Archive for October, 2007

Creative drought – theory v. experiment – or lack of collaborators?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 27, 2007 by quantummoxie

Have you ever had a period of mental block – an extended period? I’m in one. I have at least half a dozen research projects going (which, as a theorist, means stacks of intermingled paper including scraps of receipts, napkins, etc. strewn around my office and home), some of which have been going for several years, and yet I have been stuck in a mental block for months. Despite spitting out numerous preprints in the previous few years, I’ve only spit out one this year. Now, I have been working hard to get that one published and I also finally got around to sending a few of the older ideas in for review (after tweaking them, of course), but I haven’t made any progress worthy of another paper.

I firmly believe that part of the problem is that I don’t have a true collaborator. I regularly converse with a number of leading quantum theorists and I may have twisted at least one’s arm into helping me out. I also work closely with some of my colleagues in my department (and some other departments). But I haven’t really settled into a routine with anyone and haven’t been able to convince anyone to collaborate (despite shared interest and ideas). With a collaborator or two, I think it’s easier to push through the mental blocks. I mean, every student of physics knows this (or should know this) – it’s why I tell my students to study and do their homework in groups.

Another thought I had is that, perhaps, this is one problem perhaps more closely associated with theorists. To paraphrase string theorist Ed Witten, much of theory is sitting around and thinking. You never know where that might lead. I mean, it seems like I’m either lost in a maze sometimes with no idea how to get back to the beginning, or that I’m running around in circles.

Experimentalists, on the other hand, seem to have a clearer sense of what to do or what they want to do. They’re much more like engineers (which I once was, so I know). Partly, I think, experiment seems to more obviously point you in one direction or another – it’s more concrete.

So why don’t I switch to experiment, you ask? Let’s just say there’s a reason I’m no longer an engineer and humanity is safer as a result…

More Trout

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 22, 2007 by quantummoxie

It’s amazing how trout will just “show up” one day (along with the fishermen). I fish a couple of times a week on the Mousam River here in Maine, nearly always from “Rogers Pond” which is a park in the village run on the river where a nice long run gives way to some flat water (the pond has nothing to do with the river – it’s a man-made square thing that I think is simply used for ice-skating in the winter). Anyway, most of the summer and well into the fall I was the only fisherman that I ever saw on that stretch of river. Admittedly I didn’t catch a trout until the end of September (see previous post), but there were chubs and alewives all summer so it was relatively active. As the water got cooler and cooler I started to wonder where the fish were. Then, last Thursday, I decided to go at my usual time and, lo and behold, the parking lot was packed and there were fishermen about every 20 yards or so (maybe 30 – I’m a poor judge of distance)! And, of course, there were trout everywhere! Tons, and tons of them, swimming every which way, in water that was completely empty of them not long ago. I have a sneaking suspicion many of them were anadromous (sea-run) since this is just below the last dam.

In any case, there is this one hole I fished alot this summer since it was almost always full of chubs (which, when you’re desperate to catch something – anything – will bite at rusty nails, pieces of felt, gum, you name it). This spot was, oddly, about the only spot not occupied by a fisherman last Thursday so I parked myself right there and caught two beautiful rainbows – one was 14″ and one almost 13″ (attempts at pictures were thwarted by their wriggling and they eventually jumped loose, taking my flies with them – I haven’t quite got the coordination for that yet). I returned on Saturday (once again finding “my” hole to be about the only unoccupied spot) and snagged a 12″ brookie (again no pic, but that’s because I needed a scale sample to send back to the state for analysis and didn’t want him tied up for too long). I had two others hooked, but couldn’t land them (plus I got a chub – damn, they’re funny fish; like the dogs of the fish world – will eat anything). This is essentially the same spot I caught that brown trout a few weeks back! So this hole (and a small plunge pool just above it) has yielded two rainbows, a brookie, and a brown, plus numerous chubs!

As an additional note, I was working the same couple of flies each times – a streamer and a copper jon. They also were biting at one of my parachutes before I lost it in a tree (lots of dense foliage along the shore which is true of almost any river in the northeast regardless of size).

I will say, though, that summer has definitey come to a close from the water’s standpoint. Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been having, after four hours wading in the river on Saturday (in shorts and water shoes instead of waders), my feet were numb. I think it’s about time to start thinking about those waders…

Coherence* is back!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 13, 2007 by quantummoxie

After a long dry spell, one of the most informative quantum blogs, Coherence*, returned with post a couple of weeks ago (yes, I have been absent for awhile as well, but no one reads Quantum Moxie) including a link to the proceedings of the Everett@50 conference. That reminds me that I really need to send along my paper on the Many Worlds Interpretation to a journal somewhere (now that it has been sitting around for over two years).