Monday, June 20, 2011

Sometimes a pickle is just

Montreal! I'm in Montreal for the week-until-Thursday... I guess that sentence would have also worked without "for the week- -". You live, you learn. Anyway, I'm at this conference learning all about surfaces and cellulose so that I can be an even better graduate student than I already am. The coolest thing I learned was about how you can use quartz crystal microbalance to measure things that are too large to measure using a quartz crystal microbalance. Wait, what? Basically you model it as a spring attached to another spring that is oscillating at a different frequency, take all the data from the seven resonances you get, plot them on some sort of weird graph, hope they make a circle, take the center of the circle as a magic frequency, and then pretend that the data you have were taken on this magic frequency--

Long story short, you have to use math and it sounds like it's too hard to even think about ever doing, but it's a fun idea. At no point in his talk did the speaker ever explain why heywanted to measure these impossibly large things with a quartz crystal microbalance instead of, say, an instrument that is designed to measure larger things. He just started off with "So what if you wanted to measure a bacteria on a QCM?" Well, when all you have is a $96,000 hammer...

My colleague Tom and I also visited Schwartz's Charcuterie Hébraïque--OR--Schwartz's Jewish Deli, which is, I guess, the most famous restaurant in Montreal, perhaps in the sense that The Slanted Door is the most famous restaurant in San Francisco. My smoked meat sandwich was pretty good, not life-changing or anything, but definitely respectable. (Three inches of) fatty, slightly smoky beef on two pieces of rye bread with yellow mustard (for $6). How bad can that be? The (two-dollar) pickle, on the other hand, was mouth-shatteringly good--salty and puckery, crunchy and huge, the Star Trek Mirror Universe version of the perfect cucumber. Possibly the best pickle I've ever had. Battle on, Schwartz's.

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