Quark Matter conference in Krakow
From the 4th to 10th of April, 2022 the XXIX Quark Matter conference took place in Krakow, Poland. It was the first major conference for me and many of my colleagues after the 2019 Quark Matter conference in the fateful Wuhan, China. Although it looked like the world was emerging from the pandemic restrictions, many people were prevented from attending the conference due to Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. Scientists with Russian affiliations were expelled from participating at the conference, while some western physicists were concerned about going to Poland, which is hosting a large number of Ukrainian refugees.
Because I am Lithuanian, Krakow for me is a very special city. As the ancient capital of Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, Krakow has many connections with Lithuanian history. It is always a pleasure for me to visit this beautiful city. I made sure to come a couple days in advance to do more sightseeing. Despite the looming war, I found the city unchanged, with the same majestic town square, gorgeous churches and throngs of tourists. The only notable change were the displayed messages of support for Ukraine.
I missed attending the in-person conference. Nowhere else, you can grab 2-3 physicists from different institutions and have a quick spontaneous discussion. Also, seeing hundreds of other heavy-ion physicists brings the sense of community, which is crucial for moving forward as a field. There were many exciting talks and I was proud to present my own work or see it presented by my co-authors. I was especially thrilled to see my friend and colleague Sören Schlichting being awarded Zimányi medal for
For his groundbreaking work on turbulence in Yang-Mill fluids and its implications for thermalization in heavy ion collisions, and his important contribution to matching the nonequilibrium initial stage of heavy ion collisions to hydrodynamics with QCD kinetic theory.
Unfortunately, there were also some unpleasant incidents at the conference. A great many of conference participants became infected with COVID during or after the conference. After two years of successfully avoiding the illness, I also tested positive a couple days after the conference. Thanks to vaccines, the symptoms were mild and I have since fully recovered. In another sort of incident, one conference participant was expelled from the conference for breaking the code of conduct. Bad as such things are, I can only hope that after this our immunity to both COVID and improper behaviour will only grow stronger.