The Quantum Pontiff

March Meeting Summary

I’m heading home from the March meeting, after giving my talk this morning and then having a nice lunch with graduate (and one undergraduate) students at a “Meet the Experts” lunch. Yeah, somehow I slipped by the guards! Luckily a real expert was there, in the form of Paul Kwiat, so all was good and the students didn’t learn anything to disastrous. “What I learned at the March meeting” below the fold.

Things I’ve learned at the APS March meeting:

  • There are a lot of physicists. Even if you don’t count the particle and nuclear and gravitational physicist who have their own meeting. Oh, and they are easily identifiable walking down the street in New Orleans.
  • Many of the male versions of this species, the physicist, are losing their hair. This makes it even easier to spot them. Should it worry me?
  • Circuit QED has Rabi vacuum splittings which are off the chart in the line width to splitting ratio. Cavity QED groups must be spinning in envy.
  • For experimentalists, “not working” can sometimes me “it didn’t work” but other times it means “it didn’t fix any of our problems, because we had other bigger ones.” (From a talk from an MIT undergraduate. Precocious techers, they are!)
  • I always miss the most interesting talks. I missed the talk on the material science of superheros, and on a superconducting qubit based laser.
  • The linear optics/cluster state model is a lot like a scene from Wallace and Gromit
    (from Paul Kwiat’s talk.)
  • People in New Orleans smoke a lot.
  • Those who do not believe in a wave function for the universe should be called a-psi-ists.
  • The emergence of a space-time like ours from a pregeometry without such a structure was called “geometrogenesis” by Fotini Markopoulou, who swore the word wasn’t so long in Greek.
  • John Preskill promised that next time he got mad at me, he would tell me to control-NOT myself (see my talk.)


  1. #1 Bilal
    March 12, 2008

    I was at this place called Dumond’s last night (French quarter) where I had some delicious late-night donuts. As I was walking on my way out, I heard the words, “gap” and “transition”, enough to infer that the person I overheard must have been a physicist. I thought it was pretty funny. I wonder how many non-physicists are attending this year’s APS.

  2. #2 Mark Wilde
    March 13, 2008

    Bilal and I were actually at Cafe Du Monde, a hundred-fifty-year old late-night spot in New Orleans famous for their tasty beignets. (I am sorry I have to correct because I am a native of New Orleans—it just hurts my Southern soul.) We then walked down to the Crescent City Brewhouse for a beer where we saw a physicist who was wearing the “PRL 50 years” Mardi Gras beads. The funny part was that he had ripped off the PRL part to disguise the fact that he was a physicist. Luckily, we were still able to point him out and promptly warned everyone in the surrounding area (j/k).

    Other fact you should know:

    People in New Orleans serving you food love it if you tell them that their cornbread is delicious. It’s even better if you say it with a strong Louisiana accent like Bilal is fond of doing. 🙂

  3. #3 Dave Bacon
    March 13, 2008

    Bilal can do a Louisiana accent? That I have to hear.

  4. #4 Bilal
    March 14, 2008

    Mark was kind enough to take us to this fabulous restaurant called Jacques-Lmos (did I get the spelling right, Mark?), where ah mus’ say, the cawhn bread was mahty deeelishusss!! 🙂

  5. #5 Mark Wilde
    March 14, 2008

    Damnit, Bilal! It’s Jacquimo’s. And by the way, you spell the street “Tchoupitoulas”…

  6. #6 Ian Durham
    March 14, 2008

    Yes, but how do you *pronounce* Tchoupitoulas? Here’s my guess: tchoo-pi-TOO-lis (said quickly with the appropriate Louisiana accent).

    Thanks to the exceedingly good taste of Barry Sanders and Howard Barnum, I managed to dine at Bayona’s, Broussard’s, and Antoine’s (the first two on the APS’ dime!). Something tells me next year might prove a bit more difficult since we’ll be in Pittsburgh…

  7. #7 Mark Wilde
    March 14, 2008

    So you actually pronounce it:


    but you were pretty close. There is also a street in uptown New Orleans spelled “Milan”, but if you’re a local, you pronounce it:


  8. #8 Ian Durham
    March 14, 2008

    Ah, ok, not bad. Now, here in Maine we have many similar oddities:

    Vienna is vy-EN-a.
    Calais is CAL-is.

    Oddly, though we mispronounce all the French names (even though more than a third of us are French), we get the native names right (most of the time):


    Just pronounce it like it looks… well, mostly.

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