Monday, February 06, 2006

Flashback to when I was a physicist (true story)

During a physics videoconference, we were discussing the use of laser interferometry to measure plasma density. I playfully suggested that we use a graser--a gamma-ray laser, an unfulfilled dream for fifty years in physics--thinking this would get us far better resolution. A colleague said that it would in fact be worse, since in interferometry you're looking "longitudinally" at the shift in wavelength caused by the dispersion relation of the plasma, while the more typical uses of grasers involve transverse scattering, in which the small wavelength of the graser would give you atomic-level scanning resolution.

I was so wigged out by this--the fact that one application of graser physics had incredibly good resolution, while another is very bad--that I started saying dreamily, "I'll need to think about that while I--".

Suddenly I realized I was going to say, "smoke some pot." I don't smoke pot; it would have been just a joke; but the weirdness of the situation seemed to make the joke appropriate. But. Not. At. Work.

What could I say? I latched onto the fact that a friend of mine smokes pot and watches the Simpsons regularly: they seem to go together well. So I finished up, in a loopy sort of voice:

"I'll need to think about that while I watch the Simpsons at home."

My advisor cocked an eyebrow, and said, "If you need to do that, that's what you need to do."

Puzzlement existed.


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