Thursday, November 10, 2005

Finally, I've managed to take some photos this morning on the way into work. Some of them didn't come out so well as I had to take them pretty quickly before getting caught up in the waves of people. So here they are:
There are always at least two groups of people doing what I presume is Tai Chi in the morning. They were both very happy for me to take their photos but I was a little far away to get good shots.

Next is a signpost that I walk past every day and it still makes me chuckle:

This is the path out of the campus I take with a million other people and the second one is the little stall that I get my breakfast from every morning. I've still no idea what I'm eating but it tastes pretty good:Anyway, I wrote the following after another long day yesterday. I'm hoping that Friday I'll have broadband in the flat and so won't need to play blogger pingpong any more!


We had a question and answer session with Glashow today for the postgrads and postdocs which showed some interesting differences, though perhaps very generalised, between Chinese students and British students. I guess the first thing I noticed is related to the fact that hierarchy is so important in Chinese society. Respect for one's elders and betters is a large part of everyday life. This is certainly something I can easily accept but I hadn't realised to what extent this would paralyse some of the students in front of Glashow. The questions could be about anything from the future and past of physics to the relationship between teaching and research and into the other sciences as well. I asked one question about the LHC (see previous post for explanation) but really wanted to ask another and thought it better not to on political grounds. I wanted to know his opinion on space exploration and whether or not it was a worthy cause for spending such large quantities of money. I didn't though because if his opinion was that it was a waste of time and cash, this would have looked pretty bad for the Chinese who are currently trying to repeat the trips that were made by the US and Russia 35 years ago.

The question that really surprised me was in relation to one of the students asking how much time Glashow spent studying as a grad student. His answer was that he spent very little time with his head in books or writing on bits of paper but he spent his whole time thinking about physics, whatever he was doing. He said that some of his best ideas were formulated with Iliopolous on a beach in Mexico or Scuba diving far away from the office. The student simply couldn't understand this and asked how it was possible to think without reading a paper or doing a calculation. This shocked both me and Glashow as it appeared that to all the students and lecturers present, the idea of letting your mind wander and think freely was completely alien. If you weren't working on a homework problem or diligently reading a paper, you couldn't possibly be thinking. This explains why the days are currently 8am to 7pm (with breaks for lunch and dinner).

I signed my contract today and was a little shocked (though it didn't come completely unexptectedly) that the only holidays we are allowed are the national holidays which make up a total of 18 days a year (I may be in a Saturday morning meeting on Christmas day!). I've been told that if I want to travel around the country this may be possible to take a few more days but I will have to apply in writing to the head of department to take this time off. C'est la vie. On the up side my calculation is giving me some pretty interesting answers at the moment so working such long hours is currently quite enjoyable.

A brief beard report:

Due to adverse weather conditions, the beard is back.

Here ends the beard report.


Anonymous said...

Mr ginga beardybeardy returns!!!! Oh yeh!! How we've missed the way you tenderly stroked it in a thoughtful manner, making us girlies jealous that we haven't got one...!!!!
Glad youre doing ok doc, the photos are fab! and 18 days holiday??? I thought my wilts county council 23 plus bank holidays was bad!!!! Bugger!!!!!
wheeliebin x

Unknown said...

Hopefully I'll be able to travel around Chine giving some seminars which will make it a bit less intensive. I now know somebody from Hubei province who I can go and visit to lecture at their department.

Anonymous said...

Excellent news on the beard front! The damp weather must be encouraging chinny-hair growth. Keep it up (and on) chap.