Thursday, January 29, 2009

Upcoming: AAAS Symposium (2/15/09)

This is a shameless plug for something I am organizing at the upcoming AAAS 2009 meeting in Chicago, in just a couple of weeks. I and several colleagues, in collaboration with the BNL Public Affairs folks (who are promoting this as well), are putting together a short symposium about the physics we do at RHIC, and how it relates to other, wide-ranging fields of science. In particular, we have people discussing both string theory, connected through the famous "AdS/CFT Correspondence", and cold atomic physics.

What relates all of these three topics (as I attempted to illustrate in the triangle diagram above) is the idea of the "perfect liquid". Both RHIC physicists and cold atomic physicists have discovered liquid-like behavior in their respective systems, despite a factor of 10^20 (1 with 20 zeros after it) difference in temperature (i.e. RHIC makes liquid at 2 trillion degrees, while the atomic guys make them at billionths of a degree above absolute zero!). And the most interesting predictions made about the properties of both systems have come from string theory, using calculations where gravitons scatter off of a black hole sitting in the 5th dimension. No kidding.

Seriously, how often do people in such disparate subjects discover that they are working on similar problems? Anyway, if this piques your interest, please stop by the symposium at the AAAS 2009 in Chicago on Sunday, Feb 15, 10:30am (yes, yes, registration required...)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike, RIP (The Gall!)

Sad news, hearing of the death of John Updike. I've only read a Rabbit or two and kept up with him in the New Yorker, but no physicist can avoid "Cosmic Gall": one of the only poems I can think of dedicated to an elementary particle.

Oddly, I just came across this poem this last sunday, while literally racing through Murray Gell-Mann's The Quark and the Jaguar (excellent stuff, but not a good enough fit to RHIC physics for us to pursue him as a speaker this summer...). But it's not that strange of a coincidence -- the poem is everywhere in the physioliterasphere, i.e. Gell-Mann was certainly not my introduction to it. I've seen it tacked on cubicle walls, reproduced in physics books, pasted into blog posts (July 2005 Cosmic Variance). And now, I repeat it again, in (but certainly not by) memory:
NEUTRINOS, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
and painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
and pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed-you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Story of Hope

A very neat story of where Shepherd Fairey got the image now immortalized on those amazing posters (a B&W version of which I have on my office door, when it's not being taken down mysteriously...). And the show is opening at Danziger Projects tonight.

White House Blog

The new White House Blog should be interesting, but is anyone else not seeing the inaugural address?...

Restoring Science

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do
Right on.

Moving On