Archive for November 16, 2012

LHC Lights up NBI

Posted in Art, Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 16, 2012 by telescoper

Well, first things first. Congratulations to Dr Sabir Ramazanov on his successful thesis defence today! I’ll perhaps write a bit more about the process in due course.

After the formalities were concluded, however, the committee took a breath of fresh air outside the Niels Bohr Institute where, in the fading November twilight, we were treated to a peculiar light show; a set of small spotlights on the front wall of the NBI building is hooked up directly to the ATLAS experiment on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN so that every time an event registers in Geneva it is displayed almost immediately in public here in Copenhagen. Quite appropriate for a place so steeped in physics history. The resolution of the particle tracks is of course not marvellous, but it’s actually quite a remarkable thing to see, although not all that easy to catch it on camera, especially if you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine!

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A Psychological Tip

Posted in Biographical, Poetry with tags , , , , on November 16, 2012 by telescoper

So here I am, then, in Copenhagen. Yesterday evening, as far as I’m concerned, at least, my wavefunction collapsed along with the rest of me into a definite location. Ibsen’s Hotel, in fact. I had a pleasantly uneventful journey to Heathrow by train. The plane thence arrived in Copenhagen twenty minutes ahead of time, and then I had the chance to marvel at wonderful Copenhagen’s wonderfully efficient public transport in the form of the Metro that took me to about 100 metres from my hotel. All very relaxed and stress-free.

This morning I got up bright and early, determined to avoid the queues at breakfast, but was inevitably foiled by dozens of uber-efficient Germans who were already there at 7am when it opened. Fortunately I managed to find a quiet place in the corner to drink my coffee while they basked in their own smugness and barked orders at the waitresses.

Anyway, it’s still pretty dark outside so I thought I’d post something before walking to the Niels Bohr Institute for the day’s business. Since I’m in Denmark I thought I’d put up one of the wonderfully witty little poems written by Danish mathematician Piet Hein. He called each of these verses a “grook” (or actually, in Danish, the word is gruk) and he wrote thousands of them over his long life. Many, like this one, are utterly brilliant.

Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind,
and you’re hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.

No – not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you’re passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

by Piet Hein (1905-1996).