Sunday, October 30, 2005

What drug(s) were they on?

Some of my recent media experiences have been the products of seemingly drug-induced minds.

Mirrormask: I saw this movie yesterday and I recommend it very highly. The main thing it reminded me of was Alice's Advenutres Through the Looking Glass, although the trappings were different (the circus stuff, no flamingos for croquet mallets, etc.). I actually felt a little dizzy coming out of the theatre, as some of the trippy visuals triggered some of my motion sickness detectors, but those feelings soon passed. I read complaints in LA Weekly that Mirrormask moved too slowly, but I didn't get that impression at all. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Of course, LA Weekly and I have been disagreeing a lot lately, which bodes well for the new David Mamet play I'll be seeing soon.) The visuals were way cool but I really liked the Alice-style trippiness even independent of the graphics.

We Love Katamari: If there was ever a game for which the obvious reaction is "What the fuck?", this one is it. I never actually played the first game in the series (Katamari Darcy), but I was aware of its unexpectedly large popularity in the US. (My understanding is that the game was initially considered "too Japanese" for a US audience and was not originally going to come out here.) In this game, you control a ball (or a sumo wrestler, or who knows what else) that rolls around the place picking up stuff. You start out really small, but you get bigger as you accrue various book, pegasi, schoolgirls, bums, cars, and giant buddhas. Eventually, you have your way with the entire planet (or more, I am told) and classic monsters like Nessy and Godzilla (and the planet's islands) run away hastily as you approach. One big appeal of this game is when one can suddenly annihilate things that used to have their way with you when you were smaller. Rampaging over playground and nailing an entire basketball game in progress is also key. And then when you get huge, it's fun to pick up the landmarks and (a little later) the giant monsters. Oh, and I can't talk about this game without discussing the warp zones---especially the one with the bum that you can't pick up otherwise. That part of the game is key, even though some of the people watching the Gazebo and I play the game the past couple days didn't seem to appreciate how cool the warp zone was. Instead, they were mocking us for always going back there, not being able to navigate, becoming stuck, and other such nonsense. I'm not sure I'd want to play this game long-term, but as a short-term diversion, it was definitely very fun.

In terms of other drug-induced things, I have a Depeche Mode album to review in the near future. (While DM is hardly what I'd call trippy, their lead singer does have a pretty lengthy drug history and has almost died from ODing on at least one occasion.)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ongoing Saga for the Leadership of the Dodgers

The Dodgers used to be a hallmark of stability when it came to who ran the team---from managers Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda to general managers Al Campanis and Fred Claire and owners Walter and Peter O'Malley. Once the O'Malley's sold the team, there's been a lot more turnover (as has been the case with most other teams).

Despite our poor record during the 2005 season, we had both a very good manager (Jim Tracy) and a very good general manager (Paul DePodesta). By mutual agreement with the team, Jim Tracy has now left and has been named the new manager of the Pirates. Now rumors are circulating that DePodesta may be axed. I happen to support the so-called 'Moneyball' philosophy he espouses, so I will not be happy if this happens (and it's looking very likely that it will).

Our new manager has yet to be determined, although a few people have been told they're no longer candidates. The sentimental choice is former Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, but the thing with him is that while I think he is an awesome pitching coach, it's not clear how he'll be as a manager. I would be very excited about hiring him as a pitching coach, but I'm less excited about hiring him as a manager. That said, I'm not necessarily ecstatic about the other managerial candidates (which include Terry Collins and Alan Trammell but no longer include Torey Lovullo, Ron Wotus, or Jerry Royster). There are rumors we might go after Bobby Valentine, who is a brilliant tactician but has a sense of tact that is about as good as mine (which is definitely not a good quality for a manager).

Anyway, we'll see what happens.

[Update: DePodesta was officially fired later in the day.]

How I got my first postdoc (by request)

Wren asked me to discuss this, so I'll do that now. If relevant, I can write the sequel later. As mentioned previously, I don't plan on turning this into a trilogy.

It should be mentioned first that this stuff works differently in math than in other subjects---first, nearly all math postdocs teach and nearly all math postdocs are hired through a department (or an umbrella group that's between departments), although some research groups have their own postdocs and of course people can get NSF postdocs and other similar things. (In most cases, though, some faculty member does usually have to be willing to serve as some sort of mentor so it's not like you can come out of left field---the difference is that it is extremely rare for the money to come out of their pocket.)

One effect of all this business is that math postdoc hiring seems more seasonal than other fields. I've heard of plenty of physics postdocs, for example, who may start at any point in the year, but math postdocs are almost always synchronized with the school year and the timing of the job advertisements reflect this.

If you are planning on starting a postdoc, say, in fall 06, you should already have contacted your recommenders and prepared your package. Your CV should be easy to read. In math and physics, it's fine to be long (and expected to be comprehensive) but don't put more important stuff at the top because attention spans decrease exponentially. Your research statement should also be polished. They don't usually help you but you if it sucks, they do hurt you, so you have to take it seriously. (I'm going to forgo talking about this more, because I think the culture of such statements varies widely in different fields.) For math, some schools will also want teaching statements. For your publications, under review is not a "publication". That annoys many of the people reading your application, and you don't want to risk that. "Under review" is a separate category. "References furnished upon request" is also considered obnoxious by many people. Either list your references or don't.

Finding where to apply: If your advisor is well-connected, he/she may hook you up. This helps a lot, but I was on my own, so here's what I did. The official magazine publications of your field typically have loads of job listings around the right time. In my case, this means SIAM News, Physics Today, and The Notices of the AMS (and the AMS, in fact, has an extensive online database that is absolutely the best listing for any sort of mathematics). Other societies have similar things both online and in print, so go to the website of your relevant online organization and see what their resources are.

Make life as easy as possible for your recommenders. Give them mailing labels. (I have good latex code for this.) Give them plenty of time before the deadlines. Give them a list of everywhere that you're apply with the deadlines in easy places to find. (I know a bunch of the stuff I mention is generic, but it's better to go through it anyway.)

Now, I did contact a couple professors to apply to them directly. If you are going to see them at a conference, let them know you'll be there and ask if they have time to meet. If that's not possible, name-drop your advisor if your advisor is somebody they'd know. Drop some other connection if possible. (You know, if they went to Caltech, I have used that one very successfully in getting people to answer my e-mail. The idea is to bring up things you have in common so that they know you're not some random schmuck who is applying for a job because you found their name via a google search. Professors get tons of e-mails like that all the time, so the e-mail needs to show that you actually looked at their stuff.)

Attend lots of conferences (throughout your entire graduate school career!): This actually starts much earlier than when you're applying for jobs. This is especially good if you are going to contact an individual. Give not only short talks but also posters. Posters are your big chance to talk to profs one-on-one. At the applied math conferences I attend, many of the big-shots do go to the poster sessions (which are conveniently combined with the dessert sessions). This is the big chance to drop off some reprints, discuss your work, and impress people. (You can also blow it too, of course, but if you're going into academia, you need to meet these people. Match the faces to the names you see in the journal articles.) Arguably, my first postdoc was a direct product [as opposed to direct sum :)] of one of these discussions, though I'll never know for sure. I ran into someone at a conference in Maui in 2000 who thought I was at Georgia Tech because I looked familiar. I knew he was because he was an AMa postdoc at Caltech when I was, so I told him that was why I looked familiar. (This is when it helps that there are only 2 graduates in the department a year and only just now have they finally reached 100 undergrad alums in its whole 50 year history.) We had a chance to talk several times, including at my poster. I expressed my interest in Georgia Tech and at that conference and at a later one, he indicated I should let him know when I was applying so that he would make the relevant faculty members aware of the application. (At this point, I am not privy to the events, but just getting one's portfolio examined seriously is a big step with there are N >> 1 other applications being sent directly to a department.)

For conferences, if there is on you want to attend, don't be afraid to ask your advisor about it. My advisor didn't have any money to send me, but Cornell did---up to one conference per year for up to $600. I found a conference to attend every year, and I also got a couple small funding awards directly from SIAM. I used my prize money for an award I got from SIAM to funding travel to other conferences (and the award included free attendance to a particular conference---it was at that prize winner reception that I met Cleve Moler, by the way), and I even spent some money out of pocket to make sure I could go to conferences I felt were important. (I was less social than I should have been at many of them, but that's a separate issue.)

In terms of number of places, I applied to something like 50 postdoc positions and 20 regular faculty ones. I applied for a regular faculty job in MechE at UIUC (and was interviewed) but everything else was math, physics, or applied math. At certain places (such as Georgia Tech), I applied to multiple groups. In fact, my hiring at GT did involve communication between relevant people in math and physics. (The program through which I was hired in math was for US citizens, so that's why the money came from math. Then the physics side could hire somebody without such a restriction, and I could be in both groups and have all the interactions with both that I wanted. It was a very good arrangement.)

OK, so I don't know if I answered every question Wren had (I doubt I did), but let me know specifically what else I should mention, and I'll try to say something useful. I know that I had to do all this stuff without my advisor (because he was out of touch with the greater research community), and while I can't prove what efforts led to what, you never know who is going to see your name in the hat and have some vague recollection of having seen it before. The more, the better.

I know there are a lot of extraneous details here, but I wanted to stress the conference thing here for people earlier in their graduate school careers.

Also, maybe Justin can add some useful stuff here, as he's also gone through the postdoc job search and can certainly pick up on stuff that I neglected or was just different from what he experienced.

Friday, October 28, 2005

"Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation."

That quote was apparently uttered by Feynman. (I don't remember seeing it before.) There is some truth to it, of course, although there is plenty of masturbation in physics as well (especially by the male ones).

Academia has a long history of intellectual masturbation...

Here's another one I just saw (that I have seen before): "Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"The Elements"

Here is a flash animation accompanied by Tom Lehrer's "The Elements". Watch for how the animation shows Berkeleyium.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"I have not now, nor have I ever been...

... a member of the Boy Scouts of America." To continue quoting Tom Lehrer, "and the American Legion of tomorrow."

I just got back from seeing Good Night, and Good Luck. It's a good film, though not a great film. However, it's an important film, and that was a big reason I wanted to see it.

The whole movie is in black and white, which is the right move in this particular case. There is some original footage as well as some recreations of original monologue. I think the film would have been better if the focus on the newsroom were offset somewhat and there were a couple things that seemed to provide distractions that would have been better either placed elsewhere (or incorporated differently) or not included at all.

Overall, however, it's definitely a good movie. You should take your favorite Commie to see it with you. :)


There's a game that just came out called Stubbs the Zombie (in Rebel Without a Pulse). I've heard some good things about the game (though I don't know if I'll be getting it, because it's not my genre; this game uses the Halo engine, by the way), but the reason I'm mentioning this here is that the game's story amuses me. (Click on 'game' and then 'storyline' on the website.)

Here's how it all began: "In 1933, Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield was just another traveling salesman trying to get by during the Great Depression. His lifelong losing streak reached its logical conclusion when he was brutally murdered and ignominiously buried in a remote Pennsylvania field."

And in 1959, he suddenly arose with a desire for braaaaains: "All he knows is that this strange city of towering buildings, bright lights, and incredible machines wasn't here before...and that eating somebody's brains would make him feel better." [Believe me, I know the feeling.]

In reading the description of the game, the use of "Thriller" amuses me. Also, don't forget the Surgeon General's warning that "Too much brain matter will only lead to cramping and indigestions."

The fact that you're not supposed to eat children in the game is really lame, however. I mean, what the Hell?

In the meantime, I think I'll go to The Winchester. ("Let's go to Winchester!")

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another marathon

The Astros are developing a history of long postseason games. Today's game is the longest World Series game ever in terms of game time (5:41) and tied for the longest ever in number of innings (14).

You can find the recap here. The White Sox ultimately won 7-5 and are now up 3 games to 0 and most likely on their way to their first World Series win since 1917 (before the "curse" brough on by the Black Sox scandal). Geoff Blum was one of the heroes, and the monumentally ugly Ezequiel Astacio was one of the goats. He not only allowed Blum's homerun but then ended up walking a batter with the bases loaded for the Sox's seventh run. Manager Phil Garner then lost patience and yanked him. The two outs Astacio did manage to get were the result of a brilliant double play by Morgan Ensberg (who has a great John Houseman name, as some of the Sportscenter broadcasters correctly point out) on a hard-hit ball that could easily have been a double instead.

Note: John Houseman was Ricky Stratton's grandfather in Silver Spoons and also did lots of commercials. I also saw a particular episode of The Paper Chase, in which he starred. (He also starred in the movie version that predated the show.) Just imagine: "Ensbeeeeeeeeeerg". OK, so I'm dating myself here, but at least some of you ought to know who I'm talking about.

Lloydie from the class of 2001 in the New York Times

This is redundant if you read the Gazebo's blog, but I'm posting this here anyway for the benefit of the older crowd. There's an article in the science section of today's New York Times by Mohi Kumar '01. Here's a link to the Gazebo's entry, where a brief discussion is already in progress.

"Seniors Only"

For the past few weeks, there has been some construction on campus right outside of Guggenheim and Firestone. The small construction area is now surrounded by some tarp separating it from the rest of the world. Today, I noticed that someone had put a couple of the canonical "Seniors Only" signs on the tarp, which I find amusing. (The construction workers are probably confused, but that's fine.)

When I accidently meet somebody, why does she have to be 18?

OK, so it could have been really bad. She could have been 17. (Yes, I am starting it off with this sentence on purpose.)

I went to Peet's from the office today (such a shock, I know). There weren't any tables available at first, but one opened up when I was still last in line so I went for it. It turns out that somebody else did too. I offered the table, but we ended up sharing it for a short while until she left the place.

The person I met, who seemed very nice, apparently gets her kicks by talking to interesting people (which is definitely not a bad thing to do), for which I suppose I qualify in some sense---you know, maybe in the 'He does, umm, interesting things kind of way.' She started off by asking where I went to school and I quickly found out she was a college student at USC; I had previously realized she was probably too young---that just confirmed it. I later found out she's a freshman and is 18, which goes to show that I can pretty much no longer tell the difference between, say, 18 and 21.

Now, while this person seemed very nice, there were a few notable problems.

(1) She's 18.

(2) She has never heard of Depeche Mode.

(3) She didn't realize that Caltech was 'in the area' when it was a few blocks away. (Either she was pulling my leg here or this is a sign of some form of extreme cluelessness---not that I have any right to complain about cluelessness in others, but still...)

For what it's worth, all of my parents and siblings (again phrased this way on purpose) are UCLA alums, but I'll resist the urge to include a heavy-handed cluelessness joke about USC. It's obviously hokey (although it's fun).

Among other things, she suggested that I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (there was a movie version too, I think), although I have the nagging suspicion that it may have been a recent book she had to read for school (not that there's actually anything wrong with that either, but it's still the impression I got).

OK, so I meet very few people because I suck at it. Then when I do accidently meet somebody potentially interesting, the age thing just kills it (in my mind, anyway). Five more years (at least) would have been nice.

Anyway, this was my unusual experience for the day.

Monday, October 24, 2005

How well can random walkers rank football teams?

That's a question that two of my collaborators and I asked about two and a half years ago as part of an undergraduate math project at Georgia Tech. Actually, the other faculty member (Peter Mucha, now at UNC at Chapel Hill) first asked the question, the student we co-advised (erstwhile undergrad Thomas Callaghan, now an applied math grad student at Stanford) did nearly all of the real work on the project, and I just tried to contribute some knowledge of network theory. I want to emphasize that I was the third person out of three on the project. Also, Thomas is one of the best students I have ever had the pleasure to advise. He has a very bright future ahead of him even though he chose to go to Stanford for grad school rather than Caltech. :)

Anyway, you can find our answer an explanation, as well as rankings for 2003--2005, at this project's official web site. I'm posting this now because we've finally started posting our 2005 rankings, which you'll notice are pretty similar to the ones that the BCS and the other methods give.

At our site, you'll find a brief explanation of how the ranking system works, links to Ken Massey's comparison page, our two manuscripts (one published, the other under review), and some of the press coverage we got (and references to some of the other press coverage). (I still have never seen the CNN Headline News interview that came out of this project! We were supposed to get a copy of this...) I am probably the only member of Caltech's physics department who has been featured (however briefly) in ESPN: The Magazine.

Comic Book Covers (the Photoshopped variety)

Justin passes along the following blog with doctored comic book covers.

These are really cool!

Do human males have a future?

This is (approximately) the title of a bioinformatics and computational biology talk that will be given at Georgia Tech on Wednesday 10/26. This hits close to home for about half of us. Are we doomed? Should we even bother?

Here is the speaker and abstract:

Dr. Helen Skaletsky
Whitehead Institute, MIT,
Cambridge MA

"Do Human Males Have Future?"

The human Y chromosome, transmitted clonally through males, contains
far fewer genes than the sexually recombining autosome from which it
evolved. The enormity of this evolutionary decline has led to
prediction that the Y chromosome will be completely destroyed within
10 million years. Recent sequencing of human, chimpanzee, and mouse Y
chromosomes revealed evolutionary mechanisms operating on mammalian Ys, not taken into account by oversimplified "impending demise" model.

So when we are all gone, just remember that you heard it here first. The end is nigh!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics

In January 2004, I saw Gareth McKinley of MIT give a talk at Dynamics Days. Among other things, he showed us what happens when you shoot a bullet at Silly Putty---Answer: It shatters like glass!---which was the coolest thing I saw at that conference (and among the coolest things I've ever seen). I tried to find a video online via google, but I couldn't. Instead, I'm just going to say that non-Newtonian fluids can do some cool stuff and that you should look at the videos on the page I referenced. If you ever get a chance to see McKinley give a talk, it's highly recommended. He's a very entertaining speaker, and you'll learn a lot too!

By the way, a fluid is non-Newtonian when the viscosity changes with the applied shear [force].

Friday, October 21, 2005


I saw Serenity nine days ago and I'm only now getting around to posting this entry.

The movie was definitely excellent, and I need to go and watch Firefly (which I've never seen except possibly for a few minutes when I was channel surfing one time) and catch up on the private jokes I didn't understand. Now, I don't put this in my top N for small positive integers N as others I know do, but I enjoyed the movie very, very much. There was quite a bit of humor (even without understanding the private jokes) and one good way to describe is that it's what the other movies in its genre should have been.

(There's a generic spoiler coming.) I was amused by the "I am invincible!" moment (even though I saw it coming) and I appreciated that the powers that be were willing to kill off important characters. There were good some one-liners, although I bet I missed a bunch of these because I've never watched the show. Oh, and I loved Mr. Universe's Jewish wedding to a robot! That was absolutely key. (His relationship with the robot made me think of Weird Science, although I think the similarity doesn't really go very far.)

Bounty hunters in a Winnebago

I just got back from seeing Domino. It had one of those high standard deviation trailers that looked interesting but which could lead to a movie that was anywhere from spectacular to craptacular. Anyway, I liked the movie quite a bit, although the plot is convoluted/ridiculous. It doesn't take itself too seriously and it has some very nice one-liners and amusing moments to ease the tension. (Among other things, the Jerry Springer scene is key.) It pokes some fun at some things I like to mock, which I also appreciate. Take a look at the IMDB link and observe that it has a couple Beverly Hills 90210 alums playing as themselves. The ferret comment was also key. I recall the nunchucks comment fondly.

I didn't realize this before seeing the movie, but Domino Harvey (supposedly named after Bond girl Domino Derval) was a real person. The film is only loosely based on her life. Anyway, I highly recommend the movie but with a strong caveat that it's not for everybody. (Among other things, prudish people may not wish to apply, but I don't think you needed me to tell you that.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

World Series: Astros vs ChiSox

The Astros finished off the Cardinals last night, so we have our World Series match-up for this year. For the second year in a row, it's a good one. (The Red Sox-Cubs match-up we almost had in 2003 would have been great, except that unfortunate events intervened and the world ended up with Yankees-Marlins.) The teams are fairly even and while I could go position by position to try to handicap the teams, they are close enough together that noise would dominate any such analysis. I'm going to say Astros in 6 (losing a Backe start and one other start), but the main prediction in which I'm confident is that this series should either go 6 or 7 (and that it will be a good series).

This is the first trip to the Series for the Astros and for their long-timers Biggio and Bagwell. (The Astros almost made it last year and in 1986.) ESPN's Rob Neyer nicely summarizes their postseason history here. (Note: You need to have ESPN Insider to get the full article. One can sign up for a free month if you want to read the article and don't have that.)

The White Sox haven't appeared in the World Series since 1959 and haven't won since 1917---before the Black Sox scandal and before the Red Sox penultimate Series win in 1918. (Baseball fans always loved talking about the Cubs' and Red Sox' droughts even when that of the White Sox was slightly longer. Those South Siders just don't get a fair shake sometimes. :) ) Rob Neyer also summarizes the history of the White Sox.

I'll post my postseason award picks later. I need to get a chance to pour through all the stats to figure out some close calls.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In which our hero sees an old friend for the first time since June 1996

While this visit has been productive academically and the inn has been cool, the highlight of this trip very clearly lies elsewhere.

A perhaps little-known fact among this crowd is that I was once not the only applied math major in Lloyd from the class of 1998. (Note: I am not counting Peter Wang, who went from math to applied math and back to math and graduated in 1998, because he was originally part of the class of 1997.) If Vito, Ben, and company are reading this, they'll probably already know who I am talking about.

Anyway, after sophomore year, this particular applied math major (this is the infamous Emily, by the way) left Tech. She was going to come back second quarter of junior year (and was supposed to suffer through ME 115 with me) but ended up not coming back and instead went to University of Utah to take a year's worth of classes and graduate as an economics major in 1998. During first quarter that year, many of us (typically class of 1998 people) would tell the frosh about a really cool Lloydie who they hadn't met yet but who would soon be coming back, and I believe her name came up several times until we graduated (so perhaps small parts of this ring a bell to the class of 01 people). Her name also occasionally came up on campus when relevant alums visited because one of the Lloydies from the class of 03 frosh looked a bit liked her (but had a completely different personality).

Anyway, Emily fell off the face of the earth, and over the years there have been several "Whatever happened to..." sorts of comments that usually included something about "Now there's someone who fell off the face of the earth." I was able to get her e-mail address in 2003 (through a chain of 4 people that I thought had been 3). Wes (or Brother Raphael Mary, as he is now known) was giving me some info about the Lloyd Christmas tree for the Legends book and I made one of the comments mentioned in this paragraph. His response included her e-mail address (which was unexpected), so that's how I got in touch with her again.

Anyway, I knew she had just started grad school in math at WPI, and (in a fit of boredom) I was googling myself a few days ago and noted that WPI's math department lists Amherst math talks (including mine). On Sunday, I suddenly remembered Emily was at WPI and was able to arrange something at the last minute. She drove down an hour a half (each way), saw most of the talk, and we hung out for an hour and change after the talk. It was a fun time. As a former Queen of Valhalla, she wasn't overly happy with table takeover night or the Words of Loki, but that's forgivable. Her husband works for Mathworks (and, in particular, does stuff for Simulink on Matlab), so I know where to send my complaints now (when I don't e-mail Cleve Moler directly, that is).

Anyway, not that this post actually means anything to anyone else, but for me it's a very, very cool thing to see a friend for the first time in that long (and is somebody who essentially dropped off of everybody's radar).

In which our hero once again shows his wonderful sense of tact

The flurry of posts continues... (There was stuff I meant to post last night, but I was having trouble with the inn's wireless last night.)

Well, I'm writing the story, so I called myself its 'hero'. I do wear the red robes, so perhaps protagonist would be better. :) The wording, by the way, is a minimalist nod to Candide.

I gave my seminar yesterday. There was one particular question (a relevant question) which led to one of my blurted-out comments that I was immediately thinking that I probably shouldn't have said. I first talked about his stuff directly (which had to do with taking a slightly different ansatz from mine on a problem I'm studying---which is a nonlinear PDE before I take the ansatz in question---and studying similar stuff in those types of solutions). Portions of the 'similar stuff' relate to what is known as KAM theory (which I may explain here intuitively on another occasion), which is applied at the ODE level. However, there have been recent, essentially impossible-to-understand, generalizations of KAM theory to nonlinear PDEs by a certain mathematician (who also has a wikipedia entry) who is a bigshot (a Fields medalist) known for both his brilliance and his arrogance. Anyway, my unpremeditated comment was "I don't want to read a 100 page paper by [insert mathematician here]." where the implication was there was no hope for me to understand it and that that was because there was no hope for virtually anyone else to understand (and hence for it to be applied to real problems).

Anyway, my host later told me at dinner than one of this guy's main collaborators was in the audience.


Broad definitions of "science"

Here is an article discussing the testimony of a biochemistry prof at Lehigh who supports ID. They didn't even mention FSMism. What the Hell?

So if we're going to define science this broadly, isn't the tale about the moon being made of green cheese also a scientific theory? Well, I suppose it was refuted since some people have been on the moon, but couldn't it be really hard, crusty, moldy green cheese? And couldn't Jupiter be made of gaseous green cheese? Hey, I think I found a new state of matter! (Not to mention a theory that it exists---you know, blind, flagrant assertion seems to be grounds for scientific theories these days, according to some people).

OK, so I am too tired to come up with a funny way to do this and I wanted to link to the article before I forgot about it, so this will have to do.

That quote by the priest at the end of the article (about what the core of the issue is, from his perspective) is so disingenuous that it makes me want to puke.

Now where did I put that copy of the Necronomicon...?

I did find some old books at the inn, but not the one for which I was looking...

I did find two arithmetic books and one (elementary school, not abstract) algebra book printed in the 1840s. They
had word problems in which one had to give the answer in bales...

There was also a dictionary from the 1890s, but that was much less interesting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dress up like Devo for Halloween?

If you want to do that, has the following website. I think $20 is kind of steep for one of those hats. Most of us can probably come up with much cheaper Devo costumes.

By the way, 80sTees and CafePress are two online stories with lots of cool things. I think I got my glow-in-the-dark "I've been slimed!" shirt (the original kind that was put back into print a couple years ago) from 80sTees.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A cool coffee table

Justin Howell passes along the following picture of a coffee table. It's pretty decent for placing a book titled, e.g., The Joy of Elder Gods.

Bose-Einstein condensates in superlattices

A paper of mine got posted recently (listed as 10/7, but it wasn't actually up last week; I first noticed it today). This paper, which appears in SIAM Journal of Applied Dynamical Systems, concerns Bose-Einstein condensates in optical superlattice potentials. (An alternative website if you don't have access to SIAM journals is here.)

To give a short-short explanation, BECs constitute a macroscopic quantum phenemon. Cool certain dilute Bose gases (like Na 23 and Rb 87) enough (to less than a microkelvin; I think some people can now get things to single-digit nanokelvin temperatures) and appropriately (evaporate cooling, like what happens with your coffee but on crack, is a key tool), and lots of particles condense into the ground state and you can see this beast via time-of-flight measurements (look in momentum space; see how fast particles move in a given amount of time). Animations and better intuitive explanations than I can give are available at the JILA BEC website. The existence of BECs were predicted in the 1920s (by Bose and Einstein; imagine that) and discovered experimentally in 1995 by Eric Cornell, Carl Wiemann, Wolfgang Ketterle (Jit Kee's Ph.D. advisor), and Randy Hulet. The first three of these guys got Nobeled in 2001. (Six years, of course, is an incredibly short turn-around time in this business. The impact of the discovery was clear from the beginning in this particular case.)

Normally, one puts BECs in harmonic potentials (traps), but there has been lots of work for the past few years in putting them in optical lattice potentials (spatially periodic potentials that are typically modeled by the functional form V_0cos(kx), although elliptical functions are useful for certain analyses). In a so-called "superlattice", one adds an extra lengthscale (or more) to the problem. In the models, this means the potential is the sum of two sinusoids. Experimentally, regular optical lattices are created by crossed lasers, and you can get superlattices by adjusting the angle between them. This has been reported in the literature once, but basically every group that can created regular optical lattices can also create superlattices.

One of the main things that my collaborators and I have been stressing (aka, harping on) is that superlattice potentials offer greatly increased flexibility in what one can do because of the extra lengthscale. The paper here discusses this in the context of spatially extended waves. We have some stuff going on right now (which we're revising today, actually) about controllable manipulation of localized solutions (solitary waves) using "dynamical" superlattice potentials. We're working on parametrically exciting BECs as well.

By the way, I apologize to any experimentalists in the audience for any butchering I did of those aspects.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Old School Inn in Amherst (but with some modern amenities)

This inn used to be a house (well, really a house + another one or two nearby) and the guest rooms were rooms therein. Stylistically, it's really cool. I don't remember ever having stayed in an inn like this before. Apparently, the home-made breakfast tomorrow is supposed to be really good. (This is more like a bed and breakfast than an inn, but we have the bonus of old-school northeastern architecture.) I am staying in the Peterson room.

As for modern amenities, they have wireless. I totally didn't expect it given the kind of place it is. When one enters the building, one gets one's room "instructions" from a note left at the door (one for each guest who hasn't arrived yet). It's pretty funky. I should look in the house's library. Maybe I'll find a dusty copy of the Necronomicon lurking there? That would really nail the hammer on the head in terms of the ambiance. (This aspect would work better if this were near an Ivy League school, but I can pretend it's the new Miskatonic campus of U Mass or something... :) )

What happens in Amherst stays in Amherst

I am up at this ungodly hour (it's an un-Elder Godly hour too, for that matter) to catch an early flight to Hartford, from whence I will take ground transportation to Amherst, Mass to visit a collaborator (whose brother gave 5 talks at Caltech this week!). We are finishing up a BEC paper. One of my friends from college is actually on the author list for this paper as well, so that's pretty cool.

Not that anything will happen in Amherst. It only has lots of college students in a town with nothing much to do... (Meanwhile, I'll be working on my research. What did you think I'd be doing?)

Time to back up my computer for my trip...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A "mind-reader" (courtesy Julius Su)

One of my favorite stories from Caltech involves Julius Su and a friend of his who claimed he could figure out what number somebody was thinking of by the number of lines in their eyes (his friend's success was, shall we say, craptacular). This story (that I probably told at some point to several of the people reading this) will be in Legends III, but I got an e-mail from Julius today with the following psychic website, so I naturally thought of that memorable incident from sophomore year. This one works quite a bit better, although it's essentially a nice web implementation of an old trick. (I can't remember the precise rules of the trick, but I have encountered it before without the extra visual effects.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Movies I want to see (some a lot, some a little)

The list I am using comes from the following list of trailers. I am not putting things in order beyond the order that I read things from this site, and I'm sure I'm omitting something not on this site (and potentially something interesting whose trailer I haven't seen). Here is the list:

Ice Age 2: containing the movie character with whom I identify far more than anybody else ever (I mean the squirrel, of course, who can never hold on to his accorns)

The Da Vinci Code: I'm not sure if I'm going to see this and I have feelings I'll regret it if I do, but I suspect I'll go anyway.

Barnyard: "What happens in the barn stays in the barn." [[Insert Flem joke here.]]

King Kong: Wow, that's a big ape. What would happen if you gave him bongo drums? (He'd probably lose to Travis, but that's another issue. I demand another rematch!)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: I've really enjoyed the other three movies, although I suspect I won't be able to get my fellow Techers to see this with me. I know one of my high school friends wants to see this a lot.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Somehow I suspect this will jive with my sense of humor.

Chicken Little: The trailers have been funny, so why not.

Domino: This could either be good or really, really bad.

Capote: This is the film that will probably win Philip Seymour Hoffman an academy award (based on what I've heard about the film; we'll see what I think after I see it).

Cars: The film already has a truck, so it needs a scene about motherhood to be considered any sort of true western. :)

Wallace and Gromit: I wanted to see it anyway, and everything I've heard is good.

The Pink Panther: I get more worried about this film all the time, but the pink panther is a major part of my paradigm (as is well-known) and my not seeing this would be like my not buying the new Depeche Mode album. (I'll have some Depeche Mode posts in the near future.)

The Brothers Grimm: I suspect I actually won't see it, but the idea is good. Maybe I'll get around to it.

Aeon Flux: I just saw the trailer. This one could suck too, but I'm going to see it anyway.

The Weather Man: This actually looks very funny. (The trailer shows a seen in which Nicholas Cage explains that the reason people don't throw things at him anymore when he's walking around town is probably because of the bow & arrow he now carries.)

The Thing About My Folks: In an "About Schmidt" (very good but a bit depressing too) kind of way

Fun With Dick and Jane: Jim Carrey is a great actor. (Not that this one is supposed to highlight that aspect of his work, but I'm still pro Jim Carrey.)

Everything is Illuminated: It seems interesting and somehow I think my own heritage might make this a bit relevant too.

Good Night, and Good Luck: To quote Tom Lehrer, "I have not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Boy Scouts of America."

[Postscript: I forgot to mention Mirrormask. I didn't see it on the website for a while.]

My 2005 SURF students

Tomorrow is SURF seminar day for Caltech SURFers. I have two students speaking in the Session V (a math session in Keck 111). Sophomore Rudd Sean Li will be speaking at 2:30 on toy models of plankton food webs and Senior Lloydie Eric Kelsic will be speaking at 2:50 on community structure in social networks. (Eric's paper will still be tweaked slightly, but the posted version is nearly final.)

Sean looked at some simple food webs. He sometimes also considered the effects of resource (light) fluctuations on various timescales (say, in 24 hours versus over a season). The choice of plankton in such models is because one can actually do experiments in the lab. Sean built on some prior work by students of mine (both of whom are applying for grad school this year---one in financial math and the other in urban plannning) that is ready to be written up and then submitted once we lazy advisors finally have a chance to do it. Eric did some numerical investigations and also did some work on how to use normal form theory to approximate the cyclic dynamics of plankton when phytoplankton and zooplankton coexist. (The normal form stuff needs further elaboration because it's only at it's beginning stages, but it looks like some nice stuff can come out of it.)

I'll give some more details on Eric's studies because the application is very accessible: He used Facebook data to study social networks in universities in an attempt to devise methodologies to study overlap between different communities (which basically nobody knows how to do yet except for one 2005 paper in Nature that has a method that can work for sparse networks). In doing research like this, it's extremely useful to use data one knows well, so the data of choice to illustrate things was the Caltech social network (as defined by Facebook data, so obviously we're not talking about exact data here). While this is a very nice example (for Techers, especially), of broader scientific interest is to do comparisons across multiple universities, which will be done by some combination of Eric, future students, my collaborators, their students, and me. The foundation is there, but lots of sweat is still necessary.

Corrected URL for 'Ground Control' paper

The paper can found at this url.

all text/pics submitted for Legends of Caltech III: Techer in the Dark

Yeah! Autumn and I finally finished submitting the stories for Legends III just now! I'm really tired and will be crashing very soon.

We started the project in May 2003. The original ETA was May 2005 (oops....). The current ETA, which we will likely make, is May 2006 to coincide with Alumni weekend. Eventually, there is supposed to be a round-table discussion/event in Beckman with us and the writers/editors of the original two books, but nothing firm has been set. (We've been told it's going to happen. Our contacts in the Alumni Association have indicated they want to do this.)

We have a bunch of stuff for Vol IV as well (and we will also be writing/editing) that volume, although there will obviously be a reasonable gap between III and IV. (My first estimate is 3 years total in terms of its publication.) Go to to submit stuff for Volume IV, although Autumn and I will be taking a break between III and IV as well! (That's the other necessary reason for the delay.)

By the way, the title is a reference to a Bjork movie and to the fact that Techers do lots of errrr, "things", in the dark. One title that was considered at some point was, "Legends of Caltech III: The Ride, The Universe, and Everything". Maybe Vol IV will be subtitled "So Long, and Thanks for all the E's"? I'd probably be for that, but we haven't discussed that yet and won't for a while.

I was going to write a blurb on Serenity tonight as well as a discussion of movies that I want to see, but those will have to wait. I also need to take a look at a link Justin sent me to see what I think of it. I might put that here too.

Time to crash!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A new use for the cosmic microwave background? :)

From the arXiv:

Paper: physics/0510102
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 20:15:52 GMT (5kb)

Title: Message in the Sky
Authors: S. Hsu and A. Zee
Comments: 3 pages, revtex
Subj-class: Popular Physics
\ We argue that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) provides a stupendous
opportunity for the Creator of our universe (assuming one exists) to have sent
a message to its occupants, using known physics. The medium for the message is
unique. We elaborate on this observation, noting that it requires only careful
adjustment of the fundamental Lagrangian, but no direct intervention in the
subsequent evolution of the universe.
\\ ( , 5kb)

I was going to just mock the abstract (or at least do so less mildly), but the paper (based on a cursory glance) actually seems like a thought experiment rather the complete bs I was expecting. (The reason I took the extra look is because the second author is a name I recognize. Not that I shouldn't be taking an extra look to make sure anyway...) The title was going to be "Lagrangian formulation of divine creation" and I was going to ask when we could expect the Hamiltonian one.

I need to track down that other paper I passed around before I started posting stuff...

Fox's classlessness

While they have some good shows, the Fox network is classless in just about every facet. Their "news" is an abomination. (Hell, they give Ann Coulter an outlet to open her trap, so what do you expect?) There is even a documentary (or mockumentary, if you wish) called "OutFoxed" about this. (I've heard it's very good and I need to go watch it.)

Fox's crap extends to its baseball coverage. I already mentioned in a previous post how they followed their yearly practice and (for a while) were ignoring the division series games that ESPN broadcasts. Again following their yearly practice, they are broadcasting the two League Championship Series games simultaneously (one on Fox and one on FX) because heaven forbid they don't show a few of their reruns in the afternoon. Their All-Star game broadcast was a travesty. They cut off Hall-of-Fame announcer Ernie Harwell (former Detroit Tiger announcer; the game was in Detroit) so that they could show a an all-star game promo starring Smokey Robinson so that they could harp on the Motown connection. Broadcaster Jeannie Zelasko asked Harwell a question, which she let him answer for something like 20 seconds before talking over him with a comment along the lines of "We could listen to Ernie Harwell talk all day, but we have to get on with the show" and then cutting to an absolutely useless promo that conveyed no information except to remind us that the all-star game is in Detroit and, oooh, so is Motown.

Absolutely classless.

(They're also stupid. They give Tim McCarver an outlet, after all.)

a recently-published paper by one of my former students

One of my former students, former Georgia Tech undergraduate (and now alum) Jessica Snyder is the coauthor of a recently published paper in the journal Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering. (The appear, about the role of vaccination in modeling the dynamics of SARS, appears in the October 2005 issue of this journal.) You can register online for free if you want to take a look at the article. My purpose here is to brag on behalf of my student. :)

In her work with me, Jessica studied a toy nonlinear oscillator model for bipolar disorder. Our paper, which also includes a few other authors, is presently under review. Those of us who served as advisors on the project have been sitting on it for a while. Essentially, what we did is in very early stages and the purpose of our paper is to hopefully help simulate some ideas with this perspective, and to be honest it's not clear we'll be able to address what the referees want for this particular paper. (One referee indicates that he/she thinks this perspective won't be useful without more experiments to allow it to be more quantitative, but it's not clear that such experiments will be done unless there's some sort of toy model paper out there to discuss some of the ideas, so it's a chicken-and-egg thing going on.) Eventually, we'll stop sitting on this paper and work on and submit a revised version but with my applying for jobs last year and then changing institutions and the other person who acted as an advisor needing to finish up a book (and having a position at a university with a 3-3 teaching load, meaning 3 courses per semester), we've just been letting the referee reports sit on our desks for a while.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ground Control to Niels Bohr

Kyle requested that I post some stuff about my research. I'll start with an expository article of mine that recently got published that covers the work of a team of mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and engineers that includes several people from Caltech and Georgia Tech. (One of the Caltech people is Mole Shane Ross '98, who a couple of you probably know.)

The article I wrote (with Predrag Cvitanovic), "Ground Control to Niels Bohr: Exploring Outer Space with Atomic Physics, appeared in the October 2005 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, which is the AMS's analog to Physics Today. (It's a bit more technical, but the articles are supposed to be expository and many of them actually are.) My article has a few equations, so it's not at the level of a popular scientific article, but it is still pretty digestable. If you want a popular exposition, the MathTrek section of Science News Online summarized our expository piece and the work it describes.

This particular article covers a very nice example of the applied math mantra that "the same equations have the same solutions". In particular, there is something called a transition state that originally comes from chemistry (or atomic & molecular physics, if you prefer). Suppose you have a reaction taking place. Really, there is some in-between state (called a transition state) that is passed along the way (or that may not be passed for trajectories that don't react). On one side of it, you have reactants and on another side, you have products. On the celestial scale, the difference is what the reactants and products represent physically (two different types of orbits, for instance).

Obviously, there is a lot more detail even at the expository level, but that's a brief blurb to whet your appetite (or to scare you away).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Popping water balloons in space

You can see this here. Thanks to Ben Williamson for passing this along.

Angry Hornets

Since returning to Caltech, I have taken advantage of the (usually) wonderful local weather enjoyed eating my lunch outside of Chandler Cafe (nee Dining Hall). [Please ignore my lack of appropriate accents in pertinent words.] Over the last few weeks, however, this has led to my being glommed by Angry Hornets who distract and mock me as I attempt to eat my food. It starts out with one and then the others decide that I apparently am not receiving enough attentions, so they join in. (Some people get glommed by members of the opposite sex. I get glommed by hornets. Go figure.) A couple times, I've even had to retreat indoors.

Things tend to be milder when I am eating lunch with others. However, I have noticed that the hornets seem to to virtually ignore the people with me in favor of orbiting around me. (Other people have noticed the unusual attractive hornet field that emanates from my location.)

Not to jinx myself, but they haven't bothered me for a few days. Maybe they'll leave me alone now. <>

2005 stats on

One of my favorite websites is Today, the site's stats were updated through the 2005 regular season. (You can look up, for instance, that Craig Biggio is now 12th all-time in doubles.) In my own little OCD world, I like to see how people advance on the career rankings when the new stats get posted, although I still haven't gone through the 05 stats in detail to see who I think should win the MVPs and other awards.

For what it's worth, the person behind is Sean Forman, a fellow mathematician. In a January conference, I will be giving a talk on how to rank football teams using random walkers (aka, "monkeys") in a session on mathematics and sports that he organizes every year. I'll make a longer post on that when our 2005 rankings are up, but for now you can see 2004 and 2003 rankings here.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Priorities: Baseball vs Work

This seems to be an annual thing for me during the postseason. With the knowledge that I soon won't have new baseball games for about 6 months and the most important games of the season, I find this time of the year to be my least productive. I do end up listening to some games on the radio (via rather than watching them on tv (especially if it's during the day and I'm at work, where national broadcast rights prevent my access to telecasts), although I have been known to skip out on going to work if the games are truly important (say, if the Dodgers are in the postseason, which hasn't occurred all the much for several years now). There's a wider range of games for which I'll leave work early, which includes many regular-season Dodger games and postseason games that prove to be very interesting based on some combination of teams/announcers/which game it is/how deep into the postseason it is/other things I am forgetting at the moment.

OK, so why do I bring all this up? Well, today we had an 18 inning game between the Astros and the Braves. (I was going to post something on this anyway, although JSpur has now requested it as well.) This was the "longest" game in terms of innings in postseason history. [There was a 16 inning NLCS game between the Astros and Mets in 1986, which was the year of Mike Scott (among others).] It was the longest game in NLDS history in terms of time (5:50). Fittingly, the recap on is brought to you by Viagra. I tried to see where it ranks in game length among all postseason games, but I couldn't find that quickly and I want to pay attention to the Angels-Yankees game (and hopefully watch the Yankees die). [Postscript added later: The Fox broadcast indicates that this is indeed the longest postseason game ever.]

I got up this morning at 10am and missed the 1st inning during my bath. I decided to get some coffee and get back (instead of getting coffee and listening to the game on the radio at work) and then go to work after the game (or see Serenity after the game and go to work after the Angels-Yankees game, since I only needed an hour or so in the office), and it was 4-0 Braves in the top of the 5th when I returned. (I thought I'd only miss another 1.5 innings or so, but Peet's was really busy this morning.) It was about 11:20 when I got back, so the game had been pretty quick up to that time. I didn't expect it to go 18 innings, obviously. It was quite an exciting game. I should also mention that this game one again revealed the Braves' achilles heal, which is their bullpen (good extra inning pitching notwithstanding), as it has been all year. Of course, in a short series, who the stochastic component determines who wins far more than the deterministic component, but when the Astros can have an element of {Pettitte,Clemens,Oswalt} start 4 of 5 games, that's a pretty tough order for the opponents. Granted, the Bills' (I mean Braves') vaunted rotation (containing at least 2 and maybe 3 Hall-of-Famers) that dominated baseball for well over a decade didn't keep them from choking repeatedly over the years... (Again, it's the stochastic component, but after dealing with local obnoxious Braves fans for 2.5 years, I do enjoy seeing them fall. The tomahawk chop is insidious.)

[Postscript: I forgot to mention that in choosing which game I would miss a bit to get some work done, the ESPN versus Fox broadcast and, more particularly, the no Tim McCarver vs Tim McCarver factor was the deciding factor. Given how great the last 13 innings of the Braves-Astros game were, I clearly made the right decision. Of course, I am seeing the last few innings of this second game as well and my Tim McCarver filters have been working pretty well so far.]


I am referring, of course, to the new movie based on a play that I have meant to see (but still haven't seen) rather than the song by Paul Simon in which Steve Martin and Chevy Chase appear in the music video.

I enjoyed the film because it does a pretty good job of getting into the mind of a potentially crazy mathematician and of somebody who has to deal with one on a regular basis. In terms of my qualifications for making that statement, I've definitely been accused of being crazy more than a few times and I'm certainly a mathematician. :) Also, my doctoral advisor was nuts (though he's technically a theoretical physicist) and was obsessed with trying to prove Goldbach's conjecture (that every even integer greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two primes), which dates from a 1742 letter. My understanding was that the play version of Proof is about the Goldbach conjecture, but it's never mentioned by name in the movie---just that it's a really important problem in number theory, so based on the movie only, they could easily be referring to the Riemann hypothesis, and some of the fields they mention in the movie are ones I would be more likely to associate with the latter (caveat: I mention this because of a connection that the Riemann hypothesis has with quantum mechanics, where I know some of those things have been applied [at least one of them in quantum chaos, actually]; I'm not a number theorist, so don't take that comment too seriously).

My favorite line in the movie, which I can already only remember approximately, goes something like this: "Let her sleep. She was up late drinking heavily with the theoretical physicists last night." Amen to that!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"slippage of the differential"

This was Fox broadcaster Steve ("Psycho") Lyon's eloquent description of the difference in speed between Roy Oswalt's fastball and breaking ball. I think I did that a few times in calculus...

Also, Fox is classless in its baseball broadcasts just as it is in just about everything else. The Division Series games are broadcast by both Fox and ESPN. During the ESPN broadcasts, the games that will appear on both stations are advertised during the games. During Fox broadcasts, however, it's like the ESPN telecasts don't even exist. The most egregious cases are during, say, game 1 of a series when Fox advertises a game 3 that will appear on Fox and never even mentions the second game that will appear on ESPN. How incredibly lame...

(Postscript: During this evening's Astros-Braves game, I finally saw Fox advertise one the games being shown on ESPN, so they're not being lame 100% of the time...)

How many Matlab simulations does it take to slow a G5 to a crawl?

This is the subject of my research today. I currently have 8 simulations going and my G5 is pretty slow at basically everything else at the moment (you're shocked; I can tell). At Georgia Tech, I'd just log into a bunch of different computers in the uglab (which the undergrads almost never used, by the way, but that's where the math department had it's most powerful computers---those faculty who conduct numerical simulations would log into those machines when it was desirable to run multiple simulations in parallel). Here, it's easiest to just put everything on one computer, although if the time scale on some of these simulations were longer, I'd consider using my GT math account and try to find a computer that can afford to have an extra simulation going in the background.

With all the stuff I have open, I have set a new record with 85 items presently in the dock. I think I have about O(15-20) when no applications are open. I practically need a magnifying glass to see the individual icon. :)

Why all these simulations? Well, I have 4 different cases (2 time-dependent, 2 with averaged dynamics) and I want to also see which spatial scaling gives me a readable plot for all 4. I have to let them run a while to figure this stuff out to make sure the dynamics I want to convey show up soon enough and that I set this so that artificial boundary effects from the simulation don't screw up the actual dynamics. My collaborator wants to submit the revised version of this paper within a week, so I'd like to get these numerics done asap so we can do the final drafting.

Here's the good news: Soon, I'm going to go home and watch a baseball game, and everything should be done by the time I return tomorrow morning. (Hopefully, I will have found a setting that gives me nice plots.)

I've seen enough with the plots that everything is coming out consistent with the theory, but this still needs to be conveyed clearly.

"Intergalactic Tarzan Boy"

I am listening to an amalgamation of Tarzan Boy and Intergalatic Planetary. This is simultaneously amusing and disturbing.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Some things never change...

When I returned to Caltech, I was very keenly aware that some of my friends from my era were still around in some guise or another. Upon returning, however, I have also bumped into others periodically who I had not realized were around or had returned. (Several people from my era have returned to Tech in the last several months.) Of course, I bumped into Alex Sheive on my first day back on campus in June, and that's how I truly realized I was back.

On Wednesday, I ran into Mike Tice '97 (Lloyd House), who just came back as a postdoc. Naturally, Frances Siu '98 (from my class of Lloyd frosh!) is back along with him. Dave Relyea '97 (also from Lloyd) drove across the country in returning to Tech as a postdoc last week. (I saw his name listed in the catalog and knew he was returning, but I just found out he's now in residence, although I haven't run into him yet.) Today I saw Paul Penzes, who was a transfer student Lloydie who came he during my frosh year. He was actually my roommate during my first week in Lloyd. He stayed at Tech as a grad turkey and then worked in Pasadena for a couple years before just returning as a postdoc. I also run into Lloydies Ellis Meng '97 and Tuan Huang '95 every few weeks and hang out with old friends Julius Su and my former froshlings Tim Elling, Joe Schaeffer, and a few of the other regulars (which includes a couple young'uns) along with these two musketeers. I've also run into some other old friends on campus who aren't here normally. Jing Xu (a Scurve, class of 1998) dropped by to visit for a little while on Thursday after her talk at JPL, which was one of my two highlights from this week (ping pong was the other one).

Ping pong also goes in this post. I played a crapload at Caltech and became pretty good. I also played at Cornell but wasn't able to keep it up at Georgia Tech. Yesterday was my first time playing in 3 years, so my rust showed. (My serve came back pretty quickly, though. That's always been the best part of my game.) The ping pong coach recognized me immediately (as had a few of my profs, although some others still haven't figured out who I am---either that or they don't care), so that was very nice. She noticed that the rubber on my paddle wasn't in great shape, so I'm dealing with replacing that for next week's class. As usual, fencing and some martial arts were under way while we were playing. And just like when I was at Tech, Sean Mauch was among the martial artists. He's been at Tech since 1991 (as has Tuan), so maybe he wants to take over for Millikan Man or something?

Anyway, Caltech is my home, and seeing familiar people and places again is really great for my morale (my immense stress level these past couple weeks nonwithstanding).

Follow the leader...

Inspired by a couple of my friends, I decided to start blogging my random (or not-so-random) thoughts/rants that I occasionally (perhaps too often) send out by e-mail to my friends. Props go out to those known in some circles as the Arcane Gazebo (so you can't attack him) and the Lemming (who you can attack). I must give credit where it's due. I'll cast aspersions that way too. :)