Essays are wonderful, and simultaneously very difficult to write, for the same reason: one can write about anything, but not everything. There is freedom in the abscence of plot, story or characters one has to keep track of in fictitious story, but with this freedom all the distractions and decorations are stripped off as well. The essay should explore one topic or thought to the furthest extent and stay as sharp and concise as possible.

This brings me to the point: writing a good essay is very hard and takes a crystal clear understanding of the subject along with writing skills. And reading one is a delight and an intellectual challenge. If you have any good essays on your mind, ideally on the topics of science and technology, but other domains will do as well - please tag me. In return I suggest you “Cinque scritti morali”, or “Five Moral Pieces” as an entertaining read, by Umberto Eco.

It was a difficult day, but way easier than yesterday. Now I’d like to write something since there is like 15 minutes I have before the class starts.

Will caffeine become the next nicotine? Think about it carefully: it is a well-selling stimulant that has grown very fashionable and popular over the last few decades. It has mild effects, causes dependency and associates strongly with success and productivity, much like smoking cigarettes was advertised as something correlated with wealth.

From the physiological, or rather biochemical point of view, the effects of both coffee and smoking are mild. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels and brings blood pressure up a notch, while caffeine gives some sharpness and speeds the heart rate up. And they are both addictive: nicotine interferes with your breathing and emotion regulation systems, while caffeine screws up the circadian cycle. One could argue that caffeine withdrawal is generally less severe, but it doesn’t mean caffeine is not harmful in the long run.

It is not data but an anecdote, of course: I have recently stopped drinking coffee and noticed how it actually affects me. Spoiler alert, it’s very unpleasant, especially if I haven’t had any protein- or fat-rich food beforehand, and seeing coffee being so heavily marketed lead me to these thoughts.

Productivity tip: Assume everyone is an idiot.

inb4 yea you are probably an idiot as well, but at least you can effect that.

2021-03-26, 19:05, Friday

I promised a few paragraphs about x-ray diffraction, so here it goes. This is mostly unedited because I’m tired and lazy.

Basically, light has a property to undergo what’s called diffraction: shine a laser beam on a grated piece of plastic and beam will split into an uneven number of new beams. Using this pattern and some trigonometry you can calculate the wavelength of light if you know how fine the grating is and the angle between beams. This works only when wavelength is a few times smaller than the grating size.

Now, the important bit is that atoms in crystal sort of work like grating. Light reflects from different layers of atoms differently and this forms the same diffraction pattern. Since the distance between atomic layers determines the structure of the crystal, we can now measure it using light and some math called Bragg’s law. The only thing we need is a light source with fixed, well-known and very small wavelength. Now, the “grating” in our case is approximately 2-4*10^-10 m, or 2-5 angstrem.

Conveniently, metallic anode, when put in a vacuum and under high voltage, emits high energy photones, generally of a fixed wavelength, corresponding to the valent electron’s excited state. And if we use copper, this wavelength is roughly 1.51 angstrem, which is about what we need.

Now that all elements are in place, we just need to build a complex machinery that will hold our sample, put a piece of copper under a few kilovolts, cool it down simultaneously, while also rotating a detector to capture light intensities under a range of angles. Different lattices will give different diffraction patterns, and one can be calculated from another.

And this is more or less how x-ray diffraction works.

2021-03-25, 20:35, Thursday

I am slightly behind on my studying. Still managed to write a piece on XRD, I’ll proofread it and post either here or in the blog. We’ll see how it goes.

I am also kinda fascinated by the quantum physics and ab initio approach, so maybe something will come up about this. Not quite sure.

2021-03-24, 15:30, Wednesday

One thousand words per day turned out to be a doable task. In two sittings, and this is a zero draft, but you have to start somewhere.

Now I need to prepare for a test on crystall chemistry. It is a surprisingly difficult subject that requires very few math and a lot of imagination and logic. I might do a short post here explaining some basic concepts once I’m done with the test.

Come to think of it, at this point most of the science I learn looks like some perverted wizardry. Let’s shine some light onto a powder, look at how it is reflected and compute it’s atomic structure from the result, huh. But the visible light’s wavelength is too big so let’s take a piece of copper and put it under a few megavolts, this should do the trick. It sounds like random bullshit but it is actually the way XRD works.

2021-03-22, 19:40, Monday

Stephen King writes around two thousand “decent” words per day. I tend to land around 500 words of the first draft, and even this is a challenge. There is a long road to go down and I finally feel like having enough persistence.

2021-03-21, 19:00, Sunday

Well, I managed to write some notes on the classes I skipped this week. There is a lot more left but I’ll manage to catch up in a few days, I believe.

Quantum mechanics (and solid state physics in general) is sure fun, but I feel like our professor spends a bit too much time talking and to few time teaching. I watch recordings with doubled speed and take notes like that, without any issues.

2021-03-20, 14:35, Saturday

The “not too bad” part turned out to be false, I’m still a miserable wreck and the headache subsided only this morning. I managed to study for half an hour before it kicked in again, rendering me useless.

I’m now in my chair, drinking freshly brewed cocoa, trying to get some rest.

2021-03-18, 08:50, Thursday

So I caught a cold. It’s not too bad but I’m still out of the game for a few days. That sucks.

2021-03-17, 08:47, Wednesday

Yesterday I was on “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” in actual cinema and here are some thoughts on it.

A documentary film about life or rather performances of Billie Eilish. It shows the process of song writing with Billie’s brother, Finneas, and tours, and some of the struggles. There are some things that impressed me and that I’d like to mention.

  • She is 19 this year and got popular 3 years ago, I couldn’t pull that off in my 16 or even now.
  • Her parents are a huge part of the success and even survival. They both played music for her and her brother, they taught them and encouraged them. In a sense, I would not like to be Billie Eilish, but I would like to someday be as good as a parent.
  • If you have ever seen the videos of her jumping during “bad guy” - she spained an ankle at one of them, had fairly severe complications because of it and kept going, along the lines of “the worst thing isn’t not giving the show, the worst thing is giving a crappy one”.
  • Pet spider! So cute.
  • She writes songs with Finneas, her brother. By the way, he has a music project of his own called “FINNEAS”, as opposed to “billie eilish”. Worth checking out.
  • Popcorn in movies is sooo overpridced these days. Buying some snacks in advance was the best financial decision of the year, honestly.

2021-03-16, 12:23, Tuesday

New diary entry I decided to publish. There is no storyline, just a sketchy piece I put together in the evening and felt like sharing.

2021-03-16, 10:20, Tuesday

So I had an anxiety attack last night. Managed to get some sleep, but clearly not enough. Trying to relax and do some errands like pruning my houseplants and organizing drawers. Come to think of it, I might get a bonsai…

Anyhow, the name of the game is taking advantage of the situation. I now have a uniqye opportunity to watch all of my classes recorded from zoom, and that’s why I can relax now for a bit and catch up later. Gotta write some of that novel now.

2021-03-15, 08:00, Monday

Today I’ll need to somehow juggle tensor analysis, English classes and creative writing, along with some homework. That’s gonna be tough.

2021-03-14, 16:45, Sunday

You know what would be cool? If governments or political parties flexed not just their programs and ideologies, but their resources in terms of mathematicians and supercomputers. Hey, we can run these supercomplex simulations instead of blindly picking whatever looks like a decent option! Would save some trouble for average folk that faces the consequences of the decisions made by politics. Not a solution to all the problems, but it would be nice.

2021-03-14, 09:27, Sunday

It’s going to be a tough day. I wrote some notes and lectures are quickly becoming useless at this point. I need a decent textbook on solid state quantum physics and a few hours of solitude to actually dig into this stuff. I hope to manage a couple diary entries next week and expect some progress on the novel. Google says novels are generally over 50k words and I’m somewhere around 4k now. A long way to go.

2021-03-13, 12:26, Saturday

I thought it would be nice to share my writing setup. I use three different devices:

  • windows pc;
  • linux (debian based pop_os+xmonad on top) laptop;
  • honor phone with stock android.

The right way to do things, as we all know, is to use plain text files, markdownin my case. It plays nicely with cross-platform obsidian for linux and windows, and for phone app called “markor” works quite well, it is also able to handle “todo.txt” files. To sync stuff I use syncthing. The entire setup is basically one folder full of text files where I put new stuff as I go. There are also a bunch of plugins for obsidian but I am yet to discover those.

Additionally, if you get bored with gui, there is no reason to not use any other editor live vim or emacs, even if links break you can always search in the directory.

2021-03-13, 09:26, Saturday

Taking a break. Gonna work on my novel, I guess. I want to get it to 4k words in a weekend at least. Which is double what I have now.

2021-03-12, 08:43

Right, forgot an important thing. I’m on my third day without caffeine (not counting tea, but I need to drink something hot). I feel slightly less alert in the mornings, sleep better, way less jittery and anxious. I do miss the taste though. Not quite sure if the tradeoff is worth it, but it’s good to have some stability for once.

An important feature is pain tolerance. When I have caffeine in my system it gets harder to tolerate pain, especially sharp one. And I get injections for avitaminosis every second Sunday, so it makes sense to keep this “fast” going for at least another few days.

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2021-03-12, 08:17, Friday

Weather swings are a lot like mood swings, but it’s not just your mind gets stained; your boots and pants do too. I am now looking at my shoes covered in mud and contemplating my life choices while the train gets me to university.

On a serious note, I am weather-sensitive and get severe mindfog along with a headache whenever temperature rises significantly. This is very annoying since I’m Moscow these “jumps” are common.

I could probably write something else but I haven’t written anything for my projects yet and it’s half past nine. So I’ll leave it for another time.

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