Over the five weekdays during my time in Denmark, I was attending the Dark Matter, Neutrinos and their Connections (DAνCo) conference. It was being hosted at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. The University was about a 25 minute walk from the AirBnB that I was staying at, so my morning routine consisted of getting ready to go and then walking across to the conference venue, stopping at a bakery in a shopping centre to get some breakfast.
On the first day of the conference, I met Andre, one of my good friends from back home in Adelaide who was also attending the conference, and Ankit, another colleague from Adelaide who was the year above me during my undergraduate. I hadn’t seen any of my physics friends from Adelaide since I had been in Cambridge, so there was a lot to catch up on between us. We spent a lot of the conference time together, and it was really refreshing to see a familiar face from home. I told them about my new life in Cambridge; Andre updated me on all of the latest Star Wars fan theories, the old dungeons and dragons campaign that I had left behind, and other gossip and stories from the last year in Adelaide.
The conference was a mixture of 45 minute plenaries in the main hall or 20 minute parallel sessions. Half of the talks were on dark matter physics, which interested me more than the other half, which were on neutrino physics. Of the dark matter talks, half were reporting null results or proposing new experimental techniques, which while interesting did get a bit repetitive after a time. The other half were the really interesting ones to me, which were on various iterations of dark matter theory, which had some interesting ideas floating around. We would break for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, eating in the University cafe. The morning teas often had really good raspberry danishes, of which I ate many more than I probably ought to have.
The first night of the conference was followed by a reception with canapes and other finger food provided by the University. On the second night, I went into the centre of the city with Andre, Ankit and others, and we all headed out to a restaurant together; we would end up returning to the same restaurant later in the week.
On the third night of the conference, the talks finished early, and we all took a bus in to the centre of town for a series of city walks. We congregated in the forecourt of a hotel were a number of the conference speakers were staying, and there were four guides to take us on a different iteration on walks around the city. Our guide took us through the old town and along the river, passing by a number of churches historic sites. She told us a story of a city under development, constantly evolving and adapting. Danish cities, like say, Dutch and German cities but unlike, say, French, British or Italian cities, feel a lot more modern and adaptable, less restricted by heritage. Of course, they didn’t miss the opportunity to gleefully point out the supposed former home of renowned Dutch author Hans Christian Anderson.
That night, we went out to the conference dinner, a three course meal in a posh restaurant on a canal front. For me, it was strange to be socialising and dining in such a formal setting without the premise of a Cambridge college formal. But the mains, the steak, was wonderful and juicy.
The keynote talk of the conference was on Thursday morning, which was a talk on the status of theoretical particle physics by Sam Ting, who won the Nobel Prize in 1976 for his discovery of the J/ψ particle, an exotic and sort-lived particle which consists of a charm quark and a charm anti-quark.
Finally, the conference finished after lunch on Friday. This meant time to say goodbye to Andre and Ankit, after having shared a good five days of stories and anecdotes from both my old and new homes. The warmth of their welcome back into their lives made me feel a lot less nervous about my planned travel back home for Christmas; the first trip away from Europe since I started in Cambridge.