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APS April Meeting June 7, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life, travel.

CIMG1431This is an old one. I just haven’t had time to post anything. I’ve been to a series of conferences over the last several months. One of them — the APS April meeting — I was mostly a spouse. Our students went as well to give 10 minutes talks and all did a great job.

The most surreal part of the conference was walking down the main hallway pushing Julia in a stroller. The organizers had famous people sanding in the hallway catching people walking buy and urging them to sign a joint letter to congress urging an increase in funding for basic science (all types of science). One fellow, about my age, walking towards me was asked and said no. As he walked by I heard him mutter under his breath “This is a meeting about science, politics doesn’t belong here!” I really wanted to ask him: what world is he living in!?

Another very cool thing happened — we ran into Dave Jackson. He is not a member of the Jackson 5. Though, among physicists he is probably more famous. He is author of the Electrodynamics text book for graduate students. It is famous for lines like “working out the derivation is left as an exercise for the student.” Some of those exercises were 12 pages long. The homework problems are hard. Really hard. Most of us learned to live in fear of that book. It definitely taught you — but you had to work for it.I would guess that more than half the physics professor offices in the US have some edition of his book on their shelf (he is the older guy in the picture; the others our our students who have all suffered at the hands of his book).

We went out to dinner with him. Very entertaining. Did you know that he and someone else (Peter Limon??) started the Fermilab Wine&Cheese?

More pictures from the APS meeting.


1. Dave Bacon - June 7, 2007

A Jackson story. At Berkeley, they have a social function for the incoming physics graduate students where the students get to meet and mingle with the faculty. At one point I was introduced to Jackson and was talking with him, when along came my roommate from Caltech, who was also attending grad school in physics at Berkeley. Now my roommate is a very skinny, very short, brilliant guy from China who also had an astonishingly low voice that sounded a lot like Arnold Schwartzenger. So I said something to my roommate like “This is David Jackson…” and I was about to introduce my roommate when, instead my rommate blurted out “Your book almost killed me.” In that deep Arnold voice. The look on Jackson’s face almost made up for all the problems I had to do out of that damn book (we used it as an undergrad text at Caltech, which always meant my basic E&M was bad, but the advanced stuff I could kill🙂 ) Priceless.

Did you get to ask him why he decided to change units halfway through the new edition of the book??!

2. smm - June 8, 2007

thanks for the picture of THE jackson. it’s nice to put a face with the name and the book, for which i have great fondness. it richly rewards hard work.

after reading your post i had to look at the cover to see his name in print. i guess he goes by his middle name?

3. gordonwatts - June 8, 2007

Dave — you are right. Meeting the guy you would have no idea his book would be so… well, leathal! He told us stories about all these profs that would send him solutions that showed what he had in the book was wrong. We was very careful not to make fun of anyone who had gotten things wrong — he talks about he is often re-working sections of the books in response to these things to make sure that what he had was right. Sounds like a full time job, almost!

4. Nate - June 14, 2007

Have you seen Serge Lang’s books? Especially his “Algebra”? He’s known for having exercises like, “Pick up a book on functional analysis. Do all of the exercises.”

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