The week following the US presidential election was weird. At any point, any conversation with any person could spontaneously collapse into commentary on the aftermath of the news from across the Atlantic. Amongst those in Cambridge to whom I spoke, there was unanimous support for Hillary Clinton; if there were any Donald Trump supporters, they were staying quiet.
But as things tend to go, life goes on. I spent much of the academic part of the week looking up what the current and historical constraints are on dark matter. The present indication is that my project will end up looking at alternate models for dark matter to try and reconcile the ongoing lack of detection (or at least, lack of detection that has the support of most physicists). I was also still attending lectures. One particular course that has struck my fancy is Symmetries, Fields and Particles. It looks in detail at the structure and composition of Lie Algebras, something which is necessary to understand and develop new theories of particle physics.
Of course, the most interesting things happen away from the day-to-day routine of working in the department. On Wednesday, a parcel from home arrived. This contained five items: one pair of cycling shoes and three shirts. The shirts were for refereeing football, to look a little more professional. The shoes were a much awaited delight. My original expectation was to get my road bike delivered when my parents visit around Christmas, but the anguish of wanting to go cycling was getting to me. So in the meantime, my plan is to use my commuting bike for exercise rides. It has the form of a race bike, but is a fair bit heavier and has mudguards, panniers and wider tyres, and so is more suited to the winter months anyway. Problem was, one needed special shoes and pedals to cycle longer distances more efficiently. That is why I had them sent over.
On my way back from picking up my shoes from the Royal Mail collection office, I stopped by a bike store to buy some new special pedals for my bike. While I was there, I also bought a winter undershirt to keep me warm. I got home eagerly, but when it came time to change over the pedals, there was a problem. First, I needed some grease to lubricate the thread of the new pedals. Lacking any, I had to go out to Halfords to get some. On my return, I encountered another problem: the pedals needed a spanner to remove them, but I only had Allen keys. That meant another trip out to Halfords. Whilst browsing the spanners, I was drawn to a toolkit which contained many additional cycling tools, some that I’d used previously and others I hadn’t. So I ended up returning home with the set, knowing that in future I’d probably end up using some of the others. While I was there, I also got myself a new Garmin GPS bike computer. This was a bit of an investment, as it was something I’d toyed with for a number of years. I ended up with it because I know that English roads are notoriously difficult to navigate on a bike. Seemingly inconspicuous lanes can go long distances out of town and are poorly signposted.
Once I made it home, and was able to remove the pedals, and was able to go out for a ride. By this time, it was dark, but I had lights. I intended to go out towards Girton and around to Chesterton, but I missed the turn-off and ended up coming back around the east side of Cambridge. It wasn’t until the weekend that I managed a full ride. On Sunday morning, I rode out to Cherry Hinton, and up over the Limekiln hill. It wasn’t hard by any standards, but it was very nice to get out in the countryside after a month in the city. Plus there were some beautiful views from the 70m elevation. I returned via Fulbourn and around the Cambridge Airport in a rather pleasant 22 km loop
The other highlight of the week was on Friday night, where I met with Annalise, Jake and Paul, all other Gates Scholars, for formal hall at Trinity College. It was a surreal experience. We had pre-dinner drinks in a small room to the side, all dressed up in gowns and formal-wear. To my delight, pre-dinner drinks included apple juice, a local variety from what I gathered. When it was time, we joined the queue of people heading into the dining hall. Immediately after I entered, I looked up to see a large portrait of King Henry VIII hanging above the fellows table. We were seated along four dimly lit tables. Some were benches; others were plastic chairs. Grace was presented in Latin, though was almost udible from where we were sat. All up, we were served three delicious courses. Our entrée was roasted tomatoes and sourdough bread, which I ate slowly and carefully, savouring every moment. Mains was pork tenderloin, with Gorgonzola sauce. A lentil and kale salad was also served in the centre of the table, which I tried, but wasn’t amazed by. The pork, on the other hand, was delicious. Which was especially good since the amount of pork in England is far greater than I normally have back home, where we eat a lot of beef instead. The fellows left before desert, to their secret room out the back. In the meantime, we were treated to a vanilla pannacotta topped with a strawberry.
After dinner, we went (briefly) to the Trinity bar, but it didn’t have quite the atmosphere that I had hoped for, so instead, Annalise showed me to the Trinity College chapel, a mastery in ecclesiastical architecture, and then returned me my spare bike lock, something that had been weighing on her mind for near on a month.
Finally, a word on football. Darwin’s MCR team (in which I play) had a bye this week. So I only had one game; refereeing a game between Trinity Hall and Cambridge University Press, hosted at the well-kept Trinity Hall sports grounds. It was a rather straightforward game, compared to some, with several goals going each way.