Going Back to School

As is probably all too clear, I am returning to the Virtual Journal after a very long absence. Expect much more frequent posts from me, and much less formal posts (in the first person in most cases) in the future.

At the beginning of this month, I gave four lectures at the National Nuclear Physics Summer School hosted this year by Michigan State University. The interactions with the students reminded me how much I like teaching and research, ironically at the same time as I begin administrative duties that will have none of the former and little of the latter. (Posting to the Virtual Journal is one of the methods by which I intend to remedy this.)

The organizers of the Summer School did a very nice job creating an interactive environment. After each lecture (questions were encouraged during the lecture, but you know how that goes) the students were assigned to 4-5 person groups for discussion, and then were asked to fill out a simple questionaire:

  • Things that were clear.
  • Things that were not clear
  • Specific Questions:

The lecturers were then asked to address the questions in a separate session the same day, using the chalkboard rather than the projector. I can’t speak for the students, but this was tremendous fun for me, and I like to think it helped in understanding (one observation in support of this was the full attendance at these sessions). The questions were both humbling (“Gee, I thought I explained that clearly”) and stimulating. Below are a few of my favorites:

  • Why does lattice QCD not predict expected number of degrees of freedom?
  • Is Tc = 170 MeV some settled value or is there some wiggle room?
  • Where does thermodynamics get put into QCD?
  • How does matter behave at the critical point?
  • Why do you use gold nuclei?
  • What is a color superconductor?
  • Why are people using Bjorken energy density when it appears incorrect based on observed rapidity distribution?
  • What is the basis for the bag model?
  • What are the hard and soft regimes and how do they connect?
  • How is a perfect fluid different from a superfluid?
  • What are the definitions of jet and of associated particles?

My only regret is that I did not get to address all of the questions in the discussion section. As you can see, each of these and the many others I received are worthy of a mini-lecture rather than a  one sentence answer.


  1. Wei
    July 31st, 2009 | 3:17 pm

    Those are nice questions. It would be a real plus to link the answer or thoughts to each of the question.

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