It has been a while since I shared a snippet of the book project with you, so here’s an update:
Yesterday I completed a short burst of activity in which I re-did two pages in a story that were just horrible to behold. This is a panel form one of the pages. I’m pleased Continue reading ‘Ok, Here Goes’
Well, I’ve got to say goodbye to another excellent group of students from my undergraduate electromagnetism class. We had the final today (starting at 8:00am – ack!), and given the lack of rioting, tears, and throwing of rotten fruit during the exam itself, I assume that it was not too bad an exam to sit. Of course, the real measure of what they thought will be how they did in the actual answering of questions, and I’ve not looked to see how that has turned out yet.
Again, I feel a bit sad since it was a good group of students and it was fun to teach them this material. While it is certainly good to move on to other things (I’ve too many projects I want to work on, as usual), I will miss the twice weekly classes with them. Highlights this year include (in no particular order):
(1) The thing I love to do when we are studying dipole radiation – taking the class outside (surprising them somewhat) to look up at the blue sky and connect why it is blue to the computation we just did, including understanding the pattern of the blueness Continue reading ‘Final’
So I’ve moved on to curved lines now, in case you’re wondering. (See previous posts.) The last several days (the research parts) have been taken up with more computations. A lot of the time has been spent calibrating the programs, and trying to assess and understand and characterize the inevitable errors that show up, by running the programs and checking the resulting plots of data points against expectations shaped by hand calculations. Calculating on the train to and from work, I’ve filled several pages of my small notebook with computations, alongside sketches of some of my surroundings as usual (people mostly). As a result (fingers crossed) I think I’ve now understood all the key aspects of the results I’ve been getting, and have good numerical control of things. To get such control, I’ve had to push the error tolerance and the size of the grid of points I’m computing on to regimes where I’m back again to waiting for the better part of an hour for each data point. (One sets up the problem on the computer by making continuous variables, such as space and time, into discrete ones, forming a grid. The problem is then to use various Continue reading ‘Lines of Thought’
How is the line coming along? It is very kind of you to ask (if indeed you were). Well, there it is to the left. (See the previous post for background.) In the end, I abandoned Maple since it was taking way too long to do each point, and just for the simple example. (When I tried to do one sample point of the complicated example it took 24 hours and I stopped it before it was done!) The point is that Maple does not easily Continue reading ‘A Much Shorter Straight Line’
I’ve been multitasking in an interesting way. Sort of. I’ve reached a certain point with some computations I am doing that I cannot go beyond by analytic means. This means that I can’t extract the physics I need by doing algebra and other exact manipulations on paper any more. Progress can continue however by using numerical means, employing a computer to solve the highly non-linear equations and extract the juice. There are several steps involved, and ultimately, I want to determine how a certain physical quantity depends on another physical quantity. (I’m sparing you the trouble of knowing what the details of the physical quantities are, since it does not matter for the thing I am trying to tell you. It relates to quantum field theory, gravity, and string theory, which connects the two.)
I can see that dependence quite clearly if I simply plot a graph of one versus the other, and in this case I need the computer to work out what the points on that graph are. I actually don’t know the answer for the cases I really am interested in, nobody does (that’s why it is research!), and so that’s what I want to find. I want lots of points to get a nice smooth graph, so the computer has to compute a lot of points, and I need to run it for a long time since I want it to compute the points very accurately. So I wrote a program (in Maple) to work on the problem, studying just one Continue reading ‘A Very Long Straight Line’
You might recall that last year I gave a talk at TED Youth, in their second year of short TED talks aimed at younger audiences. You’ll recall (see e.g. here and here) I made a special set of slides for it, composed from hundreds of my drawings to make it all in graphic novel style, and somehow trying to do (in 7 minutes!!) what the TED people wanted. They wanted an explanation of string theory, but when I learned that I was the only person in the event talking about physics, I kind of insisted that (in a year when we’d discovered the Higgs boson especially!) I talk more broadly about the broader quest to understand what the world is made of, leaving a brief mention of string theory at the end as one of the possible next steps being worked on. Well, they’ve now edited it all together and made it into one of the lessons on the TED Ed site, and so you can look at it. Show it to friends, young and old, and remember that it is ok if you don’t get everything that is said… it is meant to invite you to find out more on your own. Also, as you see fit, use the pause button, scroll back, etc… to get the most out of the narrative.
I’m reasonably pleased with the outcome, except for one thing. WHY am I rocking Continue reading ‘TED Youth Talk – Hidden Structures of the Universe’
As I said in the previous post, consider using the subway (the Expo line in particular) to come to the LA Times Festival of Books tomorrow. The campus is now very busy and parking is a pain. Look where I had to put my car today*!
Continue reading ‘Parking Heroics’
Well, since some of you are curious about how the page might look in final form, given the (nicer than normal) rough I showed you a little while ago, I thought I’d show you. (For those of you not following, this is part of the graphic science book project I’m slowly working on. More here.)
I got carried away and decided to properly pencil out the whole page and ink it fully, and then I painted the same panel as before. Now you can see more carefully rendered faces according to the design I chose for these characters, and you can also see the backgrounds of the setting a bit more. It is another real location, a very well known place in Europe. (Actually, I spent some days doing research online to try to reconstruct the details of the interior from tourist photographs, and reconstructed Continue reading ‘How is that Supposed to Work, Exactly? (Part II)’
It’s that time again. I finish a notebook and start a new one. A new book is begun with writing my name and contact information in the front part, in case it gets lost, and an old one is ended with mixed feelings, and that ending is often a bit drawn out. Notebooks go around with me nearly everywhere, and have pieces of me in them in one shape or another, and so it is hard to stop carrying one and start a new one. I’ve got bits of computations, shopping lists, partial thoughts about projects, design sketches, doodles, snippets of silent conversations between me and another person at a concert or talk (writing it down is often less distracting to neighbours than a whisper), scribbled phone numbers, film, book or cd reminders, and of course lots of practice sketches and doodles on trains, planes, and in automobiles, done almost on a daily basis, sketches done in (and sometimes of) an event, or of a interesting place or structure. (You’ve seen some of them here on the blog.) Almost everything has a date written on the page, or on a page nearby, which is hugely valuable.
It’s a combination of notebook, journal, playground for ideas, and more. It is a joy to just open it up and flip through it and see so much of the last few months of my life and thought spread out in ink and pencil (and sometimes watercolour). Sometimes I hit on a particularly successful or interesting (or both) drawing that I love to open up and look at from time to time. You can search the blog under “sketches” for things that were in previous books. For example, a few of my favourites from this book are: Sketch of C. Tyler during her talk, sketch during a committee meeting, airline sketch of a national treasure, other airline sketches, a nice grab of a face from the subway, another airline sketch.
All of that now gets put on a shelf, since the pages have run out. It is bitter-sweet, as I also like the analogue, finite nature of the whole business. It has a lot of life written Continue reading ‘Changeover Time’
Well, yes, I’ve been a bit busy and so posting has been slow over the last week. But I am still alive, and here I am with a sample of one of the several things I was doing. It is some work on the graphic book project. (You’ll be happy that I am sparing you details of tedious committees, faculty meetings, confusing snippets of physics, incomplete musings and computations, etc…)
As mentioned recently, I’ve been doing thumbnails and rough page layouts on one of the stories, and that has been useful for editing and rewriting. I went further and improved an earlier story that I’d written that had mostly been drawn already, and so that encouraged me to do slightly tighter page layouts so as to fit them more closely to the story as it was already drawn, for a smoother final read. I’ll need to find Continue reading ‘How is that Supposed to Work, Exactly?’
Waveguides are fun. I mean on the page, although I imagine that they are fun to play with as fully realized physical objects too. But I was talking about them in the context of teaching undergraduate electromagnetism, as I am doing on my class this semester. I tell the class after the second week of class or so that we’re essentially done, and can all head to the beach since by then we’ve completed the derivation of Maxwell’s equations, which describe fully all electromagnetic phenomena. The rest of the class is essentially a semester of picking various situations in which we deploy the equations and study particular solutions. Of course, they realize that there is reason to stay, since that’s really the heart of it – studying those various situations and appreciating the range of delights those equations can yield. Among the most fascinating and delightful of those, er, delights, is light. Electromagnetic waves in general, and we study them in a whole lot of situations, including nipping along unfettered in free space, in conducting materials Continue reading ‘Lecture Thoughts’
Well, I am coming to the end of the week of hiding away in this undisclosed coastal town, and I can report that it was very good for me. I managed to get enough immersion to work hard on one of the stories for The Project, and this morning I read it through (I actually broke it into two stories) and turned out to be not too bad so far. Hurrah! Reading it next to the completed rough visuals really helps. I wish I’d had time to work on more stories, but that’s for another time. I’m just thankful to have had the time to have a good focus on one.
Wednesday I went back to that studio I visited on Monday as they were having another drop in and draw session and I felt it would be a nice end-of-long-work-day relaxation to go again. The model was actually rather excellent, and I wish my speed was a bit better to catch some of her faster 2 minute poses since she had a great Continue reading ‘Outcomes’
In other interesting announcements today, the great physicist Alexander Polyakov has been given the Fundamental Physics Prize. (See the announcement here.) There was a remarkable award ceremony in Geneva yesterday, hosted by Morgan Freeman, and with lots of Physicists and others celebrating great work in various areas of physics. Polyakov has been a key and brilliant leader in many areas of theoretical physics, and influenced so many ideas and techniques that have fed into the whole field, and so this is a well deserved recognition.
I must note that it is a bit sad (to say the least) to do a google search on the news about this prize and see so many articles with a lot of just plain stupid focussing on a big prize going to a “string theorist”, as though this is somehow negative or ironic, and also missing the fact that Polyakov’s contributions are so broad and far-reaching Continue reading ‘Congratulations!’
Productive day yesterday, more or less. Yesterday’s lunch break (in my undisclosed coastal town) saw me take a pack lunch over to the beach, for a bit of reading while I sat in a change of scenery. I’d brought the bike, and so it was nice to be able to pack up some things I might need, like a beach towel, a portable seat (just in case…. I did not use it in the end…), my notebooks, and some reading materials on the ipad (I was reading a bit of Paradise Lost, in fact), and carry it in the bike basket. (Actually I did use the portable seat… but not for sitting. I used it as a stand for the camera that took the shot above right.)
What am I doing on The Project? I’m mapping out and editing one of the stories. It has turned into quite a long one with lots of complexity, relatively, speaking. This means that I need to be careful about designing the layout on the page, and actually try to get a good sense of how everything fits so that I pace things properly, and page things out in the right way. So I am thumbnailing carefully, going beyond simple thumbnails and doing a first pass rough of the page. It slows the writing down, but will save a lot of time later on. Also, when I turn myself back into the penciller/inker and come to draw all the pages carefully, my job will be much easier, and quicker, as I’ll have the directions in the written script and the page layout sketch to guide me. I’ll be able to focus more on being the artist and less the writer at that stage. See the right for a laid out page.
Actually, using the brushes application on the ipad has been very valuable for this. I’ve not used it much in recent times, and so it was fun to rediscover it. I’ve been using Continue reading ‘Lunch and Work’
Probably not really the appropriate use to mean “on retreat”, but it makes for an interesting title. Anyway, I’m on retreat for a week. As you may know, I am in the habit of disappearing for Spring Break, and I try to get away from it all (or most) and have some time to myself, and maybe also work on a project. You will recall that Death Valley is often a destination, but for what I wanted to do this Spring Break, my old haunt won’t work. So instead I am in a small town somewhere on the California coast. I’ve set up shop in a little condo I’ve rented, and I’m trying to get some writing done on The Project. I need to do a lot on the computer, putting together a lot of the material and scripting it out properly, which also involves planning and thumbnailing the pages. This is a slow process that needs lots of immersion, and I’ve not been able to do that this semester much… so this is why I’ve devoted the Spring Break to it. My routine so far has been to go for a short run on the beach first thing in the morning (not for long….I am not a runner really, and only like running on surfaces like grass, and sand that don’t hammer back too much, but it is exhilarating to do a short run in the morning and get all the juices flowing…) and then sit down to work over breakfast. But since this is really day 2, it is not clear if this is really a pattern or not.
This afternoon I sought out the local “drop in and draw” session to do a bit of life drawing from a model. Just as I’ve mentioned before (see two posts ago for example) you can often find such things in your local town, and it is not too hard in areas such as coastal California towns since there are lots of artists living in such places, and they seem to like and appreciate the value of life drawing practice. So I showed up, paid my money, and went into the studio and drew. The people were welcoming, did not pry too much into my business, and it was quite Continue reading ‘Retreating’
So it’s very much worth noting that there are some new announcements from earlier this week concerning last years’ landmark discovery at the Large Hadron Collider. The news is that a Higgs particle was discovered. There were several news stories about it in the last few days. This might be a bit confusing, and many of you are thinking that this is recycling news from last year concerning the discovery of the Higgs. It is not recycling. If you go back and look at the results that were announced last year, there was an important note of caution, notable in the fact that the particle discovered was referred to as “Higgs-like”. More analysis was needed to be sure that it was indeed a particle that fits the name Higgs. Well, that analysis has been done, with more data included and so forth, and both experiments (CMS and ATLAS) are now sure that they are seeing a Higgs particle, and indeed it is one that is very close to what you’d expect for the Standard Model of particle physics.
The latter is is important and interesting to note, since many people expect that there Continue reading ‘We have a Higgs!’
Well, yes, I’ve been very busy with several things. After clearing away a lot of them, I decided last night that it had been long enough since I’d visited a “drop in and draw” studio to practice figure drawing, and so I went along. (I’ve written about this on previous occasions…you drop in, pay a fee towards the model’s salary, and then you draw. You can find such studios in your own city if you wish. There’s nothing like live figure drawing for practicing observation, hand-eye coordination, and a host of other skills that need regular maintenance.)
Anyway, I dropped in, said hi, started up some Kate Bush (“The Sensual World”) on the ipod (followed by Mayte Martin – “Al Cantar a Manuel”) and I drew. A great and Continue reading ‘Rusty’
I find myself in a cold climate for a short while, once again serving on a committee that needs my in-person participation. It is snowing outside here in Chicago, and it is nice to look at the snow from the window, and occasionally pop from one building to another.
This allows me to pretend that as a Southern-California-softy I’ve had my annual dose of proper cold weather, with a real opportunity to wear a heavy coat and a thick jumper (sweater to those State-side) for at least one time this year. My hotel room is in a tower, and has a nice view out of the window. I tried to take a shot that captures the spirit of it. Pity I’m not able to enjoy it much, given Continue reading ‘Chicago’
Today (Tuesday) saw me up at 6:30am to prepare for an 8:00am call time for a shoot on a special episode of – wait for it – Deadliest Space Weather. It is original programming for the Weather channel, and before you dismiss it because of the title, it turns out that it is not a bad idea for exploring various scientific concepts. The first season ended a few weeks ago. I’d not realized it was airing until recently, and actually those recent demos I told you about were used in examinations of planetary conditions on Venus and on Mars. (Two separate episodes.) The idea seems to be to consider what it would be like on earth if the conditions were like those on Venus, or consider what what happen if you went outdoors on Mars.
So you might think it is silly, but if done well, it is actually an opportunity to
explain some science to an audience who might not have been the usual science audience…in which case I’m happy to be on board! In addition to spectacularly showing what happens when sugar and sulphuric acid meet, I got to show how to boil Continue reading ‘Tales from the Industry XXXIX – Magnetic Weather?’
A while ago I got an email out of the blue from an enthusiastic young fellow who wanted to do an interview with me on camera for his YouTube channel. After we bounced emails back and forth a bit and I got a sense that this was both legitimate, worth supporting, and that I had time to do it, we agreed that we’d meet to do it. So we met at the excellent Mystery and Imagination bookshop in Glendale, and he set the camera running and threw a bunch of questions at me. We talked about all sorts of things from dark matter, the LHC, supersymmetry and string theory to trumpets, jazz clubs, and noir films.
It was fun, and you can find the results on his YouTube channel (here), that he hopes to populate with more interviews with people working in science and other topics. He’s got an interview with mathematical physicist John Baez up there already, so go and look.
Below I’ve embedded the interview with me, for your convenience.
Enjoy! Continue reading ‘Interview!’
There’s a news article out about the results of the USC Science Film Competition that you might like to read. It is by Susan Bell and it is in USC Dornsife News here. In there, you’ll find interviews with one of the winning teams of students, as well as with me. I talk about my reasons for running this competition each year and what I hope to achieve. (Photo courtesy of USC Dornsife.)
The showcase and awards ceremony, held on January 23rd, was a success, and it was a pleasure to meet with many of the students who participated, and feel the buzz of excitement in the room. Thanks everyone who participated, including the panel of judges for their hard work. Once again, the Anton Burg Foundation supported the competition (funding things like the large prizes I had the pleasure of giving away) and we’re all very grateful for that.
Ok, well of course you want to know the outcome, right? Well, here goes. I’ve included the titles and membership of the interdisciplinary teams below, along with Continue reading ‘USC Science Film Competition 2013 – Results!’
Frustratingly, I lost several hours this weekend on a new computer problem, when of course I’d planned to work on several things before turning my attention back to teaching and other matters of the week. I needed to install a new piece of software and strangely my computer’s optical drive could not read the CD-R that it was on. The computer kept reporting a blank disc had meen inserted. I checked on another computer and the disc was fine so the problem had to be with my computer. I tried to get it to recognize an audio CD but that was rejected outright. But what was the problem exactly? Investigation involved taking care to restart, attempt to reset firmware, PRAM, etc., trying to figure out how to run the hardware test (on a late 2008 unibody model macbook pro), etc. The latter involved me discovering that the hardware test software was no longer on the machine (since upgrading to Mountain Continue reading ‘Just Jiggle It’
Last night I went to a nice event as part of the Visions and Voices series. It was an interview of (perhaps conversation with is a better way to describe it) writer and artist Carol Tyler by Henry Jenkins, who is a professor here at USC in the Annenberg School of Communication (check out his excellent blog here). C. Tyler is well known for her work in the comics and graphic novel world (or graphic book, if you prefer) particularly in the underground comics movement. She is one of the most well known memoirists in this medium, telling the story of her family life, and in particular a great deal of her father’s retelling of experiences in war, and its effects on him, her, and her family. It was good to go along and listen to her talk about her journey in producing the three books that came out of that project (“You’ll Never Know”), other projects, and a little bit of her personal history as a writer and artist. (See Henry Jenkins’ post about her here, and her own website here. Many of her books are published by Fantagraphics.)
I met and spoke with her
last year (update/correction: two years ago) very briefly (she certainly won’t remember), since a few of us (including her) were waiting in the lobby of the LA Times building for the LA Times Book Prizes ceremony to start. She was a nominee in the graphic novel category. We talked for a few minutes and then went in. I remember being struck by Continue reading ‘C. Tyler’s Visit to USC’
So, after a bit of time away from the process, this weekend saw me make some progress on The Project. I realized that I had too many things fragmented, scattered in several places, both physically and in my mind. This means that when I come to pick up where I left off (and breaks from it – sometimes long ones – are necessary since I have my Physics Professor gig which is first and foremost, you understand…) it can take all the available time to get back into the saddle since I am pulling the fragments back into foreground. So I’ve decided to sharpen up the process a bit and try harder to send clear notes and assignments to myself in the future. For example, as writer, I need to prepare things so that they are in a good final state with clear conventions in a full script, so that when I come to it later as penciller, I’ve got all I need to get stuck in and move things along, sending messages along to future me at the next step, and so on. It means I’ve got to do less of the business of leaving things un-fleshed out because I think I’ll do that bit at a later stage – That later stage might be months down the line, and by then I’d have forgotten the core of the idea that I was going to build in at that point… You get the idea.
So my task for the next several sessions is to turn all the stories I’ve written so far into full scripts, and finish the bits that are unfinished in each one. What do I mean by full script? Well, over the last two years I’ve done a lot of it in notebooks and in Continue reading ‘Thumbs and Scripts’
The showcase and awards ceremony for the Science Film Competition is tomorrow (Wednesday)! It’ll be in the film school, at the Stark Family Theater (SCA 108), at 7:00pm. I’ll be screening films that were entered into the competition, and then at the end of the evening, giving out large prizes! $3000 first prize, $2000 second, and $1000 third. Should be a fun evening, with refreshments after the ceremony!
Come along and bring friends. Continue reading ‘Showcase!’
[Update: replaced sketch with the painted version.] I managed to get a sketch done of some of my colleagues present at the meeting I’m part of here in San Antonio, TX. They’re across from the table from me, and as far as I can tell, not aware that I’m sketching. Was a fun experiment with quick layout. I’d have painted it, but I seem to have forgotten Continue reading ‘Meeting Room’
So that was by far the most ill I’ve been in many years. The flu wore on for five days, with two and a half of them having me mostly in delirium, fighting highs and lows of fevers… quite remarkable. Then I had two extra days of eating very little, so that by time I started eating real food again on Saturday, and going outside, it was as though the world had been made anew to see and taste various things I’d not had in a while…
Ok… I suppose this means maybe next flu season I’ll finally start taking flu shots? We’ll see.
Anyway, I am reasonably sure that I caught that virus while passing through Atlanta airport on my way back from New Orleans. There, so many paths cross as it is a major hub. Spending two hours there gave me ample time to pick something up. Then there’s the plane as well, with four hours to sit in one space in contact with the things a possibly infected traveller before me had contact with. Nice.
I’ve been much better for a few days now, and semester has got going here. I’ve given Continue reading ‘Recovery and Jumping Back in’
I was interviewed by an online publication called The Arts and Entertainment Magazine for their 1st January edition. You might find it interesting, since I talk about some of the themes I bring up here a lot, such as trying to improve public understanding of science, and various projects connected to that sort of thing. It is here. Enjoy!
Actually, they’ve started doing a series of spotlights on various scientists, so browse through the website for other interviews, if that interests you.
Well, Thursday’s meeting was a blast! I had decided not to try to get people to RSVP for the meeting this time, and so when it came down to the day before, I had no idea how many were going to show up. This meant that I had to make some guesses about how much coffee and tea and cookies to organize, which was a little bit of a challenge. But just before 9:00am people began to show up, and kept showing up, and by time I was ready to start off the day’s meeting, there was a really good crowd!
In the end it was a great day, with five really good talks and lots of excellent discussion. Continue reading ‘Local Connections’
You might remember that during the Spring and early Summer I was deeply embroiled in making a film. (See several earlier posts, e.g. here, here, here, and here).) It was a short film to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the Aspen Center for Physics, and I was keen (in my role as filmmaker) to give it a treatment that benefits from my being a theoretical physicist, and one who is familiar enough with the Center, all in order to get the right tone of the film. (Jump to the end of the post if you want to see it without more background thoughts.) There’s a spirit of the Center that is quiet, reflective, and inspiring of thoughts that need time to be explored, so I definitely did not want the usual loud, buzzing, overly busy type of film that you often see about science activity. It did not seem appropriate. Working with Dave Gaw (who was an awesome principal cinematographer and editor for the project) and with Bob Melisso (who shared some of the production and direction work with me), I think the result strikes the right note overall. A fun side note: I got to design a number of unique (and definitely handcrafted) elements for the look that I think you’ll like and recognize from other visual work of mine you’ve seen on this blog, and just as with my earlier film projects from 2009 (see here and here) it was a real buzz to help figure out how to make them fly, and then see the elements come together in their final form up on screen.
People really seemed to like the film a lot, from what I’ve heard. (It was shown extensively at many of the Summer events celebrating the 50th at the Center.) So while it did take a lot of my time, it seems like it was time well worth spending since Continue reading ‘Premiering…!’
The next Southern California Strings Seminar is on Thursday 13th December! I’ve now made the website for this one and it is here. Come back to it from time to time to see the updates of talk titles as speakers let me know what they are. It is a one-day event filled with five talks and plenty of time for discussion. I’ve snagged a lovely room in the Doheny library again. (Photo left has a shot of the room we used last time it was at USC in May 2011. The most recent one was over at UCLA.)
You are welcome to come and do physics with us! Also, if you’re part of a group in Continue reading ‘Southern California Strings Seminar’
Sort of stuck this morning. I was up at 6:30am (more or less my usual time these days) with good intentions to get back to do a nice stretch of work on The Project for the first time in a while. But it is almost 10:30am and I’ve done nothing (not counting procrastinating, making fruit compote for pancake breakfast, sending a bunch of emails, and so forth).
It is difficult sometimes to reboot back onto task on a project when one is suddenly done with one of the major things pulling you away from it. Classes are over, you see, and so I am transitioning into a different mode, and not super-efficiently.
I think maybe before I have to leave to run errands out in the world (after lunch), I must get something done toward Continue reading ‘Slow’
…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:
Continue reading ‘Talking’
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 Continue reading ‘Components’
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 Continue reading ‘Q Train Guy’
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 Continue reading ‘So Good They Named It Twice’
…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 Continue reading ‘Slow but steady…’
Back home in the office/studio working on slides for the TEDYouth talk. Spent altogether too much time on telescopes today. Way too much. I estimate that this Continue reading ‘Telescopes’
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 Continue reading ‘Travels’