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Posted in January 2011

Visit Izak Snyman

Izak Snyman is a former Ph.D. student of me and Carlo Beenakker. He is now a faculty in South Africa. He is interested in polarons. This brought him to me, and he was visiting for the last three weeks

Izak has made a good progress with our first polaron project: yes, there are polarons in suspended carbon nanotubes! We have now a minimalistic model for them, and numerical simulation scheme for this model. We hope to write it up soon.

Phase-slip oscillator

a marvelous device Alina and me have proposed in december 2009, have finally made it to the pages of Physical Review Letters. At least, the manuscript has been accepted for publication under a tricky title: “Model of a proposed superconducting phase-slip oscillator: A method for obtaining few-photon nonlinearities”. In less than 13 months, wow.

No pasaran?

Today me and about a thousand of other Dutch professors, this comprising a third of the whole stock, have had a rather unusual day. We put on our ceremonial gowns. We come to the Hauge and made a long procession around the Parlement and central streets. We have filled a rather big concert hall to attend a “special academic session” where high functioniers of education and research gave speeches. Afterwards we have had a fast Dutch lunch and ridden back to work.

It could have been a part of a silly bureaucratic tradition, but it was not. This manifestation was the first in Dutch history. The goal was to express our protest agains the goverment. It has proposed cuts on education and research, while setting as a goal to bring this land to top-5 knowlegde-driven economies. Well, budget cuts are usual. However, this year they are especially painful and unjust. Even the university high brass that is usually ultimately conformistic and collaborative with political elite, went amok. At least they spoke about “deceit of electorate” and cite EUR l0^{10} – 10^{11} losses the economy would suffer as the result of these cuts.

It was a demonstation of a rather unusal solidarity of the whole university community. It was also a demonstration of solidarity with the students that massed in another place in the Hauge later in that day. It went rather peacefully. However, in the end of the day there were reports of mounted police and that with dogs assulting the kids. This does not sound nice, does it.

A rather academic question is if the government will now implement the cuts in their full un-glory, saying “Pasaremos”. Can we strike a compromise or just simply strike together with our students? We’ll see.

Theophany, or Baptism of Christ

is a great feast of today. In Russian folk tradition, this feast is strongly associated with Great Blessing of Waters, this includes getting the holy water from church for home use and, very occasionally, swimming in ice water.

I never did the latter and the mere thought about it gives me a shiver. Yet I would gladly do it if I can achieve a purification in this way. I feel like a glass shard in dirt: wash me, and I’ll give a sparkle.

FOM monday evening

I was in Veldhoven yesterday evening to take part in a traditional annual gathering of the leaders of our physical community. Most if not all research in physics is financed by FOM, our splendind foundation whose single goal is to investigate the Matter. This is why this is the FOM Monday evening.

The event combines socializing, reasonably good dinner, and bureaucratical games. For me, the first is a challenge, while the second and third is enteraining, so I like to go there though a trip to Veldhoven always takes more time than expected. They usually offer a good collection of cheap end wines conform to my taste. I enjoyed white wine, rather dry, almost green in taste, I enjoyed it so much that even on Tuesday morning my brain was dry and a bit green.

The main topic was the (mean) duration of Ph.D. research. An expected time of Ph.D. is 48 months in this country, at least the salaries are planned for this time period. It turns out, however, that the mean duration is 55 months. And in addition there is a long tail of the distribution to longer durations. Till recently, the FOM paid this extra salary with no question asked. Yet money is scarce nowadays. The foundation has asked us to consider the reduction of these overdues. It supplied the request with a lot of statistics meant to reveal “bad” and “good” practices in this respect.

I don’t know. I did my Ph.D. in 34 months. 48 seems me a lot. I don’t understand why a student that requires the prolongation of this term should not feel like a looser not able to prepare for examination on time. Even if he/she is such a looser, the feeling is pretty bad to start an actual carreer with. Believe me or not but none of my students did it longer than 48.

Yet a tradition is the tradition. All group leaders I saw around have displayed a polite but firm resistance to any plans to reduce the mean time, usually reffering to “risky character of scientific research”.

Unusual ideas sprinkled in the end of the evening, like giving the students (or group leaders?) cash awards for making Ph.D. on time. Very well, if this becomes true, I’d reckon it’ll be fair to ask FOM to reimburse me the prolongations I have not made thereby saving the foundation money. It’d be like a million: my personal account is ready for that.

In the end of the evening, when everybody was sufficiently tipsy, it appeared that we all are supposed to sign the Treaty of Veldhoven that requires making 90% of all Ph.D. withing 48. If I’m not mistaken, I saw Jan Zaanen signing it.

Blackboard agenda

A year ago I’ve already complained about the site that gives the schedules of university personnel including the students. In a development, they decided to supplement the site with build-in personalized agendas at the Blackboard, called MyTable. The results have followed quickly. This is what I read at the Blackboard today:

At this moment My Timetable doesn’t present all activities correctly yet. Mis-presentations can occur especially for activities scheduled over several days in a week. Much effort is put into solving this problem. From January 21, 2011 onward My Timetable will present all activities correctly.

So I will wait another week to correct my activities…

Blackboard updates

The semester is looming, and from the beginning of January I’m mostly busy with education. I have just updated Blackboard pages for all my courses: Advanced Statistical Mechanics, Fairy Tales of Theoretical Physics and Quantum Transport.

For those who does not know: Blackboard is a Web-based educational framework used at our University. It is not completely senseless: one can store all study material and interact with students in a rather convenient fashion. However, a rather irritating aspect is that its interface changes from year to year to become more complex and inconvenient to use. Sofware has its own evolution, even less contollable or rational than the evolution of biological systems.

Merry Chrismas

everyone, that has finally come to me as well! We’ve been to the church yesterday, and had a nice party afterwards.

The Nativity of our Lord always strikes my imagination. It is so that for many it has a taste of a fairtale for young kids. This is so much in Western tradition and education that forces us to regard it like this. And such attitude is very helpful for dissolving the magics of Nativity on next or next-to-next day when we turn back to adult live. Pity it is. Reminds me the attidude of my yongest son who tries to grow up as soon as possible. I tried to tell him that it is the adult life which is a fairytale, and rather silly and tasteless one. I have not yet gotten the message through. Perhaps I did not sound convincingly enough because my understanding of the message is rather rational. Perhaps I have not accepted the message with my heart yet.

On the bright side of the latter, it means I still remain a kid! And thereby have some room to improve.

Let me do this, my Lord

Arxiv submission

for Coulomb Blockade due to Quantum Phase-Slips Illustrated with Devices

Happy New Year

to you,dear reader, let our hopes florish, let us be joyful and optimistic, let’s get our portion of happiness and get it over with. Let unexpected happen provided it’s good, and let the expected not to occur if it’s not so pleasant! I toast ratio, creativeness and belief, let them prosper and multiply.

Best wishes!!!

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