Tim Burns

Tim Burns

Course: DPhil Physics - Second Year (postgraduate three/four-year course)
From: Australia - University of New South Wales
Living in: Main College (Ship Street)

Sunday: In Oxford, Sunday is the first day of the week. In Oxford, one normally starts one's week wearing a suit of some description: for a Ball, say, or dinner at the High Table (to which I'm entitled once a week by virtue of my scholarship). Tonight I attend a free classical concert in Balliol College Hall (it's dark and beautiful and you're allowed to lie on the tables and take off your shoes, so I love it). Technically the start of the week is Sunday morning, and I normally spend that time sleeping. I often have brunch in the Middle Common Room, and I never eat the pork pies (a strict "no pork pie" policy).

Monday 9.30 am: Go into my Physics office, check email, check Internet for any new articles of theoretical physics that are of interest to me. Try to remember what I was doing the previous Friday. 11.30 am: Tea with my supervisor and chat about my work, or anything new happening in the physics world, or George W Bush. Tea is provided, and although I can afford the 15p, I tend to make my own. I have quite a selection of different herbal teas upstairs in my office (my third home, besides my room in Ship Street and the Middle Common Room). 12.45 pm: "Meet the committee" lunch in the College. 2.00 pm: Buy Karaoke DVDs for the MCR Bunker. Back to office.

Tuesday: If you thought I didn't do much work on Monday, it's just because I didn't write about it, because I was too busy working. Someone or other, a long time ago, was convinced of the existence of the Devil because of the perversity of inanimate objects. Well I don't believe in the Devil, but I do believe in quantum chromodynamics, and if you believe in that, you'll know that there is nothing perverse, or even inanimate, about "inanimate objects": there's a lot going on if you zoom in, and it's not perverse: it's beautiful. It's a beautiful theory, and I love it. Unfortunately, no one can yet solve the theory, so we use an approximate model, and that is what I work on: the quark model (10.00 am - 6.00 pm).

Wednesday 10.00 am: In office, shoes off, drinking ginger tea, munching nuts, drawing diagrams on the chalk board, translating them into formulae, trying to solve them; enjoying the dustiness of my hands and traces of chalk on my clothes; enjoying the fact that my work requires no more than chalk or a big fat pencil and paper; enjoying the fact that my field has terms such as "colour", "flavour", "charm" and "hermaphrodite" (the last was invented by my supervisor). 6.00 pm: Burst out of the department: sky is very bright blue, and the days are getting longer fast. I suddenly understand what I've been working on all day much better than before (this often happens). 8.30 pm: See Uri Geller bend spoons at the Oxford Union. 10.45 pm: Home to Ship Street (most romantic street in Oxford). Play guitar in preparation for Arty Farty Society meeting.

Thursday 11.15 am: Say hello to Dick Dalitz, one of the fathers of the quark model, who works in the office below me. 1.00 pm: Attend journal club where we talk about new papers in particle physics. Note quote from astroparticle physicist: "it would be a very appealing idea, except that it is wrong". Academics are entertaining and they lead a nice life: I hope to be one eventually. 6.30 pm: Exchange dinner with Exeter College: recognise many people from previous social events (this often happens). 6.45 pm: Sherry. 7.15 pm: Dinner with wine. 8.15 pm - bedtime: Port, socialising (this often happens).

Friday 11.00 am: Attend seminar entitled "Superstrings", a talk about various topics in physics, augmented by Bach played on an "Ex-Wilhelmj" Guadagnini violin dated 1785. I think: "only in Oxford" (this often happens). 2.00 pm: Portuguese office partner makes bad puns. 2.15 pm: Japanese office partner confesses he dreams of living like a hermit and calculating all day long. This wouldn't work in Oxford: you'd miss too much. 8.00 pm: Drink Guinness in Jesus College Bar. 11.30 pm: Watch Turl Street Dash (annual cycling race for drunk people). Jesus wins (this often happens). Go to Arabic party.

Saturday: Sleep in late. Do no physics. Have a lot of fun.