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Non-monotonicità nella transizione quantistico-classico (cross-cultural talks)

Posted by Arjendu on March 18, 2010

I am currently in Como, Italy, visiting Giorgio Mantica at the Universita degli Studi dell’Insubria. A major part of my post-doc work picked up and extended Giorgio’s work with Joe Ford, one of the legends of chaos/quantum chaos, but I hadn’t actually ever met Giorgio until my trip to Trieste last Fall. Giorgio’s work and mine have continued to parallel each other over the years, but when I heard him talk in Trieste, it struck me that his techniques of computing the Alicki-Fannes quantum entropy and its rate of change could help more carefully characterize chaos in quantum mechanics, which I’ve been struggling to do for my work with Arik. And so here I am.

A lot of what Giorgio and I do together is horribly similar to the ‘Eye of the tiger sequence‘ from ‘Big Bang Theory’ where you’ve got to add the nice red couches they’ve got, as well as my jet-lag, to the mix. That is, sometimes I *was* thinking deeply, and sometimes I was actually — albeit briefly — asleep while Giorgio thought on. Giorgio is a gregarious and outgoing person, and it’s fun hanging out with him. I learned a lot already, and have enjoyed meeting the larger group, particularly the brief time with Giulio Casati, whose work I’ve been reading since I was in intellectual diapers (first couple of years of graduate school).

I gave a talk as well, on non-monotonicity in the quantum-classical transition, almost exactly the same talk I gave in Toronto a few weeks ago, except that the first page was in Italian as a silly attempt to acknowledge that although all but one of my audience was Italian speaking, my talk was in English. The talk went fine, including decent response all around, in particular from Giulio (read ‘a searching question that had me defending myself by pointing out why I was in Como talking to Giorgio’). But it didn’t feel like it ‘landed’ in quite the same way that it had in Toronto, though I may have been deluding myself about TO. And that got me thinking about cultural differences, and other such things when it comes to talks.

I have a feeling that I’d tuned my talk a little too well for my TO audience. Or alternatively, and perhaps more appropriately, that I’ve become more North American in my style of talks. My jokes completely flopped here (admittedly no one was actually rolling in the aisles in TO, but I got gentle smiles and so on when I expected them) — not even close to a smile from most people. And by instinct — and by now by training from my years of teaching undergrads at Rice and Carleton — I have a far more pedagogical style than most physicists I’ve heard give talks: I stop periodically to check for comprehension and solicit questions, explain concepts and review ideas slightly more than I need to, etc, etc. It’s not clear to me that this works all that well in my community, but now that I think back on all the talks I’ve heard, it’s particularly different from how Europeans in my field present talks (to generalize wildly).

Ah well, live and learn.

Tomorrow, more whiteboards, and plenty o’ coffee. Giorgio, weirdly for a physicist (or academic, for that matter) and Italian, to boot, doesn’t drink coffee, but has introduced to me to one of his colleagues who has offered to make me good strong stuff whenever I want it. Onwards through the fog!


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