ellipsix informatics

Ellipsix Informatics: the personal website and blog of David Zaslavsky.

I'm a graduate student styudying theoretical particle physics, and I also do a lot of computer programming. Find me elsewhere online:

2016
Aug
13

Coming up: a week as @realscientists

I'm back, with a big announcement: next week I'll be curating the @realscientists Twitter account!

@realscientists is a rotating-curator account, which means that every week, a different person takes over the account to post about their work and life and anything else of interest to Twitter. Some weeks they have a traditional academic scientist posting. Other times it's a journalist, author, policy maker, an industry scientist, or anyone else who is involved with science.

Tweeting for @realscientists is kind of a big deal: the account has more than 35 thousand followers! I've wanted to do this for a couple years, though I didn't apply until just recently... for reasons that seem kind of silly now. As luck would have it, the original curator for next week had to cancel, so I get to step in at the last minute. Props to the Real Scientists mods for getting everything ready in about 3 days.

I'm really glad I got the chance to do this before leaving China. As far as I can tell, there's never been a Real Scientists curator from China before — probably not surprising, since Twitter is blocked by the national firewall. It'll be a chance to share a sector of science (and life) that most people don't get to see. So go follow @realscientists and join me on Twitter this coming week!

2015
Dec
31

A look back at 2015

Well, that's it.

A whole year of me promising to write more blog posts has come and gone, and it hasn't happened.

In the spirit of not making excuses, I'm not going to get into why I haven't kept the blog updated this year (well, okay, a little: postdoc work and studying Chinese kept me busy, and some personal issues wrecked my motivation), but let me resolve that I'm going to pick up the pace in 2016. There will be a lot of interesting physics developments to write about! I still have an explanation of the months-old pentaquark paper on my to-do list, and there's a mysterious bump in the latest LHC data that could be nothing, but is attracting everyone's attention nonetheless. And that's not even including the updates about life in China.

So here's to 2016 being a year of rebuilding, off- and online.


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2015
Oct
20

Technical problems this summer

It's been a while since I updated the blog — I've been busy, but there have also been some technical problems with the site, so I couldn't put up blog posts until I fixed them. I've got a lot to report about my adventures traveling over the summer, though! More to come soon.

2015
Jul
26

A Virtual Welcome to the Rencontres du Vietnam

In my last post I mentioned how the coast of Vietnam, where the Rencontres conference series is being held, looks amazing — with photo evidence. You might have guessed that that image was a promotional picture, and you'd be right: it came from the 2014 edition of the conference's website.

This one I took with my cell phone:

view of Quy Nhon including the beach and mountains

Guys. Vietnam is really pretty!

I arrived in Quy Nhon Saturday morning after an overnight trip from Wuhan, about 15 hours door-to-door. So despite having a couple of free days before the official start of conference events tonight (Sunday), all I really managed to do was catch up on some desperately needed sleep, and snap a couple more pictures of the coast.

panoramic view of the beach

Of course, I have been enjoying the food. Vietnamese cuisine, or at least what I've seen of it so far, is not as strongly flavored as what I'm used to in Wuhan, where every other dish is spicy with a thick Szechuan-style sauce. But they do some great things with a more subtle flavor palette. We have all our meals provided at the hotel restaurant, arranged by the conference organizers. Steamed vegetables with garlic sauce, fried spring rolls, beef noodle soup (pho), and many other dishes, all with a distinctly Asian style but still it's a nice variation from what I've been eating the past few months. Don't get me wrong, a lot of Chinese food is great, but even the best food gets monotonous after a little while. I really need to find some good pizza.

beef pho at the conference welcome dinner

The Rencontres conference itself kicked off tonight with a welcome cocktail for attendees, followed by a buffet-style conference dinner (where I took the photo of the pho). Talks begin tomorrow morning. It's a very small conference, only 36 participants, with everyone giving a talk during the week, and lots of unstructured time for discussions. In that respect the structure kind of reminds me of Science Online 2014, which I still count as the best conference I ever went to, so I think this is going to be a good week. I don't want to promise too much, but I'll try to get in more blog posts with the interesting physics results as the week goes on, and I'll be live-tweeting the talks under the hashtag #renviet15.

2015
Jul
23

Checking in after a busy semester

Greetings, readers!

I've been absent from the blog for a while for a few different reasons — between some issues to deal with in my personal life and a bunch of projects for work, I haven't been able to focus on a blog post for about six months. But I thought that streak has gone on long enough. Here's a quick status update:

  • My group has put out a paper, which was just accepted for publication into Physical Review D! This paper is a generalization of the same calculation I did for my PhD thesis, which I'm 2/3 of the way into a series of posts explaining. The third post is coming at some point, I promise.

  • I'll be traveling to two conferences to talk about this paper. First, the Rencontres du Vietnam workshop on heavy ion physics, held at the brand new International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (PDF), which is taking place next week. This is the first time I've been invited to present at a real conference! The venue also looks amazing.

    ICISE aerial view

    (image from the Rencontres 2014 website, all rights reserved)

    When the official schedule includes time for "Beach and informal discussions" you know it's going to be good!

    The week after that, I head back to the US for the APS Division of Particles and Fields meeting in Ann Arbor. The DPF meeting is not a major conference in my field — in fact, I fully expect that there won't be any other specialists in saturation physics there — but that's okay, since it gives me a chance to talk about my work at a less technical level.

  • On the "life in China" front, I've spent the past semester (March to July) taking a class in Chinese through CCNU. It's very intense: four hours a day, five days a week! And even after all that time, I'm barely able to hold conversations with Chinese people. But "barely able" is a lot better than "unable", so even that minimal level of Chinese is a huge help! That's one of the things you come to miss most about living in a foreign country where you don't speak the language: just the potential to talk to random people, even if you usually don't (like me), is comforting.

  • I hope to be posting a lot more about life in China, if not while traveling, at least later on this year. It's been five months since my last trip, and there are definitely parts of the expatriate experience that don't show up until you've been away from home for months, not just weeks.

  • And of course, there's some cool science that has been happening recently! The discovery of pentaquarks by LHCb (or so they think), the production of Weyl fermions, New Horizons passing Pluto, and those are just the headlines. Maybe I can get some posts up about these discoveries, if I have time.

But work has to come first. I'll be tweeting updates on the conferences I go to, so watch that feed for more!