## Tuesday, March 28, 2006

### Sick at home

The past weekend, we had a family reunion at my parents' place and I planned to go back to Bremen late Sunday or Monday morning. However, I had been quite tired the better part of last week (which at that point I had attributed to the late stages of finishing our paper on multipole vectors in the three year WMAP data and the visit by Guiseppe Policastro as we had not always finished discussing by 6 p.m.). Sunday evening, however it became appearant that indeed there were a number of red spots on my face and my Monday morning all over my body (for illustrations see here). The doctor confirmed my internet based diagnosis of rubella (German measels) and told me to stay at home for the time it lasts. Now, I am with my parents, they take care of me and I have fun reading papers and other things.

So, let me tell you about a few things I came across in case you also have some time to waste. Let's start with a poem by Thomas Gsella published in the weekly supplement to the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German, I attempt no translation):

Berufsbeschreibung
Der Astrophysiker

Gewöhnliches ist nicht sein Ding.
Er aast im Unbekannten.
"Ereignishorizont" und "String",
das "Schwarze Loch", die "Quanten":

Er faselt Super-Quark und hört
dem "Hintergrund" sein "Rauschen".
Auf Partys steht er da und stört,
doch welche gibt's, die lauschen.

So ist ihm schnurz, ob wir's kapiern:
Er faselt guten Mutes.
Er will den Damen imponiern,
und ach, oh weh, er tut es!

Let me just add that from my experience this poem is rather unrealistic.

Next is a geometry problem I learned from my office mate Wolfgang Spitzer: Draw a sqare and mark one random point on each of the four sides. Now, erase the sqare just keeping the marked points. Use compass and ruler to reconstruct the square from the points. For bonus credit find conditions on four random points to lay on the four sides of a square.

Finally, there is a puzzle from "Spektrum der Wissenschaft", the German version of "Scientific American": A biologist starts with one bacterium. Each night, each bacterium splits into two. (Up to now, it sounds like a pretty dull, well known problem, but...). However, he notices that in some nights, exactly one bacterium becomes inactive and does not split on that night or any of the further night but it stays alive. Yesterday, the biologist counted 1638 bacteria, today, there are 3245. How many days ago did he start with the single bacterium? You can sumbit your solution to Spektrum until April 11th and win a carrier bag.

Wolfgang does not offer a prize but his problem if found much harder.

PS: I received a complaint that I had left destructive comments in other blogs. Let me assure you that I try not to be descructive but I don't know how you percieve it. Nevertheless, I always sign comments (as well as usenet posts) with my name and link to this blog. So comments from annoymous people or other Roberts (without link to atdotde) are not by me.

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