Katy Huff

this life is in beta

Category: scientia

science is golden…

The sky is gray, friendships are rocky, and futures are uncertain, but today was technical meeting day. So, I took a cathartic swim in electronics jargon and simulation results and calibration analysis until I was full of the serenity of scientific certainty. But when I touched my tender neck it ached in time with my pulse. Through my bruises, I felt my heart speed up with the recollection of how I acquired them, and with such thoughts of dimmer lighting and softer furniture, a quieter certainty and a much more thrilling sense of calm slowly took over an undergrad at a technical meeting…



Dear Sirs, Please stop air-conditioning my office…

… the high today is only 62° after all, and physicists are too scrawny for such enthusiastic temperature control. Have a heart, or maybe consider supplying us with blankets…


Eternal Battle

The magnitude of my incredible nerddom impressed me today, just before my nuclear quiz, as I looked over my notes.

science vs beer

So thrilled was I by the first vague evidence of the success of the bubble chamber I gave it three exclamation points, the most enthusiastic margin writing in all 180 pages of my reading this week… but just down the page, the reknowned experimenter spews beer and soda all over his particle physics lab, repeatedly, and I gave it only an underline.

My priorities are clear, but in the eternal battle between beer and science… is it just me, or is science more exciting?


CompSci Battle

As I bitterly punched holes in my hundred dead tree pages of Nuclei reading (at least it wasn’t 200, thanks to double sided library printing via Linux) in the warm silence of the MacLab, I suddenly found myself in the crossfire of an impromptu battle of hacker wits.

To my left at the other linux boxes were some moomers, a physics grad student, and a smattering of scruffy-long-haired d&d buffs gathered haphazardly around their chosen leader, his eyes sparkling with mischeif through his oval glasses. He wore a tool belt with a maglite, a carabiner, and an army green snap case and other gadgets and cases of unknowable character slung low and cool around his waist, accenting his homemade backpack made of the leg of some discarded pair of jeans.
To my right were the MacLab CAs (Computer Assistants, also comp-sci majors), minding their own businesses at their elite computers at their designated MacLab-employees corner.

Somehow, despite the silence, a hush fell momentarily over the boys to my left, and all half-dozen linux box users turned their heads to face the CA corner.
Stephen Hawking’s computer voice then began to sing from an elite MacLab computer to my right,
“Niiiiiine huuuuundre-e-e-e-e-d.”
Immediate confusion wrinkled the large forehead of the CA whose computer was victimized and giggles from my left informed the CA of the source. He laughed, but stopped when it happened again,
“Se-e-e-e-e-ptiiiillion, Se-e-e-e-p —-”
This time though, the swift CA grinned and tapped the mute function. A victorious moment, but only temporary,
“Se-e-e-e-e-ptiiiillion, Se-e-e-e-p —-”
This continued for a while with a few more silly gibberish numbers until my half of the MacLab was filled with giggles and blushes.

A staring competition began between the leader and the CA.
No one pressed any buttons, they only stared… and grinned. The CA began to blush a little, aware of many people watching him and the leader to my left glanced at his screen and his grin widened…
Moments later, a less stilted female computer voice sang from the CA computer:

“There, I kiiiiilled it.”

Laughter erupted…
in the MacLab of all places…

Kids these days.


men, women, sex clouds, ipods, flowers.

I woke up to an NPR cargo-cult-science moment this morning recounting the story of the hot new angry-maker in the science/feminism world…

Louann Brizendine is a clever female scientist.
And she’s articulate.
If only she were wrong…

To quote the San Francisco Chronicle quoting her book The Female Mind…

“Women have an eight-lane superhighway for
processing emotion, while men have a small country road,”
she writes. Men, however, “have O’Hare Airport as a hub for
processing thoughts about sex, where women have the
airfield nearby that lands small and private planes.”

She also says we say 3 times as much in a day as men do…
… and blames it all (our brains, our hearts, our chatter…) on our chromosomes.
So, in general it all strikes me as the same sexist, anti-feminist, politically incorrect, socially damaging drivel as always… but apparently, her claims are all based on hard, scientific, neuropsychiatric fact.


Maybe the guy who stole my ipod yesterday in the library was actually just acting out of the delirious confusion brought on by all of his thoughts about sex. I hope when that cloud lifts he can appreciate the broken headphones and cracked screen as much as I did. Though, apparently he won’t, because according to science he’s too full of testosterone to love.

On the up side:
– since I now have no ipod, I’ll be able to quit listening to all my sappy music once and for all.
– and… sappily enough… last night in the clear icy silence that followed the theft of my ipod, I found a red carnation frozen on the perfect snow. hmm…


Protected: Lise Mietner breaks my heart.

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The one eyed man is not king today.

I thought he was blind when he first walked up. His large, slightly misshapen, ebony head was tilted oddly and his right eye rolled around unnaturally. I realized he wasn’t blind when he found his way to the chair adjacent to mine at the coffee shop (Uncle Joe’s, know the place?). I’m a nice girl, so I greeted him with something compulsory like “How’s it goin?” or “Good evening.” I smiled, and got back to my pre-study procrastination.

Through my headphones I heard him ask me if I was listening to music.

I answered him, and we got to talking.

We talked about the most bizarre subjects. It all started with my being a physics major. Lynn (sp?) was there to play speed chess with the regulars, but claimed an interest in science. This interest, I would soon discover, was based mainly on eccentric theories inspired by Flash Gordon, Star Wars, and Star Trek.
He thinks that we’ll someday construct totally new types of matter, and kept referring to man’s drive to refashion himself scientifically and fundamentally in some way. This offended his religious side, and he often scoffed at the idea of man playing God.
I smiled a lot, nodded, and egged him on, trying to get some good stories out of him, as is my wont. I enjoyed a few of his brainchildren more than others. He’s got this idea that we could harness the power of glowworms to make special paint. This paint could coat all our rooms and we could turn the walls on and off with a light switch. Some current or something would then be run through the glowworm paint and light our rooms. He thinks Thomas Edison would feel pretty challenged by this idea were he still around. I agreed.

In the interest of your time I’ll summarize some of the other subjects we touched upon:

reverse catalysts
seven headed anacondas (made with nuclear technology)
light bridges (like on Flash Gordon)
teleportation (which he thinks Stanford has already invented… inspired by Flash Gordon)
air-density metal that would facilitate cloud cities (Star Wars)
really fast moving elementary particles (I didn’t tell him about accelerators)
neutron matter (I told him about the N-bomb… he was unimpressed)

Discomfort had been easily avoided because he was too eccentric, and I too curious to be disturbed, but eventually, it came.
About forty minutes into our conversation, two not-so-hetero-normative friends of mine had joined us and had been reading and listening silently to Lynn and I.
Twenty minutes later or so, he took it upon himself to randomly warn me and my two sexually deviant counterparts about the dangers of some social groups here at the U of C. He warned us, in all seriousness, to avoid those lesbian parties…

I laughed nervously and hysterically during the anti-gay homophobic banter that followed. He was, unsurprisingly, very conservative about such things and thought his resentful tolerance to be equivallent somehow to openmindedness. My blushing and stammering probably got a little out of hand, and after some awkward social maneuvering, the ladies and I made our get-away.

He apologized at some point during our escape about bringing up something that I might be “uncomfortable” with. I so desired to debate with him about his ideas on sexual morality, but instead I patted him on the back, a complete stranger, and assuaged his fear, “No darlin’, it’s nothin'” I muttered.

Who am I?
Have I no self-respect?
Was this a kindness to an old ignorant man or a failure as a socially conscious being?

Whoa, a Johnny Depp look-a-like just walked into the cafe… I can no longer concentrate on this story, so it’s a good thing I’m pretty much done writing it.

I have not yet decided the point of all this, the moral of the story as it were, but I suspect you’ll derive your own, or… be inspired to invent glowworm paint.