Two things of note this week: I received distinction on my Comps, and submitted the first draft of Character in the Dark, my new book, to Blurb. If the copy I get back looks good, I’ll put it up for sale.

I originally intended to work with Engage Print like I did for Sampling Error, but I’m running into logistical constraints. First, it’s not really practical for me to bind more than 6 copies by hand, and I’d like to make the book available to a wider audience. Second, Engage’s Indigo printer can only run up to 12x18", which is slightly too small to really give the images good space on the page.

Hence, I’m sacrificing the pleasure of hand-making the book, and having good control over color/paper, for the convenience of Blurb’s automated print-on-demand system. I’m guessing price will be somewhere around $60; details when I finish the final version.

My comps is done.

I just finished writing version three—the final release, as it were—of my senior thesis, or “comps”, for Carleton. It’s an introduction to the Casimir effect, integrating aspects of quantum electrodynamics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, numerical modeling, material science, history of science, and a sampling of experimental literature. There is no original research here (save correcting a typo in the parallel-plates derivation which I suspect everybody knew about). It’s just an exercise in figuring things out, and explaining them to others.

I wrote the paper from books, papers, and discussions with my advisors and peers over the last six months. Last term, I also delivered a 70 minute general-audiences talk, which went pretty well. Since then I’ve been integrating feedback from faculty and peer advisors over two rounds of review. Since the beginning their feeling has been positive, but I have finally (I hope) addressed all remaining concerns with the paper. This version may be tagged “stable”.

Stretching a visual metaphor from my comps presentation entirely too far, here's some cute little photons playing soccer (with a buckyball) on the electromagnetic field.

Photon Soccer!

Well, I gave my comps talk (senior thesis) on the Casimir effect last week. It went surprisingly well, though it took much longer to prepare a 70 minute lecture than I expected. There are few graphics on the web which really explain the effect in a sensible way, so I had to draw most of them myself. The audience even seemed to follow quite a bit of it—impressive for starting from ground zero and moving rapidly to quantum cavity electrodynamics.

When I went in to meet with my faculty advisor the next day, I was surprised to learn that the reason he had not kept any of our meetings, or indeed showed much interest in discussing my comps at all, was because he had somehow not realized that he even was my advisor! Apparently, when I finished the talk and he saw his name on the final slide, he was very startled and realized his mistake. I am somewhat disappointed by this, but on the other hand, it was nice to get away without significant critique.

All in all, he said it was a very nice talk, so I’m happy with it–even though I did place a-dagger instead of a on my vacuum cleaner. :) There are still two drafts remaining, but somehow this feels like the finishing point of comps.

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