Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Some things are easy to repeat. I bring the same sweatshirt to the office most days; I cycle through the same web sites when I'm procrastinating; sometimes I'll even write the same sentence repeatedly (usually with increasing frustration as I fail to find better words). But it's impossible to cook lentils or fall in love the same way twice. I had lentils and rice this evening for dinner, and now I'm feeling immensely benevolent. Oh, brave new world that has such spices in it! And spinach and tomatoes -- those were good additions, too.

I didn't work through the entire weekend. Winnie came here to visit on Saturday, and on Sunday, I went to the south bay, and we swam and watched Shrek 2 (not at the same time). Still, I made it into the office Sunday morning, and again on Monday. I was running simulations and making movies to be used in a presentation and sales pitch at a workshop this week. Sanjay is giving the presentation, but no few of the visuals will be things that I produced. I also finally did a preliminary study of the effects of film thickness on the predicted quality of resonance, and discovered a secondary effect that I think is most interesting. Suffice it to say that the number I care about (call it Q) seems to vary by about five orders of magnitude over a small range of film thicknesses. It seems relatively stable outside that range. Now, I think this is immensely excititing for two reasons. First, it means I have a testable hypothesis: a qualitative behavior predicted by the model which I believe will occur somewhere in the range of fabricateable devices, even if I don't know the material properties precisely enough to predict exactly where. Second, it may be something that I can exploit -- or, rather, that I can tell my engineering colleagues how to exploit -- to build a system which blows our current prototypes out of the water (not to mention all but the most expensive of the existing alternatives).


Somehow, though, even that excitement hasn't been enough to keep me crunching. Yesterday afternoon, I set up a long-running computation and then went outside to read from the Feynmann lectures, sip coffee, and munch on a biscotti. It was a pleasant break, but even with that break, I felt grouchy and tired by five or six, when I left the office. So I came home, showered, and went for a walk.

So -- books! My stroll ended in the nonfiction section of Black Oak Books. I'm now the proud owner of Wave Motion in Elastic Solids (Graff); Perturbation Methods (Nayfeh); and Mathematical Models in the Applied Sciences (Fowler). There were lots of other interesting-looking books, too, but I'd been thinking about getting those three for a few months (Graff, Nayfeh) to a few years (Fowler). Besides, some of the other books looked more interesting than they actually were -- and some of the books which were probably most interesting were also incomprehensible

There was a slim volume of classic papers from the mathematical masters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for instance, which looked immensely interesting. I opened it, read the introduction (in English), and then turned to the first paper -- only to be forcibly reminded that English was not the prefered language of technical communication at that time. There were papers written in French, German, and Russian, all with authors whose names most any engineer, scientist, or mathematician would recognize immediately. I know no French, precious little Russian, and just enough technical German to decipher the descriptions of the equations when needed.

So much for that. I walked home almost chortling aloud in glee, and my mood hasn't dimmed appreciably since. Whee! Books! This makes up for the ending to This Rough Magic, which was a fun book with a very mediocre conclusion. I finished it late Monday night. Perhaps that's why I felt so wiped out by Tuesday evening. It may have been a mediocre ending, but I did stay up past my bed time.

I had a cup of herbal tea and then went to bed at a reasonable hour, but I wasn't much more motivated today than I was yesterday. So I think I will take a day or two regrouping: walking, reading, doing laundry, enjoying the sun, and avoiding the office. Maybe I'll read some more from the Feynmann lectures, or maybe I'll go to the library and read from the work of E.B. White.

And, of course, I'll drink plenty of tea, cook good things to eat, and enjoy the leftover lentils.

  • Currently drinking: Black tea with lychees