### Aw, my old department!

Campbell hall circa 1999 or 2011
Campbell Hall circa Feb 2012 (aw!)

Back in 2000 I was a eager young prospective grad student choosing between Caltech physics and Berkeley Astronomy for the next 7 years of my life. When I visited Robinson Hall at Caltech (well before the crazy orange Cahill building), all of the students were in the basement. When I visited Campbell hall at Berkeley, all of the students were on the roof in the Cosmic Garden. There was a telescope dome in the middle of a courtyard in which a lemon tree and flowers grew. A flight of stairs led up to a bird's eye view of the Berkeley campus from 8 floors up, as well as an amazing vista of San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

After taking in the view from the roof of Campbell for the first time I knew it was time to drop my life's ambition of physics grad school at Caltech for a new career at UC Berkeley. So what if I had to learn a brand new subject, a new unit system, and learn to plot things backwards (astro is weird that way)? Seven years of that view, indie rock shows in San Fran, a Thai restaurant on every corner, and the prospect of short-author-list papers in my second year all made my decision pretty straight-forward.

Things have changed a lot at Berkeley since I left. Most notably, Campbell Hall with its Cosmic Garden are soon to be no more, to make room for a new Astronomy building. It's pretty sad, but I'm glad there will be a new start for Berkeley Astro.

BTW, being sad about an inanimate object reminded my former Berkeley classmate, Karin, of this Ikea commercial (wait for it...):

Karin said…
Wish I could be there to see it knocked down. It was a lovely place to work for [large number] of years.
Marshall said…
You're not the only one who had that response to the view from on top of Campbell! "Hmm, the attic of Campbell versus the sub-sub-basement of Robinson..." played a non-negligible role in my own thinking that same year... And man, the view from the old 6th floor classroom was totally worth it. :-)

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…