Friday, August 19, 2011

Seven Quick Takes (v 5)

Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary.

Five days in and all's well at the new Virtuous site. We have a pretty talented group of writers, but major props should also go to the editors: Dr. Stacy Trasancos and Mr Tito Edwards. It's not easy to find and then coordinate 20+ volunteer writers, however cooperative. There's some great stuff already posted, and I'm sure that even better is yet to come. I've also contributed a couple of posts so far. One is a poem which is posted at Virtuous and also at the Nicene Guys site, and the other is a sort of "Origins Story" for myself as a member of Virtuous

Want an all-expenses-paid, one-way trip to Hell? The Aquinas and More store blog/site has some information regarding this special offer from the Department of Cosmic Justice. Of course, if you just want to go for the warmer weather, it may be better to just move to Texas: you can always change your mind once you get there.

Two things which I shouldn't attempt to do while very fatigued are reading and writing. I'm not sure whether or not I actually read the pair of chapters from City of God which I was working through last night; and the short post I made on the Nicene Guys should have more readily been a "Thirty Minute Musing" here--it's not my best work.

Last week I commended Mr John C Wright's pair of posts addressing Harry Potter, Magic, and fiction. He's now written a third post. This time he addresses the question, "What would be your response to those who say that all magic ought to be portrayed as evil or only used by characters who are stand-ins for God (Aslan) or who are agents of God (as I have seen some argue that Gandalf is)?"

We began the RCIA Inquisition--erm, I mean, "Enquiry Night"--this week, so I've now met a few of the potential new Catholics (and one old/returning one!). Having previously only worked with the University Catholic Center RCIA program, I was surprised that all of the enquirers at St Louis were either married to or dating a Catholic. Most were more interested--at least at this point--in just learning more about Catholicism, then possibly converting and possibly not. I hear that this is more the norm and the UCC the exception, though I'm actually happy to work with either. From listening to their stories, I get the impression that each one is looking for something: I hope that they find it.

I just finished reading Edgar Rice Burrough's "A Princess from Mars." I'm not planning on writing a full review here, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed it. To summarrize it in a sentence, it read like a crossover between science fiction and sword-and-sorcery fantasy (sans the sorcery). It had elements of romance, heroism, and swashbuckling adventure, and it made for some good reading while waiting for the bus.

The first part of my research involves building a Raman laser with short (<100 fs) pulses at 100 mJ energies, which will therefore operate at terawatt power levels. One of the problems I've been trying to solve is why the Raman spectrum is so unstable. Previously I had been blaming this on the instability of our pump laser's spectrum. Then I got these two shots:

Looks like I may need a new (and more complicated) model. On the bright side, I've successfully achieved pulses of duration well below 100 fs; I'm waiting on some new optics parts before I can attempt to amplify the energy much above 20 mJ (the one time I went to 120 mJ, I started burning mirrors).

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