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).