Monday, March 31, 2014

March Meeting: Friday

Dear Diary,

I'm exhausted.  I'm going to continue doing something scientific, but not a science meeting.

I'm headed to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  It is great!  And it's even better if you're a little kid (~12)!  They even had an exhibit that was (sort of...not really) closely related to what we do:  crystals from caves!

They have a lot of cool space stuff including a sand box that you shoot ball bearings at to simulate asteroid collisions.  They're photographed with high speed cameras!

Lots of cool bones are around the museum too including one of a prehistoric whale hanging from the ceiling.

It turns out that I had just enough money to get there, but I was twenty cents short on a bus right home.  So, I walked the four miles back to the hotel.  My shoes were soaked in a beautiful, wet snow storm. I guess I was right about the twenty dollar loss, but I still feel like I did the right thing.

I read on the internet that cramming the ends of a towel into your shoes and wrapping the rest around the outside dries them out in 1.5 hours.  Turns out it was right!

I have the plane flight tomorrow morning and I think I'll take a nap, read a little, and call it a conference well done.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Meeting: Thursday Evening

Dear Diary,

Later that day...

...some more DFT, etc.  I wound up talking with Rudy about some similar things he had to do for Kieron and had some good suggestions.  I only spoke to Adam Wasserman briefly.  And then I sat in a session where I heard about a workshop on quantum Monte Carlo codes.  I'll have to swing that by Kieron.

I saw Meghan speak, she did a good job.  She got some questions at the end.  I also went to Preston's poster and had a really cool conversation about SQUID noise!

I cornered Miles after his talk to get on the same page with the stuff we're working on.  I also ran into Claire who, a few months ago at the regional APS meeting, heard my sales pitch for Irvine.  It turns out that she got into MIT, Urbana-Champaign, and UC Santa Barbara, so she's deciding between those.

Some people make it look easy!

We also ran into a poor guy on the street who needed some gas money.  I gave him twenty dollars since he was a veteran, and I felt like he deserved it.  The only problem is that when I usually take money out of my wallet, I need it later...

But I think I did the right thing.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Meeting: Thursday

Dear Diary,

For five years, I have worked on the proximity effects without talking to an expert.  My former advisor is a smart dude, but going up against someone who is heavily invested in the field without any backup is petrifying.

I held my own, and had a really productive chat with them.  I'm very proud of myself, my former advisor, and I hope that I can become as confident with DFT under Kieron.

Afterward, I walked back toward the convention center.  Aurora, Raphael, Justin, Attila, and Peter were there keeping an eye on me the whole time.

Thank you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Meeting: Wednesday

Dear Diary,

Today, Aurora chairs a session.  That was real cool!  She did a good job of remaining confident, keeping on time, and being awesome.  Nice!

I went to see a professor from my Master's institution, CSU Long Beach.  Professor Peterson is doing well; he has some new students.  We discussed a few things.

Kieron has a rule where you must talk to three professors.  I'm not sure if this one counts, but I sent an email to Caroline's advisor last night asking to talk.  We're set for Thursday.

The talks this time were hard to get my head around only because I don't know enough.  Adam Wasserman spoke about partitioning.  He also had a student, Martin, who will be recognized here for "Kohnshamizing" everything.  I vow, from this day forward, to always Kohnshamize wherever possible.  I also enjoyed Neepa's students who did some interesting, accessible work.

Peter also presented, but my lack of knowledge in TDDFT is disturbing.  I'll have to take a peak at it after I get my current work done.  It seems useful.

Afterward, we spoke with Peter and Attila.  They were really cool to get to know! They had a lot of nostalgic stories about working with Kieron!  They really miss working here!  I can't wait until I'm as cool as they are!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March Meeting: Tuesday

Dear Diary,

Tuesday rolls around and we take the slow way in by walking again.  I used to have a reliable walk into work and this reminds me of it.  Maybe I should start walking more...

The sessions for DFT started a bit late, but that gave me time enough to find a professor I ran into at the proximity effect session yesterday.  We went to get lunch and had a really good chat about some ideas.  I think my former advisor is well suited to calculate what needs to be done, so I'll forward my ideas that way.

Right now, I need to get back and speak with people about DFT and learn as much as possible.

In watching the talks, I noticed that my ABC of DFT is really coming in handy.  Really all these functionals make educated guesses about what modifications need to be made on existing exchange-correlation functionals.  I'm glad I'm finally getting it!

I ran into a few more alumni:  Neepa, Peter, Attila, Adam, Rudy, and a few of their students.  Normally, I just interact with them through looking at their alumni profiles, so this is a real treat!

The amount of Burke alumni make it seem like the Chronicles of Narnia where all the previous heroes from previous adventures come back to fight evil!

But there's not a terrible amount of evil (that I've seen at this conference yet).  I look forward to meeting everyone.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Meeting: Back to the DFT

Dear Diary,

I returned to the DFT to meet some people.  By now, I'm exhausted.  My legs ache from so much standing.

Maybe I'm not getting up and moving around enough at work...

Lots of the alumni complemented me on my talk.  Hopefully Kieron agrees.  Some in the group suggest that I misheard the questions.  That's entirely possible, I was under pressure.

I'll try and learn from this for next time.

There was a Jazz band playing an a welcoming reception.  They were good and I got to meet a lot of people.  Sometimes it only takes going to a whole new city to meet someone who's just down the hall.  Julia, a graduate student almost across from me, brought a friend.  We all had a good time.

Went to dinner with Meghan and some other people and then back to the hotel...and that was just Monday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March Meeting: Session switch

Dear Diary,

I went back to have lunch with Caroline and Chien-te.  We had a really good time and discussed a lot of physics.  I think I made some friends.

Monday, March 24, 2014

More Bad News

Dear Diary,

Over the recent years, the top journal in physics, Physical Review Letters (PRL), received more and more submissions.  Everyone, including those who ran the journal, started to wonder if there were too many people submitting and getting accepted.  If this was the best journal, then how could it be that so many papers were getting in?

PRL started when there were a lot of high energy particle experiments going on.  The fast paced nature of the work caused a flood of submissions to the predominant Physical Review journal, but by the time the papers were published, they were old news.  So, PRL was born to speed up the process for short papers, with a high impact, and quickly became a highly cited journal because of the fast paced nature of the particle experiment field in those days.

Aspiring physicists, like myself, read a lot of PRLs. People know that they'll get a lot of attention if they get into them.  To maintain the prestige of the journal, the editors have decided to reject near 40% of the initial submissions without review.  An article that I submitted was one of them (the second this year).  PRL is now looking for articles that are impactful, innovative, and interesting.

It was ruled that mine was none of those.  I had a few people read this one before sending it in and they said the writing was good.  I guess we'll submit somewhere else...

March Meeting: My questions

Dear Diary,

I was asked a question about the applicability of what I presented for all sorts of ways to mix the wavefunction.  Thing is, Lucas proved that the Kohn-Sham algorithm can definitely converge.  That proof used a simplified mixing scheme that not everyone uses.  So, the first question was curious.

Apparently, I didn't answer well enough because the second question asked about the same thing.  Maybe I wasn't loud enough.  I was thinking in my head that if you altered the density somehow, you would always find an optimal amount of change of the density from your guess.

But maybe I'm mistaken.  I'll hopefully get to hear what the other group members thought.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Meeting: My talk

Dear Diary,

Well, this is going well.  I'm speaking the words quite nicely.  Oops!  I just flubbed over a word and had to restart the sentence.  I think I put the microphone in the right place.  Hopefully people can hear me in the back.

Stay excited!  Smile in between!  Don't shift around too much!!  Keep on going, yes, that's it...

The clock tells me I have a minute or so left.  Should I slow down?  Oh well, I'm on my conclusion slide now.  And I finished only 16 seconds over!  Thank the audience.  Wait for the applause.  Smiles.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Meeting: Raphael Presents

Dear Diary,

Raphael gave a really good talk.  He got swallowed up by several interested listeners right after.  I have to go and speak now.  I'm getting nervous.

Hopefully this goes better than in group meeting...

Friday, March 21, 2014

March Meeting: Meghan's Research

Dear Diary,

Raphael is next.  While he was having some technical difficulties, I asked Meghan about her research.

She looks at Uranium compounds that have a single electron in the 5f orbital.  They are strongly correlated and apply to many systems.  Such a sloshing back and forth of the initial trial wave function is a common problem.  Maybe what we're presenting will help her!

Kieron indicates that I should go up to the front.  Was Raphael in trouble?  I took all the tech goodies I brought with me (laser pointer, Thunderport dongle, computer), but the session chair and Raphael just looked at me, confusingly.  The screen finally showed Raphael's presentation and my work was finished. I took everything back to my seat.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Meeting: Kieron Presents...

Dear Diary,

I got back just in time to see Kieron start presenting.  He was also an invited speaker.  I found a seat next to Meghan right in front of the Perdew!

Kieron presented on Lucas' work.  At one point, Meghan exclaimed, about our convergence stuff, "we run into those problems all the time!" 

So, see Kieron, the stuff we do does come in handy for some people (sometime).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March Meeting: A change of session

Dear Diary,

You may know me as the mild-mannered Irvine student, but I have a previous life and fight crime by night.  I only keep my other physics life separate to protect those I care about.

Kieron advocates that you go to other sessions if you find them interesting (but don't neglect your own!).  So, I skipped over to the proximity effects session.

There, I ran into one student I met in Colombia during a conference there, Chien-te.  We asked everyone what their favorite curse in a foreign language was.  The winner was from the original Hungarian:  I lay an egg on your head!

So, I asked some questions, and found the first author of a paper that came out whose name was Caroline.  I asked her and Chien-te to get some food afterward with me, but I have to go back and see Kieron, Raphael, and my talk!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Meeting: John Perdew

Dear Diary,

Professor Perdew gave a talk about the paper that Kieron had us read in group meeting.  I vaguely understood what was going on.  It helped to have the details beforehand so I could follow!

They say it's your birthday-it's my birthday too, yeah!

Dear Diary,

It's my birthday today, and I wanted to reflect with you about this 27th year.  You know, the title line of this post is from The Beatles' song Birthday and is the ultimate "someone hits on someone else, finds out it's their birthday, and claims they have the same birthday ever so slyly"-line.  It apparently worked for The Beatles, but for the rest of us it probably only works one day a year.  Now to find someone else who is also having their birthday...

My sources say that the 27th birthday is a unique time in one's life because Saturn has just revolved around the sun once*.  Because of this, it is a time of great reflection in one's life where you can finalize the lessons from your relatively chaotic youth and figure out how you want to wield those experiences.  Lots of famous people have had to tackle this milestone including Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain.  It looks like I'm in talented company!

Here's to one more year!

[Editor's note: *-technically, Saturn goes around the sun every 29 years...but the wisdom and life lessons still apply.]

Monday, March 17, 2014

Yo-ho-ho, a scientist's life for me

Dear Diary,

I submitted the second (of 2) papers to PRL today.  Further, the final, last gasp review for the other one is in!  Soon we'll see if it's rejected (most likely--and, if so, we have to submit for another grueling review process at another journal...).

I got some very nice comments from Kieron and the host of my previous advisor's sabbatical on the writing of this current one.  In truth, I have to credit my previous advisor with making that paper shine...we really want this thing and I think this one has a chance.

Now we get to see if the editors even send this current paper out for review (PRL will now reject automatically ~20% of the initial submissions without review)...what sort of reaction the reviewers have to it...the inevitable email from someone seeing it on the arXiv and claiming they did it first even if it's totally unrelated...then we have to resubmit (probably)...

...oh boy...

Well, this is life now.  It's a series of tasks distracting you from the physics so you can apply for funding, publications, etc.  Who knows, maybe this one will go through (?).  I guess there is a Higgs boson talk tomorrow...

...oh boy...

And I guess I can't wait to submit one of these things with Kieron...

...oh boy...

Back to the calculation Kieron suggested...Oh boy!

March Meeting: Oh, Lucas!

Dear Diary,

A student from Paola Gori-Giorgi gave a talk.  At the end, he showed Lucas!

Kieron gave me a tiny assignment that wound up not working out, but I had to sort through this strictly correlated electron business some weeks ago.  If one takes the the electron-electron potential's coupling to infinity (and tunes the external potential to keep the density the same), then you get very interesting physics where electrons are localized.  It's tough to solve for the co-motion functions that tell you how the electrons move around, though.

Doing so, you can address strongly correlated materials.

Anyway, Lucas showed up.  I saw it.  That was cool.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Physics Kyptonite

Dear Diary,

I got word today that my fellowship did not go through.  One more rejection on the tally. This particular fellowship also came with extra course requirements which I now don't have to fulfill (I'm trying to look on the bright side).  So, I dropped the General Relativity offered next quarter and will focus on what's in front of me.

One should not get too invested in this decision.  There's a lot of politics involved in these decisions and it could be that I just wasn't what they were looking for.  But that doesn't mean the project we submitted for isn't interesting or that we can't do it.  It's not useful, nor does it make me happy, to dwell on it.

Kieron had vaguely asked me what my plans were for the remainder of my time here, and I guess I had made this decision a milestone in that.  Full thoughts on that later.

Time to generate a plan...

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Meeting: First Talk

Dear Diary,

Ok, so Raphael and I misjudged the amount of time it took to get to the convention center and arrived a few minutes late for a talk by Axel Becke.

My relative newbie-ishness prevented me from fully grasping the whole content, but he'd made a slick new functional.  Since he's an invited speaker, he got 40 minutes to talk and the room was packed.

I got tired of standing and found an empty chair.  A nice lady by the name of Meghan introduced herself after a little bit.  When John Perdew got up and spoke, she asked if that was the John Perdew.  It was!

She wanted to meet Kieron and know about some opportunities at the national lab, so I resolved to introduce her to Aurora and the boss!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Meeting: The first morning

Dear Diary,

The hotel had a shuttle that took us to the convention center.  Unfortunately, a lot of other physicists were also jonesing to get to the meeting!  Justin had to make an early meeting with Kieron and Zenghui, so he took the last seat and the rest of us walked.

So we went over the river and through the community college.  To the downtown we go!

It's my time to shine!

Dear Diary,

Kieron has deputized me in the quest to put out a paper by the end of the month.  It is to be my top priority.  But, as they say, first is the worst--second is the best--and third (in my priority list this would be working on a separate paper) is the one in a polka dot dress.

My first task was to set up the appropriate folders for the draft.  This involved finding all the references Lucas had put into the paper...all 86 of them!  So, I went through each of the references, found their pdfs and then renamed them all to the classic Burke short-hand.

The last letters of each author (up to four) appear in capital letters followed by the year.  If two such papers are named identically, the second earns a "b" at the end of it (and so on through the alphabet if there are more).

As an example, if Drs. Who and Hyde appear on a paper from 1901, then the shorthand would be WH01.  As a further example, for hyphenated names where you could have two possible choices, you only retain one of the letters.  So, for Gori-Giorgi, you obviously take the "G".

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March Meeting: Registration

Dear Diary,

 Consider the following:  people will want to register for the conference.  If you don't have a  badge, you can't get in.  So, why not register today and beat the rush?  Well, there's no good reason not to.  We did before the conference started!

Then we went back to the hotel restaurant, ate, and went to sleep.  Not much to do.

I've decided to keep my receipts in a pocket of my laptop holder so I can get reimbursed later.  Ok, too exciting.  Gotta wake up early.  Night!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March Meeting 2014: Getting There

Dear Diary,

I'm headed to the March Meeting!  Li's wife graciously offered to drive us to the airport. We have a good airfare, but I should have read ahead to see there was a fee for the carry on bag. For now, it's just a lesson for next time.

At the airport, you could see the snow, but not the mountains (too much fog).  We took a taxi in to our hotel.  One of our compadres from the department, Preston, is staying in a hotel closer to downtown.  We decided to join forces over some Pho downtown (recommended!).

Preston brought a postdoc with him from the group.  He used to work with Jain, a big name in the fractional quantum hall effect for coming up with composite fermions.

We're not supposed to eat with other group members, but the conference hadn't really started yet, so we'll give ourselves a pass today.

The Machine is Learning!

Dear Diary,

I just started an epic odyssey of calculation.  I submitted 400 jobs that take between 60 hours and 200 hours to complete (each).  I have to wait until they're done before sending the data to Li.

To make matter worse, there is a small bug in the code.  An error will randomly be thrown based on how the matrices are called through a random number generator storage.  This is more likely to happen the longer the code runs.  I'll have to check back periodically to see if everything runs smoothly.

Another reason is that I need 8 cores (or spend a crazy amount of time computing), but a lot of jobs in the queue need just one, so my priority goes down.

Ok, well, now that I have all this free time...I guess I'll go do that pen and paper thing Kieron gave me. Oh, and buy cookies for the group meeting.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jury Duty!


I got served!

On May 5, I have to go to the Orange County court to serve jury!  Somehow the forces of Irvine are conspiring to prevent me from getting my degree by keeping me in Irvine and throwing something in my direction every five days or so!  This is the clearest example of random chance targeting me!

The court is ten miles away and I don't have a car!  There aren't even buses that run that early.  It's an hour bike ride at least.  I know, I've been managing to get by around here not having a car!  In Orange County!  This is some cruel fate, diary.  Kieron will be most displeased that I am attending to my legally binding duties as a citizen.  Destiny is mandating that I purchase a car for what will probably be exactly one use when they don't even want me for the trial.  Ok, wait, let's be calm and look at the disqualifications:

1)  Am not a citizen.
2)  Am under eighteen years of age.
Now I regret registering to vote.
3)  Am not a resident of Orange County.
Aha!  A reason to move!  But my lease doesn't end until July!
4)  Do not have sufficient knowledge of the English language.
I did get a C+ in English once.  Fue a Espana y Colombia.  Por supuesto!  Hace llueve!
5)  Have been convicted of a felony or malfeasance.
Claro, no.  No tengo un problema con la policĂ­a.
6)  Am currently serving or will be serving another jury.
We're running out of options!
7)  Am subject of conservatorship.
You mean, like the future of humanity via research?  I guess not if we've made comments in this space about our work being possibly meaningless...Does managing the group count?  (I don't think I can pull that one off...)

Ok, onto the online registration:

1)  Yes, I'm single.  Rub it in.
2)  (Not) Employed (?)...that's a tough one, computer.  We'll go with 'yes'.
3)  Government Employee:  Yes?  That's another tough one...
4)  Number of days employer pays during jury duty...pi?...e?...I don't know but it's irrational...
5)  Would you like to waive your travel fees to the court?  I'm gonna really change things around with that $15, diary.  We'll never look back!

On the bright side, I can bring my own lunch!  And parking is validated!


In an NPR interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson (from Fresh Air: 2/27/2014), Dr. Tyson laid it down.  He has a Cosmos thingy that started last night, but that's only useful if you have a TV.  So, I'll be catching it on the internet once it drops.  Instead, I went fishing for some words of wisdom and found that Neil considered himself a non-standard student:
TYSON: I just know that throughout my life, at no time did any teacher ever point to me and say...he'll go far...he's someone you should watch. You know, I had some OK grades...I had some high grades in math and science, and medium grades in other subjects, and slightly lower grades in other subjects.
He also notes that students who consistently get high grades
You've got to remember, the school system is constructed to praise you if you get high grades. And if you get straight A's, you're the one that everyone puts forward, and they prognosticate that the straight-A person is the one most likely to succeed, because that's the way the school system is constructed and conceived.
But Neil really credits himself with persevering and having "grit".
And there I am, getting grades all over the place, but I...taught myself astrophotography, took classes at the American Museum of Natural History at Hayden Planetarium, [and] advanced classes for adults in modern astrophysics. I did all this, but none of that showed up as a high grade on an exam in school...Teachers [were] complaining about my social energy, as though that was something bad...

I often wonder what it would be like to get famous and then be asked back to speak at a graduation.  I might even be edgy!  However, a more noble path is available
So my elementary school wanted me to come back...I said no...I would say I am where I am today not because of what the teachers said about me or did for me, but in spite of it. And I don't think that's what you want, so I will decline.
...and some food for though about what a great teacher is:
The greatest teachers are the ones that turn a B student into an A student, or a failing student into a B student. Then let's talk about your teaching talents.
NPR agreed:
Having done some teaching, I completely agree with what you say there.
And so do I.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Housing Survey!

Dear Diary,

Today, I got an email from the local housing office indicating I need to renew my housing.  Otherwise, I'll have to look elsewhere and probably end up with a big commute.

Right now, I live about five minutes away from the office which is both good and bad.  Good in that I'm five minutes away from the office, but bad in that I'm 30 minutes away from the gym.  I'm literally living in the office!

Now, it's difficult to move your housing around.  There's a big waiting list, people with families get priority, and moving is tough without a vehicle (which I don't have).

Hopefully my roommate stays and we can carry on being clean gentlemen types with more just a jar of ketchup in the refrigerator!  But I need to remember to fill out the "re-up" survey before the 25th or I'll lose my spot.