Wednesday, July 19, 2006

After-conference thoughts

The conference was great. The resort we were staying was a former Playboy club (according to the stories of the locals working there). Huge rooms, nice views, golf courses, lakes, rivers, fountains... Free lunch and breakfast, many coffee breaks... And the best thing was: great science! Only about 200 people participate, but they consist the creme de la creme of our field of advanced accelerators. Most of the talks were interesting, and I understood vastly more stuff than in the previous meeting 2 years ago (which also was my first conference).

I gave a 20 minute presentation of our experiment. They seemed to like it, they asked questions, and I wasn't nervous at all although it was my very first conference presentation (maybe it had to do with the fact that I knew half the people in the audience - about 20 total).

I also presented the work as a poster. I was hungry so I had to explain things while I was eating a marvelous cookie with chocolate pleasure.

During lunch breaks we used to go with Erdem and Reza at the lakefront, found a few chairs under the tree and just lie down there while listening to music. I even slept a few times, it was good stuff.

The banquet was hosted at the Yerkes Observatory - just 10 minutes from Lake Geneva. They have the largest refracting telescope in the world. It is outdated with recent standards (it's two generations old) but their director still uses it to compare images from nebula now and 80 years ago - not many facilities have data to do such comparisons. Here is a picture of the PhD students of our group, with the dome in the background:

Here is a small demo that one of the people there gave us: he can rotate the dome at will and also lift the floor (to adjust to the height of the instruments used each time).

Finally, our friend explains the biggest discovery in the history of the observatory: that our galaxy has spiral arms!

I'll be back with a megapost on Chicago... it is a beautiful city that wants to be photographed. I had to do a lot of work, and we did have a good time there with Erdem. More later...