Monthly Archives: November 2012

Google calculator in the lab

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve found Google’s calculator feature to be one of the most useful things in the lab (it’s that or an oscilloscope). It’s the first thing I go to when I want to make some little back-of-the-envelope calculation. And it’s always there, no matter what computer I sit at (unlike the ‘scope, which is always getting “borrowed”).

My most-loved features are it’s physical constants and the way it incorporates units automatically.


0.5 * m_e* (100 m/s)^2 in eV


1 / (2 * pi * 100e-9F * 100 ohms)

Handy, right?

Now if anyone from google is out there and wants to make my Christmas, add a resistor color coder/decoder

resistance: green brown black gold ?

Flashing back

Next week, I’m going to start a new job. It’s a nice, fellowship position in a prestigious university, and even comes with a little seed money to get me started.

The thing is, the research group is in a field, which not exactly at right angles to my previous work, is still quite different. So the head of the group suggested I work through some textbooks and recommended me a few.

And man is it hard. It’s been only five or six years since I last had to take a formal class in quantum mechanics, but so much of the graduate level textbook on laser cooling sent me searching for my quantum mechanics book that I decided I needed to refresh that before getting into that too much.

It’s maybe a comment on how (in)applicable undergraduate education is after the final exam. Here I am, in academia, and I find that all that knowledge I studied and stored has completely atrophied from lack of use. I can only imagine how it is for someone who went out into the big world.

How would I change it? It’s a point I’m going to have to think for a bit — in time for another post.

Hello World

How’s the water? Cold? Let’s just try one toe…. Yipes, COLD! Okay, gently does it, ease in…

Well, that’s a tangled metaphor for my first foray into blogging. I’ve got to say that this a lot more ‘on a whim’ than thoroughly and meticulously planned out. If I have anything that might be called a vision for this blog, I’d say that it’s about sharing things that I find interesting, and seeing if I’m not the only one.

A lot of this blog will be about science — I’m a professional physics researcher, specialising in cold and ultra-cold particles in traps. I’m a few years after my PhD, and in that grey area of not-a-post-doc, and not-faculty either. In fact, right now, I’m setting up to move to start a new job next week. (OK, maybe this blog is also procrastination from filling cardboard boxes). But more about my research later (got to keep that content saved up!)

More of this blog will be about computers and technology. I have to program for my job and I’m an irredeemable messer-about on all kinds of technology. One of the joys of my life is finding a year-old blog or forum post of someone who long-since solved the problem right before me. If even any one workaround here helps someone out, that’ll make me smile.

And even more of this blog will be about the random things I might encounter in daily life. Photos, gripes, tips, links, videos, talking dogs, whatever… 😉