2018 Nobel Prize in Physics

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So one of the guys, Arthur Ashkin, who shared the 2018 Physics Nobel is 96 years old!

I have always enjoyed reading about physics and physicists.

The biography of Chandrasekhar is good, but pales in comparison to that of Ramanujan, The Man Who Knew Infinity.

The biography of Fermi has a catchy title: The Last Man Who Knew Everything

Sorry to hear that Leon Lederman passed away yesterday. I liked that he nicknamed the Higgs Boson as God Particle because his publishers would not accept goddamn particle!

I liked his book. He was a funny guy. 

Like Richard Feynman, whose Six Easy Pieces is excellent.

I was happy when Kip Thorne shared the 2017 Nobel for astrophysics and gravitational physics.

I was aware of his consulting work for the movie Interstellar that likely ensured that time dilation and space-time curvature due to gravity were properly handled by Hollywood.

I liked Interstellar way more than Gravity.

Frank Wilczek’s The Lightness of Being, sadly, is just so-so.

The movie, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, is pretty good, and is not related to physics.

I had great expectations for Wilczek’s book as his short articles for the general public are usually very well written.

The short monographs by Einstein and Schrodinger are not light reading materials.

More interestingly (to me), Arthur Ashkin got his PhD at Cornell (in 1952; I got mine in 1990) and he worked at Bell Labs (where I had my first internship, in 1988).

When I got to Cornell in 1986 (from IIT Madras), I stayed at Schuyler Hall, a co-ed graduate residence. That was a bit of culture shock.

I remember two things vividly about my time there: (1) an evening talk by Carl Sagan and (2) watching Michael Jordan on TV play an amazing game against the Celtics.

I loved my time at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ.  The opening welcome speech was by Robert Wilson (a 1979 Physics Nobel winner, who accidentally discovered the cosmic background microwave radiation, with Arno Penzias).

There was cricket on weekends.

One cricket match that I remember is RCA vs. Bell Labs. We won, based on run rate (as weather stopped the game). My non-trivial contribution was an unexpected catch that dismissed one of their good batsmen.

Another memorable thing  from that summer is that I saw Die Hard, which was a sleeper, on day one. That was because I was too late to get a ticket to see Coming to America, which I had to see on a different day. Both movies are good, but I think Die Hard is much better. Yippee Ka Ye…

Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber gave a memorable performance.

Many years later, I saw him on Broadway in the play Seminar

The only time I have laughed louder is while watching The Importance of Being Earnest.

On the professional side, I met Paul Glasserman there. Some years later, after I graduated from Cornell and was off to CMU as an assistant professor at GSIA (now called Tepper), he was at Columbia University, and we reconnected.

I thought that Infinitesimal Perturbation Analysis (IPA) was perfectly suited to study capacitated discrete-time inventory models under base stock policies, based on my earlier work that reframed inventory models into a problem in dams by recognizing that the underlying recursions are similar.

Paul and I wrote three papers together, including this one in Management Science (1995).



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