Humans of Physics VII: Frederick del Pozo

This is the seventh installment of our project Humans of Physics, which seeks to portrait the scientists as the persons they are.

When the Lockdown came the big question every student was asking was “how will this impact my studies, degree, carreer???”. Luckily I am a Physics Student, soon to complete my MSc Thesis and degree, and therefore most of my work is easily done from Home, a luxury that many Physicists share. My work can be done with a stable WiFi connection, a laptop and Zoom-Calls. No longer did I need to “go to work”, I could simply sit at my desk or my bed, and work as I pleased.

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Humans of Physics IV: Shirin Ermis

This is the fourth installment of Humans of Physics, a project which searches to show how we scientists are just like everyone. Dispelling some stereotypes is probably a good idea, from time to time. 

For me, the cliché is true. Every morning I get woken up by the birds. It’s actually a chime but it still feels good and I congratulate myself for having found it on my phone every morning. It’s seven, I try to roll between my sheets as long as possible without falling back to sleep. Usually the fool-proof way to do that is to put on a podcast of yet more grueling news. I’ll start with the short German one. Then if I need more time, the English one. At some point around twenty past seven I will crawl out of bed, do my morning stretches, get dressed and go downstairs to get breakfast. I’ll balance the warm bowl of porridge and the tea upstairs to my room. While clutching the cup I will try to keep myself motivated for long enough to write a little to do list in my diary. I will make sure my workout, watering my plants and going outside is on there as well as all the work stuff. Sometimes I will drift off at that point, either too excited to focus or too bored to be bothered. It’s usually videos on Youtube on why polar bear numbers are rising in some places in the Arctic or pictures of London on Pinterest in anticipation for my master’s that I will start in October.

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Humans of Physics III: Asier Piñeiro

This is the third installment of Humans of Physics, a series focusing in the researchers more than in the research, for once.

“I stare at equations for a living,” used to say my Tinder profile – and it’s not too far from true. My day usually looks like a mixture of scribbling mathematical formulas, programming them into a computer, and then trying to make sense of it all in meetings, blackboard discussions or just by staring long enough into the void. That’s at least how it looks like from the outside.

Inside me, every day is more like an intellectual and emotional journey – sometimes a calm stroll, sometimes a roller coaster. It all starts and ends with (small) questions about the (big) world. When I’m playing with ideas and trying them out I feel in flow, I feel alive. When ideas don’t work out, I get frustrated and start doubting about myself, wondering why I do what I do. But then, a new idea. And I dream of revolutions. An error, and I feel stupid. Another idea, and I feel like Einstein. Yes? Nope. Doesn’t work. Perhaps a different question?

No matter the answer, what makes the journey to me truly meaningful is sharing it with my friends and peers: sharing our enthusiasm about little findings; our random conversations about the world; and, my personal favorite, those Friday afternoons when our tired minds will forge the most amazing idea that is gonna solve physics once and for all. Except it won’t. But maybe next Friday.

Asier, seen here in one of his many natural habitats. Photo taken in Arches National Park, Utah.
Asier is a postdoc at JILA (Boulder, USA), trying to understand the games that atoms play with each other when they’re left alone in the quantum world, inside it’s cold, and no one is looking. (aka dynamics of cold many-body quantum systems)

Humans of Physics I: Felipe Montealegre.

This is the first of many short recounts on the lives of physicists. We hope to dispell some stereotypes about physicists, and open a window so that scientific outreach can be sometimes also about the scientists, their hopes and anxieties, in the context of their science.

The alarm sounds and wakes me up. I know myself: I set it a bit early so I can chill, browse reddit, check instagram, the usual. Anyway. I then head to the kitchen and serve myself a bowl of my personal delight, cereal. Maybe I’ll have a coffee? I’m surprisingly unattached to coffee even though I enjoy it a lot.

With cereal, the physics of the day starts.

There’s this neat website where physicists usually upload their papers before they’re published, . I’ll browse the website to see what’s new, skim through a few papers that catch my attention. It’s like easing myself into the workday, it’s technically work-related but you don’t need to put in a whole lot of energy into it, so it’s a nice slow start to the day.

The rest of the day usually flies by. I go into “math mode” –I put my headphones on and work on my research. Sometimes the day is short, sometimes long. Sometimes I’ll end the day on a high, and happily play music; sometimes, I end the day abruptly because the math gets too confusing.

Felipe Montealegre. Ph.D. student in Uni Köln

What is Mass? Part I

This is the second installment of our “What is…?” series. 

During these months of quarantine, a lot of us have probably thought once or twice that we have been putting on some quarantine-weight. And while that is true (or not, for you, athletic reader) what is actually happening, is that you body is acquiring mass. A somewhat trivial difference, you may say, as weight is just the force inflicted by gravity on to some body. And it strikes me as a funny thing that in our everyday physics, everything comes intuitively to us, force, speed, acceleration, rotation stuff. Everything -but mass. It feels intuitive, but the more you think about it, the more you will end up asking yourself… What is mass?

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What is Quantum?

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A friend of mine recently suggested a documentary to me about the mind’s healing power. Terrible pseudoscience all around, but it landed some nice points about stress. Nevertheless, I was horrified at how easy the word quantum was dropped, without any context, and any reason. And this is not an isolated event, I have seen this trend for some time. And I think that is not only a trend in the circles of pseudoscience. In science-fiction and superhero movies for instance, quantum jargon is used as mumbojumbo and plot devices, admittedly a whole more harmless way. However, with buzzwords like quantum healing or quantum consciousness on the rise, we physicists must take a stand and clarify what does the word quantum really mean.

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Size Matters

I don’t think we have to tell you that the Universe is a very complex and huge place. But in case we actually do, here it is: the universe is bigger and more complex than the human mind can fathom. Think about our galaxy, with its millions of stars, which have their own solar systems with some planets and hundreds of asteroids and general debris. All of them attract each other gravitationally and modify the path that each other has, literally all the time! How can one even start to try to predict how the Universe works with such staggering number of bare elements?

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Extreme Microscoping. Part II.

Things are about to get messy.

Give me a moment of your day, and let me put a picture in your mind. Imagine you and a friend each have a soup in a plate, and each soup has two carrot pieces, one potato and not so much broth in it. You are bored, it is a slow afternoon, so you decide to perform a little experiment.

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