Friday, August 31, 2012

Small World

Last Sunday I flew into Incheon Airport from Heathrow on an overnight flight. Tired, and a bit disoriented, I got off the plane, walked through customs out into the lobby, and I started trying to figure out how I was going to get a bus to my hotel in Seongbuk. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, someone I know is standing in front of me ``Steve Simon what are you doing here?”

The person in front of me was Randy Giles, a colleague from my Bell Labs days. Randy was one of the star research directors and I remembered (albeit only after he reminded me) that about the same time as I left Bell, he was tapped to head the newly formed Bell Labs Korea branch. Honestly though, if someone had asked me last week “who do you know who lives in Seoul”?, I would not have been able to come up with a single name (save Kwon Park who was organizing the physics conference I was attending this week at the Korean Institute for Advanced Studies). The fact that I ran into Randy in the airport was quite a coincidence. It is indeed a very small world.

As it turned out, Randy had come to the airport to pick up the president of Bell Labs, Jeong Kim, who was visiting Korea for the week. Jeong’s flight landed only a few minutes after mine, and he found us after I had been talking to Randy for only about two minutes. Jeong remembered me too (“Yes, you are the Quantum Guy”). They very kindly they offered to have their extra driver take me to my hotel rather than have me struggle with the bus system. They also invited me to come by the labs, give a talk, look around and meet some of the team.

 On Wednesday afternoon there were no talks in my conference, so I arranged to head over to Bell Labs. I gave an impromptu talk on topological quantum computation. Being that Bell still has a few people working on this subject, I thought it certainly wouldn’t hurt to promte the field in general. The talk went over well I think –-- even though the audience was a mix of computer scientists, network scientists, engineers, and only one physicist. After this I spent some time chatting with one of their engineers on the subject of MIMO communications –-- a flashback to one of my previous research lives (I took the opportunity to point out this paper –-- which is one of my favorite nasty calculations).

I joined the members of the lab for a nice dinner. As it turned out, one of their ranks is leaving this week to take a job at a university and they were having a little farewell party that night. At dinner, I made a special request for a bibimbap. I realize this was like saying “I really need to have a burger” when you are in a three star restaurant --- bibimbap is really considered to be student-food, or even drunk-food. But I like the stuff, and while I could get a good bibimbap in New York on 33rd street, I have not had any since moving to the UK. Being that my time in Seoul was running out, I was not to be denied a good bibimbap --- and the restaurant did not disappoint.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stephen Simon- "YOU ROCK!"

Not only are you a phenom of a physicist, a learned lecturer, a proven professor, a tireless traveler, a mighty musician, a silly sky-diver and a former frisbee-fiend.....
you are also a wickedly wonderful writer!
We so enjoyed this beautiful blog and are anticipating many more.

Love from,
Two senior Simon groupees on the Branch