ellipsix informatics
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!