For the last few days the media in New York have been filled with continuous frantic warnings of the deadly storm of the century bearing down on the city. Grocery stores have been emptied, with long lines of desperate people trying to stock up on supplies.
Midday yesterday Columbia announced that classes were canceled starting at 3pm, Barnard went one hour better, canceling classes starting at 2pm. The city announced that it would be illegal to be in the parks after 6pm (a snow-covered branch might fall on you), the transit system would start shutting down at 7pm and by 11pm there would be no public transit, and all roadways in the entire tri-state area would be closed to non-emergency traffic. The mayor’s office warned people not to try and order takeout delivery since it would be illegal for the delivery people to travel on the streets to deliver it.
By late afternoon the university was deserted, and stores on Broadway had signs announcing early closing due to the impending disaster. Weather reports the day before had said the storm would start at 1pm Monday, but by early evening there hadn’t been much more than snow flurries, with maybe an inch or two total accumulation. When I went to sleep around midnight, the city was completely locked down, with the TV news channels filled with blaring warnings of the two to three feet of snow about to arrive, interspersed with press conferences from public officials telling people to barricade themselves in their homes and not go outside.
The strange thing about this was that if you actually looked at the weather report, they were now forecasting 3-5 inches of snow overnight. Waking up in the morning and looking out the window, all that was visible were more flurries, and a total accumulation of 2-3 inches, with the streets clear. Turning on the TV news, the huge “Blizzard of 2015” logos were still up, and camera crews seem to have been sent out to search the region (mostly unsuccessfully) for a snow drift to put a reporter in front of. The contrast between looking out the window and watching TV was pretty dramatic.
Anyway, my class today is canceled, so students will have to wait until Thursday to hear more about the mathematics of quantization of the harmonic oscillator (complex structures, squeezed states, coherent states). Lecture notes still being worked on, but this is chapter 21 of the current notes.
Columbia never used to shut down at all, New York City never used to shut down the transit system, and the states never used to shut down all roadways. Until the past decade or so people tried to go about their business here in the winter, taking action to shut things down only once snow had arrived and was causing a problem. The US has now become a nation of hysterics, with media-driven hype frightening everyone about everything, and public officials desperately taking action to protect the citizenry from imaginary threats.
Luckily for us all, people cowering in their homes do have the internet and can still learn quantum mechanics. MIT has just announced that edX will have an online version of their quantum course, Mastering Quantum Mechanics, which looks quite good and will start February 10. The instructor will be Barton Zwiebach, and I’m glad to see that one of the topics covered will be squeezed and coherent states of the harmonic oscillator.
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