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Posts Tagged ‘personal’

Seth in the rain in Copehagen

Some folks working at CERN—I’m not going to single anyone out, but American taxpayers may be assured that it’s not anyone whose salary you cover—like to vacation for the entire month of August. Personally I’d rather be here working at this very exciting time, but now and then I do like to get out of town and enjoy all the places that are (relatively) easy to get to while I’m living in Europe. So I take a day or two off for long weekend trips now and then.

For example, this past weekend I was in Copenhagen, enjoying the lovely weather. (If you click for the large version of the image, you can see the raindrops!) I had a good time, but in order to get a flight I could afford, I had to (a) fly out of Zurich, and (b) return on Monday morning rather than Sunday night. That meant my commute to work on Monday looked like this:

5:00 am – Wake up
5:45 am – Catch subway to airport
8:15 am – Take off from Copenhagen
9:55 am – Land in Zurich
10:13 am – Catch train to Geneva (I had to run, but still, try getting out of an American airport that fast!)
1:15 pm – Arrive in Geneva, buy lunch at a pizza stand, and take the usual tram and bus to work
2:00 pm – Sit down at my desk at CERN

I stayed at work until almost ten to put in as full a day’s work as I could. (One of the great things about being a physicist in general, and a physics student in particular, is that you can put in whatever hours you like as long as the work gets done.) Of course, I was pretty tired, but what can I say? I like to work hard and play hard.

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Graduation Day

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Seth's sister, Sarah, after MIT's 2008 graduationI have been in Boston this week for my sister’s graduation. Today my family and I braved rain, cold, a number of speeches, and the reading of well over a thousand graduates’ names in order to see her receive her diploma from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her degree is in physics, which just so happens to be the same as mine, but she is a very different sort of physicist than I am: the kind who actually knows how to apply her knowledge directly to practical projects. She just finished a B.A. thesis on amplitude and phase modulation of lasers for LIGO. Her next project is working with a classmate on designing a low-cost Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machine. Currently the cheapest NMR machines cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and their idea is to build a prototype machine, made from off-the-shelf components that can be purchased within a modest MIT summer grant. Then they will write up public-domain instructions, and provide public-domain software, so that others can do the same thing, with the eventual goal of making it possible for high school labs (and others with limited budgets) to study NMR.

This kind of ability, to tinker and build a working copy of something from scratch, which MIT seems to impart to its students rather effectively, always leaves me mystified and more than a little jealous. It is very different from the specialized and often-abstract work that goes into a particle physics collaboration, and part of me wishes I had the time and energy to teach myself the relevant skills. But I suppose it’s better for my sister and me to have slightly different interests at least.

Needless to say, I am very, very proud.

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