Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Universe is Still Here!

At last check, everthing still exists.

The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland was cranked up yesterday sending particles racing around the 17 mile long tunnel under the Franco-Swiss border and guess what, it works!

Contrary to what some alarmist who were worried that the activation of this--the largest experiment ever conceived--would recreate events mirroring the beginning of the universe, all is quiet on the accelerator front.

The last time I checked, the earth and the neighboring universe wasn't swallowed up by some cosmic vacuum cleaner.

No mini black holes formed...

No primortial plasma surged out of the collider enveloping the countryside...

The only potential casuality that I wish wasn't averted was my dentist appointment. It is still on for later this afternoon.

So get ready for the first particle collisions next month. Many scientists believe that these collisions will confirm the existence of certain particles that will unlock the mysteries of matter and ultimately the early stages of the universe.

The fun begins on October 21st at which point we should REALLY start worrying.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Future Employment

I am very lucky to have broken into the business that I am in almost 12 years ago. The process while daunting in many ways was, as I look back, a necessary prerequisite toward my appreciation of where I am now. While it seemed like I was forever spinning my wheels trying graduate to the next "big" thing and out of the red, the time "spinning" was worth every second in retrospect. While most people end up in occupations that would be considered their avocations (not something they went to school for) so that they can put food on the table, each and every morning I wake up and head to a job that I've always wanted to do since I was 9 years old. Basically, I get paid for doing a hobby of mine. Not many people can say that.

But let's say that this wonderful job didn't pan out any longer and I was at the end of the line. Suddenly, I would be forced to find other employment in some other field. What jobs would would be in my top five?

Here is my list in no particular order.

* Baseball Player
* Fighter Pilot
* Aerospace Engineer
* Video Game Designer
* Theoretical Physicist/Cosmology Researcher

What one to pick? Hmmmm...

Let examine each one.

Baseball Player

I played baseball in college and played pretty well but not good enough to get drafted. Now, more than a decade removed from college, playing baseball at a level that would garner a wage, enough to put food on the table just isn't realistic unless you want to pay me to take some cuts at the local batting cage. Although I can still dream like a kid, baseball ain't happening.

Fighter Pilot

Not many people know this but I was very close to going into the Air Force way back when. I really saw myself flying an F-16 at that point. Seriously. But I got cold feet and bailed out at the last minute--pardon the pun. Maybe a ride with the Blue Angels some day will quell the sense of missed opportunity deep in my gut from that day back in 1992. Now that I think about it, my eye sight is not great anymore and I can't handle roller coasters. Screw it, who am I kidding. Oh yeah, if I do get that ride with the Blue Angels and throw up, you'll never hear about it.

Aerospace Engineer

Nothing encompasses the theoretical and mathematical concepts of the skies with the applied science of flight then aerospace engineering. Looking back, the math would have been brutal, enough to start my hair loss years earlier if I would have chosen this career path back as an undergrad. The cool part of that program at school was the building of a model airplane/space craft. Your final project was to test the craft's airworthiness in a wind tunnel. The craft goes in for a test flight then you got to go in yourself afterward. Sweet. Crank that thing up to 100 mph and the skin on your face is pinned to the back of your head. That would have been worth at least four years of tuition back then. A trip back to school now? Try 3 more years of school at 2008 dollars. Can you say "multiple student loans"? Plus, I've forgotten all of the math. By the time I'd finish, my kids would be ready for college. Aerospace Engineer? I don't think so.

Video Game Designer

Can you imagine creating some of these games and getting paid for it? How freaking awesome would that be. I've got 5 video game systems linked up in series on the family TV. Sounds cool but if having tons of video game consoles is the top qualification of a VG developer then millions of gamers would be vying for this job. That just ain't happening. At the end of the day with two young kids, cranking up Madden or Halo or Mario Galaxy is far from my mind as sacrilegious as that seems to gaming purists.

Here's the real reason why I couldn't dot this: My wardrobe just wouldn't cut it. Why? I picture a VG designer wearing a custom made tee shirt with some Dungeons and Dragons character on the front living in his parents' basement. Hell, why don't they just wear moon boots and Velcro sneakers. Me? I quit wearing my A-Team tee-shirt back in 1985 although I still have a Mr. T belt which barely fits my three year old.

As for my wardrobe, I now have more ties than I have tee shirts. I don't picture VG developers wearing dress shoes and slacks while writing lines of computer code. Maybe I'm wrong but I just don't see this. Ultimately, I couldn't handle the stigma that goes with being "VG developer guy" with the 1980s era Atari t-shirt. The final verdict: Slight Possibility if I didn't have to shave.

Theoretical Physicist/Cosmology Researcher

The study of space and the universe as a whole is a field that will always be intriguing to me. Call me a loser or dork or whatever. I was born with a level of dorkitude and I can't shake it. Even my wife knows it. So allow me to go off topic for a bit .

Why cosmology? The resultant implications of discoveries in physics either in rewriting of the governing laws of the universe at both the quantum level and the cosmological stage and the application of these discoveries into everyday technology (GPS, MRIs, etc.) eventually transcends the fabric of society at every level. We might not notice it at first but if you think about physics in terms of not only technology but also philosophy--how we think of the world around us--and perhaps the theological--i.e. how the universe as a whole shapes our view about God's ultimate design (if you are so inclined to believe)--cosmological research and theoretical physics is the ultimate area of study. Its a left brained and right brained field. Study cosmology and theoretical physics and you've conquered all that is cerebral as long as you have tons of aspirin.

Now when I think of researchers in the field of theoretical physics/cosmology, I imagine a disheveled, out-of-touch, badly dressed middle-aged guy that really hasn't left school. They usually drive an early model sedan or they ride their bike. Not that there is anything wrong with riding your bike; its just not mainstream. Look, as much as I love to read about cosmology and quantum theory to get the old mental synapses firing, as boring as that might seem at first glance, the prospect of being "that research guy" who is out of touch with 2008 isn't that appealing. That is unless I can make the cash that Stephen Hawking earns.

The only bonus is while studying theoretical physics, you have the right to say strange things like physicist Timothy Ferris stated back in 1997:

"Quantum physics...The longer you look at it, the stranger it gets...Quantum weirdness is so counter intuitive that to comprehend it is to become not enlightened but confused. As Niels Bohr liked to say, 'If someone says that he can think about quantum physics without becoming dizzy, that shows only that he has not understood anything whatever about it.'"

Exactly what I was thinking.

So what did I learn about this exercise? I really like my job. That's it.