Archive for Math/Physics

TevaDonuts

I’m at Fermilab for ten days for the 2006 Hadron Collider Physics Summer School and so far I’m most impressed by the Xlerator hand dryers in the “washrooms” (it seems like everyone here very deliberately avoids the term “bathroom”), those fans don’t mess around: give it 21 microseconds and they’ll slap 2 jelly donuts worth of drying power on those damp hands of yours.

Shall I not be so flippant for once?  Probably unlikely.  But let me just say the lecture are going well, I’m learing a lot, and I think the Fermilab site is quite nice, really.  It’s no Switzerland, but a good effort for middlish America.  There’s some lakey sort of bits, a some grazing animals, and one very dramatic building.

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“Never Mix Alkali Metals with Water”

Speaking of elements…  Brainiac: Alkali Metals

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Fields Medal

back of Fields Medal
Ahh… math gossip. You don’t read much of it, do you? Nevertheless, mathematicians have to talk about something other than the size of their numbers. The topic in this case is the Fields Medal (Wikipedia and Mathworld articles). It’s the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics” and it originated not far from here at the Fields Institute in Toronto. Who’s going to win, who’s going to lose? Maybe not as many people care about it as they do world peace, but on the other hand I have yet to see anything approaching an elegant solution to this later issue. Jimmy Carter, get on that Riemann Hypothesis!

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Raoul Bott

Raoul Bott
Sadly a great mathematician died this winter. Raoul Bott was important enough to score a headlining obituary in the New York Times. He is most famous for a theorem regarding what’s now called Bott Periodicity. It’s a tricky result to describe to a layperson, and not in a field I know very well, but I can tell you this bit of trivia: the periodicity is in some sense eight-fold. Eight happens to be my favorite number; and in the days, years ago, when I was more inclined to dwell on such topics, I made a list of all the reasons eight was my favorite number. Bott periodicity was on that list. Of course, long before that, back in 3rd grade when I was first accepting nominations for favorite number, Bott periodicity wasn’t one of the topics on the table; but, maybe there was something insightful going on in that frog-poking, Transformer-coveting 3rd grade mind of mine.

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