Well-maintained but sunbaked picnic tables on the shores of the Salton Sea seem a little bit taunting—asking travelers to stop for a snack in a place not fully safe to live.
My messy sabbatical desk in the Normandy, sitting next to some enormous (if leaky) windows, was home base for a glorious eight months. I’m glad I paused to take a picture of it as it was (rather than in perhaps a more photogenic state.)
Heading out from the Normandy Village, the crazy brick patterns, tiny windows hidden under the eaves, and trees sprouting from the concrete give way to the mid-twentieth-century architecture of Berkeley instantly. Exiting means stepping through some kind of spacetime membrane back to reality.
The laboratories of physical scientists across the planet have pulsed laser systems like this one, and many look quite similar: a collection of squat boxes covering optics, electronics, and beampaths. Above or below the surface of the table are additional boxes of electronics driving the lasers and detectors. This particular system is special to me for two reasons: (1) most modern laser tables don’t have rad wood grain paneling, and (2) this was the instrument I used during my sabbatical at Berkeley Lab last spring. Lots of good data emerged from its photomultiplier tube.
Like any college town, Berkeley is beset with pizza joints. Almost all of them offer a delicious slice, but a lot of those slices are, well, not really pizza. Deep dish so thick and dense that knife and fork are mandatory? All-organic cheese detonation without sauce? Pizza bagel? All of these can be mouth-watering under the right conditions, but quintessential crispy-yet-foldable slice of (New-York-inspired) pizza is found at Arinell’s in downtown Berkeley. The venue matches the food.
I am a spectroscopist, and this is my laser. It’s enormous, it’s fiendishly complicated, and it takes an enormous amount of time to keep it cooperative. Nonetheless, I can learn about the basic motions of molecules with it.
The farther along I get, the more I realize that the system basically amounts to Legos for big kids.