Archive for June, 2015

better days

June 4, 2015


It is sunny this morning. The June Gloom broke! Finally!

I thought I would update this space today. Because, among other things, today, the LHC had its first collisions at 13TeV. A new era of high energy particle physics starts today. Or not. I don’t think we really know.

I met one of my former students on the bus up the hill to the lab– he has a summer position with a research group. I’m so excited for him. 

It’s been a long time since I posted anything.  Nearly a year. If you hadn’t noticed from the last sporadic posts on this blog, these years there have been times when I’ve been powerfully unhappy. Graduate school is long and confusing.

In the hallway of the building I catch a snippet of a conversation in French. 

Spending 2012 at CERN was such a huge year– it felt like everything that ever happened to me worth telling happened then– and it sometimes feels like hardly any time has passed since. Although it must have. Now I like quantum mechanics a lot more than I did then, and on top of that I have spent two years teaching the very class that as an undergrad made me think experimental physics could actually be a bit of fun. I also, incidentally, now know that the ol’ “your op-amp could be busted” line is somewhat of a cop-out answer from a GSI.

A guy introduces himself to me, he works down the hall. I shake his hand. It’s wet. 

For a twist of fate: I also now know why Statistisk Termodynamik was so much easier for that PhD student at Lund than it was for me at the time. Turns out, having five more years of physics under your belt and taking subjects more than once really helps out quite a bit. Last year I got my first 100% test exam score in physics on a elementary-level statistical mechanics exam I was forced to take. Take that undergrads!

My code to the lab door is wonderfully geometric. 

But there’s still the unhappy times. I’ve spent the last two years wandering around several research groups, not asking for what I really wanted because part of me always believes I am too stupid to really participate in this whole physics game. I am often afraid. Apparently this feeling is a thing. A not uncommon thing.

Wow, I still can’t believe I saw an entire class of my own students graduate.

I took a near-year-long expedition towards a subject for which I have so much respect (not sarcastic) because it is really, just so hard.

In the end, the end being now (in case you haven’t sensed that this is the end), I find myself somewhere where I never thought I’d end up: Condensed Matter. Like atoms in lattices and stuff. But it’s alright so far. It’s all about symmetry. I like the lasers. There’s a lot of Potential Applications, which is great but it’s not quite as thrilling as the prospect of staring straight at the bare guts of reality. But Physics is different now, and I’m not sure I’d ever make anything out of the guts anyway. The experiments are easy (relatively) but the physics is hard and often approximate.

I bike down the hill to pick up a tube of vacuum grease from the delivery office on campus, planning to meet the bus at the stop on Euclid to skip the steep ride up. As I roll up to the stop, I see the bus has already left, but is stopped at the stoplight. I glance up the hill were the next stop is, the crossing signal reads ten seconds. SPRINT!  

On my ride home from work today, the fog was back and was relentless. The Bay Area: Where it is cloudy every day but it doesn’t even deign to rain. In my mind, yes, I still do escape to SwitzaFrance, to the warm green summer punctuated by raucous, fantastic downpour and pbar shifts.

There’s nothing like beating the bus. Or the tram. 

So Daily Saga readers, of which there are probably none remaining, I think this is it for now. For this space. When everything becomes too familiar, it’s harder to find things to say. Perhaps that was the original challenge for the blog, though I’ve not done a very good job with it as of late. Perhaps I’ll do it again, somewhere else, sometime soon.

It’s been wonderful to have a place to mercilessly dramatize the mundane and otherwise, exercise vanity, babble in Swedish, and mope a bit. It’s been a long journey here. Thanks for reading.

bye, hej då, au revoir, ciao

Mässa kram! Bisous!