Message to the Physics Community, Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dear Physics Comunity,

No va – Falcon with Dragon didn’t go, rescheduled for Saturday, news here.

Academic Continuity Meeting

MIT Forward – a newsletter about planning for Fall very popular – 58% open rate, very few unsubscribes.

Yossi Sheffi – proposed a scheme from now on the have freshman year completely online, then they apply to MIT as sophomores.  Slides here.

Cindy Barnhardt – talked some more about 2+3, slides here.  Hard to tell – may be getting traction.  Followed by questions and discussion.

If you have comments or concerns about the Fall plans, see here.

Pulse survey – wants to know how you are doing in the COVID-19 era.

Physics Department

Baryons – are protons and other nuclear matter.  Cosmologists can compute how many there should be, but when astronomers count up the baryons in galaxies, they come up about a factor of two short.  I think recent observations concluded they were in warm interstellar gas.  Now radio astronomers have used Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) to measure the column density of electrons between the FRB at cosmological distances and confirm the result.  Story here and paper here.

Superspreading – recent work seems to indicate that SAR-CoV-2 is spread by a few highly contagious individuals rather than everyone with some average R value.  I’m still digesting.  Story from Science here and original Nature article here.

Los Endos

Rejections – good article from Science on handling “noes” in your career.




Message to the Physics Community, Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

Well, the WordPress update did not go well.  I was running WP3.7 and I updated to WP 5.4.1.  The auto-update did not work, so I went manual. All went well, but when I loaded my new home page, I got a message saying the PHP package was too old for WP 5.4.1, which is probably why the auto-update did not work.  I have all this on Athena and they do not have a PHP update anytime soon, so I tried to back up to WP 5.1.5.  No dice: permissions problem.  Futzed for an hour before contacting the help desk and a nice person there is working to recover everything and move to a new hosting space.  Until then, I may have lost everything and I am stuck with a feeble font I will have to read a raft of documentation to learn how to change.

Future of the Message – These messages started on March 14 during a time clear communication with the Physic Community was essential.  Since then, I have prioritized the factual information related to the cataclysm we have been living in.  With time, I added other news, mainly to remind everyone that we are bound by science with a long history and one that is going through important changes in its climate and accessibility.  The intent was always to inform.

We have adapted, or at least survived and MIT now has MIT Forward a newsletter devoted to MIT’s path back to campus.  Decision making has slowed down, Commencement is Friday, and summer is here.  It is time for the message to evolve.

Starting the week of June 1, the message will go to once a week on Thursday. The message will still emphasize reporting but will continue to have some physics news and links as things happen and occasional reporting on things like marble racing.  With time, I will stop using the community mailing list and move to a mailing list of people that opt in.

Thank you for reading and the friendly notes!

No Academic Continuity Meeting today

Physics Department

Seminars – some bright spark has put together a worldwide list of online seminars sorted by field, time, etc. here for all of us.  I don’t have time to do anything but sit in zoom meetings, but maybe you do…


Shaving – Neil Clader (a.k.a. Spike Kalashnikov) has a new post on his blog The Quiet Ripple Defines the Pond mostly about shaving, bird, and food, but at the end is a picture of his check for $1,200 from Pres. Trump that came with a letter from The Donald.  Neil last lived in SF and was unemployed there (i.e. retired) before moving to Okinawa as Vice President of Communications for the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.  he has since retired for a second time.

Is it something? – The LHCb collaboration at CERN had observed unusual decays of the second heaviest quark, the b quark.  A Quanta story is here and the paper is here.

Los Endos

GLX – it is really Los Endos for the Lechmere T Station.  After 98 years of service, the quirky, ramshackle station will close and a new station will open across the MacGrath.   Lechmere was really wonderful: it was at the end of the line and trains would come across the viaduct, down into the station with a turnaround, here and here. The station had two concentric turn-around loops and four storage spurs.  There was a bus station at the arrival platform.