8/09/2008

08-09-08 - 1

When I move I like to use it as a time of cleansing, throwing off detritus and keep-sakes, things that tie me to a past that I have trouble letting go. When I moved from SLO to SF I finally gave away all my old Amiga stuff that I had been clinging to for many years without ever touching. This time the big cleanse is my past in physics. I have stack upon stack of photocopies of physics papers, and notebook upon notebook of my own writing. I used to print out or photocopy every research paper I read so that I could have it for my files, and write notes on it. I kind of imagined I was building my permanent collection for my office as a professor. Now I look at those papers and I can't even figure out what the *title* means. I was way off in esoterica, I was looking into quantum gravity, spin networks, topological field theories, all the work by Kauffman on discrete physics, stuff by Coleman and Preskill on the quantum mechanics of black holes, and tons of stuff about supersymmetric low-dimensional field theories, shit like that. I haven't looked at any of it in 10+ years now.

I did some really ridiculous stuff to myself back then. When I went to Europe for a few months after college, I took Weinberg's Quantum Theory of Fields. As I rode the rails I would work through it. When I "worked through" text books to teach myself stuff, I would make myself do most of the homework problems to make sure I was really learning it. I would also keep parallel notebooks and write down all my thoughts, basically writing like lecture notes as if I was going to teach the subject. Any time I thought there was a gap in the textbook, I would work it out. Like when he would say "from equation 12.4 we can derive ..." and I would think "WTF how does that follow?" I would force myself to work it out, so I have pages and pages of just doing work to prove things he states in the books. Of course now I wish I was just drinking and chasing girls then.

I was unbelievably pompous. I guess I still am (see, for example, "how to cut a bell pepper"), but at least now I'm aware of it, and it's sort of tongue-in-cheek now. Hell, the paper I wrote on PPM is called "Solving the Problems of Context Modeling", I'm sure the reviewers who read it did some serious eye-rolling. The funniest thing is just the way I would title things. I would write little notes to myself on thoughts, stuff like "Finding Fermi Statistics in Lorentz Group 360 Degree Rotations" , in big letters like that at the top of the page, and then I would always include "by Charles Bloom". As if some day it would be in some library archives somewhere for future students to admire.

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