Hmmm. . . where do I begin. I promised you blogodadians that I would reveal my attempt at giving some insight into the cosmological constant problem yesterday. I swear I wasn't being a sloth. You see the typical occured-I gave the head of the SLAC theory group, Michael Peskin a draft of the paper-or rather he requested it from me. The paper had already gone through the hands previously by two other world renowed, anal retentive, theorists and they both were happy with what I wrote. I have to admit that as much as I have been dying to complete this 3 year long project (It's been on my mind for that long, actively), I was relieved to know that this week Michael would be wearing four hats; rather than the usual 3. This week he is one of the organizers for the International Linear Collider Workshop and he was preparing a talk and heading the group and teaching QFT and .... So this meant that he wouldn't have time to COMPLETELY DESTROY my paper. NOT!
You see, the last project Michael, Shahin (a string theorist that Lenny recruited from Iran; who is also reputed in the community for being a hardcore calculator, was pulvarized by Michael's 'ammunition') and I indulged in, lasted a whopping 11 months, 8 of which had to do with Michael being "confused", trying to unconfuse him took 8 months-deep down Shahin and I thought that he knew the answer all along and just wanted us to walk the path less travelled. . . We worked on a new way to resolve the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe. It turned out that Michael's confusion, a phase problem, led to the resolution of the project!
I walked in Wednesday morning and Michael was doing his usual morning pitter patter at his computer-the Kat types fast. I thought "perfect opporunity to just TELL him that I'm putting the paper out today"
"Michael" I said, "You know, I just got feedback from such and such and such and such and they told me that I should post the paper-isn't that great?!"
He replied, "Thats good. . . But you know my life has been insane with the workshop . . . give me 24 hours to go over what you've done"
I sunk is despair, for I feared the worst; Michael was going to obliterate my paper! Everyone in the field knows about the reputation of the SLAC theory group-we are the toughest place to give a theory seminar in the world.
I've heard stories of the infamous seemingly harmless gesture of this nice fella in the audience, with his low keyed voice, raising his hands like a good school boy, "excuse me, but I'm confused." Then a question/statement would splurge out. Meanwhile, I'm saying to myself 'man I wouldn't want to be in the speakers shoe right now'
I recall time and time again the aftermath of that statement-It usually, from a half full glass perspective, would destroy the speakers whole talk (10 minutes into it)-or at least completely clarified the fancy jargon. Those who are experienced at giving seminars at SLAC, try their best to come prepared. The first timers will never ever forget it when the man with the musthache and glasses asks "excuse me, but I'm confused." No, he's not confused any more than Einstein was having difficulties with Math.
Well I had to deal with this for the past three years. Every idea I had, calculation I did was completely deconstructed when it encountered Michael. I welcomed it deep down, because I hoped that just a little
of Michael's virtues would rub off on me.
I met Michael 6 years ago when I was a graduate student. There was this summer school (supposed to be this elite thang) for string theory graduate students called TASI. Anyway, Michael was lecturing. And all I could remember was this guy with a cast on his hand writing on the blackboard with a level of detail and enthusiasm that I'd never seen before. He immediately commanded my respect as the dude that knew everything. I mean, Strings, Supersymmetry, Condensed Matter, Coding, QCD. Man I was scared to talk to him! I finally figured out a way to talk to Michael without him figuring out that I didn't belong at TASI, yeah back then I KNEW that I was the dumbest kid there (and apparently so did everyone else). So I went to him and asked him to suggest a place where I could brush up my SUSY calculational skills. Then he surprised me...
"Come here, lets go up to the computer room" For a whole half an hour, Michael walked me through all the choices on the the ArXiv for learning SUSY. Then he continued to go into more details about the strengths and weaknesses about the final five lecture notes on the web.
So while I sound like 'damn, gotta deal with Michael' it was my dream come true to be in an office next to him for these three years.
But I finally, after three years, asked Michael a question that he didn't have an answer to then I said to him "finally, something you didn't know"
He smiled back.