Lunch with some visitors

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This is an epic week for science in Brisbane! Lots of experts are in town for the World Science Festival. The astrophysics group from my uni, the University of Queensland, had lunch today with Josh Frieman (from Chicago) and Douglass Scott (from Vancouver). I had a great time.

From left to right: Merryn, Douglas Scott, Colin (author of Colin’s Cosmos), Sam, Tamara Davis, Josh Frieman, and Ed. A mixture of students, professors, and a postdoc; others had already left by this point.

Frieman is the director of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a large international collaboration which is mapping the skies to measure the expansion of the universe by dark energy. Probably every local at lunch except me was a member of either the Australian version “AusDES”, and/or the Australian astrophysics organisation “CAASTRO” which also shouted lunch incidentally. (My research in relativity is a little different from these groups, being more theoretical, but they are the closest I have to a research community here, and so I was very happy to be invited! A big thank-you to Tamara who is conscientious about that.)

I had a good chat with Douglas, whom I was sitting next to. He shared with the table about one of his students who is studying modified gravity theories (that is, other than Einstein’s general relativity), and how every 3 months he knocks on Douglas’ door with another discovery about why general relativity is superior. He generously asked me about my research, and I explained my analysis of distances in relativity, though it might sound trivial. I also mentioned black hole volumes and new coordinate system(s) I had discovered, and that just recently I had been learning about rotating black holes to potentially extend these results to that situation, which I believe no-one has done before apart from a few specific cases.

I missed some fun photo opportunities with other students ;-). Sam grabbed a sneaky sip of Josh C.’s iced chocolate when it arrived. Then he made up for it by spoon-feeding Josh ice-cream in a faux-romantic moment. Sam seemed unphased by our eminent guests, but kept up his usual cheeky humour!

While Josh (Frieman) is in town for the science festival, Douglas is in Australia to visit a couple of universities. It also turned out he’s going to a music festival tonight, and I joked that his real ulterior motive had come out! He admitted he once gave a talk at Caltech partly because his favourite band was playing in Los Angeles. Tamara left for the science festival. I had a haircut this morning, thinking I should clean up in case I met some of the celebrity physicists in town but, as you can see from the top photo, a shave was beyond me at this point.