Saturday, 28 May 2011

LC2011 - day 4

The day gets off to a rocky start after excessive drinking at the conference dinner, casused by my being outraged at the kind of socially despicable, teeth gringindly irritating, jaw-droppingly rude behaviour of one of the bigshots which I can't really talk about without risking revealing who I am. Which is a shame, because it's a cracking story which exemplifies the kind of despicable behaviour which made me start writing this blog.

The day proceeds to drag out interminably, scheduled to end at 6pm. Fortunately some speakers have pulled out and the schedule remixed, which should speed things up. Unfortunately we are already 30 minutes behind timetable by the time the last coffee break rolls up.

The afternoon session is clearly given over to talks that no-one really cares about. The topics are all `ab initio', or rather, they use lightfront co-ordinates or approaches to solve their problems, without focussing on the fundamentals or intricate details of lightfront methods. A few years ago, this was an integral part of the conference. Now it's an aside -- the community's focus is split between AdS/QCD and, basically, trying to get hadronic physics out of lightfront QCD by calculating extremely complex scattering amplitudes in whatever approximation/model is currently seen as been in fashion.

As a result, the lecture hall begins to empty out after lunch. At least two of the super bigshots are gone by the final coffee break. People are bored and tired. The later speakers must have felt awful looking out at the audience and seeing only a sea of very bored, uniterested faces. Still, one of them decidees that, another 10 minutes behind schedule, it is absoloutely necessary to begin their talk by spending several minutes eulogising the lightfront community.

Fortunately things pick up for the final talk which, clearly relagated to the death slot because of the off-topic topic, is delivered by a buoyant postdoc who manages to engage the audience by, in contrast to way too many other speakers, having put some effort into writing a clear presentation.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

LC2011 - day 3

Craig Roberts starts the day off looking sharp as hell and giving a nice clear talk. Apparently there are no flux tubes between light quarks! The argument why escapes me, but the result is very interesting. Violent changes in the analytic properties of quark propagators, it seems.

The proton mass is apparently 98% dynamical chiral symmetry breaking. Who needs the Higgs? Higgs also irrelevant for light quarks. Sadly Dyson-Schwinger turn up and I drift away....

There are BaBar anomalies which cannot be explained by QCD, apparently. Suspect we just don't know how to calculate.

I will never understand physics.

Marvin points out that we don't live in minkowski space, but in some kind of FRW universe. Apparently the instant form is tricky in such a universe, and the lightfront is really hard. Question is, does the lightfront approach make any sense at all for scales larger than that of the solar system?

A mobile phone rings. The same phone rings again. Sigh.

This girl refuses to answer questions. Not a good idea. Her response is "that is not my part of this project, so I refuse to answer the question". Idiot. And she over-runs. And the chair does nothing about it. And she says she has no intention of stopping. Her arrogance is astounding.

LC2011 - day 2

Today begins with a 24-hour-too-late attempt to reveal the meaning of the acronyms GPD, PDF, TMD, F2B and 5DOG9, amongst others.

I'm probably wrong but I don't think the fundamentals of QCD lie in incredibly detailed, complex, messy, ugly, poorly understood calculations of pion-pion-proton-J-rho meson scattering.

Apparently you can completely localise a relativistic particle in at most two dimensions (living in 3+1 of course). Nice.

Five minutes over time at the end of the first session the speaker announces that's he taking five further minutes. He doesn't even stop when the chair finally assembles the balls to pointedly stand up. 10 minuets later we get access to coffee.....

Lattice...lepton-lepton collisions. People seem to be worried about final state interactions. In QED this seems to correspond to accounting for the Coulomb cloud around electrons. What people here don't seem to realise is that that Coulomb cloud (together with the fermionic matter field) IS the electron. Dirac showed this in 1930 or something and then everyone forgot it. If you actually did scattering with physical fields rather than the Lagrangian fields then all this final state bollocks would be automatically taken care of. But no-one cares about that.

It's day 2 and the sodding laser pointer still doesn't work.

People might thank you for giving nice talks, but they won't cite you. The people who are cited are the people who give bad talks.

People are still shuffling infra-red divergences into things they're not looking at and then forgetting them.... QFT has come a long way. Hmmm. Other people think their made up bullshit is correct, while experiment is wrong. Humility is lacking at this conference.

A couple of choice nuggets from today:

"If you're in your right mind, you would never think that!"

"Oh! I'm out of time. I'll go quickly..."

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

LC2011 -- aside


I'll return to this when sobre.

LC2011: day 1.

Talks begin at 9am. At 9:11am the first mobile phone rings and the first person is asleep.

The conference begins with a five year old, rather too hype-filled discussion of Ads/cft/qcd and the wonderful things you can do by wrapping branes about each other. He is pleasingly honest in admitting that AdS/CFT has taught us nothing about real QCD.

Coffee and doughnuts! No-one speaks to me.

The second speaker begins with a sycophantic eulogy to Stan Brodsky, who is actually in the audience. Stan responds in kind. This goes on for several minutes. Just before the tears start to fall the speaker gets to his outline. It is 15 items long. The slides are almost blacked out with text. We have here yet another 50 year old physicist who can't write a talk. I die a little.

The morning session deteriorates into a bunch of wrinkly old sods cheerfully slapping eachother on the back. I vomit a little.

The topic of the day is AdS/QCD using lightfront approaches, in particular soft wall vs. hard wall models. There are, interestingly, several agressive questions from the audience about the physical relevance of all this research. In particular how the approach deals with stuff like the angular momentum of the proton, which it seems is something we should care and worry about. The answer to all such questions is simply "we'll probably be able to do it..."

Speakers begin to leave the conference entire.

There is some more simpering praise for various elderly physicists. Someone is annoyed that scalar fields are being used to model coloured particles. He interrupts with "I don't mean to interrupt but..." which is an arse-clenchingly irritating thing to say.

Advice: if your outline takes more than 30 seconds to present, it's not a fucking outline.

What astonishes, impresses and depresses me is that people can listen to all this badly presented complex crap and ask clever pointed questions about it, even if they admit they don't understand it. How do they do that? I am literally switched off.

Some people say some sensible things about confinement. It's all based on instantons and merons, it seems. Clearly I don't understand instantons in euclidean theories, because he's reduced his entire configuration space (of gauge fields) to just these configurations and says that does everything. Apparently the YM vacuum is a liquid crystal. That's nice.

Trousers which go up to the ribs. Astounding. I am eating way too many doughnuts.

Monday, 23 May 2011

LC2011: day 0.

I arrive in the US to be greeted by a long cue leading to a sign which promises me the immigration official will be corteous and professional, and then an immigration official who is rude and indifferent.

Then six hours of my life happen in Newark airport.

Then I arrive in Texas and am lied to and fleeced by some cunt of a taxi driver.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnyway. LC211 reception: decent snack food, free wine, immediate talk of physics amongst almost everyone, talk which turns to, yup, politics after a few glasses of the Pino Broncho. Cue slightly raised voices about whether killing Osama was a wonderful thing (angry russian) or something which will only heighen both resentment and fear of the US around the world (mild european chap).

The people I want to talk to about physics during the week are here. I'm still unhappy with my talk but I have time to fix it. Now, tea... talks begin soon...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

arXiv moderation

I submitted a paper to the arXiv the other day, and when it appeared I noticed the moderators had cross-listed it to some ridiculous pissant arXiv which I don't give a rat's ass about.

What's the problem? Clearly I get (a modicum) of extra publicity by cross-listing, so I should probably be indifferent to this. But I'm not. I think there are two reasons.

First, I suppose that every other physicist is a bit like me in how they see the arXiv. People who publish on hep-th sneer at people who publish on hep-ph, people on hep-ph sneer at those who publish on hep-ex, etc, so that people who work on the same area of me will think my paper is shit since I linked it to a shit arXiv.

Actually, I imagine everyone who publishes on hep-th sneers at everyone else, and I know that everyone, even passing marsupials who are mysteriously and briefly granted he understanding of science by a pissed up blue fairy and who happen to wander onto the arXiv while googling for "really good grubs to eat", sneer at physics.pop-ph.

Although I did just find this:


The second reason, and this is the real one, is that it's sodding well rude to reclassify an article and not tell the author. I can't abide these pissing up the wall contests with other physicists, and that is precisely what arXiv moderation is. Some high-up with a "I've got more citations than you" attitude can do what he/she likes with your paper and they know it.

If these people had an ounce of humility or just base gregariousness left in their citation-hunting blasted souls, they would fire off a fucking e-mail and say "hello, we'd like to cross list your paper. Please respond before the next deadline if there's a problem."

If I had received such an e-mail I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. Yes, I would still have been doubtful about the necessity of cross-listing my paper to physics.yawn but I wouldn't have objected actively to it, and I wouldn't have become this irate.

Cannot stand impoliteness.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Conference blogging: LC2011

I'll be blogging from LightCone 2011 next week. For those who don't know about this conference, it's a pleasant enough event where a lot of people who work on very different topics get together and try to sell their stuff to disparate communities by saying, at some point in their alloted 30 mins, "which we can do in lightcone co-ordinates as so..."

There are also a hardcore bunch working on the very old, very hard, still unresolved, problems of lightfront field theory proper. Last year the conference was somewhat tediously dominated by Schwinger Dyson people (few of whom even pretended to care about the lightfront - shocking!) but that was due to the location and the organising commitee. Since we're on the home turf of the lightfront bigshots this year (the US), I expect a great deal of ADS/QCD stuff.

Oh yes, and it's in Dallas, Texas. Embolism alert... packing prozac now...