If you walked into my atomic physics lab at the University of California Berkeley two weeks ago, you would have found me in a pensive pose. Left hand nestled inside my right elbow, right hand clasping my chin, with an intensely furrowed brow, I was staring off into space while leaning up against the counter. I spend a lot of time like this these days. I spend a lot of time in the dark. I mean that proverbially, but the lab I was standing in was also rather dimly lit to avoid disturbing my light-sensitive sample. I was standing in the shadow of my experiment, an SUV-sized mess of cables and lasers and mysterious boxes. There was a problem somewhere in there. The machine wasn’t working as it should — something in that morass of cables and sensors was different than it was the day before. And I had to find it.
A few days ago, I met a friend for a beer, and he asked me (as politely as possible) what scientists actually do on an average day. Ask and you shall receive! In a series called Day in the Life, we and our peers will share what we do to fill our time. Find them compiled here.
Here’s what I did today: