Wednesday, November 20, 2013

E tu, Macro?

Dear Diary,

Oh, Lucas!  You left me with an unfinished paper (thank you, sort of).   Normally, I would be thrilled to help you get another publication, but you have so many macros in your Latex documents to make things so much simpler to type up.  I'm from the school of type everything out long hand!

So, I made a new figure and then tried to implement it into the tex file.  You know

\caption{Figures.  It's a figure. \label{fig:itsa}}

but then it didn't compile!  I tried and tried (I even removed the above to see if it worked and it did!) until I removed a different figure and somehow it compiled!  It turns out that one of the macros later on was busted and this mysteriously revealed itself when I added a new figure.

So, there!  Don't use macros!  They only make your life easier!  I should go tell Justin to stop using macros to make changing symbols easier if he wants a switch and just go do everything by hand every time he makes a switch!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don't pull the eject button!

Dear Diary,

I had to run my first meeting in place of Kieron.  Really, I found it was easy.  I let everyone else do most of the talking.  The group wisdom is usually best here and kept the pressure off me.

We were going over abstracts for the American Physical Society meeting in March.  I put up mine first because I'm the newest, and it went over well!  It only took 45 minutes to iron out the kinks and make sure we broke everything down didactically!  I think everyone else's benefitted from it because it didn't take as long!  I actually think we're going to have a golden set of abstracts for the APS.

Guo is sitting in with us for a few weeks since he's new to the program and pointed out that I didn't add any firm conclusions. I could add a few points to the content; however, I don't have any yet...I'll have to work hard so I'll have something to say in Colorado!  I showed it to Kieron beforehand, and he could only say good things about how broad the abstract is.  Huzzah!

When I finally submitted, I had to cut it even further because the new affiliations for Miles and Lucas (especially Lucas') put me over the limit.  APS gives you a little line that you can't go under, so beware.  I can write as much as I want with you, though, diary!

Oh, Lucas!  I finally fit your dervatives!  Yay!  I'll add them to the paper in an appropriate place.  Don't pull the eject button too soon and submit, Lucas!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Obey your Master(.bib)

Dear Diary,

Wow!  I never knew I could be that productive!  I just successfully eradicated all traces of malfeasance in the group's Master.bib file by spending two hours straight parsing errors!

Master.bib is the Bibtex file that the group uses to enact it's evil plot to collect every reference that's ever been referenced! (Current unique references: 2344)   Maybe I already explained this to you, diary, I can't remember because my head hurts...

Anyway, it appears that much more head hurting occurred in previous generations of Burke students.  The file wouldn't compile for a myriad of reasons:

1)  "%" signs must be listed as "\%" for Latex to work
2)  Oh, Lucas!  You can't press return in the middle of an abstract! Latex thinks it's a new line!
3)  Curly parentheses are critical
4)  The numbers 1998 and 24 are completely different.  Even scarier: Latex knows the difference between a year and a TV show.  I have to make sure I keep that straight and not lose track of the date!  Oh no! It's daylight savings time apparently!

Anyway, it's done.  Enjoy, everyone.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Conference Blog (Day 2: Bad Astronomy and Day 3)

Dear Diary,

I'm heading back south now after leaving hte conference.  It went really well!

Last night, I saw a talk by the Bad Astronomer who runs a blog called Bad Astronomy.  He was really funny and entertaining.  Apparently, the only reason the earth was saved in Armageddon was because Michael Bay was directing!  Afterward, I got a picture with him.

He talked about how asteroids can get really close to earth sometimes and that can be dangerous.  However, if we could spot them years in advance and park a satellite near them, then the gravity from the satellite would change it's course enough to cause a miss.  Hooray!  Apparently, if you make it pass by earth in the right way, the resulting perturbed orbit will cause the asteroid to come back and hit us a few years later.  Yikes!

I think this means we should make a movie where NASA is defunded by the bad guys and Bruce Willis has to go into space, change the course of an asteroid heading towards earth, and then go back to earth and restore NASA's funding.  Yippie Kay-yay!

We then went to bed.  While heading back to the hotel, I noticed that Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, had some influence on the campus because there's a lot of allusions to Charlie Brown and company around.  The residence halls are also named after famous wines: Zinfandel, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Tuscany, etc., but residence are not allowed wine!  Well, you know what they say about people who live in glass bottle houses...

The next day, we finished up the talks with some really riveting physics.  The last talk was by a student at Santa Clara University who looked at organic solar cells doped with glycerine to see if one could make a longer lasting cell.  My interest was piqued and I asked about some anomalous features of their data (the efficiency went up for 10 minutes and then we down for until 600 minutes due to oxidation).

Unfortunately, I missed Kevin's talk.  One should always be there for group mates.  I got the rooms confused, stupidly...Kieron will probably chide me about this...I'll have to do better next time.

Afterward, Kevin and I went home but dropped a UCSC student off at a BART station.  He was really interesting to talk to...we covered quite a bit of ground and even discussed this morning's Higgs boson lecture!  Some students from CSULA went off to see the countryside and what all this wine growing is about.  I think it's a good practice to see the surrounding area if you go to a conference in a new area.  You wouldn't get reimbursed for those expenses, but I think it's worth it to see a new geography. But both Kevin and I have pressing issues to attend.  Otherwise, maybe we'd have gone wine tasting!

Well, what a conference.  Next year, I'll have to go again when it's held in Reno, NV!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Conference blog (afternoon Day 2)

Dear Diary,

Then we broke out into parallel sessions where each speaker gets 10 minutes of time and two minutes of questions.  I sat through some astronomy presentations given by a student from my undergraduate institution.  He did well.  I also saw some rock solid physics from other places including where I did my Master's.  I don't like transitioning between rooms too frequently because I don't like disrupting the talks, but I left once the jargon got thick.  So, I camped out the material's physics room.

It's my turn to speak!  In retrospect, I probably put too much into the slides and this made me go too fast, but I was on time and expressed the points that I wanted to make.  Unfortunately, I got no questions.  There is a prize for best speaking at this conference, but I'm content to just present good work and see what other people are doing.

I even saw some DFT talks!  I'll have to translate my notes to report back to the group later.  After the parallel sessions, I headed to dinner and got to talk with a lot of professors from CSU Long Beach and CSU Fresno.  A professor from Cal Poly even said hello!

Conference Blog (morning of Day 2)

Dear Diary,

This morning's plenary speaker from UC Davis gave an incredible talk about how frustration is minimized in protein folding.  If you didn't have such a principle, then you'd have to solve something like 10^600 scenarios.  Unfortunately, there are some diseases (like prion's disease) where you get thermodynamically unlucky and build harmful beta tissue in your brain.  I overheard after that someone actually knew of one of these cases but the doctors had a hard time explaining why this was occurring; it was nice to see that physics put their mind at ease.

I bothered the speaker afterward by saying hi for Justin  (he was a student of his).  A friend of mine interested in biophysics also cornered the speaker to ask about the program. I took notes on the speaker's presentations so I can share it with the group when I get back.

The next talk was an overview of novel effects in type II superconductors and topological states by a professor from Stanford.  Apparently, a graduate student in the lab tried to propose to his girlfriend by writing an "S" by dragging the superconducting vortices around with an atomic force microscope's tip covered in a magnetic material.  Before he did so, he went to a conference and got some harsh comments because it looked too much like the number "5", and to make things worse, his proposal was not successful! But he salvaged the situation by changing it to "SU" in dedication to the university.  Apparently research can affect your personal life!

The speaker was looking to see if you can find fractional vortices and concluded that you can't (i.e. whether the flux quantization's charge is 2e or not e--that is the question).  I asked her if she'd looked at these effects near the critical temperature where pairing was weaker--she did on the under-doped side of the dome.  Then I went to lunch with her and another physicist and we talked all about superconductors and how a high Hirsch-index can be found with them!  Yay!