Another inaugural lecture, the wizards met in another room and proceded in.  What happens in that other room?  I’ve never inquired.  Does some powerful professorial mojo happen there?  Is there a secret hand-shake?  I must ask any professors that I know.

Not as packed as the previous lecture I attended.  I didn’t need to move to the centre from my seat.  I considered it.  There were children present as well.  They got a bit squirmy.  I don’t blame them.  It was technical stuff.  I noted bits of the frame-work of the lecture that I understood.

Blair Blakie is a tall thin man, accompanied by a wife and two very bouncy boys.  One of them, the four-year-old, I think was sitting behind me.  He coped very well and ran to see what the gift from the department was.  Pr. Blakie is a theorist.  Presumably he works in the High Energy Magic Building.

Room temperature isn’t cold.  It’s 293 degrees kelvin, or 20 degrees celsius.  The average student flat is 0 degrees celsius, I didn’t note the measurement in kelvin.  High temperature superconductors begin at 140 degrees kelvin, nitrogen is a liquid at 77 degrees, helium boils at 4 degrees kelvin.  The average background temperature is 2.73 degrees above zero.  At 2.17 degrees Helium 4 becomes superfluid.  Helium 3 does not become superfluid until a thousandth of a degree above zero.

It was not mentioned that at absolute zero degrees kelvin hell freezes over, and Scotland supports England for the World Cup (it doesn’t matter which one at that point!)

We got a crash course on Quantum Mechanics:

  1. Heisenberg’s uncertainty relation (a cute equation in the title of the lecture included alternatives with a live cat and a dead cat and the square root of 2.)
  2. Identitical particles are indistinguishable and there are two types: Fermions and Bosons.  Helium 3 has Fermions and Helium 4 has Bosons which have a different hierarchy of particles which affects why they become superfluids at different temperatures.
  3. There’s something called superpositions.

Learning all this properly takes four years, to begin with.

There was a diagram of a super-cold machine authored by Ana Rakonjac in the Kjaergaard Lab.  I cheered inwardly when I saw it because I knew who Ana is.  I’ve won prizes from quizes that she was run for the Taekon-do club, twice.  This is a machine that made the University noticed in the physics community around the world.  They’re a clever bunch at Otago University.  If I understand my notes correctly it blows on things to make them cold.

Thank you to Professor Blakie’s students because they are encouraged to ask and tell in class; and thank you to the academic leadership at the chancellorship level of the university.  Resist the corporative model!

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