Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Remain in Light

It's spring, and I use almost any excuse to post songs I like (which I only seem to do when I have too much time on my hands, as was the case this weekend with my girlfriend out of town). This one seems to have arisen out of a recent Talking Heads re-obsession, mixed with working to Fela Kuti albums (on iTunes, cheap) as background music. Have a listen.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spinning Round (or Square or Hexagonal...)

From Slashdot, here's this unreal article in Nature.
Tomas Bohr and colleagues made plexiglass buckets, 13 and 20 centimetres across, with metal bottoms that could be rotated at high speed by a motor. They filled the bucket with water and spun the bottom to whip up the liquid into a whirlpool that rose up the sides of the container.

This set-up is very similar to the rotating bucket that Isaac Newton used in the seventeenth century to investigate centrifugal forces.

The researchers found that once the plate was spinning so fast that the water span out to the sides, creating a hole of air in the middle, the dry patch wasn't circular as might be expected. Instead it evolved, as the bucket's spin sped up, from an ellipse to a three-sided star, to a square, a pentagon, and, at the highest speeds investigated, a hexagon.
I mean, symmetry breaking is one thing, but where do pentagons come from? Why do things "quantize" in this way, when there's nothing obvoiusly "quantal"about the problem?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

No, Steve, *you* the man

I can't believe I'm admitting this to the world, but yes I had to go down to 59th street in Manhattan to see the opening of the new Apple store. Of course, it made little sense to start with, waiting in line for almost 2 hours just to see...a store. A businessman a few of us were chatting with on the corner of Madison and 58th (yes, the line ran around the block) asked essentially that. "Haven't any of you been to an Apple store before?" Then again, it's not any old Apple store, but one that's entered via a gorgeous glass cube. And it's not any old evening, when you get Steve Jobs and Spike Lee and Fred Armisen (and probably other notables). Did anyone notice that? I just said "Steve Jobs". And he was, like, 5 feet from me. Yes, I'm star-struck. Check out all my photos here.

That said, something about this opening felt important (and not just to justify two hours waiting in line just to see a store.) This is a computer store, opening up (and staying open 24/7/365) at the gateway to the shopping on 5th Avenue, but right on Central Park. But it's also an architectural gem, a focal point for technology and content, California and New York, young and old, and so on. And it's a far cry from the tiny shop in Lincoln Park in Chicago in 1979 where I saw my first Apple ][, but it feels just as special. There are reasons people (like me) are so impressed by Jobs and his good works, and this is an important one for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Boulder Workshop 2006

Catching up on the chaos of the last few months will take, well, probably another few months. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago (May 4-5), Jamie Nagle and I hosted 8 colleagues at CU Boulder for the second "Boulder Workshop" (creative naming wins the day, eh?). It was a good chance (as it was last year) to sit down with a small group of physicists, roll up our proverbial sleeves, and hash out issues and questions that have been bothering us about the physics we do at RHIC (and connections to other fields, like plasma physics and string theory). The talks are now posted online (click names on the left sidebar) and are certainly worth a look. Some photos are posted on my flickr page.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Big Bang of the Day

Speaking of Big Bangs, anyone realize there was a musical about it? Well there is: it's playing tonight at the CUNY Graduate center in Manhattan. Not sure I can make it, but sounds amusing.

Big (Glass and Chrome) Bang

Damn, 3quarksdaily beat me to this one, but I just wanted to show a photo and say a few words about Josiah McElheny's show at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in Chelsea, which I saw on Saturday. My friend Ofer pointed me to an article about this in the NY Times last weekend (now hidden behind the walls of Times Select), but nothing in there prepared me for how amazing this was. "An End To Modernity" is an homage to both the chandeliers at the Met Opera house in Lincoln Center and the introduction of the Big Bang theory, both in 1965. One sees the emanation of "lines" from an occluded "core" (indicating the moment of recombination, when the universe became opaque), and the development of those "lines" into clusters of galaxies of different shapes. Really excellent, and moving in its size, scope, and attention to detail (both of craftsmanship, and scientific).

Of course, I see RHIC collisions everywhere, and this is no exception. I see hadron emission from an "initial state" which we have trouble understanding due to "hadronization" and the decay of those hadrons isotropically in their own rest frame. But maybe I see dead people too? If anyone is interested, I can explain more -- i think the analogy works pretty well (except RHIC collisions are definitely not globally isotropic, as many think the universe is and should be...). There are even points of light -- photons! -- in between the clusters of glass. Nice to have a model to simultaneously compare one's thinking on Big and Little Bangs.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rock the Casbah

With gas prices spiking (you notice these things if you make at least one trip between Brookhaven and Manhattan on a given weekday), chaos in the middle east (you notice these things if you have a pulse), and a bunch of great recent videos of the Clash being mentioned on the usual major blogs (you notice these things if you sit in a lot of meetings...did I just admit that?), I thought I'd give YouTube a go and keep those memes jumping. This is only a test, but given this outrageously simple (in concept, not in execution) but profound (emailing and blogging video) technology, isn't it a great world we live in?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Springtime @ BNL

Springtime @ BNL
Originally uploaded by entropybound.
You know it's here when the trees by Berkner hall burst into bloom. And springtime in NY and NYC is really excellent.