Physics Diary

Diary: Sick Note and a Minor Research Update

I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks now. It’s that time of year, ‘freshers flu’ abound. At the beginning, when I knew I was coming down with an infection, I made the choice that it was also a good time for a full reset. Often when I am sick I still work on my physics, if capable, or in the very least dabble and then continue to studying new papers. But this time has been different: a complete and total sick break, the meaning of which has also been extended to include a complete and total break from everything in life. That is, no maths problems, no Polchinski textbook questions or random integrals to keep me occupied (ok, I admit, I worked on a few integrals and I am growing increasingly eager to work on some string problems), no Asperger’s appointments or random errands or administration. Just a proper shutdown, slowing life to a halt. Whilst dealing with being ill, I have taken advantage of the time to simply reflect on a busy year or more and to play some Magic (or other games). I also plan to catch up on some films this weekend in addition to the new Swamp Thing series on Netflix.

To be honest, it’s probably the first proper break I’ve had in 24+ months. Before contracting an infection and becoming ill, I was starting to experience mental burnout – the same hard crash and periodic fatigue that is a definite pattern in my life. I could objectively observe – like a narrator – silly errors that I was starting to make and I could see my computation time increasing.

Thankfully, though, I am starting to feel better and I am eager to get back to my studies and to working on a number of projects. For the first month of my MRES, I have spent a large chuck of my time learning the braneworld formalism and picking up some bits in advanced gravity theory that I previously missed. I also spent time starting to think more deeply about string geometry, classical vacua / moduli stabilisation, and to also start digging into the world of non-geometric backgrounds. String geometry has become one of my main research interests, especially non-perturbative effects. M-theory is also of great interest. And in these areas, the question of geometric constraints on string vacua has become an increasingly interesting research question. In truth, there are still a lot of pressing questions and problems in these areas that one day I would like to be able to explore, but it means I first need to rebuild the picture for myself from first principles which takes time. This is how my brain best functions. So that likely means months of pure string geometry, learning M-theory, and studying lots and lots of compactifications.

Meanwhile, in addition to these research activities, for the second month of my MRes I imagine more time will be spent on an ongoing braneworld project alongside my professor and a PhD colleague, Cesc. It has been a lot to cram in a short amount of time, but I am very much looking forward to exploring some stringy questions in this area as well. I’ve also been learning more about black strings and an entirely new, wacky world of physics that includes black shells and black holes as bubble nucleation sites.

A short blog series on braneworlds is an idea that I have been playing with, but I still need to think about some of the logistics. Do I begin the series by building the geometry completely from first principles, or do I dive straight in to Randall-Sundrum? On the theme of the short-term future of this blog, I plan on uploading more string notes from my notebooks and also spending some time working on how the blog is organised (for easier reader navigation). I saw on someone else’s website that they have a section specifically for study notes, so I may do something similar. After creating such a page, I could make a table of contents for my string notes (linking to each entry) and I could also link to other documents I upload, like my notes on pure spinors or on Hodge theory or whatever. It seems a sensible way to organise things.

In the meantime, thanks for reading.