13 April 2009

Collaborating in Cambridge

On Mar. 25, I returned from the MINOS Collaboration Meeting at Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge, England. It was quite an experience. The meeting consisted of talks held in plenary and parallel sessions in the style of a scientific conference, except that these talks are not intended to be public information. This was my first MINOS collaboration meeting; I attended with several other members of my research group from Indiana University.

Since I am still new to the Collaboration, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn the names and work of my fellow collaborators. There are approximately 250 of us, though most (including me) split their time among more that one experiment. Approximately 70 attended this meeting. As a result of hearing the talks and meeting people who I have known previously only via e-mail, I think I am finally starting to adapt to the collaboration and find my place in it.

Most of our time was taken up with the business of the meeting; however, we also had time for some social events. The main collaboration dinner was a four course meal served by the staff of Emmanuel. It was probably the most formal dinner I have ever eaten. Each course included its own wine in addition to the pre-dinner drinks. Since I did not want to embarrass myself, I did not finish most of the wine but sampled all of it. While I enjoyed the meal, I must admit some discomfort knowing that other people's tax money was paying for it.

The "young MINOS" leaders organized two social events at local pubs that I joined. We had good food and good company at The Anchor and The Castle. One of my collaborators even demonstrated his growing skills at magic card tricks. When we started having a conversation about the Boolean operator xor, we decided it was time to head to bed.

I did make time for exploration and sightseeing in Cambridge. My first goal was the doors of the old Cavendish laboratory, which contain the text of the beginning of Psalm 111 in Latin. I mentioned before that the English translation of this passage is the basis of the title of my blog. I found it quite easily and along the way discovered the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, which was quite nice. It included an original printing of Newton's Principia and a piece of Charles Babbage's calculating engine, a mechanical precursor to modern computers.

While at Whipple, I found a brochure for several other small museums in the area. I only had time to visit the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. It houses an amazingly dense collection of fossils and other artifacts. The exhibits are laid out as a time line from the Cambrian Era through the present, although the most recent 1.8 million years were blocked off due to the preparation of a new exhibit on Darwin. Highlights included fossils that were more than half a billion years old, a fossil of the largest spider that ever lived, a piece of the Apollo 15 heat shield, a complete Pleiosaur fossil, and several beautiful fossilized shells. I recommend it to any visitor to Cambridge.

I also enjoyed exploring the grounds of Emmanuel College, which was founded in 1584. It is home to several beautiful buildings and many ducks and other birds. The chapel was built in 1640 and is still open. Since we were at the College between terms at Cambridge, no services were held. However, I used it as the location for some of my morning Bible reading. Across from where I sat was the stained glass image of John Harvard.

I composed most of this entry on the plane ride from Heathrow to O'Hare. Pictures will be posted soon after my computer problems are resolved.

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