About Nicole Yunger Halpern

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So far Nicole Yunger Halpern has created 25 blog entries.

Mingling stat mech with quantum info in Maryland

I felt like a yoyo. I was standing in a hallway at the University of Maryland. On one side stood quantum-information theorists. On the other side stood statistical-mechanics scientists.* The groups eyed each other, like Jets and Sharks in West Side Story, except without fighting or dancing. This March, the groups were generous enough to [...]

Paul Dirac and poetry

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in the case of poetry, it's the exact opposite!       - Paul Dirac Paul Dirac I tacked Dirac’s quote onto the bulletin board above my desk, the [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:35-08:00April 12th, 2015|Reflections|15 Comments

Quantum Frontiers salutes Terry Pratchett.

I blame British novels for my love of physics. Philip Pullman introduced me to elementary particles; Jasper Fforde, to the possibility that multiple worlds exist; Diana Wynne Jones, to questions about space and time. So began the personal statement in my application to Caltech’s PhD program. I didn’t mention Sir Terry Pratchett, but he belongs [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:35-08:00March 15th, 2015|Reflections|5 Comments

Democrat plus Republican over the square-root of two

I wish I could superpose votes on Election Day. However much I agree with Candidate A about social issues, I dislike his running mate. I lean toward Candidate B’s economic plans and C’s science-funding record, but nobody’s foreign policy impresses me. Must I settle on one candidate? May I not vote Now you can---at least in [...]

Actions do change the world.

I heard it in a college lecture about Haskell. Haskell is a programming language akin to Latin: Learning either language expands your vocabulary and technical skills. But programmers use Haskell as often as slam poets compose dactylic hexameter.* My professor could have understudied for the archetypal wise man: He had snowy hair, a beard, and [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:37-08:00December 28th, 2014|Reflections|8 Comments

I spy with my little eye…something algebraic.

Look at this picture. Does any part of it surprise you? Look more closely. Now? Try crossing your eyes. Do you see a boy’s name? I spell “Peter” with two e’s, but “Piotr” and “Pyotr” appear as authors’ names in papers’ headers. Finding “Petr” in a paper shouldn’t have startled me. But how often does [...]

Generally speaking

My high-school calculus teacher had a mustache like a walrus’s and shoulders like a rower’s. At 8:05 AM, he would demand my class’s questions about our homework. Students would yawn, and someone’s hand would drift into the air. “I have a general question,” the hand’s owner would begin. “Only private questions from you,” my teacher [...]

The experimentalist next door

At 9:10 AM, the lab next door was blasting “Born to Be Wild.” I was at Oxford, moonlighting as a visiting researcher during fall 2013. My hosts included quantum theorists in Townsend Laboratory, a craggy great-uncle of a building. Poke your head out of the theory office, and Experiment would flood your vision. Our neighbors [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:39-08:00September 16th, 2014|Uncategorized|5 Comments

How Physics for Poets can boost your Physics GRE score

As summer fades to autumn, prospective grad students are eyeing applications. Professors are suggesting courses, and seniors are preparing for Graduate Record Exams (GREs). American physics programs  (and a few programs abroad) require or encourage applicants to take the Physics GRE. If you’ve sighted physics grad school in your crosshairs, consider adding Physics for Poets [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:40-08:00August 24th, 2014|Reflections|6 Comments