Wednesday, May 15, 2013

London, part 2

1. You get what you pay for; therefore, a default expectation of free things is potentially damaging. I'd much rather pay 50p for a public restroom that is open and operational, and in fact not horrifically disgusting, than wander miles to sneak into coffee shops in San Francisco because all the public restrooms are shut down and terrifying.

2. The mathematics exhibit at the Science museum is AMAZING! I always expected math museums would be trivial and dull, but noooooo. If the new national museum of math in NYC is anything like this, I am much more excited to go see it now (and very bummed out I'm not going to make it in May after all...)

3. Specifically, the crazy mechanical contraptions people came up with to draw various types of curves, copy and scale images, integrate arbitrary surface areas, and even compute fourier transforms, before computers existed, are freaking mind-blowingly awesome. Does anyone know of a good book about these kinds of things that explain in detail how they work? I was baffled by most of them. And extremely thrilled at the ingenious simplicity when I did understand them.

4. I also unexpectedly got to see the Phillips machine! I've been wanting to ever since I heard of it. (Is there a version somewhere you can play with? Or a simulation?)

5. Dear London: there does not exist a beer that improves with temperature, above a little over freezing. Sincerely, the rest of the world.

6. Who knew I knew so many people in London? Great time with Iva and Pavel, Henry, Matt[3], James and Susanna, Simon, Ed, and Alyssa and Dan. And of course all the other people I met from LBS and TADC.

7. The upside to perpetual cold dreary drizzle and 90% humidity is that Oxford (presumably non-Urban Britain in general but that was as far as I went) is beautifully lusciously green and blooming.

8. Matt and I spent literally half an hour doing nothing but giggling at place names on the tube map (actually a lot more cumulatively...)

9. The GPS prime meridian is a couple hundred feet off from the actual prime meridian, as settled by international agreement to coincide with the meridian of William Hershel's telescope at the Royal observatory at Greenwich, which itself is a dozen yards from various other meridians used by former astronomers with different telescopes. For some reason I was amused by this pragmatism. Almost every other standard is fundamentally tied to some astronomical phenomenon, but longitude is so arbitrary each astronomer just picked their own.

10. It's also amazing to think that only a century or so ago, people were dying by the thousands due to our inability to measure universal time or longitude accurately.

11. Jetlag this direction is awesome. Never have I gotten so much done before 6:30am. (I anticipate a change of heart around 8pm.)

12. Oh right, the real reason I went to Britain... The doctoral conference was pretty fantastic actually. Nice not to be at the bottom of the totem pole and to talk to lots of very smart new people.

13. Ok, no more having fun until I get a job. (Although it's surprising how much work you can get done en route and while waiting and when your boyfriend is asleep, etc, when you bring your laptop with you everywhere you go and are in a constant motivational panic about how much you need to be doing...)

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