Backlog of posts… and some Yasha-isms

27Aug06

Unfortunately I’ve departed Berkeley and am now hurriedly unpacking/repacking in Los Angeles. I have a short list of unfinished Berkeley-related blog posts that I’ll be putting up in a week or so, but I’ll be going on a short vacation starting on Tuesday to meet some of the other Marshall scholars a week early in DC.

Meanwhile, a few notes:

Below is an image of Burrell’s Field in Trinity College, Cambridge. I’ll be staying in room E8 starting in late September. (The image is from the Cambridge 2000 project.)

Paul H., a reader of this blog, has suggested Ristorante Raphael for anyone in the Berkeley area. I beleive this is the fancy looking restaurant in between the Downtown Berkeley BART station and campus near CU Sushi, which I’m quite fond of. I’m so continuously surprised that people read this blog and getting a restaruant suggestion has been one of the highlights of my brief blogging history. (I’m also happy about any comments people leave, particularly those Dave B. and ‘fabio’ from Harvard.)

Good luck to the Berkeley first year physics graduate students who are taking their preliminary exams (three Saturdays in a row).

I must say that my farewell from Berkeley was quite nice. Besides plenty of physics grad students asking me when I was leaving (kinda makes a guy feel welcome), I had a very insightful conversation with Professor Nomura answering some of my previous questions on the renormalization group. I also was able to enjoy one more Society of Physics Students (also Society of Women in Physics) BBQ and got the chance to say goodbye to Anne and Donna, the graduate study admins in the physics department.

One more bit of news: I found out that the Marshall scholars will be flying across the Atlantic via Virgin Airlines. I’m not much of a flyer, but when I was much younger I found out that Virgin’s planes had video games built into each personal entertainment station. Ever since that time Virgin Air has held a legendary position in my thoughts as a magical wonderland.

Speaking of which, I wanted to share a story which Chris-from-Berkeley is quite fond of from Stanfod. The current chair of the math department, Prof. Yasha Eliashberg, taught the freshman multivariable calculus sequence four years ago. The students who didn’t drop the course after a few weeks (there was an exponential decline) were very fond of him. He ever-so-slightly resembled Dobbie from the Harry Potter movies. At one point during his office hours, he mentioned the Laplacian operator which, in somewhat antequated language, is ‘div grad.’ When he mentioned this he paused and thought for a moment, then turned to us to say, “Which, in Russian, means some sort of a wondertown.”


(Image of Y. Eliashberg from Stanford Magazine.)

I can’t resist a couple more Yasha-isms. During one slow lecture on the implicit function theorem (I think), he restated the theorem saying “… thus, one can choose coordinates such that …” Noticing attention may have been lagging in the class, he began to question who this ‘one’ is. “Is it you? is it me? Who is ‘one’?” We were too surprised to say anything, so he said “okay, it will be me.” And went on with the lecture as if he hadn’t said anything unusual.

Finally, during an office hour review for a final exam, he spent ten minutes explaining how to manipulate quadratic forms. Finally, at the end of the impromptu lesson, a student raised his hand and asked, “So, professor, what do you do when you have to diagonalize a quadratic form?” (This was essentially what he was just lecturing on.) Proefssor Eliashberg hit his head and started pacing back and forth in his office. Finally, he turned to the student and said, “In Russia, we had this saying. What do you do when there is a nuclear strike? Well… you cover your head and slowly walk to the cemetary. So–what do you do when you have to diagonalize a quadratic form?” Everybody was laughing except the student who had asked the question.



One Response to “Backlog of posts… and some Yasha-isms”

  1. Random web searching (was looking if anyone had posted this years’ Stanford frosh orientation schedule, to find out when the frosh Jammix was so I could go crash it) led me to your site. To add to the list of Yasha-isms, two lines (from 174, which with Yasha ended up being an intro to symplectic geometry) that I hope to include in my future lecturing career:

    “Today I will say everything I said yesterday, in the opposite order.”
    “Each day, I will explain everything I said the day before, plus epsilon.”



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