Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A song lyrics

I found on youtube Tom Petty's video Into the Great Wide Open. I remember how much I liked this song, back in 1991. It was really awesome for me to see Johnny Depp in the video because I was a fan of the tv show 21 Jump Street, translated into Spanish as Comando Especial. That show was broadcast in Guatemala by the beginning of the 90's, every Friday at 7 pm by Canal 3; right before MacGyver, that was at 8 pm. I was so delighted by the song that I wanted to understand its lyrics but all I could do was to meaninglessly mumble the words I heard. My "ear" to understand spoken English was not yet very well trained and there was no internet to fetch the lyrics in a few keyboard strokes with a nowadays-so-taken-for-granted Google search. So I had to find solace in a word-by-word translation of the song title using a paper-based English-Spanish dictionary and realizing that the translation didn't make too much sense... those were other times.

What made me happy this time around that I listened to it, was that I realized that I could understand the lyrics effortlessly! It was like having the key to unlock and old chest and peeking inside with total freedom.

That's how my little forgotten wishes become a reality.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No more exams!

As of fall 2007, I will no longer have any exam until the end of my PhD. I finally have reached that point of joy in which I only have to think about my research project! Why am I thinking about this? Because everybody around is studying for finals and I'm working on my research project. All these years, since I started primary school, going through high school, college and grad school; I've had a break from school of two years! I certainly can't complain, the ride has been very exiting. However, I believe that you reach a point --- at least in my case --- in which you want to learn and study just for the sake of it, without anybody meddling in between trying to assess your level of knowledge. I feel happy and relieved of having left behind those grueling days of preparation for final exams and having ahead lots of time for doing science and learning more.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When I used to play video games

The period between 2000 and 2002 was the time after my undergraduate studies and before graduate school. I was no longer a teaching assistant. I was a full professor in the mathematics department*. It is true that preparing lectures for three courses is time consuming, but I managed my time so that I was pretty much free after 4 or 5 pm. So, from that time until bedtime, I was free to do whatever I wanted. In most cases I spend the evening helping out to create the linux-based computer lab in the physics department, or learning C++ and numerical methods or playing video games.

I used to go home and turn the computer on after having dinner. Video games were very addictive, specially at the beginning. Later on, it was more of a routinely activity of entertainment. My favorites were Age of Empires, versions I and II, Tomb Raider 4, and my favorite of all time... Caesar III. Hours and hours of enjoyment. At some point---I have to admit---I started to feel guilty, because I realized that I was getting good at something that would not get me anything other than entertainment. Well, at least I was putting my brain to work at solving puzzles. That's what I like of strategy games.

Then I went to study abroad and although I packed my video games cd's, leisure time is a precious luxury in graduate school. I like to see it as a trade, as a change of entertainment activities. After all, doing research in physics amounts to solve other sorts of puzzles. I still find myself buying strategy games every once in a while, specially those about medieval warfare, but I've never got to far into the game. I'm more driven nowadays to try to solve physics puzzles than video games ones. Probably because I can earn a living doing it while having fun!

*I know this sounds weird. How come that I was a professor if I had only a bachelor's degree? For the time being, I will just say that it happens in Guatemala... unfortunately. I will address this question elsewhere.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Science of the future

The trend of physics research has started to shift from what it used to be. By the end of the 20th century, physicists were already proposing candidates for a theory of everything. The unification of gravity with quantum mechanics was the greatest achievement of the 21st century. It laid down the foundations for the first theory of everything, the so-called grand unification, discovered in the 22nd century. This was a major accomplishment for the human mind. Nevertheless, physicists didn't stop there. The other two candidate theories, multidimensional intersections and holistic emergence also ended up being theories of everything. Thus, we have three very different explanations of how everything works at the fundamental level. Although different in their foundations, they all account for all the phenomena we observe. Now that we have three theories of everything it seems that there is no unique model of our universe.

Nowadays people believe that the human brain is capable of explaining the universe it inhabits in many different ways and that the essence of it is a form of subjective objectivism. The claim is that the mind can't grasp the substrate of the things, but rather its manifestation via the interactions that generate the perception of reality. They big questions of who we are and what is our place in the universe are still unanswered. The human adventure goes on.

December 7, 3989.