1. 2015
Jul
26

## A Virtual Welcome to the Rencontres du Vietnam

In my last post I mentioned how the coast of Vietnam, where the Rencontres conference series is being held, looks amazing — with photo evidence. You might have guessed that that image was a promotional picture, and you’d be right: it came from the 2014 edition of the conference’s website.

This one I took with my cell phone:

Guys. Vietnam is really pretty!

I arrived in Quy Nhon Saturday morning after an overnight trip from Wuhan, about 15 hours door-to-door. So despite having a couple of free days before the official start of conference events tonight (Sunday), all I really managed to do was catch up on some desperately needed sleep, and snap a couple more pictures of the coast.

Of course, I have been enjoying the food. Vietnamese cuisine, or at least what I’ve seen of it so far, is not as strongly flavored as what I’m used to in Wuhan, where every other dish is spicy with a thick Szechuan-style sauce. But they do some great things with a more subtle flavor palette. We have all our meals provided at the hotel restaurant, arranged by the conference organizers. Steamed vegetables with garlic sauce, fried spring …

2. 2015
Jul
23

## Checking in after a busy semester

I’ve been absent from the blog for a while for a few different reasons — between some issues to deal with in my personal life and a bunch of projects for work, I haven’t been able to focus on a blog post for about six months. But I thought that streak has gone on long enough. Here’s a quick status update:

• My group has put out a paper, which was just accepted for publication into Physical Review D! This paper is a generalization of the same calculation I did for my PhD thesis, which I’m 2/3 of the way into a series of posts explaining. The third post is coming at some point, I promise.

• I’ll be traveling to two conferences to talk about this paper. First, the Rencontres du Vietnam workshop on heavy ion physics, held at the brand new International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (PDF), which is taking place next week. This is the first time I’ve been invited to present at a real conference! The venue also looks amazing.

When the official schedule includes time for “Beach and …

3. 2015
Jan
25

Time to kick off a new year of blog posts! For my first post of 2015, I’m continuing a series I’ve had on hold since nearly the same time last year, about the research I work on for my job. This is based on a paper my group published in Physical Review Letters and an answer I posted at Physics Stack Exchange.

In the first post of the series, I wrote about how particle physicists characterize collisions between protons. A quark or gluon from one proton (the “probe”), carrying a fraction $$x_p$$ of that proton’s momentum, smacks into a quark or gluon from the other proton (the “target”), carrying a fraction $$x_t$$ of that proton’s momentum, and they bounce off each other with transverse momentum $$Q$$. The target proton acts as if it has different compositions depending on the values of $$x_t$$ and $$Q$$: in collisions with smaller values of $$x_t$$, the target appears to contain more partons.

At the end of the last post, I pointed out that something funny happens at the top left of this diagram. Maybe you can already see it: in these collisions with small $$x_t$$ and small $$Q$$, the proton …

4. 2015
Jan
01

## A look back at 2014 on the blog

Every New Year’s Eve I do a review of my favorite blog posts from the past year. And normally I have too many good physics posts to make a top 10 list like so many other sites seem to do. But not this year. It’s been a pretty quiet year for blogging, especially for physics blogging (unless you count that one really big blog post they call a dissertation).

Therefore, New Year’s resolution #1: write more blog posts about interesting physics. This is one I actually think I can keep.

For now, here is a short list of my favorites out of the 32 blog posts I wrote this year.

5. 2014
Dec
16

## Adventures in China: The Christmas

Guess where this is?

This is the restaurant where I went to dinner last night. A fancy, yet very definitely Chinese restaurant. In China.

News flash: Americans aren’t the only ones obsessed with Christmas.

Okay, to be fair, nobody turns Christmas into an obsession quite like the United States. I think the frantic rush to start making preparations in September is a uniquely American tradition. But the celebration is catching on among the Chinese, especially young people, in a big way. From what I hear, a lot of Chinese are taking Christmas as an occasion to spend more time with their families. And businesses are capitalizing on the spirit by putting up holiday-themed decorations — lights, presents, and even decorated trees are everywhere.

As I write this, I’ve been sitting in the Beijing airport for five hours listening to a loop of “Santa Baby,” “There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays,” “Silver Bells,” “Jingle Bells,” and a rather Hawaiian-sounding rendition of “Let It Snow” (notable for the contrast with the complete lack of snow outside).

I guess the lesson is, if you’re tired of the Christmas frenzy, you might be able to hide, but you can …

6. 2014
Dec
09

## Website back up

Hooray, it works again! It took about 3 days of frantic hacking in the free time I had left over from research, but my website is back up and working properly (so it seems) on the new server. More blog posts to come, when I have time. Soon, I promise.

That is all.

7. 2014
Dec
02

## Switching servers

The (virtual) computer this site runs on is showing its age, so I’m switching over to a newer one within the next day or so. Just so you know in case you have any trouble accessing the site.

While I’m on the subject, kudos to Linode for having a very solid migration plan and for making continual upgrades to their hardware while lowering prices. The new server costs about a third as much as the one I’m using now.

8. 2014
Nov
29

## Introducing pwait

Today I’m announcing pwait, a little program I wrote to wait for another program to finish and return its exit code. Download it from Github and read on…

# Why pwait?

Because I was procrastinating one day and felt like doing some systems programming.

Seriously though. Sometimes you need to run one program after another one finishes. For example, you might be running a calculation and then you need to run the data analysis script afterwards, but only if the calculation finished successfully. The easy way to do this is

run_calculation && analyze_data


(sorry to readers who don’t know UNIX shell syntax, but then again the program I’m introducing is useless to you anyway).

Which is fine if you plan for this before you run the calculation in the first place, but sometimes you already started the calculation, and it’s been running for 3 hours and you don’t want to stop it and lose all that progress. The easy way to do this is to hit Ctrl+Z (or some equivalent; it depends on your terminal) to suspend the calculation, and then run

fg && analyze_data


which will resume it and run the analysis script afterwards.

Which is …

9. 2014
Nov
25

## First steps toward new scicomm conferences

Join the Google group mailing list to stay informed or to help with planning!

My post last week considering options for a new science communication conference series got a pretty strong response, at least relative to most things on this blog. As it turns out, there already are some people in various stages of planning new (un)conferences in the style of Science Online, much like what I was thinking about. I won’t say anything about them here because those people haven’t revealed their plans yet, but I hope they will go public soon!

I also completely forgot that Science Online was not monolithic; it had regional branches around the US and around the world, which were largely separate from the main organization. At least two of them are still holding events: Science Online Leiden and Science Online DC. (There are also branches in Boston, Denver, and Vancouver, maybe others that I don’t know about, but they seem to be inactive.) These smaller groups could play a big role in the future of the science communication community, since as several people have pointed out, it’s a lot easier to organize events that involve fewer people. Perhaps …

10. 2014
Nov
24