Workshop at ICTP
Posted by Arjendu on September 21, 2009
Despite claiming I am going to be being a humanist all term, I am actually spending the week at a workshop at ICTP in Trieste, Italy at the moment, on “Pseudo-chaos and stable chaos in statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics”.
The ICTP is an interesting place, somewhat reminiscent of the KITP in Santa Barbara in that it has a small permanent faculty and staff, but mostly hosts many postdocs and visitors on short programs like the one I’m attending. Like KITP, it’s pretty much right on the water (though in this case it’s the Adriatic) and likewise its possible to spend plenty of time here sampling nature but without interacting much with the local environs since it is many kilometers from Trieste. At least at KITP there’s the University itself, and the small but interesting strip in Isla Vista — doesn’t look like we’ve even got that much here.
I am eager to get out there and sample some more of the place, though, rather than just airports and cafeterias … I’ve been for a walk on the waterfront by myself a few hours after I got here and there’s an interesting looking castle right next door (the Duino castle, which inspired Rilke’s Elegies, as well as where Boltzmann died, is a few kilometers away).
The workshop has been the usual, professionally — learned a bit during most of most of the talks, got lost and very sleepy during some of some of them (being badly jet-lagged doesn’t help), put some faces to names, including one (Angelo Vulpiani) with whom I’ve been emailing briefly on and off for about 15 years, re-met some others. The casual interactions are always interesting: I happened to sit at dinner with, and then joined for an espresso after, some of the senior lions of my field who are here — Shmuel Fishman, Uzy Smilansky, Peter Grassberger, and also Tomaz Prosen (who’s about my age, is one of the organizers, and who I know a bit from a previous workshop in Cuernavaca) and listened to the gossip, the stories, and the general chatter.
I’ve scheduled some personal discussion time with a couple of people and that face-to-face feedback on my ideas is really why I am here, or why I like going to workshops in general — it’s going to be invaluable, particularly for a small college theorist like me, who sees so few people in his field on a regular basis. Plus, this pseudo-chaos stuff, as I understand it so far, is trememendously relevant to my paper with Arik, and the resulting argument about what exactly is going on in that system, which was ultimately the reason I came — the quickest way I know to learn something is to go to a workshop on it.