Thursday, September 25, 2008

The 2008 Presidential Debate Drinking Game

Yes, this is my column this time around. I only needed to have a debate with the editor twice over this, the first time because it turns out some may not think this is appropriate material for a university newspaper, and again when McCain decided a few hours before our layout to perhaps not show up to Friday's debate. The editor appears to have extracted revenge, however, because the online version of the article is significantly shorter than the one I wrote. I'm not going to lie- I am really pissed at my editor right now because a. she cut out half the material and didn't tell me, b. it's not like we don't have the space, evidenced by c. they've run several longer columns than the space this one would have taken in full. Grrr...

Anyway, because this is my blog and I can do what I want here is the entirety of what was supposed to run in The Observer this week. As a disclaimer to anyone who's worried that people actually think I'm serious with my columns (not mentioning names, but you know who you are), I think it's safe to say that by this point I have a reputation. Trust me.


The 2008 Presidential Debate Drinking Game

by Yvette Cendes

Any time a candidate says…

- Change- 1 drink

- Expounds on the need for change without any specifics about how said change will work or be implemented- switch from beer to hard liquor, we are going to need it

- “Ready to lead”- 1 drink

- Gun control- 1 shot

- A word that doesn’t exist- 1 drink

- God, or any euphemism for God- 1 four horsemen

- Afghani… you know, it’s been so long that this been mentioned that I’ve forgotten how to spell it- 2 drinks

- Someone speaks Spanish in an effort to court the Hispanic vote- 1 tequila shot

- Terrorist- 1 car bomb

- Ethanol- do I really need to spell it out for you?

Whenever McCain…

- Addresses the audience as “my friends”- 1 drink

- A member of the audience jumps up shouting “shut up McCain! You’re not my friend! It’s not like you call me asking if we can hang out on the weekend or would lend me twenty bucks!”- 2 drinks

- Recommends increasing troop protections by issuing +1 armor- 3 drinks

- Makes a joke about being old and/or references his mother- 1 gin and tonic

- Tries to market himself as a unique maverick in vain hope that people won’t remember he’s from the same party as George W. Bush- 1 drink

- Mentions he was a POW- 1 drink

- The moderator says “wait, you were a POW? I didn’t know that!”- 2 drinks

- Is questioned on how exactly being a POW prepares him to be president- 3 drinks

Whenever Obama…

- Says “folks”- 1 drink

- Mentions Indonesia, Hawaii, or Kenya- 1 drink

- Is referred to as “Osama” by McCain or the moderator- 2 drinks and a kick in the shins

- Tells an anecdote about a middle-class woman who can’t get by- 1 drink

- Says something so socialist that he could be quoting a communist leader- 1 vodka shot

- He is quoting a communist leader- 2 shots

- A communist leader makes a guest appearance- 3 shots

Vice-Presidential Bonus Round! Guys ‘n Gals Edition

- Biden mentions Scranton (and it’s not a reference to The Office)- 1 drink

- “That” SNL skit is mentioned in an attempt to connect with pop culture- 1 drink

- Palin mentions Alaska- 1 drink

- Biden and Palin get into a “small state smackdown” arguing over the merits of Delaware compared to Alaska- 2 drinks

- Palin mentions her extensive executive experience, moose hunting, why abstinence-only education is best, how close she is to Russia, etc- disqualified due to worries of alcohol poisoning

Things we won’t see, but would like to…

- Someone walking onto the stage stroking a white cat- vodka martini, shaken not stirred

- A candidate responding with “you know, I was mistaken on that point. I’m sorry about that.”- time to stop drinking

- A debate resembling a rational, honest discussion of ideas instead of a never-ending slew of catchphrases and attacks that bring us nowhere closer to addressing the serious issues facing our country- put down the drink and start making a fire, hell has frozen over!

Cendes is a fifth year physics major, meaning she is old enough to remember the 2004 Vice-Presidential Debate held at Case. She still has the pictures from sneaking into the debate room with her roommate the day prior, where they pretended to be Cheney and Edwards until Secret Service threats forced them out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For Those Keeping Track...

I just turned in my form declaring my intention to graduate in January 2009 with a Physics B.S. and a minor in history. Awesome.

In other news, don't wait until the last possible week to declare your history minor and then go to the history luncheon later in the day just because you want the food. Most of the conversations steer towards Karl Marx regardless of whether he is relevant or not to the discussion, and that gets really boring after awhile.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baby Black Holes

Shamelessly copied from my friend and suitemate Megan's blog where she was (of course) expounding about the LHC-

This historic event reminds me of the two concepts that first really got me interested in physics - gravitons and black holes. Seriously, how awesome would it be to have a pet baby black hole? Never need another trash can, if you’re ever attacked nothing to worry about just sic Wilbur the Baby Black Hole on the guy...
I, for one, have absolutely no idea how I went through life never thinking of this. Only problem I can see is you couldn't pet it, unless you were ok with never using your hand again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Griffiths Was Here!

We had a huge bit of excitement yesterday as our weekly colloquium speaker was someone we were all very eager to meet- Dr. David Griffiths. Every physics student the world over knows Griffiths because he has written the standard textbook used in upper-level electromagnetism courses, as well as dominantly used quantum mechanics and nuclear particle texts. Clearly we had to invite him, and clearly by "we" I mean "I" in this setting because this was a student-inspired idea and I always get tapped to do these things.

As a secondary note, because I did the inviting this meant I also got to do the hosting, so I hosted my first colloquium speaker. Probably a first time a student ever did such a thing at our institution (I don't know why, it's really fun and you get a nice dinner!), but I like to see how far I can get away with things...

Anyway, comments about Griffiths' visit-

1) David is, it turns out, really really awesome. As in we had a pizza lunch in the undergrad lounge with him for the students, and most of the 1+ hour was spent with ~30 physics students staring at him in rapt attention while he talked about various topics.

2) If you think it's awesome to be on a first-name basis with David Griffiths, and moreover hang out with people who are jealous of you for the fact, you might be a nerd. Just maybe.

3) He was nice enough to sign our books. Was not even perturbed when asked to sign international editions of books that some students had, on the grounds that the publishing industry is such a racket in the US.

4) Because everyone wants to know I'm sure, the quantum book cover with the live cat on the front, dead cat on the back was his publisher's idea and not his. The funny thing about the cat, apparently, is David noticed it was visibly plagiarized off a Scientific American cover a few months prior. Upon writing his publisher urgently saying something needed to be done, he received the cryptic response of "don't worry about it" so the cover has stayed the same since.

5) About once every three or four months, someone emails Griffiths outraged over the mere image of the dead cat. He thus far just responds by saying the cat might just be sleeping, but I suggested he write back saying the cat was killed by the act of looking at it just to see what happens.

6) One last note about the quantum book: the fact that the last word in the whole thing is "gullible" is deliberate.

7) The E&M book and quantum book in particular were written from class notes from classes David taught where the students hated the book (the nuclear particle one was written mainly while at SLAC on sabbatical). There are notes for perhaps one more book, on general relativity, but he says he likes the book he uses for GR so the motivation really isn't there.

8) I asked him if he'd ever considered wirting a thermodynamics book because I hate Kittel & Kromer so much. He said no, because he didn't think he understood thermo or that most anyone really does. Fair enough...

9) The colloquium itself- ie the technical excuse we used to drag him all the way to Cleveland to speak- was really neat. It has the distinct honor of being a theory talk I actually followed most of since you could if you had a general quantum background, about what happens to an electron orbiting a +q charge when a -q charge approaches it (originally worked by Fermi, but not to much precision). It involved a few really nifty and elegant explanations involving a 1/x-squared potential and left both theorists and experimentalists in the audience alike in good spirits, so I'm glad that worked out!

10) I think my favorite thing about the talk though was how, for lack of better explanation, it was exactly the sort of thing I imagined David Griffiths would give. He lectures very well and speaks in a manner very similar to how he writes, so combined with using the exact same font used in the books for the equations I was captivated. The man must give wicked lectures!

On Too Much Stuff

Ok, whether I have too many or too few things compared to the average person can be debated- I'm told I don't have much for a college student even- but every once in awhile what I do have annoys me to the point where I half-think I want to travel the world next semester just to cut down on my material posessions. This thought hit me harder than usual earlier this week when I was supposed to write my fortnightly column but was still working hard on organizing my room, so the following article resulted-

Senior contemplates need for accumulated possessions

Last weekend I went home for the first time in months to pick up my stuff. I realize this is a few weeks later than most people furnish their dorm room with a beanbag chair and a couple posters, but my situation was complicated since I arrived on campus straight from my summer job in California. And while my time on the West Coast did not do things like leave me with a mystical urge to expand my mind – I do physics, my mind is weird enough – it did reduce me to two bags worth of possessions until just a few days ago.

Now let me say this: I have way too much stuff. I realize this is an odd statement to make when your worldly possessions can fit into the back of your parents' minivan, but my mind can't help but notice how I survived several months without missing most of it. I'm not quite certain yet why a lot of this junk is here anyway, except to stand in front of whatever I happen to be urgently looking for.

What sort of things am I talking about? For starters, let's take my bookshelf. I didn't really need it for all these months, but I needed to bring it now to shelve the books and DVDs I also brought (which, of course, were living quietly undisturbed lives in the basement until I brought them to live quietly undisturbed lives on the bookshelf). I brought back a large quantity of pillows for my bed as well. These serve no discernable purpose except as projectile missiles whenever my suitemates annoy me, but I like them for inexplicable reasons so I hold onto them.

A lot of my trepidation, I freely admit, is from all the moving around I have done since my freshman year. You move a lot in college – this last one was my 12th – and you pick up pretty quickly that the less stuff you have, the less you need to pack. Put it this way; there is a reason a miniature legion of people are on hand to assist freshman to move in while most everyone else just corrals their own resources.

To be honest though, I very much appreciate the items that stuck around this long. Few material possessions will ever delight me as much as my set of colored pens, for example, and I'd be embarrassed to publicly admit how little time needs to pass before I miss my computer. Further, once an item of clothing gets in my wardrobe it doesn't leave very easily, to the great annoyance of my mother. This results in her passive-aggressively taking my favorite shirts out of my laundry hamper whenever I visit, to which I retaliate by finding the shirts behind the dryer and putting them back where they belong. I figure if this is as big as our mother-daughter strife is, I should just leave it be.

And now you'll have to excuse me, because my suitemate just came into my room to tell me she ate the last of the ice cream. Doggone it, where are those pillows when you need them?

Cendes is a fifth year physics major. In her spare time, she plans for what she politely calls "galactic domination."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The LHC Poetry Slam

Sorry everyone, been busy with the start of the semester... lots of random things popping up, such as the LHC party I was invited to last night (aka Large Hadron Collider, aka the big particle smasher that was tested today in Europe). Also known as "Geekfest 2008," I was invited by a bunch of physics grad students to stay up until 4am to celebrate the turning-on of the largest experiment ever conducted by humankind. As the next generation particle accelerator won't be seen for several decades, of course I had to accept.

Anyway, somewhere during the course of the night the LHC Rap was shown to those who had not seen it for some reason yet, and I expressed my sentiment that I really don't like it. A guy challenged me on my reasons, and beyond explaining the cheesy nature I broke down and said "not trying to sound pretentious, but I think I could write something better." Clearly I wasn't going to be allowed to get away with such a statement and was handed a pencil and paper and told to get to work.

So what follows was my result after a half hour or so of work- what does everyone think? Considering it was 2am and I was nursing a beer while writing, I hope I will be forgiven for the lack of proper pantameter-

The LHC Ode
by Yvette Cendes

It was mid-September and the leaves were flying
The grass turning brown and the wind a-crying
The physicists were gathering late at night
To witness what could only be an incredible sight-
It was the LHC! In the entire world
It would throw particles faster than they'd ever been hurled
The truth behind theories earlier fabled
Would finally be pinned down and properly nailed,
It would find the Higgs, and possibly see
An answer to baryonic asymmetry!
Oh how marvelous! Oh how grand!
All the things we would finally understand!

So the physicists chatted while they lay in wait
Not knowing they'd taken the universe's bait,
For when the switch went "on," that exciting goal,
They accidentally created... a black hole.
Yes, that's right, the nuts had held the truth
(Even if they'd seemed silly and rather uncouth)
And the black hole was there, it grew and grew
As black holes accreting mass are known to do,
It ate all in its path, and before the dawn
The planet called Earth was forever gone.

Now people will say it's an unlikely case-
On par with creating an elephant in space-
But if there are infinite universes, as some like to say,
Eventually it would happen and we'd all die away
So it's unlikely, it's true, but just for some fun,
Ask yourself this- what if THIS is the one?