Typical thoughts of a STEM person

I’ve held a small survey among grad students in my department. I asked open questions: “Why we are who we are? What is your theory on what made us like this?” and added an example: “We just had a talk about Interstellar that many friends of friends of people involved in the making of the movie attended. Yet it did not occur to us to try and talk to those people. We think it’s a waste of time. Instead we prefer to stay isolated. Why?”

  • Who we are – like, human beings? Grad students with minimal income and no family?
  • Talking to people is hard. And there’s nothing interesting. If they come and talk to us, of course we would keep the conversation, but not the other way round.
  • ‘You wouldn’t mind talking to a movie star!’
    ‘but they don’t want to talk to me.’
    ‘And what would you say?’
    ‘I can ask them for an autograph.’
    ‘they probably get that a lot.’
    ‘ You can always pitch them a brilliant idea for a movie’
    ‘They get that a lot too.’
  • You meet a lot of people when you’re young, but then it shrinks to your coworkers and friends.
  • (talking about ideas for a movie, involving quantum mechanics)  you see, that’s why we can’t talk to people – in one minute we’re back to talking science.
  • Caltech is special that way, we can talk about it and everybody around us understands. In other schools we’ll do it only 9-5, and then we spend time with people from other departments who don’t have a clue.
  • I was concerned about forgetting how to talk to normal people, but not so much so after I stopped  dating a non-physics girlfriend.
  • There was a sci-fi book where earth collapsed, it turned medieval and to save the civilization they made monasteries to keep scientists in them. They were only allowed to get outside and mix with normal people once every 10 years – that’s when the story starts. And then I went with my friends to six flags  and noticed – it feels exactly like in the book!
  • ‘But there are extroverts out there! They meet new people every week and enjoy it.’
    ‘Yeah, but they’re not in gradschool’
  • I’m not in Hollywood because I haven’t been born white and I didn’t win in random talent contest. And it’s not a stable income most of the time. Also, I think what I’m doing is much more interesting.
  • Gradschool is a way of avoiding real life for a few more years. And maybe, indefinitely. Yeah, screw real life!

Meanwhile, in biology department they made a toilet seat kickstarter #PottyGlo and Huffington Post writes stories about them.


A short account of a new field: RQI

A post that never made it to our institute’s blog Quantum Frontiers

Relativistic Quantum Information is a newly established area of physics (check how it’s doing on googletrends). For now it has more questions than answers. The reason people come to the field, the big promised rainbow, is the following:

The entanglement which in “ordinary” quantum information has to be produced in the lab, in relativistic setting one can get for free – from physical vacuum.

This feels a little bit like magic. I wasn’t surprised that on the way to the conference RQI2013 I had to pass platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter books.IMAG0015

At the place, I met Steve. It is always good to meet Steve. Here is what he said:

-Bose-Einstein Condensates are the best quantum memory up to date. One has to use two component mixtures of bosons, and encode in the zero mode, where N bosons condense (I was looking for a lifetime, and Page 61 here sounds not very promising – 20ms) (blogpost of one of the researchers)

-A state of a moving sample with BEC can be derived from the state in its rest frame, as long as we are moving it slower than the speed of sound. Due to this change in reference frame, one can observe relativistic effects with sound phonons: acceleration produces phonons at Unruh temperature; and a sink produces Hawking radiation. As the speed of sound is much smaller than the speed of light, one can possibly observe quantum entanglement of this radiation.

Let me conclude with another fantasy reference, and a puzzle. Can one perform a unitary on a spin by boosting himself around it with Lorentz transformation, provided that the direction of the boost is chosen using the random 0 or 1 that this spin gave after measurement in x-basis? For instance, one may move along The Pattern.