Sunday, December 21, 2008

Silly Parents; The Prince of Monaco; History Lessons

This morning there was no 8 o’clock meeting. No meeting! I also have no work to do today—dom-testing has a break until Monday since we’re so far ahead. So I slept the deep, profound sleep of the truly exhausted and woke up feeling…refreshed!

I went through my (highly shortened) morning ritual, and then called my parents before the satellite went down. It was funny—Mom didn’t believe it was me. You know what else? She hasn’t read my blog. Yep, that’s right, my own parents haven’t been reading! I sent them an e-mail. With a link. All you have to do is click! They couldn’t figure it out. So if anyone is reading this who knows my parents, you have every right to make fun of them. In fact, please do.

After talking with my family, I quickly submitted some jobs to our cluster in Madison, coming in just under the wire before the satellite completely dipped beneath the horizon. Hooray! I might have simulation by the time I get back! (This has been a challenge to me for months.)

Then I went to brunch. Mmmmm brunch. Omelets made to order, hash browns, fresh fruit, apple date and raisin pastries, bacon, sausage, home-made waffles, tasty Wisconsin cheese! What could be better? At lunch I learned something very interesting (the meals are very important here, if you can’t tell, for the sharing of information): the Prince of Monaco—and his entourage—is coming to stay with us! Yep, that’s right, a Prince! Will he pitch a tent outside like the lowly peasant tourists? Maybe it will be one of those fancy tents like the Bedouin people use, with Turkish carpets and all. Will he stay in the berths in the Station like the rest of us? Maybe he will require an entire conference room be appointed with princely trimmings to be used as his royal bedchamber. And what of his entourage? How many people, exactly, does an entourage consist of? Presently the station has 303 people staying here and they’re turning folks away—we’re absolutely at full capacity! Where will we put them? No one seems to know the answers so speculation is rampant. Unfortunately the one thing people do know is his arrival date: January 14. I leave the 8th. I won’t get to see the Prince of Monaco. Or his entourage. Or his princely décor.

This afternoon I walked around the station taking photos and exploring new places. I found a new book in the library to replace the Mark Twain I’ve lost. (I left it on a windowsill—they have nice big windowsills here—and forgot about it for a day. When I came back it was gone. I went through the library and the game room where most of the books are kept; I checked the lost-and-found; I checked everywhere that seemed likely, but no luck. My Mark Twain has disappeared. Well, hopefully someone is enjoying it!) I found some yarn and knitting needles in the arts-and-crafts room. I discovered a band playing in the coat room. All very interesting. I made a photographic tour of the station which you can view below if you like.

This evening after dinner there was the Sunday Science Talk—8 PM in the galley. It happened to be on the “genealogy” of IceCube—from its first conception—and was given by Gary Hill, a scientist with UW whom some of you may know. This talk included much of the oral history that in physics is so fascinating—and usually completely disregarded. He began at the beginning, with an idea that was born of genius, but also of what seems like complete insanity (though some people would call this vision). In the beginning the idea for a detector like ours was crazy. So crazy, in fact, that they had to sneak into Antarctica to drop little optical modules down the bore holes drilled by geologists taking ice core samples (probably still looking for global cooling in those days). It was all on the sly because they didn’t want to bring it to the funding agencies yet—it was too crazy. Even from the beginning they were talking of a kilometer-cubed detector like IceCube. From the beginning! And yet even just six years ago it still seemed like an impossibility—around that time it took 20 hours to deploy 20 optical sensors in AMANDA-II (the precursor to IceCube), and this was a victory; 6 strings in a season was something to cheer about. This year, we can deploy 60 optical modules in 4.5 hours, and we’ll be deploying at least 16 strings this season (we have 7 down already, and we’re working on drilling the 8th hole at present). We have it down to a science, as they say. Who would have thought this could be possible from the place we started? But the real question is: how come everyone in the field isn’t aware of this history? Shouldn’t we be passing on our epic stories to future generations? We really ought to have lectures like this more often, and that’s the truth.

How cool is that? (-16 degrees Fahrenheit, with a windchill still around -40)



Cousin Sarah said...

Ha ha! I'll laugh at your parents while they are here! :) I was going to have you give the prince my number...but, sadly, you will not see him :( MISS YOU!

CM said...

I love your blog. I am a friend of Andie Andeen... as I understand it, she is your cousin. :) She gave me your blog address because I was at Pole last season. I love your stories and your charming wit! Have fun with all my Polies!

Bruce said...

We love the blog! We will have Christmas with your family tomorrow and will spend PLENTY of time talking about you! We miss you!