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Posted in September 2010

Jens Michelsen

has obtained his PhD degree on September 23 in Goteborg. His promotor was Vitaly Shumeiko, and I was appointed as a faculty opponent.

This means I had to work, and, on Dutch standards, had to do work of six: the dramatic part of the defence has lasted the same hour as in the Netherlands while I was alone to question the candidate. Jens has answered very good all complicated theory questions, and me and the audience were impressed. His thesis addresses dynamics of Andreev states.

Jens has spent 10 years studying in Goteborg and will soon depart to Karsruhe for the postdoc with Gerd Schoen, something that I also did many years ago. Best luck, Jens, I am sure I will hear more of your scientific achievements.

Thomas Picot

has obtained his PhD degreee on September 22 in Delft. Hans Mooij and Kees Harmans were the promotors.

Upon his arrival in Delft, Thomas has impressed me with his strange views on quantum detection. By “strange” I do not imply “incorrect” or “unconventional”, just “strange”. The impression was so strong as to motivate me for a research project on qubit detection. The project is accomplished but still waits for a write-up, already for years.

Meanwhile Thomas has been working on practical quantum detection. His views have become less strange as to judge from the thesis, the achievements have multiplied. The committee members were most impressed by the revival of swithiching detector Thomas made.

During the defence, we’ve discussed his proposition about working on character, and he’s impressed me once again with razor-sharp definions of the subject.

Nativity of the Mother of God

Yesterday there was a feast of Nativity of the Mother of God. I have already explain in this blog about a year ago about the feast and its personal significance for me and my family. This year I meet the feast in the state of a certain distress and as I formulated it recently, “busy inactivity”. I hope the Mother will forgive me the lack of concentration and will not cease protecting me and my folk.

Yesterday we did remembrance of my father who would turn 75 today and have passed away almost 35 years ago. Funny enough, 75 does not seem a big age for me anymore. I even think if I have enough time to meet my 75…

Giant current fluctuations

in an overheated single electron transistor is a study which I’ve done with Matti Laakso and Tero Heikkila from Helsinki. The highlight of the research is that the distribution of the current may become a power-law, that makes it quite distinct from usual distributions.

Power-law distributions are rare in physics. It is third time in my life I encounter one. First time it was yet at university. I’ve read and memorized that the distribution of radiative losses by a fast charged particle in a media has a power-law tail. That formally renders the radiative losses unmeasurable (control question: explain why). With this piece of knowledge, I’ve managed to pass an examination I was totally unprepared for. Was a fun to use the trick once again.

See the article at

Kavli day Bionanoscience

On September 16, we scientists and stuff of Kavli Institute have had an important and entertaining day.

The day has started from Grand Opening of Department of BioNanoScience. This is an offsping of our department started by Cees Dekker and Ninke Dekker (and their are not relatives, can you imagine) to promote biophysics at nanoscale. The opening has started with short official speeeches and went on with a nice scientific workshop. I liked the event, since despite its official orientation it contained lively features not entirely planned (like in the beginning the laptop of Cees has fallen down and it took up to five minutes to get it running). There was a discussion table after the talks on the topic if biology becomes engineering. The statements of the people at the table and responses from the audience were so unprepared and provocative as to create a surreal impession of importance and relevance of the topic. Do not ask me for the details, since if I’m asked to associate biology and engineering, my dentist is always the first and dominant association and the associations that follow are not at all enjoyable.

The discussion table was a theatre, there was also a real theatre with actors meant to entertain (and not quite tuned to my personal taste). The official speech of university president Dirk Jan van den Berg was sandwiched between the performances of this gang and, by virtue of taking place in a big make-shift tent, looked a part of it. Why am I so critical about this part? Simple. I got to there hoping for a free lunch. However, the audience was numerous, young and assertive. When it came down to food dispersion, I had no chance in Darwin-style events followed and had to resort to usual cantine food.

After that the Kavli day has begun. At two o’clock the members and stuff of our Kavli gang has been transported 15 miles to Zoetermeer to be processed at an enterprise specializing in corporative entertaining (bedrijfsuitjes in Dutch). Sounds boring? Not at all. First, the enterprise is called Ayer’s rock of all names. If you look at Wikipedia (as I did) what Ayer’s rock is you can already appreciate the creativity and certain romantisism of place owners. Indeed, they have provided some good fun

First part for me was GPS adventure. Everybody made fun of me for this part because of my adventures in Aspen. However, it went good and it was entertaining. We were the team of six given a Garmin unit and some challenging tasks that require the use of the unit. What stroke me is the task separation that has been authomatically and spontaneously established in our team. Me being professor had to keep the papers in order, cite the tasks loudly, collect the results and conceal my confusion over the run of events. The postdoc took the actual organization that included preventing the group sinking in marches, taking wrong turns and encouraging fullfilment the tasks. The indispensible apparatus has been operated by the senior phd student who gave us directions and readings required. And the students, as ususal, did the job. So it was like in a real research group. With my wise guidance, we’ve completed all tasks and made a record by scoring as high as possible. Too bad the responsible personeel was not able to spell my name to put it to the annals

The apotheosis was the transfer of Kavli directorship from Hans Mooij to Cees Dekker. That took place in a climbing hall. Hans gave a speech from 20m height and jumped down. He was connected to a rope so that the impact was less than you could imagine, but still it was spectacular. Then Cees took the rope and climbed up to the height to become the new Kavli director. These moments were quite thrilling since Cees did not simulate but actually climbed. His right foot did it fine while left foot from time to time has been searching for support: and everybody was afraid it won’t find any… After the event, I found it prudent to utter a light critisism to Cees, like he could train more on the same wall before the ceremory. No, said Cees, you don’t understand anything in climbing, I did it in the bast way possible. Thereby he has fully convinced me that he will be the best Kavli director one could imagine…

What else? I’ve attempted Djemble drum workshop, but could not do much and felt like a loser. Good diner has softened my feelings and was a perfect ending of the day. Guess everybody of us can say so. Long live Kavli

Busy inactivity

is what I filled with the first half of September. That does not bring me to a good mood since I will be travelling a lot starting next week and could have used this time to move towards flamming research goals and preparing the course for winter semester. Yet unfinished bisness, organizational matters, incautious promises (that result in inconvenient deadlines) and vanity (that results in unnecessary deadlines) have eaten most of the time. Some weird activities included:
– visiting twice Russian embassy in the Hauge
– making physcological portrait of one of the students
– studying open source packages that provide hierarchical menu systems in Python
– attending a talk about definition of quantum computer
– reading a chapter from a book of Abrikosov that I failed to understand thirty years ago (and still do not properly understand)
– weighting up the options to use light or heavy holes for a device that does not care about the hole weight
– writting four referee reports for journals I usually do not read.

And so on. Must confess that my attempts to avoid real work were quite sucsessful.
And they seem to become exemplary for others. Our secretary won’t be around for a couple of days: she studies how to provide first aid. In case she’d be absent for a reason, shouldn’t I learn this as well?

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