Monday, September 26, 2016

We don't need no education

Dear Diary,

 It's the fall-time right of passage.  Each Burke student must teach the ABCs at some point before they leave the program, just as they must take the program for credit before they leave.  The only question is always:  Who has to teach?  And I'm sure for the incoming students, they ask: What do you think the teacher's gonna look like this year?

Well, diary, I will be teaching at least some of the course this year.  Fun, fun.   Yep, it finally comes to me:  preparing, teaching, grading, answering questions without messing up, reading the text for the first time, being just another brick in the wall, etc.

[Editor's note: Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone]

Friday, September 23, 2016

All used up

Dear Diary,

After many long, hard journeys, my travel grant is all used up.  Ok, well, I spent three more dollars than the allotment, no joke!  Thank you ARCS for the funding.  It really brought me places and physics I wouldn't have gone otherwise.

Your sincerely,
Dr. Who

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

More puzzles

Dear Diary,

John von Neumann was a mathematician alive when quantum mechanics was getting big.  Allegedly, he was faster and smarter than Bethe.   Somehow I can't quite believe that...Bethe was used to calculate mental math to check the first computers.

But anyway, there's a story about von Neumann and a puzzle:  Given two bikes twenty miles apart and on a course to collide (each bike travels at 10 mph and starts 20 miles apart), a fly travels from one tire's edge to the tire on the other bike repeatedly until is it squashed (always at 15 mph--it turns around instantaneously on reaching the bike).

How far does the fly travel?

There's an easy way to get this answer and it's to recognize that it takes the bikes 1 hour to meet, so the fly travels 15 miles.

But there's a hard way, and apparently von Neumann calculated this instantly on hearing the question.  Once answered, the questioner said, "Oh, you must know the trick." (solution presented above) But von Neumann said, "What trick?  I just summed up the geometric series."

Oh man, diary!  How do you even set up the geometric series for this?  I'd love to know!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

And then there were three

Dear Diary,

It was great to hear from Dave about his experience in graduate school and get a reprieve from the blog.  I wish him the best.

It turns out we've had a mass exodus from the group recently.  Raphael is leaving for San Diego, Paul took a job in northern California, and Li is secretly working full time on secret things.  The worst part about all of this is updating the information on the website.  Let's just focus on the alumni section.  Each alternating person has either a white or gray box and these need to be set by hand in our html code.  This is a huge pain if Dave (last name starting with "F") needs to be inserted in the top of the list and all following entries changed.  Sad!

Now we're down to three.  I'll be removed from my one desk Hilton on the ground floor, where the sun never hits that side of the building (keeping it cool in the summer time and refreshingly chill in the "winter"), to the second floor office where air remains unmoved, hot and stuffy.  My beloved white board and I will part, but the Cheshire cat grin of hallway noise will follow.  My only compensation is a larger desk and the ability to retreat to my Fortress of Solitude in another building.  I secretly tried to get two postdocs, my current neighbors, who currently have tiny desks to move into there and prevent this.  They requisitioned another office instead, telling me to try and be happy.

He that commends me to mine own content
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
 I, to the science, am like a drop of water.
That in the ocean seeks a postdoc, who, failing there to find a fellowship,
Unseen, uninspired, publishes his worth:
So I to find a degree and an escape,
and in that quest, unhappy, lose myself.

I to Spain for a few weeks, as the world turns beneath me.