Sunday, August 19, 2012

Physicists Hard At Work

Sometimes my non-physics friends are curious about what working as a physicist is like.   At conferences it is often a lot of talking and scribbling (either on paper or on chalkboards or whiteboards).    Here are some pictures from the Stockholm conference.  (All photo credits go to Joost Slingerland.  I have a camera on my mobile phone too, but it only takes blurry pictures that could be the Loch Ness Monster).

Here is a picture of Fiona Burnell explaining to me some subtleties of topological gauge theories in 3+1 dimensions.

You probably can't read the whiteboard.   I don't have a photo of the board after that particular discussion.  To get a better idea of what our whiteboards look like, here is a photo from the room down the hall which many of us used as an office.

     Yes, I admit I am the immature one who drew the elephant from the rear.  And I'm also the immature one who drew the guy peaking out from the left.       The rest of the chalkboard is an amalgam of several different conversations that occurred over the course of the week. 
Conferences like this are certainly not all-work-and-no-play.  Besides jumping out of airplanes, we also tend to go out for a fair number of good meals -- and not always just soup.   One place that is exceptionally good in Stockholm is Herman's Vegetarian Cafe.  If you are a vegetarian, or even if you are just a vegetarian sympathizer, the buffet at this place is wonderful.   

This picture was taken after a huge dinner at Herman's.   From the right it is Jerome Dubail, his wife (I'm sorry I don't remember her first name right now.  My memory for names is really terrible these days!), Gunnar Moller, and yours truly.    Here we are sitting at picnic tables having just eaten everything in sight.  Behind me is a brick wall, and behind the brick wall is a roughly 20 meter drop to a road, but then on the other side of the road is the sea.  As you probably know, Stockholm is an archipelago, so from here you look over the water to see other parts of the city as the sun sets. 
In this picture Shanna Haaker has just suggested that we could measure the drop from the brick wall to the road by jumping over the wall and timing the drop.  I'm not sure if she meant that she should jump over the wall or if she meant that I should jump over the wall.


shalaree said...

your elephant has toes on his back side! ;-) that herman's place looks awesome, the reggae soundtrack on their webpage makes me wanna go even more!

Steve said...

Alas, I am not a very good artist!

HM said...

So, which subtleties does topological gauge theories in 3+1 D have? The whiteboard is too blurry to read! :)

Sid said...

Her name is Laura, if I recall correctly.

Anonymous said...

A question any non physicist familiar with the fact that physicists get funded with their tax money would ask at this point is this, why do you need to go to Stockholm to talk to your Oxford colleague?

Steve said...

Yes, I had some discussions with Oxford colleagues in Stockholm... but many more discussions with non-Oxford colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Had to comment on the picture of an elephant: that's no elephant, it's an umbrellaphant!


Shanna said...

I am clearly pointing at you Steve :)