By the way, I’ll be on the local TV show CU@USC tonight (6:30pm – live), talking about things like communicating science, science and film, and of course the USC Science Film Competition that I run that I’m trying to let students and faculty know about as much as I can. (Perhaps we’ll talk about other topics as well. We shall see.) I’ll also be joined by Simon Wilches-Castro, a student who was in the competition two years ago. He did the lovely animation for the film on fractals, called Yaddda Yadda Yada.
If you watch (live stream here), I hope you enjoy it!
Here’s the film: Click to continue reading this post
Interesting (and maybe not surprising) decision over at the Popular Science website* concerning comments on articles. It’ll probably remind you a little bit of my post from a few days ago about the kinds of behaviour surrounding blog discussions of research in my field. At some point, especially for a complex subject and in times when people are not inclined to really dig deeply to learn the issues, it all can get very counterproductive.
Episode two of Fail Lab is up now! (I told you quite a bit about this new series on the Discovery web channel Test Tube last week.) This is another excellent quirky and fun one, talking about the dynamics of sexual selection that’s going in all those fail videos you see online, where the guys are making a pig’s ear of some trick or other. This week you get to see the show’s brain on display too!
Embed below. Enjoy! Click to continue reading this post
Late September is late in the season, and many of the tomato plants have given up due to the heat of the Summer, but the Carmelo variety is one of those that hung on:
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The current look of this page is temporary. There’s a technical issue so I had to Click to continue reading this post
Meanwhile, poor Matt Strassler, who means well, is re-discovering the frustratingly convenient (for some) fact that blogs (or is it blog readers?) have no memory for stuff that has scrolled off the page, so attention-seekers get to make the same deliberately wrong claims and misrepresentations they did before, and that were thoroughly addressed before, and a whole new bunch of people who want to learn a bit of science will be drawn in to a non-debate, not knowing that none of this is new. Attention-seekers get the attention they desire, and since attention is the main point for them (not actual progress in science, oh no, not at all!), they succeed.
Matt is discovering this now… By trying to discuss a little nuance about what recent discoveries at the LHC may or may not mean for string theory, he has wandered into the same old tired shouting match about string theory with attention seekers who have nothing better to do but put their hands over their ears and yell misleading slogans from the sidelines to generate fake controversy, and/or split the world into pro-string vs anti-string which is so simplistic and, frankly, juvenile. An interesting game, if you’re up for it, would be to look at the noise in the long comment stream there, and then look at almost any of my Scenes from a Storm in a Teacup posts (from 2006!!!) and the long comment streams accompanying them (look at, for example IV, V, and VI), and see if you can see the same sorts of patterns. I deliberately collected those posts together to form a partial* record of some of that time’s discussion for precisely this purpose, for those who care to read and see that all attention-seekers (who have no real interest in letting science research run its course) have to do is wait for a while and then start yelling the same faux claims all over again to get attention, sell books, enlarge their mutual admiration society membership, etc.
You know, all this behaviour is hardly different from that of the annoying squirrels I have to deal with at my fruit trees from time to time. Not being so good at cultivating Click to continue reading this post
Because I love classic Queen, and because I work on string theory, but mainly because he did such a great job on everything (writing, production, puppets, singing…) I had to share this video* with you, made by Tim Blais at a cappella Science: (Embed is below…enjoy!)
Click to continue reading this post
So episode 1 of the new show I told you about, Fail Lab, is live!
And now I can tell you what it is about.
I think the core concept is a nice idea. You know all those “fail videos” that are so popular online? It’s all about laughing at people who’ve been filmed with something going wrong… they’ve been trying a trick that fails and they get hurt, or an accident happens, or something like that. Well, rather than just laugh about it and make fun of the people in the video, Tosh.0 style, the show is (in a fun, and yes, decidedly edgy, way) built around trying to find a bit of science in the fail video. In fact, the idea is that at the end of the segment, presenter Crystal Dilworth (a smart young scientist on the neuroscience PhD program at Caltech) discusses (and in some instances, argues) with the guest scientist presenter about whether the video is a success or a fail, and sometimes it is a success for showing science! Each week on Discovery’s new(ish) TestTube Channel (excellent name) there’ll be a new episode (Tuesdays around 9:00am) coming up, so stay tuned.
It’s fun (with puppets, dancing, music, and a great eccentric set for the lab!), and will be definitely playing on the edge for some (perhaps too much for those who are skittish about mixing sexuality with science), but from what I’ve seen, the show looks to be on Click to continue reading this post
Well, the seminar is still in progress, as you can see from the picture, but my work on rendering it is completed, more or less. (One never stops tinkering at these things, but I’m going to move on.) This is the more refined version of the rough I showed you a couple of posts ago here. This panel is part of the opening splash page for this particular story of the graphic book project and so what you’re actually seeing is one of three tiny inserts on top of a larger establishing-shot kind of splash/bleed page. So the truth is that it’ll be so small on the page that almost nobody is likely to Click to continue reading this post
Fail Lab is coming in five days.
Reportedly it’ll be “a new kind of science series”, so we shall see!
That’s all I know so far as regards the launch.
More when I know more.
By the way, it relates to this, and indeed that is Crystal Dilworth, the presenter, in the poster.
Er, the picture/poster is blatantly borrowed/stolen from writer/director Patrick Scott’s twitter feed.)
I recently spent a bit of time (quite a bit of time) carefully reconstructing details of a certain Institute in Europe from memory (I visited some years ago) and some photos in order to set the opening scenes of one of the stories for the book project. (What sort of details? Things like what the layout of the rooms are, the style of the building, the number of radiators along the walls, types of windows and black boards, chairs, and so forth. I’m a tiny bit detail-oriented at times, you may have noticed.) I’ve been laying out the opening splash page and the inset panels have a seminar in progress. This was fun to draw. I started out with this view partially roughly constructed with pencil and then since it was small and fiddly, decided to pop it onto the ipad (legacy model) and finish and refine aspects of the drawing digitally.
I remain in two minds about sketching digitally like this. One the one hand, it does Click to continue reading this post
Last year I mentioned the fantastic work of Julien Bobroff and his collaborators in developing an impressive science outreach program that does wonderful demos of the physics of the quantum world, using superconductors (and other things). He gave a talk about it at the Aspen Center for Physics and took part in some discussions about outreach at a nearby conference that David Pines had organized. Well, he’s written an article about the program and it appears in this month’s Physics Today and it seems that you can get it for free if you go here. I strongly recommend it since it might give you some ideas about how you might go about explaining some of the science you do to people (if you’re a scientist) or it might excite you to learn more about the science if you are not already familiar with it. Maybe even a show featuring science that might be coming near you one day, and/or go to a science fair.
THe great thing about the article is that it is passing on lessons learned – sharing both good and bad news. One of the the frustrations for me about the whole science outreach effort that is done by so many of us is that we’re largely reinventing the wheel every time we decide to do something, and moreover it isn’t actually always the wheel. We’re trying stuff and we’re not measuring its effectiveness, and we’re not sharing much about what works and what does not, so the outreach effort goes only so far, largely. It is one of the reasons you read me writing a lot about trying to do different things beyond just the usual – putting science where you don’t always expect it, since most of what is done is picked up by people who are already predisposed to pay attention to the science, which does not expand the reach of the outreach very much. Julien picks up on an aspect of this issue nicely. Quoting: Click to continue reading this post
I was quite stunned by this. For the first part, it is great (and charmingly bizarre) that there is a craze based around the abacus that has such a following (abacus or “soroban” championships), and for the second part… it is nothing short of remarkable when they get to the stage where they go “beyond the abacus”, and are just doing it in the head, but using abacus moves. And so fast!!! The radio program “Land of the Rising Sums” by Alex Bellos that I learned this from is here. There’s also a Guardian article here. It is all mostly about how numbers and arithmetic are taught in Japan. I think it is great that (from the people they interviewed) there’s a sheer love of calculation and of numbers and that there’s none of the lamentable “I’m not good at this I’m a languages/sports/art person” attitude that is so common in our society and which is responsible for poisoning children’s education so early on. I also love that the abacus is so fundamentally old-fashioned – Click to continue reading this post
This is the last day before the new semester starts here at USC. I’ve been wandering around the house a bit slowly. One reason is probably the excellent dinner party last night, which involved a lot of cooking for a lot of Saturday. That went well, and people seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. Good reason for a slow day the day after. The other reason is that it is simply nice to enjoy the calm before the storm of the new semester begins in earnest… So slow wandering around the house doing various simple tasks seems about right.
At some point I decided to start looking for my materials for tomorrow’s class. I teach graduate level electromagnetism again this semester (part two of a two part course) and so it is a good time to start looking into old folders and so forth, trying to see what I’ll re-use, what I’ll re-do, and so forth. It seems that last Fall was the first time I did a complete scan of all my hand-written notes into pdfs to allow me to deliver them from my iPad, and so that’s good news right there. I can annotate right on top of those and add new pages if I want to… but it is nice to start with a base of good material to hand right at the starting gate.
While I’ve been looking through materials I’ve also been making bread. I’ll need some for the week, what with sandwiches and all that, and it is a also a pleasantly slow and endlessly rewarding thing to do. I decided to make a more moist final dough than I have in recent times. I think that this will give both a nicer crust and crumb. That blob in the bowl in the picture above left is the result of a very successful first rise. Most of bread making is waiting, and so it is perfect for when you are doing slightly mundane but time-consuming tasks like looking at old files of course notes.
I rolled everything out into 12 rolls and a good slicing sandwich loaf and put them to rise again and went back to tinkering with files (analogue and digital). The picture to the right shows the result of that second rise. The oven is being preheated and they are nearly ready to go in. Already the smell is great, even though right now it is just a yeasty-doughy smell.
I’ve been wondering whether to jump ship and abandon Jackson as the main text for the class (shock! horror! – Jackson is a staple of so many graduate courses in physics) and go with something new. There have been two texts of note (that I know of) in the last couple of years that have risen to challenge Jackson’s supremacy, the one by Anupam Garg (“Classical Electromagnetism in a Nutshell”, Princeton), and the one by Andrew Zangwill (“Modern Electrodynamics”, Cambridge). My feeling is that both these books (I’ve looked at Garg more than Zangwill [update: see later remarks]) do a good job of making the subject seem alive and modern. Jackson has a great deal of useful material, presented in a firmly sensible way that is hard to argue with, and it will always remain a classic, but sometimes I think it suffers a bit from feeling somewhat old. I like that, for example, there’s a nice treatment of the beam of a laser in Garg as an Click to continue reading this post
For those who have a thirst for something physics-y to follow the tomato chutney post, here’s a decorated physics diagram I made in Matlab this morning. Click for a larger view. It’s the phase diagram of interesting black hole transitions* (that I co-discovered 14 years ago) associated with part of the story I mentioned last month. On the right of the line you have small black holes favoured (of a given charge, so move horizontally), and on the left side of the line the system favours large black holes and so when you cross the line you have a sudden jump from one type to the other. That second order critical point I talked about there is the end of the line of first order points. The blue dot. Above there, you cross over smoothly from small to large holes. The blue dot is the border between the two cases.
It is a bit like having steam (or water vapour) on the left and liquid water on the right, and crossing the line is what you call boiling. The second order point is the place Click to continue reading this post
… make chutney!
So the garden has been yielding a great deal in the tomato department, as you saw from earlier posts. There’s been quite the fig surplus too, but more on that later. Last night – late last night – I decided to work on another food item that allows me to use them up and save this glorious condensation of Summer for a later time. I decided to make a tomato chutney. Well, I’m making two. I wanted to take the yellower tomatoes to make one with a lighter colour and flavour, and I will (later tonight perhaps?) make another, darker one with red tomatoes (with a little pepper from the garden for warmth).
A chutney is simple. It’s a bit like a savoury jam but even easier. I halved the little yellow pear variety tomatoes, and chopped a yellow onion – about half as much in volume as I had tomato. (Some extra tomatoes showed up late – I found a few green Click to continue reading this post
Yeah! It feels great when I get the workhorse computer really chugging along. 85% is unusual to see on a normal run, since this beast (a 2010 3.32 Ghz Mac pro quad core) has a lot of computational capacity that you don’t need for most tasks. I’m getting up to 85% because all four cores are crunching away independently on the same problem (written in MatLab) but different parts of it. Each point on the resulting graph will be the result of having computed 2000 points. Each of those 2000 points comes from computing a boundary value problem discretized into a million points. See an earlier post for more about that.
(Update: Now running even more tasks associated with this problem: Up to 96% now:
…with nothing idle at all. This is probably not as efficient any more, but it is for a few hours and then back to 85%. In the meantime, it is amusing how it makes me feel I’m doing more work somehow…)
I assigned different parts of the graph to different processes by hand, not using a Click to continue reading this post
What happened here? Who is that, and what exactly made her so annoyed? Read on!
There are a number of new things coming out on screens near you (or may have already aired) that might interest you. For fans of the History Channel’s The Universe (thanks so much for all the emails with kind remarks, and so forth, by the way) there’s a new show in the works that’ll mix science and history (and other disciplines) in an interesting way. I’ve no idea when it is set to air though, and frankly I’m very confused as to what is on History and what is on H2, the companion channel, so I’ll just say watch out for that. We shot a lot of material for that earlier this year, and I hope you enjoy the show overall, despite my mumbling mug appearing on your screen a bit!
Apparently the many of the Weather Channel’s science-y segments were shown, in a series called “Deadly Space Weather”, which imagines what would happen on earth if you brought various prevailing conditions on other planets back here. Yeah, I know… but actually it’s a good opportunity to think about science ideas, at least in principle. You’ll recall that I did some demos for that which were rather fun – and hopefully interesting too. I saw a piece of one of them online (10:44 or so), and got rather annoyed at one point. There’s a segment where I demonstrate – with real sulphuric acid – the effect it has on organic compounds, using sugar. It is quite spectacular. And of course quite dangerous, so I’m actually wearing a lab coat (yes, there are occasions where real Click to continue reading this post
Wow! This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been hoping to see more of! When the report on this started on NPR about having students do music and video about science topics, I groaned a bit (while making breakfast) when I heard the Watson and Crick mentions in the clip in the background, saying to myself that it is so unfair that once again, Rosalind Franklin is being forgotten and a whole bunch of kids will miss the opportunity to learn about the nuances involved in doing science, and miss that she did such crucial work on this most important discovery…. I continued making my coffee, listening to the report with half an ear…. and then! …more of the clip was played and a girl’s voice came on, singing a bit about Rosalind Franklin, and then I realized that this was exactly the story they were telling in the video*. The whole NPR report, by Adam Cole, is here, with a short video doc. It is about not just the Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. doing songs and videos about various science topics, but also about other programs as well, started by people such as Christopher Emdin at Columbia, and others. Excellent.
I’ve embedded the Franklin/Watson/Crick video below. It was made by students in the Bay area, guided by Tom McFadden at Stanford. I think this is great piece of work since they did a great job on production, particularly with casting and costuming everyone to play the principals, cutting in reaction shots and so forth… It’s a real film! And for a change, for a popular rap about science that a wide variety of young people might be attracted to, this time the music is actual contemporary rap (which usually means well thought out lyrics combined with rhythmic devices that are definitely post 1980s, and not just a bunch of lines recited over a corny background beat – see another excellent example at the end of this post) which is great! An amusing and poignant extract:
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Well, not a lot to say except that this is the painted version of the panel you saw a few days back, part of a page of the graphic book starring science that I’m working on (follow the link for more). Was a long Click to continue reading this post
Another fun combination of science and sketching! Photographer Volker Steger decided get his subjects – a selection of Nobel Prize winners – to try to represent their work (what they got the prize for) with a drawing. You can see a discussion of the results (and find links to the prizewinners talking about their work) here*
So over a quick lunch of sardines, tomatoes from the garden, and homemade bread*, I decided to glance and the bbc news website. It had a thing in the corner listing the top five stories, and one of them was How to build your own TARDIS.
Well, naturally I looked, because I was not aware that the required technology was available to do this yet. (I was sure we’d still have to wait until last year, or at least to 1985…. But anyhoo….) Turns out it is in the Technology section, so even more interesting, right?
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I’m switching tasks again. For a few days I was back on the Project (graphic book starring physics, you may recall) and managed to squeeze out some results. An inked panel from a page I was working on yesterday is above. (It is a continuation of some Click to continue reading this post
Ok, maybe things are getting a bit out of hand here? Or, time to start selling in the market!
Lots of sauce to make, for storing for the bleak MidWinter, methinks…
Wow. I’ve just returned from a most marvellous evening, and feel compelled to recommend what I saw to those in the area who can get to see it. You’ve possibly heard/read me talk about Nancy Keystone’s wonderful work in collaboration with her Critical Mass Performance Group before (e.g. see here and here). I probably used a lot of superlatives while doing so. Well here I go again. Nancy and the CMPG are doing a remarkably lively, clever, poignant (and downright funny in all the right places) production of their treatment of the Euripedes play Alcestis at the Boston Court Theater in Pasadena. I strongly recommend it for a thought-provoking and very moving evening out. It is a meditation on life and death that is powerfully done, and it is one of the best evenings of theatre I’ve had for a while. It’s one of the classic Greek plays we’re talking about here, but it is not a bunch of people standing around in togas (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) fretting. It is contemporary, on the face of it, timeless in another sense. (Photo is from the Boston Court Theater site.)
It is always impossible to describe Nancy’s work, because it is such a powerfully Click to continue reading this post
While on a long weekend break up North not long ago, during a heat wave, I had a bit of time to hand one morning to do a sketch of the scene outside the bedroom window…
There was a lovely shady garden, with lots of green growing things in the fore and middle Click to continue reading this post
TwentyWonder is tonight! Come along if you’re in the area. Some quotes from the site:
A mindblowing cultural mashup. One night only. Only in LA.
Art. Science. Music. Comedy. Food ‘n Drink. Weird Geeky Stuff. …and Roller Derby!
Feel the Love. All proceeds go to the Downs Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.
See you there?
One of the things that came up in conversation in my meeting at the APS on Tuesday was Science Slams. These are a lot of fun, and are growing in popularity and frequency. Maybe you might want to take part in one, or organize one. There’s a lot of great theater to be had, and its fun for wider audience, just as poetry slams when done well can be fun for an audience that might not have chosen to study or listen to poetry. (See earlier posts on the local Dead Poets’ Slam, for example.)
My friend Herbi Dreiner, at the University of Bonn in Germany, (he’s in the photo at the right, used with permission) is one of the most active and experienced people I know of in the area of successfully combining physics, theatre, and (if you like) performance art. If you don’t know about his physics show, that has even gone on tour internationally, have a look at an article he wrote about it (with links to video and photos) for the journal The Physics Teacher here (arxiv version here).
Herbi’s been getting involved in physics slams too, and he wrote a very nice piece about his own participation in the Guardian. Have a look here. He went into some nice detail about how (with the help of the audience) he illustrated the issues Click to continue reading this post
You know those cross-country trips that nip from one coast to another for a day and then back? There are people who do that regularly for a living. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I left LA on Monday to go to a meeting in DC, and returned on Tuesday night, and while nothing unpleasant happened en route (and the meeting at the DC office of the American Physical Society was good), it is really not something I’d make a habit of. I like to add a bit of time to see the place I’m visiting, and get a bit of a feel of the pulse before flying back. But there wasn’t time. I was in DC for a day and a half last November to visit another organization, and I did manage to get two hours to wander the mall and have a sandwich in the cafe of the Smithsonian, but I’d have liked a bit more time back then too. Anyway…
I did, however, get some face time. On take off on the flight back I flipped through Hemispheres (United’s in flight magazine) to see if there were any more large faces to sketch. (You’ll recall several earlier posts about my liking to do this for practice Click to continue reading this post
So, last July, we had a huge landmark with the discovery of a new particle key to how our universe works – we now know it is a Higgs particle, something we’ve been waiting for a very long time. See many earlier posts about that.
This July, just this weekend, we had another huge landmark – a British tennis player won Wimbledon!! (Ok, I’m only partly serious about listing this alongside the Higgs result…) I am actually doubly excited about this, because in addition to Andy Murray actually winning, my old favourite player Ivan Lendl was coaching him. Lendl, a fantastic player, was a symbol of determination and hard work during his playing career, but never won Wimbledon, so Click to continue reading this post
Happy 4th of July, those of you who are celebrating it. I should have brought you Red, White, and Blue, but those are not the colours prevailing in the garden right now. Also, I don’t know of any blue tomato varieties. There’s a bit of a bonanza of tomatoes right now, I am pleased to report. All that time spent composting is paying off again, perhaps. A small part of the harvest is in the photograph above, showing six of the varieties in the garden this year. (Click for a larger view.) I don’t recall all Click to continue reading this post
You may recall that last month I hosted the First Fridays portion of the Natural History Museum’s day of celebration, where I introduced and steered the questions for JPL’s Adam Steltzner (lead engineer of the the “7 Minutes of Terror” Mars Curiosity landing). A fun event indeed. Well, this month I’ll be at another First Friday event, but for the other wonderful classic science space in the city, the Griffith Observatory.
They have a First Fridays series too – not to clash intentionally, I’ve recently learned upon inquiring – and it is a goal of mine to connect the relevant parties and find ways of having these events and spaces intersect with each other fruitfully, maybe. Perhaps participating in both of them is a good way to start. The “All Space Considered” event is a series where there’s a panel of scientists Click to continue reading this post
In honour of the heat wave, some sunflowers from the garden:
Yes, I found a bit of time to work on a page of the book. Here’s the development of a panel (click for larger view):
Indeed, the original rough sketch (done back during my Spring break retreat) shows that the panel was conceived a little differently. But then I decided to have a page with more fully rendered backgrounds, and so shifted the view in most of the panels Click to continue reading this post
Today’s CicLAVia was, in my opinion, almost perfect. It was always my dream for it (long before it actually got off the ground) to be an event that closed all of Wilshire from Downtown to the beach, to allow the city to celebrate car-free-ness on a regular basis. For me, having Wilshire be the route would make it a core location that meant the city was serious about the event, would mean a lot of participation linking East and West, and perhaps most importantly, would give a lot of room, since Wilshire is a really wide street. Perhaps that it is a long way off to have the whole of Wilshire be used, but they came close to the dream by having a Wilshire one today. The route ran from where Wilshire starts (at Grand) all the way out to LACMA at museum square at Wilshire and Fairfax. I rode it with a friend in the middle of the day and it was a lot of fun. See below for some of the things we did. Also, watch the timelapse video I made (embedded later) which has some fun stills embedded in it as well.
You might recall some of the things that I felt the need to mention concerned me after the last CicLAVia. In that post I was most concerned about the narrowness of the route (they only used half of Venice for much of the way) and the fact that the resulting compressed group of people got even more compressed with the numerous traffic stops that there were. It was unpleasant and possibly dangerous. Well, there was not a hint of that here. They had both sides of Wilshire open, and relatively few traffic stops. This meant a lovely free flow of traffic for people of all speeds, ages, and mode of transport. The other main concern I had was that the event did not leave enough time for people to explore the route, leaving a number of people stranded, which is not good for a lot of people who are infrequent riders – they’ve got to get home cycling in traffic that they might not be ready to do yet. Well, today they extended the time by two hours, making it run from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Brilliant. I suspect that helped also with the potential congestion since people participating get spread out over a longer time.
Overall, I must congratulate the organizers for a nearly perfect event. Now if only we can have Wilshire open all the way to the beach for a CicLAVia, I’d be in heaven.
(Actually, just a few weeks ago I did my own all-Wilshire CicLAVia when I was heading to a couple of events at Westwood and Santa Monica. I started out planning to take my bike on the 720 bus but ended up giving up on the whole thing – there was a dreadful 45 minute hole in the schedule that made me horribly late for the first event and too many pushy people fighting to get on when the bus did show up – so I just cycled the whole way. It was a lot of fun, and helped me let off steam…but I’d love to participate in a whole group of LA residents doing it one day…)
So it was great. Having started Downtown and enjoyed the ride West, my companion and I Click to continue reading this post
So I am late in noting that there is another (much sooner) CicLaVia today! And it is the one I always thought should happen, right from the beginning – it runs right through the center of the city, down Wilshire Boulevard. (Well, my hope is that one day it can run all the way to the beach down Wilshire, but maybe that’s in the future). I note that the times have been improved, by the way. It is from 9:00am to 4:00pm, which is great. So it seems that this is one of the major things they did to improve the event. (See my post from April about various issues that came up.) Fantastic! See the website for information Click to continue reading this post
Some cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden. And this is really just the beginning.
Hope you had a Happy Summer Solstice!
Yesterday I submitted a new paper to the arxiv. This is is my favourite curve from it. Some of you who follow the blog will recognize the blue circle-dots and guess that this is the output of the dot-generation I’ve been tinkering away at (and reporting on somewhat cryptically) since April (see e.g. here, here, and here). Correct. There are many reasons why that is the case. One of them might well be because it looks like a very comfy chair, and by time I’d submitted the paper, I was rather tired. I’d pulled an all-nighter to finish the paper because I wanted to submit it by noon yesterday, and the night before I had to spend several hours at a social event.
So once it was an appropriate time to leave the place I was at, I said my goodbyes, jumped on my bike, pedalled home, put on some coffee, some Ana Tijoux (through headphones, so as not to wake anyone. Why her? Kinetic energy was what I needed at that moment – her vocal style is full of that. Try “La Bala” or “1977″. It is in Spanish, but that’s just fine.), and from 10:30pm to about 12 hours later, ground out the paper. I had to do this since I took some time away from the research project for a week, and then on Tuesday evening noticed the title and abstract of a new paper on the arxiv that suggested some overlap with what I was doing. So I had no choice but to gather all the results I’d been gathering the last several weeks and write them up and get them out, putting off reading the other paper until afterwards, so as to remain independent. Hence the all-nighter to finish it all. It was a pretty easy paper to write since I’ve had the results for a while, knew what I wanted to say, and it was just a matter of pulling everything together and writing a lot of background to set the scene for the results. A fair amount of the time was spent fiddling with things like how to generate figures from Matlab that embed nicely into the text, and so forth. Technical tedium.
The physics? Another reason I like the above curve is because it examines physics from an old favourite phase transition I co-discovered almost 14 – gosh yes, cvj, fourteen! – years ago. To my knowledge it is perhaps the earliest example of a Click to continue reading this post
I just learned* that Ken Wilson died a few days ago (June 15th). Wilson is another of the giants that you don’t hear much about in the popular media coverage of the great ideas in Physics that form the bedrock of so much of what we do. You still get people saying utter nonsense about “hiding infinities” in physics and so forth (often in discussions on blogs and various similar forums (fora?)) because what he taught us all about effective field theory and the renormalization group still is only taught in some advanced classes on quantum field theory (and still not as well or frequently as it should be in such classes … it has only relatively recently begun to be put at the forefront in textbooks on the subject, such as Tony Zee’s). In the cut and thrust of the mainstream of research though, I’m happy to see that so much of Wilson’s legacy is in the most basic fabric of the language we use to discuss results and ideas in particle physics, condensed matter physics, quantum gravity, string theory, and so forth.
I had the distinct privilege of having Joe Polchinski as a mentor for some of my postdoc years, who is known as being one of the current giants on the scene who Click to continue reading this post
I spotted* this lovely post from a year ago about colour, culture, and language that I thought I’d share. What does the map of colour and colour names look like as you move from culture to culture. And are there universal aspects to it, or is it pretty random?
I find this a fascinating topic, and so was delighted to see this post, which addresses a lot of the questions. (You’ll find links there to an episode of Radiolab that was on a similar topic. I recommend that too.) Coincidentally, two pages before the part of my notebook where I’m doing a computation right now is Click to continue reading this post