Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Its My Work!

I have been asked by many persons what am I exactly doing here. So at the risk of making this post technical ( hence boring) let me try to describe that.

But even before that - let my try to explain in what I do for my research in ordinary language. Particle accelerators collide particles with high enough energies and we are looking for "New Physics" to come out from that. But if we try to look at a specific process - the signal for that is buried under a host of other associated physical processes, which we collectively refer to as "underlying events". Now we need to understand and model these so called underlying events to dig out the actual process of interest. This is often done by simulation studies and comparing them with real data. In my own research, I am looking at a particular physical process which would hop fully prove to be a good tool to model the underlying events.

As I mentioned - we need to use real data coming from the particle accelerators. Right now Tevatron in Fermi National Accelerator laboratory is world's highest energy running accelerator - and Collider Detector in Fermilab (or the CDF) is one of the two detectors looking at the data coming from the collisions. Since we get our data ( and a lot of cases simulation and analysis tools) from the CDF collaboration and I gather they (rather the Department of Energy) do not have enough money and manpower, we have to help out the collaboration in different ways, which are termed as "service work". Right now my job involves sitting in there main control room and look at the all monitors telling about different aspects. If things go wrong - normally characterized by some part of some screen turning red or an audible alarm (or both) , we are supposed to contact the relevant technical expert to fix it. Its by no means doing Physics, and nobody even pretends so. I hear its a lot of fun and excitement while there are actual data coming on, but right now we are in the midst of a "shutdown period", no actual particle collisions are going on, we are just looking at cosmic rays and technical people are trying to fine tune the detector for next set of real runs.

P.S - Technically I am called an "Ace" - which sounds more glamourous than the work actually is!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Travelogue - Day Three

Urbana,Il to Batavia, Il (Fermilab)

Starting Mileage 91956
Ending Mileage 92097
Total distance travelled 141

Today I took the road less travelled - instead of taking the freeway, I decided to travel straight up north via Illinois-47. Its slightly less distance, almost equal time, no tolls and I thought would be a lazier drive. But what I did not realize that one lane state highways are often clogged by slow traffic and the only way to pass them is to move into the opposite lane - which any time is a precarious maneuver. State highways do have a tendency to take weird turns and this was no exception. Central Illinois is pretty boring landscape wise, mostly barren land and occasional factory like structures. Anyway after two days of hectic driving and one day of rest, this two and half hour drive was like a stroll in the park!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Travelogue - Day Two

From Nashville, Tn to Urbana-Champaign, Il.
I-24W over Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois to I-57N. (St.Louis was oh so near!)

Starting Mileage 91578
Ending Mileage 91956
Total distance travelled 378

Nashville is a nice city - I got the chance to explore the downtown quite a bit after just catching a gimpse of Vanderbilt University. The country music hall of fame museum gives you a nice perspective about the how it all begun - and there are innumerable shops selling pretty much everything you can think of related to country music. After the museum, I walked around downtown - going into those old record stores and looking at the typical southern architecture. The imposing Gaylord centre reminded me of our Southeastern Conference Basketball Champonship this year. Unfortunately I could not spend the evening there to see the pubs come alive with music.

I got back on the road at around 2 pm. Yesterday was a display of patient driving - never going more than 10 above. And I actually saw cops pulling people over near Atlanta area in the old fashioned way - standing on the shoulders with radar guns and then jumping on to the cars to chase the vehicles down. Today it was sheer madness. I always found a bunch of cars ready to barrel down the highway - and it feels much safer to speed when you have company. Kentucky did not seem to have enforcement of any kind - and I was trying hard to restrain myself in Illinois - since I have a speeding warning here from almost a year back. So including all the stops and the breaks - reached here in less than 6 hours. It should be a lazy day tomorrow - with a just couple of hours drive to Fermilab later in the evening.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Travelogue - Day One

Gainesville, Fl to Nashville,Tn.
Mostly I-75N to Chattanooga over Florida and Georgia, then I-24W over Tennessee. (Birmingham, Al was oh so near!)

Starting Mileage 90966
Ending Mileage 91568
Total distance travelled 602

Started just before eleven in the morning. The drive was largely uneventful till Macon, Ga where I found a Chinese buffet for lunch. Typical American-Chinese food with lots to choose from at a very affordable price. Atlanta downtown traffic, even with six lanes in either direction was crazily congested. Took me long to reach Chattanooga, Tn. I heard a lot about Chattanooga but my half an hour there was frankly a disappointment. There are nice views from the hill but I could not find a single overlook area where I could park my car and take a few pictures. Downtown seemed kind of dead - did not have enough time to explore the Tennessee Aquarium - but could not find even an open souvenir or gift shop. There were typical southern type big buildings - but all looked deserted. Its a small city - potentially scenic - but can do with better promotion and directions. It was a couple of hours from there to Nashville - the drive was scenic through mountains and valleys of Tennessee river. Its terrible weather here today - let me see how much can I explore "Music City".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

T +1 day

Normally after such a big occasion all you feel is emptiness. The expectation and the tension being built over for months is just gone in minutes. Nothing immediate to look forward to and nothing more to get excited about now. Utter peace proved to be so boring at times like this before.

But not this time. Even if I temporarily forget the irate Fermilab collaborator's email for the moment, today was hardly a lazy day. Since I am leaving for Fermilab sometime tomorrow morning and that too driving all the way up there - there were hundreds of stuff screaming for attention. The car repair shop inevitably came up with and incredible "estimate", and finally addressing just the immediate "safety concerns" was enough to push me harder into imminent bankruptcy. I had to grab some national championship memorabilia (read tees,caps etc) and like the national championship itself - they don't come cheap! I had to pay all the bills and plan how would I pay the next ones. I still have to redirect my mail to my temporary Fermilab address. And I have a pile of unanswered emails - I should get back to all these nice people sometime.

I found out a couple of our Jadavpur Physics seniors in Nashville. So thats probably going to be my first stop after long 9 hours. From Nashville, Urbana-Champaign is around 6 hours more - should be spending the weekend with my ex Jadavpur classmate and his his wonderful girlfriend. Fermilab is just a couple of hours from there - I am sure there will be too much to do even before I settle down!

(And all that means I would be online very erratically in next few days.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Something which just matters to me...

Just three words. "Admitted to candidacy".

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Interestingly enough...

"Good Friday" is a national holiday in India, while its not in USA.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Not the "New Year"

I remember long back someone replying me with "the concept of new year is just an arbitrary choice of initial phase" when I sent him an oh so standard "Happy New Year" greeting. I loved his response and even today I look for chances to recycle it. However that was at least about the "proper" new year.

I just don't get the concept of Bangla new year. I can seeing people fervently wishing each other. I suspect that has got more to deal with finding an excuse to "wish" people (which is a nice way to remind people that I have not forgotten you yet!) rather than celebrating the actual occasion. Because for Bangla new year - its trying to celebrate the start of a calendar which is extinct for all practical purposes. On the other 364 days a year - we never use that calendar. Most people ( at least the ones who would be reading this, including yours truly have to think a few minutes to remember what Bangla month it is - leave alone the date). And there is nothing to get upset about that - the only dates we care for are the ones we use. Even in the supposedly biggest Bangla festival, Durga Pujo - the Bangla dates appear mostly in small prints.

So to get all excited about the new year of a dead calendar just does not make any sense to me. I am sure a lot of people would would try to say I am being too cold to our culture ( you know the type) and this is actually an emotional occasion. I beg to disagree - I am absolutely okay with celebrating for example "Jhulon" (which has got to deal with full moon rather than pertaining to the Calendar), but New Year is something entirely calendar centric - hence meaningless in the current context.

And if the survival of our "Bengali-ness" is dependent on "this" - I pity us!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Thinking Loudly

Q. What makes you oppose the reservation so strongly?
A. One word - its unfair.
Q. Which part of it is unfair? There are people who suffered long for being born in the wrong caste...
A. Sure they did. But you and me neither created nor propagated the discrimination.
Q. Well - but may be our forefathers did...
A. How can I be accountable for the action of someone else?
Q. But something needs to be done. See how many of these people are in the big posts?
A. I guess that is because they did not do as well in academics.
Q. You can not compare them with us. They had so less infrastructure to show off their true merit.
A. Its impossible to define merit I guess. Every kid wont be born or raised equal. But when you have a system in place to judge something ( whether you call it merit or zebra is not the point), you got to respect the system.
Q.But the system is flawed...
A. Change the system then. Don't bother conducting farces in name of entrance tests. Hold a lottery may be?
Q. Now you are being sarcastic. This is the only way they can make progress.
A Looking around - I mostly see progress made by kids who are equally affluent.
Q. Every system has loopholes - that does not mean its not working.
A. If it was working - you would not have needed to have it after fifty years. And make sure a kid does not get the benefits if his parents availed them. Dont let someone use this multiple times.
Q. You can not rectify the hundreds years of abuse In fifty years.
A. The answer to abuse can not be more abuse. Giving a special treatment once should ensure realistically level playing fields. It should be a priviledge, not a right.
Q. So what other suggestions do you have?
A. If a kid gets through via reservation - mark his or her degree likewise.
Q. What? that's separating them from mainstream.
A. Precisely. If you have two separate intake modes - that's what makes sense. If you are getting advantage for having a last name - you can not ignore it conveniently later.
Q. You are making it sound like reservation is a bad thing.
A. Now you get the point huh!
Q. Be realistic. There has to be a way to improve their status.
A. None is doubting that. That's what governments are for. Rather than taking the easy way out - when they are going to do some real social welfare?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Those Magical Moments!

[Note for those who are not familar with college sports here - These are big things unlike anything you see in India in terms of popularity, money and national prominance. And you have to refer back to the previous post to make sense of it all.]

Inside the O'Dome - the game is in progress on big screen

We win and its flags soaring high

Crowd getting wild with "gatorchomps"

Celebration Time!

Delirious with joy!

To the rest of the basketball world - here we come!

Our turn to be in the spotlight!

Me happy!

(I do apologize for the crappy photos. This is the best I could do in a raucous crowd with very low light.)

"Its a Fairytale"

Thus screamed an young lady. It was an hour past midnight in this normally sleepy university town. And with a regular working day coming up tomorrow with end of the semester almost in the sight - you would expect a quiet night here.

Except that something unthinkable has just happened. We had just destroyed a supposedly very good UCLA team in faraway Indianapolis to win our first national basketball championship. A five thousand strong crowd watched the game on this giant screen in the indoor stadium and double that number crowded the university avenue. It was unlike any other night you would see here.

The crowd started pouring in hours before the game was supposed to start. They waited patiently till they got in. They cheered every gator point, roared at every defensive block and clapped at each UCLA turnover. It was the ambience of a regular game - with the bands and cheerleaders and the gator chomps And as it became clearer and clearer that we are going all the way - the noise level just increased to an unbelievable level.

And finally the win came pretty easily. We were never really pushed. It looked all too simple. And unreal. Within minutes the university avenue was full of fans clad in orange and blue. They came from every directions - running around delirious with joy. Complete strangers hugged, kissed and highfived each other. They sang "Its great to be a Florida Gator" in unison. Some scenes can be described - others you need to be part of to realize. This was one of those occasions. A guy climbed up the traffic lights and started waving a Florida flag while precariously balancing himself up there. Beer flew wildly. Grown men were getting overcome with emotions. They screamed and wept. It was sheer magic. There is a reason they call it March Madness. Finally Florida had their moment in sun. This is a team nobody gave any chance at the end of the season. This is a team made almost entirely of underclassmen. They were not supposed to win. They did not get any respect from the columnists. UCLA was the team with all the basketball tradition. But they did not care. And on the biggest stage - they just did what they could do - play with lots of heart. And play as a team. I don't care if they come back a stronger team a year later. This was their defining moment. This is what they will be remembered for.

And I am just so glad to be a part of something this amazing. It just can't get any better.