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Posts Tagged ‘sport’

Running to..or from…what?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

–by T. Isaac Meyer, Head, Strategic Planning & Communications

I ran.

I ran some more.

I looked over my shoulder. JH was there, right at my shoulder.

I ran some more.

That’s what physics research is like. Companions, partners, all on the road to truth and sometimes you train together and run together and hope to win together.

This past Sunday, Vancouver held its annual Sun Run, a 10 km race for about 49,000 people. A little bit less than the record number and a little bit more than last year. What was I doing there? Well, I purport to be a runner. Not a good runner. That’s my brother T.O., who has run backwoods races in upstate New York and regularly competes to kick a** in the NY and Boston Marathons.

But working at a physics laboratory, a global laboratory, does breed a certain camaraderie and competitiveness.

RW, the guy at TRIUMF who helped me secure and set up my laptop, ran the 10 km for a PR, that’s short for Personal Record, of less than 40 minutes. JH and I beat the clock at 1:04 and 1:06 respectively. The mitigating factor is that JH is about 25 years my senior; he’s a good training partner.

So what’s my point? That as NSL pointed out earlier, science is an unusual team sport. Its more like a family sport. We want to beat the other relatives, but if you threaten or challenge our kin, we will unite and demand to see your scientific, peer-reviewed publication documenting your challenge. Its charming and cute and bloodthirsty in a way. We’re hell bent for leather to reveal—and share—the secrets of Nature for everyone to know and cherish. And the single point of glory is to be part of the team that did it first—and wrote about it. It’s like being part of a team called Glen Cunningham. We would’ve got there first.

The Sun Run itself…fanatical and amazing and impossible. JH and I did not beat our record time from last year, but we cruised and we felt good. We passed a fire in a third-floor apartment building that fire & rescue crews had tamed moments before we passed. And we passed about 10,000 people as our pace surpassed our peers in the six stages of release. With nearly 50,000 people running the same race, the organizers wisely let about 10,000 go at a time. With Canadian-born Byran Adams cheering us on with the “Summer of ‘69” we charged across the starting line about an hour after the elite “blue bib” runners did. The overall winner, a Canadian who completed the race in 29:06. A true hero, and a man fleet of feet.

So what is the moral of this disconnected prose? That we all race, some on foot, some in science, some in music, some in performance art, some in poetry. And a race well run, a race well executed, no matter the outcome, is something to be appreciated and cherished.

On to the BMO Half-Marathon in 2 weeks!

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Science is an Unusual Team Sport

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

–by Nigel S. Lockyer, Director

Scientists are curious. We all know that. But more importantly they are team players…that’s because they recognize we are all in the same “line of business”—because we are curious. The basic cheer of science is something like “We’re curious, rah rah, and we want to find out, rah rah! Join us, rah, and we’ll tell you what we’ve learned so far, rah, rah!”

One luxury that I particularly enjoy of working in a scientific environment is the multiple stimulating interactions with scientists from other labs, universities, and countries. For instance, this week at TRIUMF, I was able to find time (I suppose everyone thinks that lab directors can do what they want, when they want, but that is hardly true) to hear three lectures: one on our involvement in the medical-isotope crisis, one on the search for dark matter using a detector in orbit, and one on LHC searches for new physics. None of what we heard was conclusive. We are just learning to make useful targets for isotope production, dark matter was not found, nor new physics at the LHC.

But what was really enjoyable was the camaraderie between scientists, often between those that do not know one another: Did you try this? Did you look at that? Oh, that was really impressive! We know they are not going to give up the quest; we want them to win because we want to know the answer. A mutual win—no, not a tie, a really mutual win. This is not a concept that Sri Lanka would understand when India won the world cup in cricket. But in science, we are ALL cheering for a win.

Scientists know the challenges of advancing knowledge at the frontier. They have to stretch accelerator technology, detector abilities, push data transmission speed records (think the extreme LHC data rates), and invent clever data mining and analysis methods. We all try to do it, and so we sympathize with our colleagues as they struggle to make progress in their own areas. We are comrades in a quest for knowledge…a quest to unlock the closely guarded secrets of nature. We are team mates in the unusual, critically important sport of science.

Now pardon me, whilst I go get some practice in before next week’s game!

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