Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dutch detour

We made it to the internal SFB689 spintronics workshop in Niederalteich, though barely in time. The origin of the delay is so bizarre that it just has to be reported: on the motorway, some sort of heavy duty vehicles were transporting two tram cars across the Bavarian province. That's not so strange in itself, but one of them seemed strangely familiar to me, with a logo "HTM" and a destination displayed as "Station HS". Who had the crazy idea to give a Dutch tram car from Den Haag an excursion into the Danube hinterland?!!! Anyway, see for yourself...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Assembly line physics

After more than three days of non-stop exam grading (~130 students, 10 questions, ~35% completed), it was time for a break. I mean, at some point I might actually be frustrated enough to really run off to the McDonalds in Maximliansstraße and get some blank job application forms, and I think this might not really go down well with the faculty administration. (Not only with the administration, of course. :) If I find the time, I'll have to place a reference solution online, since most of the questions were so easy to solve. But to be fair, some people did rather well, so not all is lost. (And since the exam was designed to be "too long for available time", it's probably normal that some questions are just not answered.) Next stop then was (among some other things) preparation of the internal spintronics workshop next week in Niederalteich monastery. Some of the guys in our group have to give a presentation, so we've been discussing the slides...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nanotubes, nanoonions, nanooysters

Thanks to the arXive blog, another gem of recent preprints has surfaced. Multiwall carbon nanotubes, when irradiated, turn into onion-like balls - and the pressures at the center of these balls can be so large that the carbon structure even crystallizes into diamond at the center! See the original paper for more details... Update... Why is this cool? Well, just imagine what pressures one needs to grow artificial diamonds. In nature diamonds crystallize somewhere around 50bar, and the process takes literally ages. Nanotubes are grown in the lab pretty quickly, and the astonishing thing is that intramolecular forces alone can generate such extreme conditions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photo galleries offline

For those who have not noticed yet, the photo gallery server at www.ostpforte.de is down. For the technically minded, it failed to reboot after a kernel update (because of CVE-2010-3301). Since the box is physically in a different city in the basement of a building where I have no key, this may take a while. Well, at least I then have some time to sort the Korea photos from summer...

Piled higher...

Have I already mentioned that I'm (as many people around the world at university labs) a big fan of Jorge Cham's PhD Comics?! Right now I'm sitting in the office for a late shift of grading the big exam, and all that comes to my mind is the cartoon series on Cecilia grading undergrad homework... :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Database mania

Somehow about every bigger software package nowadays wants to use a full-scale database backend. Just after I kicked amarok out of my box, now I realized that digikam-1.4.0 actually depends on an existing mysql installation. It's nowhere in the documentations (yet?), but in hindsight the CMakeLists.txt in the main directory is pretty explicit in its wishes. Now what is then the point of using an abstraction layer like qt-sql, you say? Well, surprise, there is another bug where the qsqlite plugin just not seems to suffice. Now at runtime. I shared the resulting fishy feeling with the penguins running my chroot compilers nice and quietly in the background. The hair-rising result is that digikam-1.4.0 only starts up if qt-sql supports both sqlite and mysql...

Things to do...

Somehow the last days of the week already became pretty busy. How did I spend Friday? Well, planning with an engineer the renovation of offices and discussing in detail the locations of ethernet sockets, cable ducts, ceiling lamps, ... Then, starting to read and commenting on two work-in-progress theses of >70 pages each. And finally, nearly finishing this stupid bachelor exam. One more question to go (that's something for this evening), and then follows tomorrow in the office printing and stapling the sheets. (And locking the resulting pile of paper away properly. :o). The personalized cover sheets with names and matriculation numbers are already finished. Some colleagues have promised to help as "invigilators", some more help will still be organized, and monday at noon this should be done and over with. I just hope that nothing was messed up with the participant lists, and that someone from the administration can be reached monday morning in case of unexpected problems with formalities...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First bump- digikam-1.4.0, kipi-plugins-1.3.0

There's definitely something magic about becoming a Gentoo dev. Suddenly you can go fix these bugs yourself! Anyway, thanks to my mentor tampakrap and all the other guys who helped, I now have made my way to commit access. Yay!
Here's my first real piece of Gentoo news: kipi-plugins-1.3.0 and digikam-1.4.0 have been bumped from the kde overlay to the main tree. Be warned that both require kde-4.5... And to answer the question before it is asked, I only bumped kipi-plugins-1.3.0 since this is what we already had. I know 1.4.0 is out there too... soon... :) Via a few corners, Fortran may still be required (digikam uses sci-libs/clapack, which depends on virtual/blas) - that's something that can and will still be fixed sometime. Enjoy!

Back at the office

Touchdown of the plane in München- and immediately the world was grey and rainy. Well, any trip to Italy cannot last forever. And at least I have a remarkable sunburn as a souvenir... Of course, being away for some days implicates that work piles up. Most urgent right now is preparing the questions for the physics bachelor exam of the first year chemistry students (they will have to solve them on monday!). 6 questions finished, 4 more to go...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Picture gallery online

Grignano harbour and the
ICTP guesthouse
And just to prove how nice it is here, I've uploaded some pictures. Click on the thumbnail to see more! :)
By the way, the large building on the right edge of this photograph is the Adriatico Guesthouse of the ICTP (International Centre for Theoretical Physics).

Sea and sun

The weather forecast was far too nice on saturday, so I wrote some e-mails, made some phone calls, and spent some money. Two more days in Bella Italia!!! Which means spending the day in a very relaxing day at the beach in the sun, and every now and then dipping into the sea for some refreshment. To keep my few remaining geek points, I'm reading pms-3... well, not only...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend, vacation, whatever...

The conference is over (and was indeed very interesting), the looming-deadline research proposal sent off, the sun has already been shining nearly the whole day and is just setting slowly dark red over the sea, and I'm off now for some beers with the Delft guys in the center of Trieste. Cheeeers!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brainfood for physicists

It seems that people are pretty keen on keeping us happy here at the conference. After listening to top-of-the line talks, the brain definitely needs some specialized thinking-food though. So I'd say this sweet coffee break add-on is fully justified. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You think you've seen it all (in your telescope)?

Compared to actual experimental physics, I have a tendency to think of astronomy as boring. Come on, it's not as if you can quickly flip a switch on your warp drive, have a close look what's really out there and tinker with it a bit. But, every now and then something amazing is discovered, as this stunninly beautiful spiral with a size of 1/3 light year. A gigantic sprinkler, lit by background galactic starlight... There's more information on it directly on the Hubble space telescope website, including the original paper discussing the discovery. Great!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Theoretical physics heaven

I managed to leave office and home yesterday, for a really promising conference. Deadlines are looming for a lot of paperwork, but thanks to modern computer technology work never really leaves you. So, train to München, plane to Italy... Right now I'm sitting on the terrace of the guesthouse of the local centre for theoretical physics (hosting the conference), overlooking the small yacht harbour, and watching the sun set over the Adriatic sea. I have not been to Italy for far too much time, and now it's really hard to keep typing. Though, even writing a research proposal is somehow much more pleasant here at the coast or on the terrace of a grand cafe at the piazza, sipping an espresso doppio and waching the crowd...

PS. You can buy ethernet cables here in the guesthouse 24h per day from a vending machine. Right now they are sold out though... :)