All laws strictly enforced

It's only one day left to Halloween - that's like no day left, therefore as the average, Halloween loving person you go to a supermarket and get everything containing the word "Halloween", "autumn" and especially today "50% off!". Nearly all costumes were gone today (and K-Mart, which is a store for everything but not fresh food here, dedicated about five lines for Halloween costumes!).

When I biked away from the grocery shopping area (of course equipped for Halloween) this inviting sign greeted me about a mile away from campus:

Thus, watch out. Isla Vista (the student town close to campus) is just about a mile away! My post yesterday about the fence surrounding the graduate student houses has to be corrected: There are two fences guarding us! The one, on the photo from yesterday, and another one in the middle of the street, which separates Isla Vista and the graduate student housing.


We're fenced in

As I got up in the morning to go to the rowing session at 6:15 am, I was confronted with a new obstacle: THE fence around San Clemente, the apartment complex in which the graduate students live. It's about 2.00 m high and very long (it's basically surrounding all houses, so maybe up to 2 km).

The reason is, that we've got less than 100 h left to count down for Halloween! We are told to "keep it safe, keep it local". (We are told not to freak out, but somehow this fence and many, many police officers from all over the US make me a tiny little bit nervous...)

There's a video how to keep it safe and local:

In Germany, there was a wall, but now, here's a fence.



After rowing and playing soccer yesterday (12 h is for sure enough time for rest for your body ;)), I was very productive today and improved the plot I posted yesterday a lot! Now the parts I plot are equally long (if they are on the same half of the cell I analyze), the background noise is the same for all and even a factor of pi found the right way into my integral :-)

But don't worry, this took a lot of time. But it's great and fun and the codes will be useful for other cells as well!


It's worth coding six weeks

Since some time I work on the image processing of fluorescent images of embryonic sea urchin cells during their first division cycles. Sounds dry? It's amazing! You see actual cells and some fascinating details with fluorescent microscopy (e. g. the two new nuclei forming!).

 Intensities of a symmetric cell shape after dividing into four quarters. (I can't display all the data, sorry, it's not public.)

We focus on the actin concentration during the division since actin is one of the most important structural proteins in the cell membrane. Knowing, where actin is, might shed light on a higher activity and forces which are responsible for the shape the cell has.

In other words: Hold a elastic ball or maybe even better a piece of putt and form a sphere. Now try to push it in the middle and get two approximately spherical pieces out of it. And that's what's happening in the cell, but there are no mini-fingers pushing anything, the cell does it itself... over and over again!

Today I processed an image which resulted in the intensity plots in the image up there. It might look very unspectacular, but it took some time and effort to track the right points. After processing more images we might be able to make a general statement - and publish a paper! Only the image processing (getting the cell membrane coordinates) might be worth one :-)


Rowing training

It's Friday morning, 06:15 am, and we start the rowing training: Running stairs in the university's stadium up and down with a partner! It's still dark when we're starting, but it's getting lighter and usually we are rewarded with a wonderful sun rise! Here's a short video of the training session last Friday:


Christmas is tomorrow

It feels like Halloween is today and Christmas is tomorrow. And then already close to Christmas Eve we should be prepared for New Year's Eve.

Hamburgers and popcorn for Christmas trees.

Looking at a calendar helped me to get the events in a more sensibly timed way. But even today there were already more officers around then usual: Some of them were even riding horses. The cause of this increase in surveillance is Halloween and it is accompanied by a huge fence around the graduate housing structure, including highly limited parking and a non-visitor-policy (nobody else then the residents are allowed to stay overnight). Post will be delayed during this time. This is all part of keeping everybody save during the Halloween weekend as we were told. On the Sunday morning after Halloween there'll be a voluntary cleaning and if you belong to the first fifty people joining in you get a free "halloClean" shirt! :-)

And don't forget to buy Christmas presents! There's already a lot of Christmas tree stuff out, but maybe that's a continuous business ;)



On Tuesday I presented the research from my Bachelor's thesis and everything worked well! (After the projector decided against giving the presentation a strong yellow touch...)

During preparation time for the talk I didn't go rowing so I had to get rid of all my chocolate-I-can-make-the-talk-motivation-calories in some other way, which turned out to be indoor-soccer in the evening. It's really important to register until a certain date if you want to play during a certain session, be on a sports club or the like and this Tuesday was the last possible date. I got there and it was absolutely great - and exhausting (I haven't played soccer for quite a few years).

Right now, I don't have a soccer styled image, but Santa Barbara in the morning.

I often thought that baseball, basketball, hockey etc. are more popular in the US, but around here, soccer is a huge deal. The UCSB men soccer team is very successful which catalyzes this effect.

The match on Tuesday was "just" intra-mural and for no greater competition. The teams name is "Soccer Heroes" which caused the post title.
However, there's a quote for girls and if you drop below three girls on the field, your team has lost. Only three girls were left at half time, so we played during the entire match... But without us, we'd have lost ;-) (and by the way: we won!)


Sports clearance

To be allowed to participate in club sports on campus everybody has to pass an physician's examination. I had got my appointment today and I (tada!) passed. (No worries, you're not asked for the Latin names of your forearm ;)) But I had to do several stretches and move my hands and my head in various directions. In some way that looked so funny, that I actually started laughing (and I was so glad that the physician laughed as well!).

Health Center Website.

But, what's in general different: The clearance is covered by the insurance every student has to have around here (about 2000 $ / year!). You can book an appointment online and get an e-mail and a text message reminder a day / an hour before your appointment starts. That's very useful because an missed appointment will cost you about 50$.
Once you've arrived on time, you check in 15 minutes early and you wait for this very exact time until you're called into a room, any examination or whatever is done, and you usually don't need the time your appointment is supposed to last (e.g. today I was done after 10 out of 15 minutes). In Germany I experienced a waiting time of up to an hour or even longer, even if I had a scheduled appointment..."German efficiency" ;-)


Physics is amazing!

And again I realized how wonderful physics is. In condensed matter theory we talked about graphene and the different band structures which develop, how we can describe a one-dimensional layer and a two-dimensional one. Well, the 2d-model is the homework and you get a nice four-band-structure plot :-)

Upper and lower electron bands (in momentum space) in graphene, touching at an infinitesimally small point.

Yes, what am I talking about... You can imagine a band for an electron as the orbit around an atom where the electron is approximately located. Electrons have got very special properties and two electrons with exactly the same properties should not be at the same place (Pauli's principle), for example, so you have to be careful with the calculation. Anyway, there's a point where the band structure of the upper layer of graphene touches the lower one, and that's what people call the Dirac fermion. Thus, with some tricks you can get an electron hopping to the other layer :-) That's cool and you can calculate it!

Boat house reward

"You're crazy!"
"I know, that's right!"

People think I'm crazy when I tell them about the time commitment and the actual practice times in rowing, that's Monday to Friday 06:15-07:45 am. Today's Saturday and we met again at 06:15 am to go to the boat house which is at Cachuma Lake where I'd been hiking before! Also, parts of the drinking water for Santa Barbara come from there. There are quite a few boats, e.g. the tips of some of them here:

All the names are either connected with a person affiliated with rowing or to some story or both. We didn't go rowing today, but there'll be more Saturday practice, yess! (To be honest, my muscles have been sore for nearly two weeks now; thus, the boat house trip was a reward and less exhausting. But professional rowers get sore muscles as well, there's now way around it ;))


Gone with the lightning

The sky yesterday was slightly cloudy. In the early evening the school's soccer team started their training just next to the apartment complex as usual. But then... there was this tremendous, never-heard-before sound of thunder! It developed into one of the loudest thunderstorms I ever stayed in. The soccer people were tough until the rain was so heavy that the field was turned into a slum hole and the lightning got close. Did I say rain? There was even hail around! After about half an hour everything it was over.

But just imagine! A strong thunderstorm here, in paradise! In Southern California! It didn't happen for years, I was told.

During the storm the lights went off for about five seconds - I was so glad that they just went on again. But when I got up early in the morning (for rowing ;)) there was no electricity and we started training in the dark. Even at work at about 8 am, the computers etc. didn't work. Fortunately, this was a shut-down on purpose so all cables were fixed, and there was an emergency supply in between, but this all happened "just" because there was a short thunderstorm!


A not trivial matter

I've worked for about a month on the same image processing problem. And I feel that's a very long time. Of course, most people take about 5 years to do their PhD, but one month for a few images...

 The outline we want to detect from a fluorescent image.
... and then my supervisor talked to the experts in image processing on campus. And if you want to find a circle in an image, that would be easy, they said, but our shape would be "not trivial" which is great!!! What a relief that I am not stuck on adding one to one! Apparently, even entire PhD theses consist of image processing programs and there's a lot of software just for image processing.

In brief, my actual problem: There's some slightly noisy data, so if you see the image with your eyes, you think, hey, that's easy, the outline of this cute sea urchin is here, here and there, looking like the bisection of an apple. And then the reproducibility knocked on the door accompanied by the time you need to process quite a few images and they are friends of the common ghost called objectivity and you had to write a program.

The challenging point is the varying intensity of the image. In the middle part it gets nearly lost, but the outer part is bright and clear. By thresholding you get an image which only contains the outline, but the inside is relevant as well. So you adjust the threshold, get the inner part and lose the outline to noise... yay. And so on ;) But now it's solved!!

Where the image comes from? Actin is stained with a fluorescent dye and we want to observe the actin activity of sea urchin embryos during cell division :) But that's worth another post, sorry! ;)


Physics' Advent Calendar

Sorry for all those beachy pictures and the stories about 30°C ;) Here's something different:
The Physics Advent Calendar (Physik im Advent, PiA)!

... which has started with it's first advertising video which includes the person writing this blog ;):

PiA consists of a daily experiment from the 1st to the 24th December and it's fun! Students of all ages can participate in a competition and even entire departments in companies conduct the experiments, just for fun! Try it, it's great!

Beach nr. 2

When you walk down the main campus, there's this amazing beach and coast I wrote about before, but if you go down, away from downtown, to the western end, this wonderful beach continues!

And it's a nice break between homework and research (takes about half an hour :)). But it's still unbelievable warm, about 31°C! I have to adjust to this warm "winter" - I usually think of gingerbread, cold and rainy weather and Christmas stuff all around. Now only the Christmas stuff is left. However, in the buildings on campus the true winter feeling comes back, because the air conditioning is so strong, that I take a woolen jumper for lectures and for working in my office.


What I continue doing all the time...

Yesterday evening I went to the weekly "impro-show" by the UCSB improvisation theater group "Improvability". It was great! (And loud, people were cheering all the time) And I didn't know that the actors were standing at the exit after the performance saying goodbye to everyone and giving a high-five.

 Improvability's poster last night.

The show was a quite a change to the work I had done during the day which was coding. I try to fit a certain shape to an image with Matlab, which is a computer program which calculates everything with matrices (hence the name, matrix laboratory).

The greatest problem is, that we can't give the shape to the program and say "hey, you'll find that!", because the intensity of the shape's outline changes. And there is of course the huge problem of noisy data in a microscope image. After all, the results have to be reproducible and the algorithms should work for other images as well. That's a challenge, but I really like it! You know the feeling when you're standing at the top of the mountain? ;)


Water bottles

As there is a website for everything, a facebook group for everybody - there's a water bottle, for sure! I got one at the "International Students Orientation Event" (in addition to a bag) which turned out to be very useful since I was living on normal plastic bottles I had bought in a supermarket.

As far as I can remember, most people in Germany carry "normal" water bottles as the supermarket ones, but at a meeting here you see all kinds of water bottles with slogans, advertisement by the local newspaper or whatever. The grass gets a colorful touch when we put our bottles down during training since some of them are bright pink, blue, yellow ... - very clear to see.

Thus, after your smart phone, there's the water bottle! (But maybe that's mostly in California the case since it's a "bit" more dry...)


Sunset 2.0

After a rainy Sunday day time the sun won in the evening and the pictures were wonderful! (Some people or a sea gull showed up, just when it fits in ;))

For more photos...


The impossible happened

It rained!

Actual water came down from the sky... and the rain lasted not only for five minutes, but for about three hours!! This is impossible. I should get new glasses. And an umbrella, a rain coat, more jumpers, fenders (Schutzbleche) for my bike, ... I have to rethink my life style.

But yesterday I learned that the drought which has been around here for about two years has to have a break; on the hike we saw a lot of not-super-green plants. And any uncomfortable weather outside makes it much more comfortable inside :-) Again, after about three hours many clouds are gone and the sun is drying everything.


Cachuma Lake

One of the Santa Barbara's water reservoirs is the Cachuma Lake, located about 25 miles North of SB. Some time ago nobody was allowed to swim in the lake or do any kind of water sports, but now even the UCSB rowing team (the Crew) goes there for regular practice.

Today we went there for a hike which started at a camp and then went up to one of the mountains to enjoy the view on the lake and also on the coast on the other side.


Nitrogen ice cream unites the world

In Göttingen the Students' council (Fachschaftsrat, zumindest so ungefähr) organizes a summer party (Sommerfest) in the afternoon with music, a volley ball match, some fun challenges aaaaand - strawberry liquid-nitrogen-ice-cream. It's spectacular to see how it's made and some people only come to see how it's working and go off without any ice-cream!

And today the very same "experiment" with the same fascination was conducted about 800 miles away here in Santa Barbara. The physics (and the fascination for physics ;-)) is everywhere the same.

We hadn't got strawberries, but some chocolate chips, and the entire event was running parallel to the "h-bar"-hour (we can't call it "happy hour"...). The  h-bar-hour is every Friday at 5 pm and the older years are basically visiting the younger ones in their office trailer and hang out. We should definitely ship that one to Europe :-)