time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Goodbye RKY

November 7th, 2009 by william

Professor Richard Yamamoto

Professor Richard Yamamoto died on October 16th. The MIT news office has a brief article here and a memorial site can be found here. I suggest that those from MIT read the farewell comments from family and friends.

Of all the people I knew as an undergraduate, I learned the most from Yamamoto. I admired him most for his calm, almost nonchalant demeanor in dealing with any problem (or Junior Lab student). He was genuinely curious about the world, and all of his students benefited from this.

Goodbye RKY. I miss you.

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lizinboulder (part the first)

October 8th, 2009 by liz

I went to visit Dave last weekend in Boulder, and decided that I’m going to live there when I grow up (roughly 7-15 years from now, if it ever happens). It was a most excellent weekend, despite the only furniture in Dave’s apartment being a rug and cardboard boxes. Saturday was beautiful and sunny, so Dave and I climbed up the third flatiron. It was a long but easy climb, and the view from the top was awesome. As we were sitting admiring the view, a guy with no rope and one arm climbed up next to us and commented on the great weather. While we prepared to rappel, he said goodbye and started climbing back down. He was one of the many “way more hardcore than us” people I met while in Boulder.

Dave in front of the flatirons.

Dave at the summit of the third flatiron.

After climbing we met up with Ruth and Ben for dinner at an Indian restaurant, and then headed to the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery for some awesome beer. We went to bed early though, because the plan for the next day was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Dave and I picked up Ruth early Sunday morning, and we drove out to the park. The peaks were snow-capped, and part of the park road was closed. We decided to hike up Deer mountain, which is ~10,000 feet high and gives a great view of the range that includes Long’s Peak (14,000ish feet). We had lunch at the top, which included a fuzzy critter hanging around waiting for us to drop morsels of food. We were pretty tired after the hike, so we stopped in Estes Park for icecream (sadly there was no pie), and then Dave and I proceeded to spend the rest of the evening hanging out on the rug in front of the fire drinking wine and eating delicious food.

Ruth and Dave on Deer Mountain.

My flight out was Tuesday, which happens to be Pie Day at the Walnut Cafe, so we once again met up with Ruth for a breakfast of pie. The pie-lady makes ~10 different kinds of pie, and you can order it by the slice. I have to admit it was a pretty excellent breakfast, and I’m looking forward to the next time I’m in Boulder on a Tuesday morning.

For more pictures from this adventure, go here.

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Alex visits California

September 28th, 2009 by liz

My brother came out to Berkeley this past weekend, so I determined it was my duty to show him some of the awesome things about California.

Day 1:

Alex showed up around 2pm, looking completely exhausted and really sick of traveling. Clearly the only solution to this was beer-lunch, so we went to Jupiter for beer and pizza. After lunch and the obligatory trip to the store to get shampoo and a toothbrush (really? who doesn’t pack a toothbrush?), we drove up into the Berkeley hills for a scenic overlook of the bay area. Grizzly Peak Blvd. goes right along the ridgeline above Berkeley, and you can see the golden gate bridge, San Francisco, and both the north and south bay.

Unfortunately, I had some quantum homework to finish up, but I got most of it done early enough that we were able to go to my favorite ice cream place in Berkeley: ici. The icecream there is absolutely wonderful, and my favorite part is their hand-made cones that have a chocolate filled tip so that the icecream doesn’t drip out all over you.

Day 2:

I decided that no trip to California is complete without going to the ocean, so we got an early(ish) start and drove down to Santa Cruz. When we arrived, the bay was completely socked in with fog, so we stopped at the Walnut Avenue Cafe for breakfast/lunch. I had stopped there once before when visiting grad schools, and I quickly remembered why I liked it–they serve breakfast all day, and it’s really good. After eating an enormous mushroom-avacado omelet I had enough fuel for anything, so we headed down to the bay to rent kayaks.

As soon as we got out on the water the fog cleared, and we set our sites on the kelp forest, where endangered sea otters like to hang out. We were lucky enough to run into an entire family, including 2 babies that were playing in the kelp.

Sea otters!

As we left the kelp forest and paddled out to sea, we ran into the worlds largest jellyfish. It was larger than a basketball, and stripey.

We also paddled out to “Sea lion rock,” which was basically a giant rock completely covered in sea lions.

When we finished kayaking, we drove up the coast to Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. for dinner and (of course) beer. We had two of their seasonal specials, Witbier and Oktoberfest, both of which were amazing. Finally, we returned to Berkeley for gelato at Almare Gelato Italiano and some relaxing before another day of adventure.

Day 3:

Unfortunately my day started out with waking up way too early for quantum class. However, after classes ended for the day I met up with Alex for lunch at Berkeley Thai House and then headed to San Francisco. We started out by hiking in Golden Gate Park, which had tons of flowers and paths through the eucalyptus trees.

It was a bit foggy on the coast, but we stopped by ocean beach and then headed to Presidio park to watch the fog stream over the golden gate bridge into the bay where there were windsurfers ripping though the water. After a good while of relaxing on the beach in the sun, we headed over to the fisherman’s warf to walk around and see the street performers.

While watching some break dancers, we pondered over where to obtain dinner, and finally decided on Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant in the finacial district. When we walked in the place seemed a bit fancy for the likes of us (the servers had on white suit jakets), but we were nearly the only people there, so we figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. The food was absolutely delicious–I had butternut squash ravioli and chocolate mousse for dessert, but over the course of the evening the place filled up, and by the time we left I felt like a complete hobo with my purple hair and tie-dye.

Day 4:

For Saturday’s adventure, I gathered up two of my roommates (Nick and Kevin) and Alex, and we drove up to wine country. We started the day with a short hike in Jack London State Park up to a lake. It was pretty hot out when we started, and as we walked through the redwood trees we become more and more eager to get to the cool water. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found that the lake was a giant swamp. We were disappointed, but we had packed an excellent lunch, so we sought out a picnic table by the “lake” and sat down.

Then I discovered that I had failed to actually put the lunch in my backpack.

After our epic fail at a lake-picnic, we hiked back to the car to start doing what we really came to Sonoma to do: a day of wine tasting. We started out doing a tasting at Kunde Estate, which had quite good wine and a very knowledgeable staff. Afterwards, we did another tasting at Valley of the Moon Winery.

After our two tastings, we headed over to Ravenswood, where we purchased a bottle of our favorite white varietal we had tasted so far (Gew├╝rztraminer) and sat on a vista in the shade looking out over the vineyard.

We finished up the day at Buena Vista Winrey, where we ran into David Hardwood’s mom (from Vermont) while purchasing a bottle of Pinot Grigio to drink out on the deck. After our final winery in the sun, we drove back to Berkeley for Indian dinner at Vik’s, which included a GIANT puffy bread thing. I have no idea what it is, but Nick and I vowed to learn how to cook it.

After dinner, we relaxed for awhile and waited for it to get dark out. It was a perfect night in Berkeley–warm with no fog, so we decided that the best plan of action was to acquire icecream and then head up to the Berkeley Hills for stargazing. Despite our proximity to the lights of the bay area, we actually saw quite a few shooting stars, including a really awesome one that streaked across at least 50 degrees of the sky. It was an excellent end to an excellent day.

Day 5:

When I lived in Boston, I occasionally would go to Dim Sum in Chinatown, which is basically a bunch of delicious Chinese foods served in small portions, so you can try many different things. San Francisco has a large Chinatown, so my roommates, Irene, and Alex headed over to try out this Sunday morning tradition. Unfortunately a lot of dim sum has meat in it, but luckily I had anticipated this and ate breakfast before leaving home, which meant that I could just sample all of the delicious pastries while my compatriots ate dumplings and shrimp noodles. My favorite dessert was the red bean sesame balls, which are deep-fried fluffy rice flour balls covered in sesame seeds and filled with red bean paste.

After Dim Sum, we headed down to the Folsom Street Fair, which was quite a shock to those of us who had never been before. It is basically a leather/bondage fair with music, beer, and vendors. There were many people dressed up for the event, (and down–there were tons of naked or nearly-naked people as well). Despite the hot weather, there were even ice-sculptures made for the fair.

Ice sculpture at the Folsom Street Fair

After the fair we headed back to Berkeley to set up for a barbecue. Martin and Sirena had tons of wine, sausage, and veggie burgers left over from their wedding and wanted to feed it to someone, and our house is full of hungry grad students. It was a perfect match. The evening weather was great once again, so we sat in the backyard and enjoyed mojitos and other delicious cocktails in the waning sun while grilling.

I’m hoping my brother had a most excellent California adventure, because I certainly had a lot of fun.

For more pictures from this adventure, visit here.

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I passed!

September 21st, 2009 by liz

I passed my prelims! After 4 weeks of studying physics that I’d forgotten years ago, I’m finally done. The oral exams were interesting–I totally rocked the classical exam, but barely passed the modern exam. I was amused by this because at MIT I spent 3 semesters on quantum and 1 day on lagrangians. In any case, it’s over now and I can get back to lab, which is good since I have quite a few measurements to do before I leave for pole in 6.5 weeks. I also have a bunch of travel planned to visit people before I leave, which will be fun!

Speaking of which, Boulderites–I’m going to be in Boulder from Oct. 2-6 (Friday night through Tuesday mid-day). Hiking? Biking? Climbing? Picnics? You guys should show me all of the awesomeness of Colorado. I’ll also be in Vermont from Oct. 16-20 (Friday night through Tuesday midday). If anyone is going to be around, call me!

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The Second Coming!

September 7th, 2009 by william

There was a point a few years ago when I scoured the internet trying to find an old IBM Ultranav keyboard — the kind with the nipple mouse, USB connector, and hub. The only American English versions I could find were several hundred dollars, and I would up purchasing one with French-Canadian layout for a $20 on eBay. I didn’t care too much about the layout, but everyone else who used it felt it was incredibly annoying.

Well, now is the second coming of the Ultranav keyboard. Lenovo solicited ideas for a new keyboard in this vein a few months ago and now they have a product out. It doesn’t have the USB hub, but who cares? I am just excited they have brought it back.

Check out the post on the ThinkPad design blog.

The bottom of the keyboard is even well designed. I have had several keyboards that rock whenever I prop them on stand of my monitor as their bottoms have all these injection molded contours. The new Ultranav has none of this and they have included a small storage area for the extra cord.

Now, all I have to do is realize spending $60 on a keyboard is ridiculous. Too late.

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September 4th, 2009 by liz

I spent the last 2 weekends doing written prelims, which are basically 6 hour exams on all of undergrad physics. I found out today that I passed both of them (barely–the classical by 3 points and the modern by 7 points), so now I get to move on to taking oral exams. I have 2 one hour oral exams next Saturday. Hopefully, those will go well too and I’ll be done with all this. Wish me luck!

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August 28th, 2009 by liz

I got an e-mail today confirming that I have PQed once again for the summer season at Pole. I’ll be leaving the states Nov. 7, 2009 and am tentatively scheduled to return on Jan. 21, 2010, though that could be earlier if all goes well, or later if things go poorly. You can (and should!) mail me things at:

Elizabeth George A-379S
South Pole Station
PSC 468 Box 400
APO AP 96598

To everyone who mailed me things last year: THANK YOU! You have no idea how nice it is to get packages. The things I most appreciated were good chocolate and good tea, neither of which they sell on station. Make sure you package things well, as boxes get kind of crushed when they are all thrown onto cargo pallets and strapped down. By the way, anyone who mails me something (even a letter) will get a post card from the south pole in return. Then you can hang it on your fridge and show it off to your friends….or something.

What else am I up to? Well, classes started this week. Last Saturday I had the classical prelim (6 hours of exams on classical mechanics and E&M), and tomorrow I have the modern prelim (6 hours of exams on quantum and statistical mechanics). The classical exam was insanely hard and there is almost no chance I passed, and it turns out that I never learned stat mech, so the modern exam should be a trip. Dave also got back from Japan this week and hung out with me in Berkeley for 5 days, and I’m trying desperately to finish up all of our detector testing before we deploy to Pole. Party on!

I think things should settle down a bit in a week or two, and I can go back to my regularly scheduled program of climbing after work and biking on the weekends. But in case any of you were wondering, I’m doing well!

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New house!

August 4th, 2009 by liz

I moved into my new house this weekend. So far we’ve built a wall, hung 2 doors, replaced the hot water pipe to the bathroom sink (yay for blow-torches in tiny crawl spaces!), weed-whacked the entire yard, pruned all of the plants, pick-axed out a garden plot, acquired furniture for ourselves and the common spaces, stocked the kitchen, painted, varnished, and in my spare time, I’ve gone to work. It’s been a really intense 4 days, but we’re basically done. The new house is awesome. I think it’s going to be really fun living here. I have to say though, none of this would have been possible without the Berkeley Tool Lending Library.

What is the Tool Lending Library you ask? Well, it’s just like a regular library, except instead of checking out books, you check out tools. They have everything from rototillers, concrete demolition hammers, and table saws to pick-axes and tape measurers. You could build an entire house and do all the landscaping entirely with tools from the library. Like any library, it doesn’t cost any money (unless you return the tools late–the late fees can be up to $15 a day for the power tools), so even poor grad students can have access to tools that normally cost hundreds of dollars. The best part? It’s about 6 blocks from my house. The guys there are incredibly friendly and helpful. I think we might have to bake them cookies someday.

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Confessions of a bassaholic

July 27th, 2009 by william

Apparently my dad is going to continue writing for Bassmaster. Check out the newest article here; it is even better than the last one.

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Tuolumne Meadows (and stuff)

July 26th, 2009 by liz

It’s been a long time since I’ve had time to post here. Basically, I’ve just been working WAY too hard. Luckily though, I managed to get away last weekend with Tucker and my climbing partner (Kevin) to do some climbing in Tuolumne Meadows, which is in Yosemite National Park.

We arrived Thursday night, and there were no open campsites. Luckily, a group of Middlebury College (that’s in VT) saw my license plate and offered to let us camp on the edge of their large group site for the night. In the morning, we got in line for a campsite 30 minutes before the office opened (that’s 7:30am). There were already 15 people in line. Welcome to Yosemite on a summer weekend. After getting a campsite, I took Kevin to “Puppy Crack, 5.6” and taught him how to lead climb. He did really well, so we set out to simul-climb Tenaya Peak, which is a 1500′ climb on top of an approach hike.

Kevin's first lead climb
Kevin’s first lead climb (puppy crack).

After climbing for a few hours, we ran into another group 3 pitches from the top. We could see thunderstorms on the horizon, and knew that we had to get to the top and start down the hiking trail before they hit. The pair let us pass, but on the way by the leader said, “We’ve been climbing since 8 am and we’re really exhausted. Could you drop us a rope?” Kevin and I weren’t going to leave anyone on the side of a mountain in a thunderstorm, so with 2 ropes between the 4 of us we rigged up some creative climbing/belaying and managed to get both us and the other party to safety before the rain came anywhere near us.

Liz on Tenaya
Me partway up Tenaya Peak

We were really exhausted by the time we made it back to the campsite, so after cooking and eating a delicious dinner (we had THREE stoves with us), we went to bed early instead of waiting up for Tucker to get in. In the morning, I woke up and noticed that the extra sleeping bag I’d brought for Tucker was empty. When I wandered outside, I found him curled up in a not-quite-warm-enough sleeping bag underneath the pine trees. He was completely inside the bag with just his ponytail sticking out. Apparently it didn’t occur to him to come inside the tent when we had arrived at 11pm the night before. Luckily the day warmed up quickly, and by the time we were hiking to our climb Tucker was no longer frozen.

We decided to climb “Shagadelic, 5.8,” which is a mostly bolted route on Medlicott Dome. With tiny belay ledges and small knobs, it was a rather terrifying climb for Kevin–he’d never belayed while hanging off a wall before. Luckily, he got over his fear and did an awesome job. After we descended (Tucker rappelled barefoot), we decided it was too freaking hot for more climbing, and went to hang out by the lake and go swimming.

Tucker rappelling Shagadelic
Tucker rappelling Shagadelic

Day three was a little more low-key. There was quite a line on “Northwest Books, 5.6“, but it was a good easy climb for us with a sweet top-out, so we waited. When we finished the climb, we scrambled up to the top of the dome and had lunch in a small group of trees that had managed to grow on the hard granite dome. On the way down the trail, I managed to trip over nothing and fall and sprain my ankle. Woo! Go me.

Tucker and I nearing the top of Lembert Dome
Tucker and I nearing the top of Lembert dome

All in all, it was an excellent weekend. I’m really glad I got out. In other news, I went to LTD-13 last week in Stanford. It was a really nerdy conference (go low temperature detectors!), but man was there some cool stuff. I also got to see some friends at this conference who live in other places, which was nice. I’m also moving this weekend. My current roommate and I had some “differences” (don’t get me started) and I determined I’d be much happier in a different living situation. I’m moving in with Kevin, Nick Harrington (from MIT) and Natania Antler (also from MIT). It’s going to be a geekfest (4 physicists in one house!) but I think it will be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it. As an extra bonus, our new house has 4 fig trees, an apricot tree, a plum tree, 2 cherry trees, and a tangerine tree. When I move in, I’ll post some pics.

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