All speckled with stars
After WSOPE and San Remo I returned home to my parents' farm and have been spending time with them and the animals. It's so wonderful to be back in nature, away from the grind and free to be muddy!
There's very little light pollution in the countryside, so the number of stars you can see is incredible. It's where my love of astrophysics started, though these days I feel a little out of touch with it. It's amazing how able your mind is to solve things when it's properly trained, and I really miss that instant ability to crunch through physics problems. I tackle problems all the time in poker, but the complexity of physics is so beautiful that if I really started going back into it, I feel like I would fall down the rabbit hole and never come back.
The sad thing is that I looked through some of my old physics notes the other day and thought, "Wow, I used to be able to solve that problem effortlessly, and now I don't even know where to begin." It used to be like a language I had become fluent in. Now it's somewhere very, very deep in the recesses of my brain, I don't know how to access it, and it's scary that I might never be able to access it again.
I've still got the stars though, and just a few days ago I got to watch the Felix Baumgartner space-jump streamed live over the web. So cool. I didn't even realize it was happening 'til the Twitterverse started blowing up about it. I'm mildly obsessed with altitude and it's effect on the body, so of course I was instantly hooked. I'd randomly researched the elevation of the highest parachute jump about a year ago. It was something I'd been interested in completely organically, and now here it was, streaming on my screen.
Going up, the anticipation was tangible and the views breathtaking but also slow going as the ascent took over two hours to reach 128,000 feet. But when the capsule door finally opened, the gravity of what he was actually doing sunk in (pardon the pun) when you realise that he's going to throw himself out of the tiny capsule into the abyss below. What an absolute loon. The dangers are numerous and dramatic - if there was any kind of leak in his space-suit the lack of atmospheric pressure at that altitude causes all bodily fluids to instantly boil. The commentators remarked that Felix also had to make sure he didn't tumble too much whilst in freefall because the G-forces would make him pass out, leading to an inevitable death streamed live to a million viewers.
Things like the space jump, or even more the groundbreaking particle physics work being done with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (which I got to tour recently!), often raise questions about their justification. People can't always tangibly see and feel the results, and thus remark "This is surely a waste of time and money. What's the point? This is just satisfying some theorists or adrenaline junkies."
But it's not. This is the way progress happens. A few dedicated people spend their time examining and asking questions about things everyone else takes for granted. Why is this here? How is it here? What brought it about in the first place? If Hertz hadn't undertaken experiments to prove Maxwell's prediction of the existence of radio waves, would the world be anywhere near as technologically advanced as it is now?
The answers are usually beautiful, and I can't wait to see where the discoveries at CERN are going to lead us.