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Jonathan Asaadi | Syracuse University | USA

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Technology and Growing Older

Earlier last week I celebrated my 29th birthday. This birthday was especially amazing for numerous reasons and I thought I would share in some of my thoughts on this birthday.

First of all the people I got to share this birthday with helped make it very memorable. My lovely fiancée went to great lengths to plan something of a surprise party for me and this labor of love really is an amazing thing and I count myself lucky to have her in my life.blh

My friend and fellow blogger Homer Wolfe was in on the conspiracy as well as another mutual friend (Hisham). Together they pooled their collective resources to bring me a birthday party that really reflected where I am in my life.

So when I walked in to the local gym where I climb and spend a good portion of my free time (I was lured by the promise of an evening of climbing and relaxing by my fiancée) I was stunned to see a 18X15X15 foot bouncy house (or moonwalk). Then over 20 of my friends were standing there next to the rock wall.

My response was: “Why is there a bouncy house, and what is everyone doing here?”bounce_rental_excaliburcombo

To which my fiancée responded: “This is your birthday party silly!”

I was floored! What followed was nothing short of a 3 hour play-fest. Here I was with fellow particle physics people, climbers, and professional trying to see who could bounce the highest, run up the slide first, and playing Frisbee and climbing on my 29th birthday.

Needless to say, it was perfect. Funny enough there wasn’t a single person that walked away from this party without an injury or scrape of some kind.  (There is a reason they post safety instructions on those things!) But everyone’s response was the same, “That was totally worth it!”

Now I reflect on this birthday because it represents a lot of different things. 1) My last birthday in my twenties. Although, as you may tell from the content of the party, age means very little to me. 2) The last birthday as a graduate student before moving forward in my physics career (I hope!) And 3) The gifts I received helped framed how far technology has come in my brief time on this earth.

It is number three I want to talk about briefly as many readers may appreciate this coming from a field where computers and technology drives our lives. I was given an external hard drive by my fiancée after she heard some of the horror stories shared by Homer and others in physics of their work computer becoming corrupted and losing valuable research, thesis’s, or other such things.

1tbI was shocked when I opened the gift and saw that I held in my hand 1 Terabyte of storage!

My first computer only had 100 megabytes of total memory.  I remember when ZIP drives were a big deal and you could finally have a Gigabyte of data on a single disk.

However, now when we talk about computing at the LHC we speak in terms of petabytes per year. The data set that will hopefully be my thesis is a few Terabytes big (initially, before skimming it down).

Our computers grow faster, smaller, and more powerful. Our projects get larger, our computing demands grow, and our ability to invent new ways of solving our complex mysteries becomes more sophisticated.

I live in the era of grid computing, dark fiber bandwidth, and Terabyte portable storage. 2010 promises already to be an amazing year here at Fermilab, at the LHC, and throughout the particle physics world.

But what I loved most about this birthday is that I combined the sophisticated world of physics and computing with the simple pleasure of bouncing in an inflatable castle with friends!