Wednesday, February 24, 2016

10 Years BackRe(action)

Yes, today marks the 10th anniversary of my first post on this blog.

I started blogging while I was in Santa Barbara, in a tiny fifth-floor office that slightly swayed with the occasional Earthquakes. I meant to write about postdoc-life in California, but ended up instead writing mostly about my research interests. Because, well, that's what I'm interested in. Sorry, California.

Those were the years of the String Wars and of Black Holes at the LHC. And since my writing was on target, traffic to this blog increased rapidly -- a somewhat surprising and occasionally disturbing experience.

Over the years, I repeatedly tried to share the work of regularly feeding this blog, but noticed it's more effort trying to convince others to write than to just write myself. And no, it's not zero effort. In an attempt to improve my Germenglish, I have read Strunk's "Elements of Style" forwards and backwards, along with several books titled "Writing Well" (which were written really well!), and I hope you benefit from it. For me, the outcome has been that now I can't read my older blogposts without crying over my own clumsy writing. Also, there's link-rot. But if you have some tolerance for awkward English and missing images, there's 10 years worth of archives totalling more than 1500 entries waiting in the side-bar.

The content of this blog has slightly changed over the years. Notably, I don't share links here any more. For this, I use instead my twitter and facebook accounts, which you can follow to get reading recommendations and the briefer commentaries. But since I can't stand cluttered pages, this blog is still ad-free and I don't make money with it. So if you like my writing, please have a close look at the donate-button in the top-right corner.

In the 10 years that have passed, this blog moved with me through the time-zones, from California to Canada, from Canada to Sweden, and from Sweden eventually back to Germany. It witnessed my wedding and my pregnancy and my daughters turning from babies to toddlers to Kindergartners. And the journey goes on. As some of you know already, I'm writing a book (or at least I'm supposed to be writing a book), so stay tuned, there's more to come.

I want to thank all of you for reading along, especially the commenters. I know that some of you have been around since the first days, and you have become part of my extended family. You have taught me a lot, about life and about science and about English grammar.

A special thank you goes to those of you who have sent me donations since I put up the button a few months ago. It is a great encouragement for me to continue.


Flavio Nogueira said...

Congratulations for the 10 years of blog writing! I really enjoyed reading several of your posts. The first one I read was "Why the quark gluon plasma is a banana?", which I liked very much to the point of becoming a relatively regular reader. Glad to know you are writing a book. Looking forward to seeing it!

Phillip Helbig said...

"I meant to write about postdoc-life in California, but ended up instead writing mostly about my research interests. Because, well, that's what I'm interested in. Sorry, California."

It's easy to ignore Californian culture because there isn't any. Do you detect any
Jan And Dean influence in my songs?

---Richard Thompson [on living in California]

Yes, I coached my son's team in Los Angeles. If you have a European accent of
any description then you are the coach---you don't need any other

---Richard Thompson [on living in California]

There is more to fear from the cultural imperialism of the USA. Now a Swedish
tourist is accused of being a pedophile because he had his teenage daughter in
her nightgown on his knee. An American sister-in-law reported them to the
Californian authorities. The Swedish embassy says it may be a case of culture


CALIFORNIA magazine, in an article on "The Man Who Invented Time Travel", even
ran a photograph of me doing physics in the nude on Palomar Mountain. I was
mortified---not by the photo, but by the totally outrageous claims that I had
invented time machines and time travel.

---Kip Thorne

However, I have not heard anything that yet surpasses singing Frank Zappa's
"The Torture never Stops" to the tune of "California Girls" by the Beach

---Gary Worsham

I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.

---Dan Quayle

Waterbergs said...

Bee, what you have done is nothing short of amazing; combining scientific rigour with accessibilty and even (shock) humour (is that even legal on a science blog?) The world is an more informed and happier place because of Backreaction (I even know what that means now..) I don't quite know how you have managed to juggle your blogging with all your other responsibilities, but whatever miraculous powers you use - please keep applying them.

P aom said...

Happy birthday! :)

nemo said...

Dear Sabine,
I always read your blog and I find it very interesting and written in a wonderful way.
The humor is never lacking and the arguments are beautiful.
I'll be for sure between your first customers for the new book.
I was really hoping to read, one day, a book written from you, and so now I'm quite happy about this good news.
Have a nice day!

Noa Drake said...

Your blog is a great intersection for different realms to meet and exchange angles of approach, congratiulations Sabine. Nihil iacta est !

Uncle Al said...

Bee, you are fascinating for incrementally surmounting struggles of being and becoming. LuboŇ° is interesting for being trapped within them. California advocates replacing (unfair) personal endeavor with (universal) Federal supply. The USSR sourced Federal supply with gulags. Research as business model contains no discovery. It's easier that way.

Viam sapientia mundi, per quam pervenitur.

Charles Morrison said...

Your consistently well written blog posts are always informative and enjoyable reads. I’m not sure how you find the time but I’m glad that you do. Will look forward to more details about your upcoming book.

Shantanu said...

Sabine, congrats on complete a decade and looking forward to the next one.
I think very few blogs which started at the same time as you have survived/active

vladimirkalitvianski said...

I still do not get it. I mean, the blog title: BackRe(Action). Did you mean Bad Reaction, Black Reaction, Interaction of non interacting particles, Interaction of interacting particles or just a coffee Break?

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

Bee - congrats and may there be 10 more! I did a blog for about 6 years and the last two were difficult trying to keep content coming while not giving in to the mundane or copycat. I just wish people could understand not only the time it takes to write in depth but that it becomes draining too. That you have managed to maintain such high quality posts over so long a time span really marks your efforts as exceptional.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


"Backreaction" is the ability of a system to feed back onto itself, altering the system itself. If backreaction is strong, computations become very difficult. It's a notorious problem in General Relativity. If you put light particles in a background field, you can calculate what they do relatively easily. But once they get heavy, they start changing the background field. That's called "backreaction". You also have this in other systems. Take natural selection for example. Once a species becomes dominant and populous enough to modify the environment, it no longer simply adapts to a given environment, but you have to take into account the whole coupled system. That too, is an example for backreaction.

The way it's written is merely a nerd joke, Re(action) is the real part of the action, which you find on my blog, hahaha. Best,


Navneeth said...

Congratulations, Bee. I'm mostly a lurker-reader and occasional commentator who has enjoyed reading your posts almost since the early days when I was an undergraduate (now unwillingly participating in the corporate rat-race).

I haven't been keeping up with blogs in general for the last many months, so it comes as a pleasant surprise to know that you are writing a book. What is it about, and will it be available in English?

Looking forward to more years of BackReaction.

vladimirkalitvianski said...

Dear Sabine,

Yes, I know what backreaction means, I was just joking. My blog is about it.

Uncle Al said...
BackRe(action) "getting a device without a conventional power source to communicate" "8^>)

Tod Michael Neidt said...

Congratulations! Keep at it, I enjoy your writing.

jdhuey said...

I only recently found your blog (via Starts with a Bang), but even with a very short exposure, this blog has become one of my 'must reads'.

Kay said...

Dear Bee, it is now many years that I follow with interest your blog. I admit that what dragged me to it are 4 things:
- I'm a physicist
- I'm interested in your physics
- I lived in Germany for long time and loved it (the language as well: I still speak it)
- ....I'm a father of TWINS (same age as yours, but identical boys)! And the pictures about your pregnancy and your daughters caused a little drop into my eyes: all reminded my own experience.

Keep up with the great job of the blog and I hope to meet you soon or later somewhere.
Viele liebe Gruesse!