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Some post-workshop irrelevant thoughts July 28, 2009

Posted by keithkchan in Whatever.
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I would like to collect some of my thoughts about the trip to the wild west of the USA. I am not going to talk about what I learn academically, for the obvious reason — I did not learn much. Fortunately I don’t need to report anything to my advisor, so it is OK. But usually in this type of workshop, we can only get a rough idea of what other people are doing in the adjacent fields. It is also a good chance to meet people working in the same field. Often it is a good approximation that this kind of trip can be transformed to a nice travel experience. I went to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. So, this time the approximation is excellent.

The exact location that I went to was Santa Fe, New Mexico. I realize that the life outside New York City is completely different. Without a car, you can do nothing. When I planed to go there, I thought I could buy soap, shampoo blah blah blah there easily, just as in Manhattan. Oh my beloved Nature, that was completely wrong. The undergraduates there told me that I could get to the nearest CVS by walk in one hour. Fortunately the undergraduates were so kind that they drove me to CVS by car. The pace of life there is slower than in New York. People there are generally nicer and more polite than New Yorkers.

One thing that annoys me pretty much is that people there are quite religious. One can find churches everywhere. The buildings, streets are usually named as Saint XYZ. OK, that is just some names. Who care? Near Santa Fe, it is the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). A cosmologist working at LANL told me that people in that town were pretty religious. As you may know, at LANL, some people are working on weapons of mass destruction. Those people are particularly religious. That seems to me pretty understandable. For atheists, we at most make fun of those religious people. But religion can drive people insane. They can do crazy things if they believe themselves to be messengers, disciples or whatever of the god, and they think you don’t believe in his god, or even worse believe in the wrong god.

Even within the participants in the workshop, they are more religious than my colleagues at NYU. One guy believes that god can change the laws of physics at will. Moses could violate the laws of physics when he separated the water in Red Sea. But he worked on dark matter observation. What if he observes is just some tricks played by god? Then his work is totally meaningless. I thing he should add in the paper that the phenomenon he observed can be an artifact due to god. What they work on and they believe are fundamentally inconsistent.

There are two possibilities for the higher percentage of “religiousness”. First simply people outside New York are more religious. Secondly, astronomers are more religious than physicists. For physicists, the laws of physicists are fundamental, it can’t be changed arbitrarily. I will never ever identify myself as an astronomer.

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