Friday, December 31, 2004

A typical day at work

PHOBOS Counting House
Originally uploaded by entropybound.
Here I am in my ever-useful capacity of Project Manager of the PHOBOS experiment at RHIC. I'm helping Iouri, another BNL scientist, by pointing at the screen.

If anyone is curious why this post looks different than the others, it's that I've discovered Flickr and am starting to use this to post photos to Blogger. Will wonders never cease?

Of course, just when I was feeling guilty about not even thinking about trying to keep this thing even vaguely current, here I go getting invited to become a contributor to "Quantum Diaries" for the next year. In honor of the Word Year of Physics 2005 (Einstein's Really Good Year, in other words...) there will be a group of 25 of us (particle and nuclear types) who will be encouraged by their various labs to keep a weekly blog. I'm very honored to have been chosen and hope to carry the original point of this blog (a slow, digressional explanation of "what I do") to a much wider audience (or at least college kids who are interested in becoming physicists).

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Now the whole idea of this blog is that things can only get so out of hand. Well, here's how much!

I was also somewhat amused by the IQ rank-ordering of US States and their chosen candidate, although this certainly won't dispel anyone's idea of liberals as arrogant over-educated smarty-pants etc.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Monday, October 18, 2004

And before I forget: check out the new personal web page. Lots of new and old photographs along the side.

And before I forget, here are my photos of Namibia.
Wake up, old blog. Learn some new tricks. I've been putting off updating this due to a fairly busy summer and autumn (is it halloween already?). Trips to Europe, New Mexico and South Africa (see Lion's Head on Camp's Bay to your left...) during July, August, and September, also kept my head spinning so fast that reflection was barely desirable, even if possible.

Anyway, so I did a good thing for myself and others yesterday: I biked the 30-mile route of the NY MS ride. They closed down the highways surrounding Manhattan and thousands of us got up at crack-of-dawn on Sunday to brave high winds and bikers who bike like New York drivers drive.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

In the aftermath of the last week, I decided to get over my nasty cold and reboot my lagging musical career by investing in a new cheap eMac. 1.25 GHz, 80GB, DVD writing, the works for only $1000. It's really fantastic: useful right out of the box and i was putting down tracks within 15 minutes. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a rock-obsessed teenager at this moment -- it was all 4 tracks on cassettes in my day.

For the record, this is the "Geek" variety of Rock Experience.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Yow last week was a doozy, so little time to update. More later when I get my head together!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Yesterday I managed to get myself to the Fountains of Wayne show at Roseland. After the opening opening band, who should there be but Evan Dando, of Lemonheads fame. My friends and I couldn't believe it: here's a geniune Rock Star of the class of 1992 with the appearance and demeanor of a subway musician. That said, there's still incredible star power there and excellent, charming songs, but an overwhelmingly self-destructive air, only reinforced by the short set of Lemonhead near-hits, giving one the feeling that 10 years can go by without lasting effect.

FOW was entertaining: a real band of professionals playing well-crafted songs. Amusingly, while they mustered a solid intensity during the whole set, one could see the fatigue set in suddenly as they rushed through "Stacy's Mom", the big hit that got them a Best New Artist Grammy (or so i'm told. Grammys pass me by these days).

Put together, they averaged out to two mildly fucked-up bands. This just clarifies just how disturbing the Dando Experience was.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Here is a satellite view of Long Island, with Manhattan on the far left, and a small "ring" within the square. That's the RHIC collider, seen from space. It's not a small thing, being about two miles around, but not as mind-bogglingly large as the proposed Superconducting Supercollider.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Warm-up to the Big Explanation: I have been trying to explain what I do and why I am excited about it to various friends of mine, more than a few outside of the field, and most outside physics. It's good practice for the inevitable family occasions. The problem is that my field is in an awkward moment: we have an enormous and varied data set on collisions of really complicated objects (to exponentiate a cliche: think of a swiss watch, made of other swiss watch), which shows "interesting" features. By this I (and in some cases only I) mean that the data is somehow "simple" ("suprisingly", "shockingly", "intriguingly" so). But "simple" is a term often confused with "trivial" so this assessment almost always gets a bad name. Rather, the features of our collisions are such that it appears that the details of the swiss watches are lost in a cloud of smoke, in some sense, which sounds like a let-down, but whoever said that understanding clouds dynamically was "trivial"?

Some people are claiming that we are making the most perfect fluid imaginable, a claim with which I am sympathetic. But I haven't even explained what the fluid is made of (or what a fluid is in the first place, but that's an easier business once you know what "it" "is").

The answer is the question we address at RHIC, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, at Brookhaven. We are a real "atom smasher" facility, colliding gold atoms (without their accompanying cloud of orbiting electrons) at the highest energy available until 2008, when CERN will try and steal RHIC's thunder (again -- last time was 1994, when I worked there!). The reason we do this has two answers, the "official" one for the field, and the "emergent" one, which may or may not map onto the official one in a straightforward way.

In the spirit of David Foster Wallace, whose book "Everything and More" I've been plowing through slowly but surely, I'm going to embark on several digressions, less as an attempt to ape someone whose style and execution I admire a lot, but out of sheer necessity. I've been struggling with this since college: while the most elegant arguments are pure linear, I continue to find the whole Procrustean bed aspect of this process frustrating to say the least. The more complete answers require multiple iterations from the surface to the depths. I've been skimming the surface so far, and it may just be time to dive. More next time.
So I finally got those episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7 out of those .bin files. All you need is VLC. So easy, I should have figured it out A YEAR AGO, when I had a bunch of these things in South Africa, the land of the At-Least-A-Year-Old-TV-Series ;-)
Time to start gearing up for the Big Explanation. Just a preamble: I'm a staff physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the Chemistry Department (sounds weird, esp. since my chemistry is way rusty -- long story, to be told at a much later date). I've been here since Dec 1999 and have worked primarily at the RHIC collider on the PHOBOS experiment. Seems that every other word deserves a link (also no time -- try my other home page).

Friday, April 30, 2004

This is a little experiment, cross-linking to a mobilog i just set up at Not at all clear that this kind of thing is sustainable, but blogger doesn't make this very easy otherwise!

Anyway, this is an image i snapped inside an exhibit at the Whitney 2004 Biennale. No memory of who the artist was, but it was incredible: a completely mirrored room, dark except for strings of hanging lights.
Emma just asked me to explain the name of the blog. Coming soon!
Today is the day: I am going to finsh my proceedings for the 20th Winter Workshop in Jamaica. The subject is Landau's Hydrodynamics. It's a set of calculations from the 1950's that seems to have a strange relevance to the work I do at Brookhaven. Who would have expected two nuclei, much less two proton, to act just like two drops of water -- albeit a liquid drop of subatomic size compressed into volume way smaller than subatomic types like to consider, creating pressures such that the thing expands at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light? The talk I gave on the subject can be found here, based on a previous talk found here.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Today I am *completely* wiped out. We announced a major new result from our experiment (PHOBOS) using data from the low-energy run at RHIC. We somehow managed to get a result out in just over a month -- but I can't say much about it until next week.
I often keep a set of photos on my main web page. Here is the current selection (and it will hopefully change over time...). All of these were taken with my Nokia 3650 cell phone. Handy beyond belief.

That last one is my dad Glenn Steinberg, who passed away in January...
A whole wave of articles in the mainstream web press about SA these days: Salon, Wired 1, Wired 2, and Wired 3. Must be post-election fever.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Welcome to entropybound. Let's see how long I can keep this up to date...