Friday, June 29, 2007

Me Feed

I've been asked to keep a list of recent talks, papers, etc. online and I've been wondering how to do this in a relatively-dynamic way that avoids just editing lots of HTML pages. Et voila, I can edit *XML*! At least it looks slick in an RSS reader, or on iGoogle. I'll be keeping a list of my available talks on this, in somewhat chronological order, and papers will come soon. Always feel free to drop me a line if any of this strikes you.

What's New with "What's New?"

What gives?
WN was in Orwellian peril from the start. My wife asked how long I planned to keep writing this thing. "Not long," I said, "if I tell it like I see it, they'll end it in a year." After I became director of the new Washington Office, the APS Council asked me to make my weekly report public - but not advertise it. Some wanted Big Brother to approve each issue before it went out. If so, someone else would have to write it. Much later I agreed to add a disclaimer - not everyone liked that either. After more than 1,200 issues and growth from 112 subscribers to 15,617, APS finally ended WN. My department chair, however, asked that I continue writing WN, but with the University of Maryland as sponsor. He made it my principal teaching assignment.
I am truly grateful to the APS for allowing me to speak my mind, not just in WN, but to the media and in congressional testimony. In a university like Maryland it's expected, but it's unusual in Washington. For those who hope for a gentler WN, I refer you to H.L. Mencken's epitaph: "As he grew older, he grew worse."
Who offed Bob Park at the APS? Who will whats-new "What's New?"?

[Update: In looking for a photo of Park, I found this...“I’m not really going anywhere,” Park advises friend and foe alike, “I just won’t have the title anymore.” So it goes.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Citations: Dyonic Black Holes, Landau's Hydrodynamics

A few months ago I posted a proceedings from the GHP06 meeting in Nashville, called "Hotter, Denser, Faster, Smaller...and Nearly-Perfect: What's the matter at RHIC?" In general, people don't cite proceedings much, since they often just summarize results from other papers, maybe combining a few things here and there that hadn't been done before, or making some useful (if not exactly rigorous) commentary. Now why the authors of "Hall conductivity from dyonic black holes" (Hartnoll and Kovtun) chose my proceedings to cite in their paper -- beyond the fact that I cite and show a figure from Kovtun's seminal work with Starinets and Son -- I don't know, but I think it's really neat to be introduced to a new physics topic via my own citation-searching vanity. RHIC physics is starting to make its presence known to more and more communities, since it is now finding itself friends with many different kinds of strongly-coupled systems -- and it's really bracing to watch it happening in real time (vs. summarized in textbooks years after the fun is over).

And speaking of citations, I also just noticed a recent paper "Unified description of Bjorken and Landau 1+1 hydrodynamics" citing my old proceedings on "Landau Hydrodynamics and RHIC Phenomena". I'm still trying to figure out exactly when the switch in my brain flipped in this direction, but I've been arguing (only semi-successfully) for about four years now that people should be taking Landau's hydrodynamical model (full stopping of the nuclear matter in the overlap volume) seriously, following the clear lead of Peter Carruthers in the 1970's. It's been known for a while that some RHIC data clearly supports it, and I've argued that a wide range of phenomena are also consistent with it, but very few people have done theoretical work to see how it behaves in the geometries we might expect from nuclear collisions.

Thus, this new paper is encouraging to see, since it at least revisits and starts to clarify how the Landau solution "works". It's also neat to see more and more people exploring the connections between hydrodynamic behavior and dual gravity theories. One of the authors of "Unified" proposed boost-invariant (Bjorken) flow as being dual to a black hole moving in the "5th dimension" of the AdS theory, which begs the interesting question of what the equivalent analogy is for Landau's fully 3D flow (which is a much more interesting scenario than boost-invariance since it provides causal connections between most of the final state by rapid thermalization in the initial state -- a lot like the inflationary model of the universe!). I hope these guys figure this out, and soon.

Maarteenies and Pseudoparticles

Gee, this is neat: The New Yorker's Roz Chast did the cover of the latest Symmetry magazine. I only found this in my mailbox just today, despite it being the May issue. How did I miss this?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

It's summer in the city again (although the weather certainly won't tell you that) and last night was most people's yearly pilgrimage to Coney Island for the Mermaid Parade. As usual, fantastic time. Great costumes, music, etc and just a great reminder of the oft-forgotten treasures of NYC. And we rode the Wonder Wheel, in a "swinging" car. Fantastic.

Unfortunately, there were overwhelming shadows over the parade this year from twin looming threats of the continuing war in Iraq, and the more recent fear of over-development along the shore near Coney. The boardwalk and amusement park are fantastic resources and are basically free to wander around. It'll be hard to imagine them surrounded by gated communities and the businesses that will inevitably attend to them. Have a look at my photos and others and keep fingers crossed we'll all be able to take more similar ones in the future.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New CERN Schedule

Look what's in on the tubes:
Geneva, 22 June 2006. Speaking at the 142nd session of the CERN1 Council today, the Organization’s Director General Robert Aymar announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will start up in May 2008, taking the first steps towards studying physics at a new high-energy frontier. A low-energy run originally scheduled for this year has been dropped as the result of a number of minor delays accumulated over the final months of LHC installation and commissioning, coupled with the failure in March of a pressure test in one of the machine’s components.
Useful information for the next couple of years of travel planning...But should we be concerned that the CERN press office doesn't know it's 2007?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cats in Collision

I was as baffled as you were when this whole LOLCATS thing appeared. I'm even more baffled by this.

I mean, how do we know it's a liquid, and not a plasma? Jeez.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Birds of a Feather

What better way to get over the lackluster Jobs keynote (yes I'm an Apple fan -- so what?) than to stumble on this article in New York Mag on Edward Tufte? While I never took his class at Yale (although friends did), I did see him give his seminar at BNL, where we paid a grand total of $25 for the full-day of his time and his (at the time) full set of three books (worth $100+ on Amazon, and almost $400 if you do the seminar+books today). And while I don't have rimless glasses (I went back to thick plastic recently), I too have Minard's graphic of Napoleon's march on Moscow on my office door. So consider me a fan.

It's hard to express just how influential Tufte has been on the way I look at, and present, scientific data. I can really see the difference in my talks and plots before and after that summer day in 2000, and I've tried my best to evangelize (with occasional success) to my colleagues as we put together useful figures to represent the interesting things we've learned at RHIC.

And it's also neat to hear him express his admiration for Apple, and to read how they paid him back in that iPhone ad. What they don't mention is that Google analytics (which I use to track readership of this website) already uses "sparklines" everywhere, and they do exactly what he says they do. Neat stuff, both the short article and his books, and worth a look by scientists and non-scientists alike.