Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I return after another round of pingpong attrition with some more success than the previous attempt. Impressed they are not but at least there's a little less derision than before.

I've now had to write my first official research proposal so the department can apply for more funding. The question: "will you have testable results by 2007?" was met by considerable amusement on my part and a necessary explanation to a department which clearly has little idea about quite what I do. For those not in the know, the answer is a pretty firm no. This is not because what we're doing is not useful(some, including myself would claim) but because we are some way off modelling the real world accurately using the theories that I work with. We are currently learning in which ways they can be pushed and altered in order to get results that may be similar physics to that which we see around us. Currently the only way to get testable results in this area is to use huge clusters of computers to essentially simulate a small region of the universe in all its quantum mechanical glory (the rub being discretised spacetime). This takes many months but the distant hope is that someday we may be able to do the same thing in a few seconds on a desktop computer using the sort of theories I work with.


So the full force of the bureaucratic steam engine hit me full in the face today. It turns out that apart from the new Taiwanese guy, I'm the first international postdoc they've ever had here. Consequently they aren't aware of the protocol for dealing with aliens, of which I am currently a semi-illegal specimen. I arrived presuming that they knew what to do, which forms to fill in and which corridors to send me down. They gave me no hint to suggest otherwise. It turns out that the first day I arrived I should have been shuttled immediately to the local police station to register as a resident. This has now been done today with a few winks and nods to make sure things went smoothly (note I am NOT hinting at bribery, to set the record straight).I'd told the secretary several times that my visa only allowed stays in the country of 30 days at a time. So when I told her today that I had ten days left and was the application for the two year extension going smoothly, her shocked expression and exclaimation of 'not my problem' with a shy grin
got me a little worried. With some of the gentlest cajoling a 6ft 4 English man can muster out here, the problem appears to be being sorted and I should have it tomorrow, but a slight worry for a few hours. It appears that the 400 quid I spent privately on medical tests in the UK, which I was informed were compulsory are not necessary. This is also annoying but I know that attempting to claim that back will be more trouble than it's worth and I want to stay on the good side of the staff who are essentially my lifeline against any serious problems.

Just started work on a fun project with one of the other postdocs and am playing with real, live QFT which I haven't done for a couple of years now. I promise, or perhaps threaten to explain it some time.


Adam said...

Sod all that physics waffle. Tell me more about the table tennis.

Jonathan Shock said...

ummm, they're a bit good. They did ask if I'd learned with Chinese people as I play in the Chinese style apparently, which indeed I did. Table tennis is so popular here because it's such a cheap sport. People can't afford to play tennis or squash in general.

Uncle pee said...

Trial and error has led this avid blog reader to how to read and leave a comment, of course the physics is not leaving me bewildered , that is age related, but the food seems to have been replaced by ..ping pong ..Seen any incomprehensible movies yet?

Jonathan Shock said...

I guess I'm just getting used to the strange foods. Also, my friends have realised that I'm relatively unshockable and so perhaps have stopped trying. I'm yet to try sea cucumber but perhaps soon.

DVDs are around 50p each here. Unfortunately my laptop player no longer appears to play sound. I can't bring myself to watch a film with no sound even if it is subtitled though I may be reduced to that soon.