I’m Back

April 30, 2004

I’m back, having taken my oral exam. It’s hard to know exactly what to share about such a… um, humbling… experience. Luckily, President Bush, in his brief public comments yesterday about his 9/11 testimony, provided an excellent template for commenting on such matters. So taking his lead, I’d like to say:

The Vice President and I just finished a good conversation with the 9/11 Commission MIT Condensed Matter Theory Part III Oral Exam Committee. It was wide-ranging, it was important, it was just a good discussion. And I appreciate the members.

I want to thank the Chairman and Vice-Chairman for bringing the commission committee here (just like the 9/11 Commission conveniently came to the Oval Office, my committee nicely came to the conference room just down the hall from my office) and giving us me a chance to share views on different subjects. And they had a lot of good questions. I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I took the time. This is an important commission committee, and it’s important that they ask the questions they ask so that they can help make recommendations necessary to better protect our homeland improve my physics education. It was — I enjoyed it.

I was never advised by my counsel not to answer anything. I answered every question they asked. Really — probably best that I not go into the details of the conversation; let them incorporate into their report. There was a lot of interest in — about how to better protect America gapless bosonic excitations like the Goldstone modes at a 2nd order phase transition and magnons on a Heisenberg spin chain. ( Condensed matter theory isn’t all about metals and semiconductors anymore.) In other words, they’re very interested in the recommendations that they’re going to lay out. And I’m interested in those, as well.

And we discussed a lot of things… a lot of subjects. And it was a very cordial conversation. I was impressed by the questions and I think it helped them understand how I think…

…Look, if we I had something to hide we I wouldn’t have met with them in the first place. We I answered all their questions. And as I say, I think I — I came away good about the session, because I wanted them to know how I set strategy, how we run the White House, how we I deal with threats problems for which I don’t immediately know the answer…

But it was — you know, the commissioners committee members will speak for themselves over time. They will let you know whether they thought it was a fruitful series of discussions. I think they did. I think they found it to be useful.

Remember that bumper sticker about how “I dream that someday schools will get all the money they want, and the Air Force will have to hold bake sales to buy a bomber.” Yeah, it’s kinda silly since, after all, textbooks, pencils, chalkboards, etc. are a heck of a lot easier to make than a B2 bomber that has a length of 20.9 meters and a wingspan of 52 meters, yet has a radar cross-section of less than 0.75 meters-squared. But I see what the bumper sticker is getting at, and in that vein, I offer: “I dream that someday politicians will be questioned as rigorously as lowly grad students are.”

[Speaking of the B2, can anybody explain what’s going on in this photo?


(Click to enlarge. Source: AirlinePictures.net, specifically this link)

I know there must be some innocent explanation for this—e.g., flying over the ocean, the B2 causes a small fog cloud of water vapor to condense around it, which at least is enough to screw up high-speed photography. But let me just say that I can see where all those Area-51-conspiracy-philes get their ideas that the B2 was reverse-engineered from that alien starship that crash landed in Roswell.]


2 Responses to “I’m Back”

  1. CSTAR Says:

    Oh good. does that mean Bush now gets to work on his thesis and leave us alone?

  2. DGB Says:

    The photo looks a lot like the ones discussed on this page:


    It’s apparently what happens around a plane when it breaks the sound barrier on a humid day.

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