Random Thoughts

Dear Awareness People:

Shut the F......... (1) I'm begging you.

I already have more than enough to be aware of. Even more than I'm aware of. 

You try walking around Manhattan unaware. You won't be walking for long. Nope, there will be the usual horde of coked-up delivery guy lunatics whizzing around on bikes (sidewalks only, please) just praying for the opportunity to be the first to run you over. 

When I  took Hwy 88-E toward Fermilab, shortly after landing at the Chicago O' Hare Airport yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that the first time I had driven there happened 26 years and five months ago, in June 1992, when I was 26 years and five months old. 
What makes the observation significant is that the trip to Fermilab I made 26 years ago arguably marked the start of my career as a particle physicist, something that I consider as a non-trivial defining moment in my life. I was still a student back then, but from that point on I started doing serious research with the physics of elementary particles, and I have never stopped doing that since. 

In late 2014 I came downstairs from my home office and said to my wife, "Herb London just left me a message."

"Is he any relation to Stacy London?" she asked in her offhand humor way. Well, yeah, she is his daughter, if you are from California, but if you are of my generation and from anywhere near the orbit of New York, you know who Herb London is. And Herb London was getting a return phone call.
During the Obama administration, America's Director of National Intelligence exposed Russian efforts to undermine U.S. natural gas ("fracking") by supporting environmental groups using "donor advised" funds (large pools of money where individual participants can anonymously decide where to send the cash) in order to keep Europe, which has thrown the energy baby out with the political water by shutting down nuclear, suckling at the teat of Kremlin fossil fuels. They didn't want America exporting energy, the top export of Russia, and the way to do that was to pay activists to make fracking controversial at home so legislators would come down along predictable party lines.
In Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur", French and English tales were reworked into the definitive mythology of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But he may have gotten one thing wrong.

Instead of a lady in the lake providing (and eventually taking back) the fabled sword Excalibur, symbol of pre-Norman rule, until the return of the King, the lady in the lake may have been meant to be the next great monarch. If so, she's arrived and her name is Saga Vanecek.
Next month, a Microsoft developer, a classical pianist, and a philanthropist for kids' health will compete in the Miss America pageant. And they are all the same person: Allison Farris.

Farris creates and codes apps for Microsoft as a career but next month she is poised to do something with a different kind of elegance. She will represent Washington, D.C. at the Miss America competition on Sept 9, 2018 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which will be televised on ABC.
On Chance

On Chance

Jul 31 2018 | comment(s)

What is chance? Or better, does the word "chance" really have an absolute meaning? I believe this is not an idle question. We tend to use that word to describe phenomena which we cannot trace back to an explanatory cause by a cause-effect relation. But words are important: labeling an event as due to chance has a direct impact on our perception of reality, as the statement that something "happened by chance" constitutes a final verdict, which labels the event as something not liable to be scrutinized in more depth.
It can't have been easy for former environmental activist Mark Lynas to change sides. His friends were on the anti-science side, he was a dutiful reader of The Guardian, where activists and environmental trade groups reign supreme, and he was adored there.

But he had an ethical dilemma. How could he talk about the science consensus on climate change, despite generous potential funding by corporations to say otherwise (no, really, anti-science people think that happens), while continuing to deny the science consensus in agriculture. Exxon's revenue was 20X that of Monsanto and yet even with far fewer scientists in climate studies they were not "bought off" as his side claimed about farming.


Jun 10 2018 | comment(s)

Summer is coming, and with it some more intense than usual travel for me. I actually started last month, when my path touched Rome, Athens, La Londe Les Maures (a small town on the south French riviera), and Athens again. Since being away from home means also having a chance to meet people you would otherwise not get in touch with, I have decided to make public my travel plan this year, in the hope of crossing the path of friends or acquaintances. 
Stephen W Hawking actually wrote me a letter in response to one I sent him (actually I think it was an email) while in hindsight it was very likely to have been written by a functionary for him or the like it was still nice.  At about the same time I sent a message to someone at Fermilab and got a response which they posted to their website and kept there ever since.  Which I consider to be a distinct honor as it was either the first or one of the first such questions (and alone the lines of something people must think of from time to time if they know a little physics.)