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Archive for November, 2008

Another interlude

While most of you will be reading this, I will be otherwise occupied. In a way of apology and explanation of my recent and anticipated silence, and to capture the spirit of the day, here is a familiar piece of music (albeit in a somewhat unusual rendition):

This also comes to mind

In case someone is wondering, there will be no live-blogging. I’ll be back with marital bliss colored blogging just as soon as I am fully recovered.

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I have been learning a few new tricks about phenomenology of dark matter recently. Particularly, I started reading about inelastic dark matter.  I have had the benefit to be able to talk to one of the originators of some of these ideas and I thought I would share some of them. Not because I believe that this is the correct solution to dark matter, but rather for its pedagogical value. There are various things that I learn again many times over in various guises and some of the details regarding this particular solution of the dark matter problem have that quality to them.

 

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bugsbunny_postdocThere is that time of the year when my e-mail starts getting flooded with questions about postdoc positions. Today marks the official beginning of postdoc 2009 season (marked by the first e-mail of the season). 

At UCSB we get hundreds of applications for postdoc positions in high energy theory every year.

 

Postdoc hunting season can keep on going until sometime between February and April depending on your location.

 

 I remember when I was a kid, there were always these funny cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd about hunting season being open. Fortunately, it seems that many of these cherished images from my childhood are considered to be in the public domain nowadays.

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Carl Wieman lecture

For those readers in the Vancouver area, here is a chance to get to know the Carl Wieman initiative, one of the most interesting developments in UBC the last few years (yeah, it’s easy to forget, but UBC is not only about building fancy condos). Carl is an atomic physicist, who was honored by a Nobel prize for his work on Bose-Einstein condensation. He then decided, in a move worthy of Miles Davis, to start something completely different, concentrating on applying the scientific method to science education. On a personal note, I first heard about Carl as an outspoken critic of the abuses prevalent in college sports,  and the way they distort the academic environment. Good man…

Carl will be giving a talk summarizing his initiative this Wednesday on the UBC campus. Here is the abstract:

Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, science education meanwhile has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn is now revealing how many teachers badly misinterpret what students are thinking and learning from traditional science classes and exams. However, research is also providing insights on how to do much better. The combination of this research with modern information technology is setting the stage for a new approach that can provide the relevant and effective science education for all students that is needed for the 21st century. I will discuss the failures of traditional educational practices, even as used by “very good” teachers, and the successes of some new practices and technology that characterize this more effective approach, and how these results are highly consistent with findings from cognitive science.

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So I have been pondering about Newton lately. Mostly because I heard various stories that might be apocryphal. I could not find a reference to them, but they strike me as being true. There is a legend about apples falling on Isaac Newton’s head as a story of how he discovered the law of gravitation…

 

Alas, Newton discovers too late that one should not exchange apples and moons.

Alas, Newton discovers too late that one should not exchange apples and moons.

Of course, this is probably just a fancy legend concocted after the facts to paint a more romantic picture of the discovery. What is true however, is that Newton had some hint of using a central force to explain the motion of the planets from Hooke. However Hooke could not solve the problem, and Newton had to invent calculus and differential equations to really solve this problem.

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Musical interlude

For those in need of a shot of adrenaline on a weekend morning, here is the hyper-energetic Francis Poulenc

On the other hand, if you are already awake, you can enjoy the sense of humor in this bright and sunny piece

This is just one of many small pieces for wind instruments he wrote, which are uniformaly wonderful. Go and explore!

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I have received recently a shiny new copy of the book by Tom Banks: Modern QFT, a concise introduction. Tom is one of the deepest thinkers I know, as well as one of the best mentors in the business. The way I think about many issues in QFT and quantum gravity, and physics in general, was shaped by many hours of conversations with him.  I was therefore waiting impatiently for the release of this book, and when I finally got it, it did not disappoint (any text about QFT that starts with a section “Why QFT?”, cannot be all bad…). Since it really is concise, it probably should not be the only QFT text you read. But, if you want to understand the subject well, and see how all the parts fit together, this should definitely be one of the first places to look.

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