Wednesday, 5 June 2013

INPC update: Encumbered by my appearance,

Sherlock HolmesNuclear Physicist

It's day three at INPC, which means that there has been a day and a half of talks since I last posted, along with the poster session and an excursion.  Before commenting on any of that, though, I should mention a funny thing that happened to me.

At the end of the poster session last night, I was milling around waiting to meet up with people to go off to dinner.  Someone came up to me and told me that they had a confession to make - that she had posted a photo of me to Facebook (unbeknown to me), but a mutual friend tagged me in the comments. She felt she would have to come clean as a result, as I would be bound to see a notification about it.

The reason she took the photo was the same reason that, last Tuesday in the Science Museum, two Chinese tourists asked me to have a picture taken with them - because "I look like Sherlock Holmes".  It's quite amusing, really.  I can certainly see the resemblance in certain shots of me and of Benedict Cumberbatch that we look similar.  The surreptitious shot posted to Facebook is shown above, with a picture of young Mr Cumberbatch for comparison.  Perhaps I ought to make more of this.  Maybe I should watch an episode of his Sherlock Holmes and copy his mannerisms.  Perhaps I can even give my talk tomorrow in the style of a Holmesian investigation.  Or maybe I just need to befriend a Martin Freeman lookalike and start hanging around with him.  Anyway.  Much hilarity ensued as a result of the exchange, and I am now Facebook friends with the photo-taker.  In fact, it seems I had to be to see the picture;  I received no notification and she had no need to worry.

Well,  as for the conference itself.  Yesterday and today featured a selection of talks of various natures which stirred various things in me.  The one that always happens in conferences is that of a reinvigoration of interest in nuclear physics in general.  I find it quite easy to get a bit jaded in my research, and to let other aspects of university life feed the feeling of jadedness, but a few conference talks that make me think "I can answer that question" or "this is what I need to do next" usually give me a kick to both talk to other researchers to collaborate on problems, and to go away and do some calculations that might prove useful to the community.  You may correctly point out that I'm in fact writing a blog post instead.

Aside from the spur in research ideas, it's also nice to meet up with old friends.  I saw that one such for me, Sait Umar from Vanderbilt University, was supposed to be attending and was disappointed that I didn't see him on the first day.  Fortunately he did come, and I bumped into him and his wife in the poster session.  That meant I ended up not looking at as many posters as I might have, but I still managed to look round quite a few.  Being accepted for a poster at a conference, rather than a talk, is generally considered a bad outcome, but really, a 12 minute talk in a 9-way parallel session (as in my case) is not necessarily better than a poster in a 2h long poster session in which an approximately infinite supply of free prosecco is provided.  I wandered around the posters chatting to quite a few people, and generally enjoyed learning about the broad range of things that are going on in nuclear physics.  I particularly enjoyed talking to a postdoc in Brussels working on the nuclear input to neutron star properties.  After we talked, realising that we have a lot research-wise in common, we discussed being in touch.  I said that I'd be able to remember her by thinking of Les Miserables - her surname is Fantina.  She laughed uneasily.  I am reading the book at the moment, on the suggestion of Matt Kelly, and am enjoying it very much.  I rather think - being 100 pages in - that I have not learnt yet what happens to Fantine.

That takes me to the end of yesterday.  A post for today may follow, but I should see if I can find anyone to have dinner with, being that I'm back at my hotel with no plans to meet up with conference attendees.  I suspect general wandering around will fix this. Ciao!