I made a quick visit to Cambridge University, to deliver a talk in the Computer Science department and to visit colleagues there and at the neighboring Nokia Labs. The schedule allowed me a little time to wander the courtyards of Jesus College, where I had spent the night, and its beautiful chapel – the oldest building still in use at Cambridge. (Astonishing, in this 250th year of Dartmouth College, to visit a university that was already five hundred and fifty years old when Dartmouth was founded.)
I decided to walk from there to the distant CS building, through the streets of Cambridge. (Sadly, most of the historic campus exists in walled compounds, like Jesus College, only open to members of the university.)
It was fascinating to walk along streets named after famous scientists, or for that matter, through the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematics. (Not far from the Bill Gates CS building or the Gordon Moore library, actually.) Lovely day!
A visit to Bletchley Park, the fascinating location where the British cracked the Enigma cypher during WWII.
Every computer scientist must visit Bletchley Park! And, for that matter, anyone interested in computing history, spycraft, or World War II. While on a short trip to London, we spent Sunday afternoon on a brief visit to this fascinating museum at the once-secret site where the British cracked the cryptographic codes of the Germans, during the war, and where, in effect, the modern computing era had its beginnings. The story was the subject of the recent movie, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. Read on, and check out the photo gallery.
When hiking in the mountains one must occasionally have faith in the weather – starting out enmeshed in dense valley fog, only to climb into a spectacular day above the clouds. This was one of those rare, magical days, when we topped a ridgeline and encountered a mountain view more spectacular than any I have seen in 45 years of hiking, with the major peaks of the Berneralps spread across the horizon above a sea of undercast clouds.Breathtaking! Read on for the full story, and be sure to check out the photo gallery.
Zürich is located right at the tip of Lake Zürich, and there are several public swimming facilities easily accessible from the tramline along the shore.
The weather here in Zürich has been exceptionally warm and pleasant for September, or so the locals tell me. This weekend had spectacular weather. On Saturday I went hiking in the Glarus region. On Sunday, Andy and I decided to take a swim in the lake. Zürich is located right at the tip of Lake Zürich, and there are several public swimming facilities easily accessible from the tramline along the shore. For an entry fee of a few francs we joined throngs of happy Swiss folks who were sunning and swimming. The Seebad Utoquai facility, not shown particularly well in this photo, was well-appointed with changing rooms, lockers, showers, and a snack bar. And (though crowded) there was space to lay out your towel and catch a few rays, to see and be seen. Our quick dive into the lake was chilly – cooler than the Connecticut River at home right now – but very pleasant. The water is deep and clear. The swim floats were packed with young folks while the older long-distance swimmers arrived from their swim across the lake. Nice spot!
The weather thus far in Switzerland has been spectacular – blue skies, warm temps, low humidity. And this day, for my first hike, the weather truly delivered in top form. I joined a group organized by D-MTEC, the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, which is the ETH department where I sit during this year in Zürich. The hike to circumnavigate a small peak named Gandstock was moderate in length and difficulty, covering 11.5 km (7.14 mi) in 4h55 at altitude ranging from 1610m (~5,280′) to 2167m (~7,110′), all of it above treeline. Check out the photo gallery, and read on beyond the break. Continue reading “Gandstock hike”
I’m just wrapping up a quick trip to London, where I attended the annual UbiComp conference. Such a treat that several of the major conferences are located in Europe this year, while I am as well.
Astonishingly, I have not been to London for more than 40 years! Hard to believe it, but my one and only prior visit was during a family trip the last time I lived in Europe. London has changed a bit since then… but I see they still have the iconic phone booths.
As I strolled by some of the major London landmarks – snapping photos of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Imperial College London – I was sad that I did not have more time to stop and explore. The conference schedule is packed with interesting talks and networking opportunities, so I’ll just have to return some other time and do the tourist thing. Fortunately, I’ll be back in two weeks for a Dartmouth event and hopefully will have more time to explore during that visit.
This morning’s view from our Zürich flat was a real treat, as the rising sun illuminated the Alps beyond the lakeside hills, before it reached the spires of the city center. I look forward to watching how this view shifts with season and light over the next 10 months.
In a fascinating NYT article this weekend, Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics, the writer expounds on the importance of research into the fundamentals of quantum mechanics. In the process he mentions two famous Zürich scientists: Einstein did his PhD work here at ETH and Schrödinger was (later) a professor next door at the University of Zürich. As a former physics major (who once thought he understood quantum mechanics), it’s pretty cool to be surrounded by such history.
Last week I visited the Computer Science department, housed in the old chemistry building. That building is even more historic, home to seven Nobel prizes in chemistry. (ETH has a total of 21 Nobel prizes to its credit, including 10 in Chemistry.)
Zürich sits at the end of a beautiful lake, aptly named Lake Zürich (Zürichsee). On this pleasant sunny Saturday evening, the lakeshore promenade is full of strolling families, wandering tourists, and romantic couples sharing a bottle of wine. Ducks and white swans paddle the clear water to see whom might toss in a breadcrumb or two. Cafés serve wurst to those who want to linger over a beer. All in all, a lovely scene. More photos at the top of the Zürich album.
Zürich is home to dozens of churches and its skyline is full of steeples. Some of them chime on the hour, or even on the quarter-hour, but what I find most curious is that some steeple bells peal at unexpected times and for extended periods. I do not yet understand when or why, but I always imagine it is celebrating something cheerful like a wedding or birth of a new baby. The bell tower prominent in the view from our open windows belongs to Liebfrauenkirche, and has a particularly large set of bells. They ring through loud and clear despite the ETH office building in the foreground.