Field of Science

Presence of absence is not absence of presence

The proximate cause of my absence from this blog has been the tribulations of settling down in the most lawless state in the country. Just kidding, but two things about the Garden State are axiomatic truths:

A: The shortest route from A to B is most generally not the shortest route from B to A. Heisenberg would have been pleased. Traffic circles, one-way streets, deer roadkill on Route 202 gradually disintegrating for three days, drivers who must be thinking they are competing in Formula-1 and potholes on roads that seem like they are designed to retain 1920s charm all make the picture endearingly complete.

B: If you are in Princeton you should expect to see photos of Einstein eating ice cream, Oppenheimer licking his fingers after eating buffalo wings at Chuck's and John von Neumann balancing a paper cone filled with popcorn on his generous belly.

Ok, I made the last two up, but I did see the first one; Einstein somewhat disinterestedly licking an ice cream cone in one of those small, family-owned ice cream stores on Nassau Street whose name I will have to look up again. Actually this fact about Einstein should not surprise one at all: the man took as much pleasure in ice cream and all the simple joys of life as in tensor calculus. In the 1950s, according to his own admission, Princeton was a "quaint ceremonial village, occupied by demigods on stilts". The quaintness still somewhat lingers but the stilts have definitely given way to big cars that block traffic and pedestrian access. As for the rest of the state, what was George Merck thinking?

I hope to explore more of the village on the weekend, after I have finally moved into an apartment. I also hope to get a bite of the Apple and of some docking and chlorine-pi interactions. Work and the postdoc has started and all I can say is that it involves trying to model what are currently seeming to be unmodelable (?) proteins.

For the love of science

So I am trying to find possible groups interested in science meeting up in NJ and my friend suggests this site called So I type in my zip code and ask the site to find people or groups interested in "science" within 25 miles. Among the twenty or so hits are included "The NY/NJ group for parents with science careers" (11 members) and "Red Bank Life Science Discussion Group" (4 members). Good for them, but almost everything else includes things like

The Monroe Township Law of Attraction Meetup Group (28 members)
Princeton NJ ~Tantra Awakening ~The Art Of Conscious Loving (42 members)
Princeton Holistic Clinic (98 members)
The Central New Jersey Astrology Meetup Group (6 members)
The Healers' Guild (37 'adepts')

Both the predominance of these groups and their member counts indicate that the 5+ years that I spent learning and doing science in graduate school were futile after all. But at least it does seem that we are catching up with astrology.

State of the Garden

I am finally in the Garden State after a rather protracted road trip amply filled with fever and a cold brought on by all the allergies dust stirred up during packing (I think there's a Nobel Prize in the wings for discovering the true nature of allergies).

The first thing I rather surprisingly notice is how much more tiring it is to drive here compared to Atlanta where the drivers are supposed to be rather rash. Plus, the constant exits and bifurcations on several different highways, routes and streets that one needs to traverse to travel quite non-linearly between any two points is frustrating. I am also hoping to actually see some gardens in the garden state. My hundreds of books also made the journey here although I have to still check how many of them are still in pristine condition. And I am still looking for an apartment while I am comfortably imposing myself on my cousin at his place.

For now I am aiming to hang out a little at the bookstores and cafes in nearby Princeton, hoping to meet some like-minded people. If you want to pointlessly muse and pontificate and don't feel scared in meeting strange new people, drop me a line. I would also appreciate it if anyone could bring their wisdom to bear on three things important to me; good bookstores (other than the ubiquitous Borders), good movie theaters where one can especially catch off-beat or foreign movies, and good restaurants and cafes where one can stare blankly at nothingness for hours and read.

The 2009 Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting

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It is a great privilege for me to be invited to live-blog and write about the 2009 Lindau Nobel Prize Winners meeting in the scenic Bavarian town of Lindau, Germany. Since 1951, dozens of Nobel laureates have been joined every year by about 500 carefully chosen students from around the world for a full week of informal discussions, seminars, lunches and lectures where students and Nobelists mingle with each other and one can find at least one laureate on every square foot of the floor no matter what direction he looks.

This year's focus is on chemistry and an august list of no less than 22 Nobel Prize winners in the subject is going to gather in this scenic town. I am honored to be invited because of my background in chemistry and blogging and relish the opportunity like nothing else. I am supposed to be on a small team of 7 journalists and bloggers blogging the event for and Along with Matthew Chalmers who is an editor and writer for several publications like New Scientist and the Times, I will largely be responsible for writing about the event in English for The writing will include both general observations about the meeting as well as descriptions of the talks and seminars. Hopefully I can bring it all together.

Nobel laureates have long been a particular interest of mine. People interested in this kind of a thing collect Nobel statistics like sports and stock market statistics; it was only when exploring facts about youngest, oldest, tallest, most awarded, famous father-son duos, and most neglected non-winners that I realised the allure of cricket or sensex figures.

Calling the list of scheduled speakers at Lindau stellar is a futile and redundant effort because every one of them has won the highest honor in his or her field. Many of the names are familiar and not only have I long admired these people, but I have even directly and indirectly used their work in my own research, as have thousands of scientists and students around the world. Now we will all experience a connection to our work like no other.

In any case, this is as magnificent a concatenation of minds as you can expect to find and I am immensely looking forward to it. The meeting is going to be held from June 28 - July 3. 22 Nobelists in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It does not get better than this. I will naturally keep on updating.

And you wonder why atheists bristle when the religious call them 'intolerant'

A very reasonable religious woman writes in on a show to ask Pat Robertson how she could strike a middle ground between herself and her boyfriend who is an atheist. He has stuck by her for a long time and the two obviously are quite close. Do we need to guess how the Reverend Robertson responds? Remember that this guy is still worshipped by millions of people. And they say Richard Dawkins is 'intolerant' of religious people.