see that second stage of the slide being delivered on stage*).

Since I’m hugely into getting people to learn by really getting stuck into things [...] Click to continue reading this post

Q Train Guy

After arriving back home from New York on Sunday night (late) my next tasks were to sleep and wake up super-early to write some lecture notes on various approaches to treating diffraction (vectorized Kirchhoff integrals and so forth) for my class, and to grade several weeks of homework assignments…. all before the day’s guest (Howie Haber from UC Santa Cruz) arrived to visit and give us a departmental colloquium entitled “The Higgs Boson Unleashed”. It was great, and included discussion of new results from the LHC announced just last week. Then there was dinner in one of the excellent new downtown restaurants where I seem to have become a regular (nice to be remembered by the wait staff sometimes).

Today I must think about what I’m going to say in a colloquium I must give at Cal State Long Beach on Monday… But before then I think I need to have a slow day as I’ve really not stopped being in extreme headlong motion on various projects and deadlines for over three weeks now.

Of course, I do try to create moments of quiet whenever I can. It is important to me. Sketching practice helps. I’d taken my watercolour pencils and little portable fillable [...] Click to continue reading this post

So Good They Named It Twice

Well, it is great to be back in New York. Multiple times this year – hurrah! I’ve just got back from the Times Center where all the speakers have been running through their talks to smooth out kinks of various kinds (technical glitches, run time, etc). The senior TED people are here sitting in the auditorium and one by one we come up and go through things to give us a chance to get familiar with the stage, and to hear any thoughts or comments. (See tiny picture on the left.) People have done really good jobs preparing, and so most comments are simply ones of congratulations, with some small suggestions here and there with regards points of confusion, or sound levels, or run time. We’ve got six minutes. You heard me right – I must explain all of particle physics and research in string theory in six minutes. I like my challenges… Well, I spent a lot of time designing the content of the talk [...] Click to continue reading this post

Slow but steady…

…Progress? I hope so. I lost about 7 hours yesterday. Hours that I’d planned for working on the slides for TEDYouth and (mostly) finishing them. There was a weird problem on the computer I use that seemed to seep into Illustrsator as well. Somehow dragging a file to copy or move it somewhere else would not work, and this meant that in Illustrator if you tried to drag an object to a new position, it would fail to complete the operation, generating a copy in the place you moved it to but not erasing the original… It would then freeze. I tested this out in so many different ways to see that it was not damaged objects or files… then eventually decided to reinstall the entire operating system (Lion). Of course, this is no [...] Click to continue reading this post

Travels

I find myself on the East Coast for the first of two trips over here in two weeks. Next week I return to be in New York for the TEDYouth event (which I am still making slides for when I find some time here and there between the tasks I’m doing for this trip). This week’s trip means I’m missing two of my electromagnetism graduate classes, which I feel bad about because it is such an enjoyable group to teach*.

I must say that it is nice to get to wear serious outerwear for the first time in a while. I know – this is a particularly unoriginal thing you hear from a lot of us softies from the SouthWestern part of the US, and I apologize for saying it, but it is true! It is sometimes sad to see a nice heavy coat sit unused in a closet for a year or more, and there’s also a nice grounded feeling [...] Click to continue reading this post

Late but Still Great

Here’s a rather pleasant surprise from just outside my front door.

This started out as a “volunteer” tomato plant. It just showed up in a patch of soil somewhere, and so I planted it in the front garden and left it, occasionally watering during a particularly dry spell…

Now it is very late in the Fall, and it is producing some tomatoes! It’s not a particularly interesting variety, but nice to see all the same, this late in the year. (And to taste…)

Because of the unusual warmth of the Fall, the main line of tomato plants in the vegetable garden (that were quite prolific during the Summer – see some [...] Click to continue reading this post