Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Casimir Force

Conference Photo from the 2003 Kazimierz Dolny
conference.  I'm in there somewhere.
I received an email this morning that I almost deleted at a glance as a circular that was not relevant to me.  It concerned the proceedings of a conference in my area that I didn't attend.  However, I paid just about enough attention to note that the email announced the proceedings of an annual conference in Poland that had just been published and that would be freely downloadable for one month (as per IoP Publishing's usual policy for subscription journals).  I took a look and found a bunch of interesting articles.

It made me think of the conference series, held in Poland every year and organised by the University of Lublin.  I attended one of them around ten years ago, not long after I became a lecturer at Surrey.   The town it takes place in, Kazimierz Dolny, is a lovely small town in southern Poland, and the conference is was full of very relevant stuff for me.  Partly, this is because Poland has a ratio of nuclear theorists to experimentalists that is roughly in line with the rest of the world, while the UK's is out of line (see p19 of the recent IoP report for the data), and the Lublin group in particular, I guess, lines up well with me.

I also remember some other things about the conference:  A French student in attendance challenged me to a drinking competition (thinking that Brits were all great drinkers).  Against my better judgement I agreed, and was glad that my challenger turned out to be sufficiently drunk when making the challenge that he managed only one drink of the competition before being unable to continue, and that I was therefore not honour bound to go any further... and I remember that this was a conference in which it was expected that one shared a room with another attendee.  I shared mine with an attendee (also from France) about my age, and really I've never experienced someone else who snores so badly.  To be fair, he did apologise in advance on the first day as he was well aware of it.

As well as the memories, it made me think of the fact that many University groups run regular renowned conferences every year in nuclear physics that attract good international speakers as well as being great training opportunities for local students.  Poland have this one and the Zakopane conference (and apologies Poles if I've forgotten another).  Of course, Poland supports a far larger community of nuclear physicists than countries like the UK do, but still... it got me thinking that it might be nice to organise such a thing.  On the other hand, perhaps I should prefer that I get to travel to these sorts of events run by someone else in rather nice places.  I won't be off to Kazimierz again this year, but I'll be going to one of the regular Bulgarian conferences, swapping the North Downs for the Rila Mountains.