Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cleaning up

This past semester, my desk looked like, pardon the cliche, it had been hit by a hurricane. I am not saying that it is the worst that a work desk could get. Presuming that a tsunami is worse than a hurricane, the neighbouring office has a desk that looked like it had not very successfully weathered the former.

I cleaned up today. Summer cleaning, if you will. I now have my papers in their respective file folders, color coded and all. I have only my latest research work sitting in a neat pile at one end. And even neater, not to mention higher pile of scratch paper at the other end. I actually have place for keeping three laptops if need be, instead of only a half. My stack of study books that were tottering alarmingly at the edge of the desk (a complex phenomenon worthy of a PhD topic in gravity and mechanics, and what have you) have now been safely anchored (on three sides!) to the shelf.

A clean slate, a new leaf, a blank piece of snow white paper. A green grassy plain where you can see into the oh- so- distant horizon. That is what my desk, my daily "karmabhoomi" (place where one fulfills one's duty) looks like. No desk can look more uninspiring than mine does at this moment. The Rosetta stone would not have shaken the world of egyptology if it were a clean slate. Ramanujan's notebook pages wouldn't have packed the same punch if they were neatly type written, double spaced, instead of being handwritten blue over red (or red over blue....I forget which). And the allure of the Great Plains can be but compared only poorly to the dark mysteries of the Amazon.

In the interest of the creative faculty, and an inquring mind, I hope that the sterile environment of my desk does not last more than a week. Read about Feynman and the cyclotron in the book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! . I rest my case.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Moonrise moonrise

This past weekend, after a really tiring move from one apartment to another, Phaedrus, Piyali and I drove down to Wilmington, a beach town in North Carolina.

After circling the city in smaller and smaller spirals, we finally reached our hotel at 8.00 pm at night. Too later to do anything or go anywhere, other than a pub, which is no good because, hold your breath, I do not drink, and the smoky interiors really gets to my head and brings out all my violent instincts...not something you want to risk on a vacation intended to be peaceful.

So we chose to drive down to the beach anyway. It is wonderful, this thing called the ocean. Keeps pounding away relentlessly and deafeningly, and miraculously still sounds soothing. It was quite dark by the time we reached. The only light was from the pier next to us. Just enough to light up the waves lapping the shore. But in the distance one could still see the horizon. Two different shades of very inky blue. And while we just kept staring into nothing, we saw an orange blob that looked like a buoy. But it wasn't bouncing up and down, it just kept coming up. It took a while for it to trigger in our heads that it was Mr. Moon putting up a nice show.

I know that the moon looks big when it is close to the horizon, but this was Huge. A mottled bright rust colored moon that seems to be painted. Except that paintings do not move, exude a soft glow, and dance in a shimmery reflection off the surface of a choppy sea. We tried hard to capture it on our digital camera, our rudimentary skills with it not really helping the situation. But we finally gave up on wrestling with technology, sat on the white-gray sand, and enjoyed nature's sound and light show.

We got a baby, but don't know what it is!

So that is what my professor had to say about these supposedly fantastic test results that this other university raved in their email about.They were based on those samples I had been slaving over before the exams began. And well, we only know how to make this thing, because someone else is worrying about the theory.

Our group meeting after those test results were emailed out was the funniest ever.
Big Boss: "What is fantastic about these squiggles in these plotted results?"
Minion: "I don't know. I thought you knew. I only Made the stuff".
BB: Long drawn sigh. Then laughter: "Heck, I thought you read up so you could tell me."
M: "Ummm. Uh. Uh."
BB shakes M's hand and says: "Well, if they think these squiggles are pathbreaking, then why should I doubt it! We got a baby, but don't know what it is!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Exams over

The perennial Damoceles' sword hanging over the hassled, overworked, under appreciated student has been temporarily removed.
Exams for this semester are over. Whew.
Back to outer space starting next week.