Monday, May 14, 2007

New Toys

Having spent all of last week preparing for my big talk on Friday and most of the week before away from the office, it's only now that I plunge back into my projects. I've managed to cut the ones that I'm working on reasonably full time to just three and have shelved a couple for now. It feels a little more manageable but still a juggling act.

The talk was enjoyable though rather tiring. At two and a half hours it was a great chance to go into some of the details which I usually have to leave out of a talk. As always lots of good questions although I fear that the students who were not versed in AdS/CFT were a little lost.

Last week we also had a talk on unparticle physics which is taking off, as expected. As a phenomologist friend of mine pointed out, it seems strange that people are using this model which is so little understood and may have so many possibilities to start studying precision physics. Georgi's paper which talks about distributions of missing energy from a generic unparticle physics model seems a long way away from corrections to g-2 of the muon or B-Bbar mixing. Still it's interesting to watch a new subject develop and I'm sure there are surprises to come.

Anyway, with little time to blog recently it's all been adding up. I'll randomly update on recent events as I have spare moments. The big news from this weekend was that I finally picked up my camera, a 10.1 Megapixel Canon 400D (Digital Rebel XTi) SLR with a 17-85mm Canon Lens. Suffice it to say that I am both hugely excited about having a new toy and overwhelmed by what it can do.

I've been spending a bit of time over the last few weeks reading up about digital SLR photography and techniques with this particular camera and so it felt remarkably comfortable playing with it once I'd set it up. That's not to say that the shots are great by any means yet, but I can see what it's going to be capable of. Though my point and click is just 3.1 Megapixels I've had it long enough to know both its limitations and what it's good at and so have managed to get some pleasing results from it over the last 3 years. With the new baby it's clear that it's much easier to get a bad shot (unless you're on fully automatic) but the possibilities of getting a superb photo rather than just a mediocre one are also vastly improved.

I spent Sunday afternoon and evening walking around the old Summer Palace (Yuan Ming Yuan) which was destroyed by the British and the French around 150 years ago - a particularly embarrassing period. Though the buildings are all almost entirely destroyed, the lakes are still beautiful to walk around and the place is a lot more peaceful, tourist-wise than the new Summer Palace. Yuan Ming Yuan is just by the West Gate of Tsinghua university, so you can do both in a long afternoon. There's also the famous West Gate barbecue restaurant where you can stuff yourself with chicken wings, chicken hearts and lamb kebabs, while sitting with a hundred others on plastic chairs by the pavement drinking cheap beer and breathing in the car fumes. I give it a bad image but this is a truly enjoyable part of Beijing life - the casual streetside eateries where summer nights are easily lost.

Anyway, of the 350 shots I took yesterday there were a few which show some of the nice bits of Tsinghua university:
Tsinghua waterfall 1
Tsinghua peakock
and Yuan Ming Yuan:
Yuan Ming Yuan reflections 2
Yuan Ming Yuan sunset
There's clearly a lot still to learn about the camera but I'm currently having a great time finding out.


Luca said...

I see you playing with your new toy on flickr: very nice shots!

IMHO you may consider a prime as well, they're much cheaper and much (much) faster than a zoom lens, opening possibilities to play with shallow depth of field and very fast shutter speeds. When I still had my Nikon, I was extremely pleased with the 35mm f/1.8 prime I had-- the possibility to take pictures from dawn to dusk is rather exciting.

Welcome to the DSLR world! :)

helensotiriadis said...

all beautiful. well done.

Unknown said...

Hi Luca, I'm thinking about getting a prime. There's a fine 50mm f/1.8 from Canon which is supposed to be very good indeed, and cheap. It's on the shopping list but spare change is in short supply.

Thanks TMT :-)

Benjamin said...

Yeah, have fun with the new toy. My sister (31, in case you wondered) managed to soak my camera in water recently :( I see you lamenting Pandora. I don't listen to LastFM that much but I found it much friendlier to this user than Pandora. Thanks for visiting Westbourne earlier, a pleasure to entertain, chap x

Unknown said...

Hi Ben,

That sounds like a rather unnecessarily thorough cleaning by your sister! Sorry to hear that.

I should indeed start using lastFM. I have the widget installed and so occasionally look to see what people with similar tastes listen to but rarely use the radio side of it.

TOW is in my Google Reader and your blog is one of the few which I like to read every post of.

Take it easy,


Benjamin said...

Thank you, that's nice to know.