Back in the US!

I suppose this is the last of my sabbatical journal entries on this blog.  We are back in the US after my wonderful sabbatical year at the University of Sheffield.  The last week in Sheffield was a lot of fun.  My daughters were out of school and got to spend time with their friends.  Both my girls made me proud, not only with their schoolwork, but with their ability to acclimate themselves to living in Europe for a year.  They missed their Virginia friends and will be glad to see them in a few days, but they made good friends in Sheffield that they’ll surely miss in the coming weeks.

My research work advanced significantly during my sabbatical.  I learned a great deal about friction, especially the interaction between rubber treads and hard courts.  Teaming up with colleagues in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield gave me the opportunity to further my understanding of friction and publish our novel studies.  We still have more work to do!  Working with Matt Carré during my two sabbatical years has been a joy.  I can’t recommend highly enough collaborating with someone outside your area of expertise.  My approach is that of a physicist; Matt’s is that of an engineer.  Our different ways of seeing problems and tackling solutions led to very fruitful research efforts.  Working with his students and postdocs was rewarding, too.  Young and fresh eyes view problems in interesting ways, and I don’t mind learning from someone half my age.  Advancing scientific understanding isn’t about ego; it’s about pursuing what is true about the universe.

I also enjoyed new collaborations with a couple of engineers at Sheffield Hallam University.  Simon Choppin and John Kelley gave me new ways of looking at trajectory analysis when studying the flight of soccer balls.  I again benefited from engineering eyes looking at a problem I was used to seeing with a physicist’s eyes.  And of course I continued working with my Japanese colleagues, Takeshi Asai and Sungchan Hong, at the University of Tsukuba.  We continued to combine my trajectory analysis and computational skills with their engineering and wind-tunnel skills to further what we know about soccer ball aerodynamics.  Working with engineers has helped my career more than I can describe here.

Equally important to me are my collaborations with Lynchburg College physics students.  Chad Hobson has made significant contributions to my soccer aerodynamics and Tour de France research.  Chad and I presented some of our work at ISEA 2016 in Delft, the Netherlands.  I am always looking for good physics students to research with me.  If you are a prospective student looking to contribute to sports physics, come to Lynchburg College and work with me!

There are many things I will miss about living in Sheffield.  I’ll miss not having a car and using public transportation to get everywhere.  I’ll miss my gym at Ponds Forge, which I hit six days in a row before we left Sheffield.  My family will miss the cute neighborhood we lived in where every kind of shop one could want was in short walking distance.  We’ll all miss Endcliffe Park and the walking trails, playground, and ducks there.  I’ll miss the chance to walk across the street to the Lescar for a pint.  I’ll miss living in a place where guns aren’t allowed — for sure.  And of course I’ll miss the Peak District, which is one of my favorite places on Earth.  We made one last visit to the Peak District the day before we left England and had to stop at the Fox House, one of our favorite Peak District pubs.

Before touching down in the US, we stopped for a few days in Iceland.  We stayed in Keflavík, which is a lovely little town on the water in the southwestern part of the country.  Visiting the Blue Lagoon was a must, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there.  I had never been to a geothermal spa before and that one will be tough to beat!  The day after we were at the Blue Lagoon, we rented a car and explored the southwestern part of Iceland.  It was like driving on the set of a science fiction movie.  That is one interesting country to look at!  We stopped first at Gullfoss, a truly beautiful waterfall (click on the image for a larger view).

I took that photo on Wednesday, 27 July 2016.  Was that just two days ago?!?  Our second stop was to see Strokkur.  I shot a movie of the geyser doing a double belch (as I called it!).

Our third and final stop was Þingvellir, a meeting place for the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  Two plates are separating, but I thought I would help (click on the image for a larger view).

My arms might need to be a little longer!  We certainly enjoyed ourselves in Iceland and we want to go back so that we can explore some more.  But when?

As I wrote to start this post, my sabbatical journal writing ends now with the end of my sabbatical.  I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to interact with people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds.  My wonderful wife introduced me to that concept on a trip to Japan we took in the summer of 2001.  She has been helping me appreciate that concept ever since.  And she makes all of our travel seem effortless and smooth.  I’ll be back at work in my Lynchburg College office on Monday, 1 August 2016.  Waiting for me is research work from Sheffield and a pile of work related to the upcoming fall semester.  But I’ve got another year of wonderful memories dancing around in my head!

I am Professor of Physics at Lynchburg College and author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports.

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