QuarkNet an der Elbe: But really

It is just past the mid-point of my stay here "an der Elbe" (not to be confused with "in ein Transporter bei der Fluss") and I know what you're thinking: Ken, your stories about PhD-mobiles and solid-state cosmic ray counters and shiny new masterclass tools are nice, sort of, but, really, what is it like to live and work in Germany?

Short answer: I dunno.

So let's go to the longer answer.

Let's look at a typical day, to the extent I have these.  

I head for the Institute in the morning, picking up the 62 bus to Chemnitzer Straße, where I change to the 61 that heads to Zellescher Weg. I usually stop at a small bakery and pick up a Kurbiskernkäsebrötchen (pumpkin seed cheese roll - it's yummy) in the interval between buses. This phenomenon is well-known enough to the bakery staff that sometimes they have it ready and bagged before I ask for it. I arrive at IKTP at a reasonable time but not as early, based on local references frames, as I would when I taught at Warwick High School*, where classes started at 7:20 am. I get a coffee in the kitchen, sit at my desk next to Uta's and fire up the PC. Uta is usually in the office before me.

This is phase one of the day. North America is still asleep, so I talk with Uta about masterclasses unless we are both too busy (often the case), catch up on late e-mails that came while I was asleep, and do some independent work. For example, I recently translated particle cards from German to English and have been in discussion with physicists about choices the original designers of the cards made and I made as I translated. This got me onto a what in Germany is called "weak charge" (Schwasche Ladung) but referred to by English-speaking physicists as "weak isospin", not to be confused with spin or not-so-weak isospin. Well, I learned that "weak charge" is generally conserved in weak interactions but not for the Higgs. This caused me to spam several German physicists with questions in rather awkward German.**

Phase 2 starts with lunch at the Mensa. This is not a club for geniuses (otherwise I'd go hungry) but the name for a university cafeteria in these parts. Today I had a modern German favorite, currywurst. Conversation can be animated in English or animated in German with me lagging behind. When I return from lunch, I still have a little time to, say, write QuarkNet an der Elbe before people start showing up for work at Fermilab. The day can then extend quite long, since my QuarkNet colleagues are in the middle of their day when things wind down here. I try to leave about 6 or 7 pm but sometimes it is, er, later. Work is a rich mixture of collaborating with German and other colleagues up close and Americans long-range. Add interactions with CERN and oither European colleagues into the mix, as well as QuarkNet and other connections worldwide.

Going home, I'll sometimes take the 61 all the way to the Löbtau section of Dresden where there is a Rewe supermarket. Relying on public transport and feet as I do here, shopping is in smaller amounts and more frequent. I'll buy a liter of OJ on Monday and then another on Wednesday or Thursday. Not Sunday: I do not know if it is law or mutual understanding here but stores are closed. 

So, the Big Picture: life and work here are something like back in South Bend in some ways but with twists and turns. Even ordinary things can be new and surprising. And many details of life are quite different altogether. Adjusting is everything and, it turns out, sort of fun.

Have wonderful Holidays. I'll see you (generally metaphorically) on the other side and leave with images that are not about particle physics.

That is not an ancient castle complex. You are seeing some of the sandstone hills of the area near Dresden known as "Saxon Switzerland."


Meissen, near Dresden. Not ugly.

Who can resist the appeal of antique European farm equipment on display? The dome in the background is the famed "Frauenkirche" of Dresden.


Holiday scene. The...Band.


* "The CalTech of the East." Don't ask.

** I am pleased to report that my hovercraft is not, after all, ffull of eels.