Hi! My name is Gilad Margalit. Welcome to my blog. I introduced myself briefly in my first post on this site and in my profile, so I won’t repeat that here. Here’s a look at the categories of posts that you can find on this site: Continue reading “About the Blog – Explanatory Sticky Post”
It’s been a while since my last post. And that’s mostly my fault, though I have to assign at least some of the blame to whoever decided that the first year of grad school should feel like you’re on a boat that’s taking on water. (For those who haven’t followed the blog, I’m a physics grad student at a university in Israel, though I grew up in the United States). Anyway, I have a lot to write about, so this post will probably be a long one.
If you haven’t seen Arrival yet and you like the kind of nerdy stuff I usually talk about, … um… why haven’t you seen Arrival yet? It’s a movie about aliens, but instead of being a run-of-the-mill action story, it’s a more cerebral movie, full of suspense, ideas, political drama, and only one explosion. What make the movie so compelling are the mystery of why the aliens arrive in the first place and a crazy twist in the final act (I’ll mention it in this post, but I’ll put a spoiler warning in all caps before I reveal anything important). Here are my thoughts about it. Continue reading “Thoughts on “Arrival””
I just composed a new song for piano! It’s short, taking me only an afternoon to write, and you can listen to it here. It didn’t really come from anywhere; I just suddenly got the melody for it stuck in my head, and I thought the fast beat of it reminded me of being on a train. Plus, if you sing “I’m on a train” along with anything in the song that sounds like the first 4 notes, it kinda works.
Oh yeah, and it might be impossible to play. I realized after I was nearly finished with it that some of the lower notes are about an octave-and-a-half apart, meaning only people with freakishly large left hands can play it. But I really liked how the dissonance in some of the lower chords added emphasis, and I didn’t want to change it.
After a surprisingly quick and easy couple of months working in the observational astrophysics department of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, I’m finally done my summer project! That image above is one of the neat things the program I wrote does. The inside of the rainbow curves show where the gravity waves discovered a year ago at LIGO (gotta do a post about that) likely originated from, and the points show the locations of all the supernovae in our database within that region. Some theories predict bursts of light that look like supernovae originating from the same points as gravity waves, so if that’s the case, my program will help us narrow the search.
But now that the project is done, my master’s degree has officially begun! And along with headaches and homework comes one of the most complex problems I’ve faced yet… making friends (warning: I’m not kidding, this explanation actually involves some game theory and in-depth social structure analysis).
In the past few months, we’ve seen two startling examples of a national referendum overturning good policy choices. One is the Brexit decision, in which the popular vote of the United Kingdom, stoked by isolationist fears and falsehoods, severed the country’s beneficial ties to the European Union and plunged its people into an economic downturn. The other is the recent referendum in Columbia. Its president Juan Manuel Santos engineered a deal with communist insurgents that his government had been fighting for 50 years, a deal that had the potential to finally bring peace to war-torn areas of his country (and won him the Nobel Peace Prize) … and the people vetoed it in a national vote*. So, with another potentially cataclysmic popular vote coming up in the United States, the question is worth asking: can we trust the masses with such important decisions? Continue reading “Does Democracy Work?”
I always liked Splendor, but it’s only fairly recently that I’ve started loving it. The greatest thing about the game is that it’s fairly short and extremely simple, yet its potential for competition and strategy is as high as any other board game I’ve ever played. In fact, it’s only going to take me 3 paragraphs to explain the rules, so the rest of this post will mostly be talking about how great it is.
Quick background: I’m starting grad school in theoretical physics at the Weizmann Institute in Israel (my first time living outside the United States). The fall semester normally starts at the end of October, but I arrived in late August to do some astrophysics research beforehand in order to get out of the way the experimental work theorists are required to do, usually during the winter of their first year. When I finalized this arrangement a few months ago, I was pretty neutral about the plan. Yeah, I guess it’ll help ease me into life in Israel before the real hard work starts, and I’ll be able to visit home in the winter instead of being stuck in Israel doing research. But it also means the experimental work will take a bit longer, and I became a theorist to avoid that.
Now that the semester is nearly upon me, I realize that being neutral about this plan was completely wrong. It was a fucking amazing idea. I am having such a great time right now. Continue reading “Blupdate #11: Pretty Much a Vacation”
I was in my university’s congressional debate team for a year (we’d sort of pretend we were legislators, and we’d draft bills and vote on them), and during one particular tournament I had a pretty scary experience. My team had written up a monster of a bill, page after page of education reform. When we had drafted it there was a lot that I had agreed with, but there was one issue I couldn’t get past: we had proposed additional mandatory testing at all age levels. I had read the articles that showed that we were already testing too much, and it was imposing burdens on students without much tangible benefit. The way it works is that I had to argue in favor of the bill, but could vote however I chose. I argued as hard as I could, despite my actual feelings about the bill. I voiced every logical point I could think of, and at the end, when we voted… I found myself raising my hand in support. Continue reading “I Changed My Mind”
It’s been almost 3 weeks since I traveled from the United States to Israel to do some preliminary research before the start of my Master’s Degree. Too much has happened for me to include everything, so I’ll stick to the important things. And I guess a bunch of unimportant things like cats. Continue reading “Blupdate #10: The First Weeks”