I arrived yesterday morning in Lisbon. I’m here to give a talk at the Instituto Superior Técnico, which is working to build up a quantum information group. On Saturday I leave for QIP’2006 in Paris, then for New York City, before returning to Waterloo. Academia is not an easy life, but I try to bear it like a soldier.
Lisbon is beautiful: sort of like San Francisco, except more so. Yesterday I hiked up to the Castelo de São Jorge, a 100% genuine castle (with turrets, a moat, etc.) that overlooks the city from a hilltop. I took lots of photos, but then lost the cable with which to upload them to my computer. Sorry!
As my host, Yasser Omar, explained to me, Portugal “missed half of the 20th century”: specifically the years 1932-1974, when it was run by a backwards dictatorship. Even today, a tradition of bureaucratic incompetence lingers on. Yasser said that when he was looking for a tenure-track physics job, he could find only one opening in the whole country — and that one was only for “geophysics or the history of physics”! (He now works in a math department.) He and like-minded academics are now doing their best to help Portugal make up for the lost time.
PS. For those Shtetl-Optimized readers who don’t know a shtetl from schmaltz (and it’s come to my attention that such exist): King Manuel I of Portugal expelled the Jews in 1497, five years after Ferdinand and Isabella expelled them from Spain. Apparently, King Manuel realized that this would devastate Portugal’s economy, so he only signed the order reluctantly, after Princess Isabel of Spain demanded he do it as a precondition of marriage (!). Portugal started readmitting Jews in the 1800’s, and eventually became a transit point for over 100,000 refugees from the Nazis. You can read more here.