austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

At the senior prom we danced til three

Something I'd thought overmuch about doing without doing was going to the Michigan State mathematics department and getting to be known there. If I were a person who knew how to network, this could turn into some leads for doing mathematical-type work; if nothing else, it might at least let me feel like I'm not letting that mathematics doctorate go to waste. But it's always easier not to do something than do it, plus, there's figuring out where to find stuff on a college campus.

I finally built up my courage, though, and got organized early enough in the day to go to a seminar picked not perfectly at random --- I went for one titled ``the structure of statistical mechanics'' since I have some statistical mechanics background, and thought that'd be a good way to ease back into doing anything academic --- and trusted that they wouldn't throw out a public hanger-on. The conference room turned out to be empty, but after a couple awkward minutes, someone came in and tested the lights and projector and all that. He was there for a later presentation and had nothing to do with the statistical mechanics thing.

Finally the starting hour arrived and nobody was there. But a couple minutes later the professor and a gaggle of grad students, a startling number of them scrawny guys with beards, came in. This was actually the middle of a string of talks connecting statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, and the professor wanted to take a geometric perspective, which is not one I'd encountered before. The language was a bit heady --- I'd always been weak on this kind of geometry and while I remembered the term ``Legendrian'' I couldn't tell you what one was except from what context clues gave me --- but it just felt like coming back to life to be there. Also, you know the grad student who has to keep raising questions to show off how much he's catching nagging little points? This session had two of that guy, though they mercifully took turns.

Afterwards I was able to briefly catch the professor and introduce myself and explain what the heck I was doing there. Briefly because I didn't want to impose unduly, just be pleasant and non-creepy, and because the professor had locked himself out of his office and had to find someone with a master key. I'm pretty sure I can get away in future with just popping in on seminars.

Trivia: Samuel Langley numbered his first experimental, unmanned ``aerodrome'' model Number 0. He abandoned the design as inadequate before completing its construction. Source: First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane, T A Heppenheimer. (I am not clear whether the number was assigned before or after it was obvious the design wouldn't work.)

Currently Reading: Buffoon Men: Classic Hollywood Comedians and Queered Masculinity, Scott Balcerzak.

PS: Reading the Comics, March 22, 2015: Word Problems Edition, since Comic Strip Master Command decided we didn't need to do any March Madness jokes the past couple days. Third of these since my last roundup, because apparently I've just got no end of stuff to write about these days. Secretly, I know whether you've put it on your Friends page, but I can't really tell if you're following the RSS, yet.

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