Chaos is a friend of mine

This blog post is brought to you courtesy of the free wifi at the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston, USA. The coffee is very good, and the muffin was good, although it did taste a bit healthy. I am in the USA for a conference and to give a seminar at Brandeis University just outside Boston. The conference was great, and I enjoyed my visit to Brandeis. It was really good to talk science both at the conference and at Brandeis.

The post title is Bob Dylan quote. Brandeis is quite a small University, so my fellow Surrey academic Wilton Catford did not know anyone there. But when I told him I was giving a seminar there, he did know one thing about Brandeis. Fifty years ago this May, Bob Dylan gave a pretty famous concert on the Brandeis campus. So at his request, I included a Bob Dylan quote in my talk title. It was kind of fun to name check Bob Dylan in front of about 30 people from Brandeis, of whom maybe 3 or 4 were born at the time of the concert, and most were students born maybe 25 or 30 years after the concert.

At conferences of course there are talks, and this week I have listened to some great talks. But a lot of science is done afterwards in the bar. You may be surprised to learn that our understanding of how calcium carbonate crystallises is very sketchy, even though crystalline calcium carbonate is pretty common. Chalk is crystalline calcium carbonate.

Over a couple of evenings and a fair few beers, a bunch of us debated the evidence and models for how calcium carbonate crystallises. I now have a much better understanding of how it might work, and I think we have kind of a consensus of what we do and don’t know. I am pretty excited about this, it is an important problem, and its great to make progress on it.