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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

I have been enjoying the hospitality of the Simons Center for Physics and Geometry these past two weeks. I have been attending the workshop on Mathematics and Physics that has been going on yearly for the past few years.

It is a fun filled event where there is about one talk per day (on most days) and where I get to have a lot of conversations with very many people that I don’t see all that often.

The most interesting day of the week is when we have a seminar at the beach. We get together and drive away for about an hour to reach Smith Point Park. We then get to hear a whiteboard talk from some participant under a tent while the rest of the passer-byes gawk at  us: the idea of going all the way to the beach to hear someone speak about physics just floors them.

There are some pictures about those events that you can find in the webpage of the workshop, so you can go there to have a look (if you really must).

Perhaps because of my sense of humor, I kind of imagine us as a flock of kids who suddenly find themselves without their toys: the laptops are missing and we have to have `fun’ without doing calculations. Such activities involve tanning, getting in the sea and riding the waves, walking on the beach and perhaps even play volleyball.

All in all I definitely recommend the experience and welcome the chance to get some rest from my laptop.

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I have just attended the XV European Workshop on String Theory. It took place in Zürich, Switzerland. Here is the link to the conference information and the talk slides. The conference featured a lot of young speakers who I had not met before. I found it very entertaining. Curiously enough, I really got to feel for the first time that different countries have their own way of doing physics. I think this reflects a bit on the attitudes of different cultures on what constitutes good taste. There is nothing wrong per se with any such preferences, it’s just an observation that I have heard many times before, but it had not really made itself so obvious to me as this time around. The menu of topics covered was rather formal and the hospitality of the event was incredible. I’m very grateful to Matthias and Matthias for providing such a welcoming environment. Here is a picture of Zürich (the best of the ones I took while wandering aimlessly through the streets of the city).

Zurichskyline

The weather was absolutely perfect and the town is truly a lovely place to loose oneself into.

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For the most part of last week I was attending a conference on Gauge/Gravity duality in Stellenbosch, South Africa. That was the reason I was in Africa in the first place. The link to the conference site is here, and pretty soon they will have the slides and audio of the talks online. 

We were in the brand new Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced study . It is new because now it has become independent. They also have a very nice building and the kitchen staff is phenomenal: they produce really good food. This is the one picture I took of the building from the inside overlooking the terrace.

 

stias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the nicest things about this conference was the schedule. There was plenty of free time to talk with one another and discuss various things in the afternoon. I like those situations because one can get some work done and exchange ideas very fruitfully.

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The call of the wild.

I was without e-mail or the internet for a while falling in love with Africa. Now I’m back tending the fort and I find that I missed the very interesting discussion on AdS/CFT that happened in the meantime.  I’ll tell you more about South Africa later on, but let me tell you that petting the cheetah was awesome.

 

Also, this trip made me realize that the biggest threat to various endangered species is population growth which results in encroachment of habitat.

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Skewers anyone?

 

Snack street in Beijing

Snack street in Beijing

If you are ever the adventuresome type, try eating one of these while you are visiting Beijing.

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Lost in Japan

 

I’ve been in Japan for the past two weeks. I’ve had a great time, but at the same time I’ve had a very hectic schedule: six talks in two weeks in various cities. I have been riding the bullet trains and the Tokyo train and subway system. I’ve been ordering food from menus I don’t understand a single word of, and I’ve been getting lost just trying to get out of various train stations. I also have a lot of work to do and have been rather busy doing it. If you are into movies, the one that best describes being lost in a place where suddenly one doesn’t know how to speak or write is “Lost in translation”. I really like it, but it becomes a lot more real after you have experienced the effect yourself.

Right now, I’m at the airport with a little bit of free time, and there is an animated television on the airport TV while I type this. I will give you a glimpse of what I have seen.

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