Sunday, June 26, 2005

Once upon a time in Ithaca

(I can predict this is going to be my longest post ever).

First of all, I need to explain my symplectic comments by introducing the notion of symplectic. Simplectic is essentially a matrix; a mathematical tranformation that satisfies some specific properties. The cool thing is its physical meaning: like rotation is a transformation that preserves the length of a vector, simplectic is a transformation that preserves the area. We love the word because it sounds so simple and complicated at the same time - we have a lot of fun asking whether some things are simplectic or not, e.g. is malaka simplectic?

Let's focus now.

Cornell university (which is about as big as Ithaca) has a strong tradition in physics and space sciences, a lot of NASA projects go through their hands. At the city downtown there is the incredibly smart Solar System Walk: Starting with the sun, there is a 1 mile walk with stones representing each planet at the exact distances from teh sun and having their exact sizes as planets. I was sad to realize how empty the solar system is.

The day: Class

I love this picture: it encompasses one of the most essential concepts in the world, teaching. A teacher, a student, and a blackboard. The classes take place from 9-5 every day, it's intense and exhausting which has led me to move to the back of the room to take short naps. We also do simulations and visit the Cornell campus from time to time.

In the evenings a different a war begins. 100 students spread around 20 tables try to tackle the problems of Mr Waldo and his minions. We usually have in our group 7-8 people and try all sorts of things to get through. We shout eachother, stand up, run, go online, compute, derive, drink, eat, slap, one after the other at an ultra-fast pace from 7-midnight+ every night! I'll never forget the night where we were debating for hours the direction of the coils. Or at the final day (Thursday), the stupid emmittance calculation! There must have been 12 people above our head at 11pm as I was telling Matt which numbers to plug into the calculator, and everyone was started cheering and shouting and jumping around when the right answer just showed up thus proving a long trail of evaluations.

But when all this was over, there came Friday...

Inside this bar at the time the picture was taken, and unprecedented event took place, something that has probably never happenened before. Half the bar was occupied with Pirates, and the other half with particle physicists... Aparently there is this group of half-naked crazy people that rotate between bars and end up at their ship in the nearby lake where they have orgies till the morning. Then the other half are geeks trying desperately to blend with the pirates (some of them did very well oddly enough!)

From left to right:
Mike: Ex-army guy, now it Maryland trying to simulate their particle accelerator. Lots of fun, with the heart of a 18 years old.
Diktys: Ex-boyfriend of a very good friend of mine in greece, I immediately knew who he was once he told me his name. Maryland is too small to make im stay there.
Karen: The beautiful Brazilian of our company is so interesting - completely different world.
Rodrigo: Columbian guy, great kid with awesome sense of humor and always happy to make jokes.
Themos: Great piece of malaka.
Jeff: Born and raised in Indiana, this is a type of person you don't see in big cities. So simple and joyful at the same time.
Matt: The King of Malaka. This guy is one of a kind.

Karen is my personal favorite. She doesn't speak much english, yet she struggles so hard to make sense, and we struggle so much to understand. She creates an interesting chemistry with people, loves Metallica, and she is from the same county as Gisele! This girl is so much fun to talk with. Plus she was a critical link at the emmittance battle last Thursday.

Matt... This guy is my personal favorite. He dropped his MBA to become a high school teacher, after he realized that people in the industry are just so lame and stupid that piss him off. Hence he got married, and returned to academia pursuing a master's in applied physics and now he is attending particle physics school! If you are looking for the soul of the party, this is your man. I don't remember when I had so much fun around one single person.

Waldo McKay: This person above is a researcher at a goverment lab and he is teaching us particle accelerators! He is a very nice and honest guy, that maybe enjoys drinking a little bit too much. We all like him though.

A few moments ago me Diktys and Matt were sitting on the bar enjoying some beer while trying to figure out what is the difference between cyclotrons, betatrons and synchrotrons. The quest was interrupted by Karen's impressions of her trip to the Niagara Falls, my Speaker-in-a-Nutshell JBL experience (both betatrons and speakers use induction!), Dikty's request of even more beer and one of Matt's inumerable stories.

My experiences from last week are too strong be out into words. Sometimes you have a great time because you are with great people, even if the place sucks. Sometimes you have a great time because the place is great even though the people suck. And sometimes both the place is great and the people are great, and then... wow.