What Do I Spend My Time On? How do I Choose a Topic to Write About? March 25, 2008Posted by gordonwatts in blog, physics life.
OK, this post forces me to ask this question: can you estimate the amount of time you spend on “science” questions versus methods development, programming or other things? After reading your blog (and enjoying it of course) for over two years now, I feel you have discussed a lot of issues in programming, ROOT, C++ vs other languages, computers and other things that are tools to do science but which are not themselves science (or at least not physics).
I am fundamentally lazy. Other bloggers — like Tomasso — are not. I’m afraid I do not spend much time on these blog posting (spelling errors!? Me!? Never!). As a result, I tend to write about things I can clack off without having to do any reading or extra research. This usually boils down to physics I’m working on or support work I’m working on, hobbies, or my social/family life. I don’t understand how Tomasso has the time to read and digest all those papers. I suppose once you get going you can do it more and more and more quickly, but I have not been willing to take the time.
The physics, however, suffers. For example, I’m working in the Higgs group at D0 – well, mostly my post-doc and my graduate student are this year – but I can’t really talk about some of the very cool stuff that is happening there. That is a sure way to get hit on the head by the collaboration. In ATLAS I’m also doing some stuff I would love to talk about – but ATLAS has an official blogging policy (i.e. don’t, unless the result or thing is public).
Now, part of the reason I got into HEP is I like that it lives at the corners of physics, software, and hardware. Since D0 has matured, I’ve not been doing very much hardware. The software side of things I’d always done as a hobby. I have always been a big fan of software and have made some fairly flexible and sophisticated frameworks for use in physics analysis. Since that, and watching people who are not me try to understand and read my code, I’ve come to believe C++ just isn’t all that great as a productive programing tool. Now here is the thing: no one cares about software! The byproduct of that is I can talk about software freely on this blog, as I work on it. Take ROOT for example, I recall trying to get a new plot out for single top. With that plot we were able to understand that the way we were doing our b-tagging in our background sample was correct. But in order to make that plot I had to fight through a ROOT bug. Guess what I can write about in the blog?
So, now a direct answer to your question. I’m on sabbatical this year. I would say it was about 50-50 for me. When I’m teaching a course I understand, it is probably 40% physics, 30% software, and 30% teaching. When I’m teaching a class I’ve never taught before it will probably by 10% physics, 10% software, and 80% teaching (ask me in November).
Thanks for the question/comment Kevin. I hope I’ve answered it!