Monday, January 30, 2012

Boycott Elsevier?

I just heard about the movement to Boycott Elsevier journals when reading Sean Carroll's blog.

Certainly the success and failure of a peer-reviewed journal depends very much on the participation of scientists, both in terms of submitting good work for publication, and for refereeing these submissions. So if this movement catches on, Elsevier would certainly be faced with quite a challenge.

In my current position, the only Elsevier journal that would be affected is the Nuclear Instrumentation and Method - A. In my "previous life" as a condensed matter physicist, I would say Physica B and Physica C, but not anymore.

So this "boycott" probably won't be affecting us that much since we can certainly bypass NIM-A for other journals.

But what about you? If you are a practicing scientist and you do send work to be published in an Elsevier journals, would you stop doing that? Would you also stop refereeing for an Elsevier journal?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Sustainable Energy: Fact or Fiction

Hey, if you are in the Chicagoland area, this might be something you want to attend, considering that this is certainly an important and relevant topic nowadays. It is a talk on sustainable energy by Argonne's George Crabtree.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
McCormick Tribune Campus Center
McCloska Auditorium
3201 South State Street

Let me know if you are attending it. I'd appreciate a report.


What Is The Scientific Method?

An Physics World blog entry linked to an audio discussion of what is meant by the "Scientific Method". You can click on the BBC link to hear the whole discussion on what it is, what it isn't, or the many variations to it.

As physicists, and scientists in general, I don't see many of us sit down and discuss this. I think we just do it and it comes as second nature because it is what we have been doing all along. It is also difficult to define because there is no one single way of doing things. In the end, Mother Nature gets to decide what's what.

But because of that, I think it is rather amusing that most of the discussion on what a scientific method is being done primarily by non-scientists. Or to put it bluntly, by philosophers. I suppose that is part of what they do. But I can't help thinking of the Feynman's quote:

Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.

One could say that a discussion of the scientific method is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. But regardless of that, I find it a bit weary that people who are discussing what it is are mainly non-scientists, which are people who have not gone through, or practice such method that they are trying to analyze. We all know that there is a clear difference between studying about something versus actually doing it. You could read and study about riding a bicycle till you're old, but that doesn't mean that you can gain the skill or have a feel on riding a bicycle. One actually has to get on a bicycle, practice many, many times, fall a few times, before one gains the ability to ride one. Reading or studying about something is different than actually doing it.

So how do people who have never done scientific research have the ability to discuss what the scientific method is or is not?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

X-Ray Laser From Atoms

Another stunning accomplishment. We now have a first documented evidence of the generation of x-rays from atoms, with the help of x-rays generated from an accelerator.

The new atomic x-ray laser won't replace the LCLS and other accelerator-based systems. In fact, to make the atomic laser work, researchers blasted neon atoms with x-rays from the LCLS itself. Still, the results mark a conceptual triumph, fulfilling a 45-year-old prediction that such an atomic x-ray laser is possible. "Nobody had done this before, and everybody knew that somebody had to go out and do this," says Philip Bucksbaum, director of SLAC's PULSE Institute for Ultrafast Energy Science in Menlo Park, California, who was not involved in the work. "So this is great."
It'll be interesting to see if they can turn this into a useful device, at least before an x-ray FEL catches up on producing similar quality x-ray beams.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Physics of Wind-Blown Sand and Dust

This review article might be of some interest to some people, especially those who are curious about how we can know so much about the conditions on Mars based on what we can observe of the landscape.

Abstract: The transport of dust and sand by wind is a potent erosional force, creates sand dunes and ripples, and loads the atmosphere with suspended dust aerosols. This article presents an extensive review of the physics of wind-blown sand and dust on Earth and Mars. Specifically, we review the physics of aeolian saltation, the formation and development of sand dunes and ripples, the physics of dust aerosol emission, the weather phenomena that trigger dust storms, and the lifting of dust by dust devils and other small-scale vortices. We also discuss the physics of wind-blown sand and dune formation on Venus and Titan.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Intro to QM - "... For Those Who Dwell In The Macroscopic World"

I came across this yesterday, but didn't get a chance to post it here.

This appears to be a lecture note/text for a QM class designed for engineers (i.e. the people who "dwell in the macroscopic world"). It covers the fundamental aspect of QM that one would see in the first few chapters of a QM text. A layperson will probably get 10% (or less) of what is being covered due to the level of mathematics required. But if you have sufficient mathematics background and haven't had a course in QM, this will be just right for you without having to weed through a thick QM text.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Millikan Oil-Drop Experiment

This appeared a couple of days ago, but in case you missed it, here is a Focus story on the historically-significant experiment. I am guessing that you get free access to read/download the original paper. You also get to read a bit on the controversy surrounding the result back then.


Creationists Clutching At Quotation Straws

Holy Creation! Can creationists be THIS desperate?

Creationists saw Hawking's comments as an admission that God was needed to create the universe. And they were particularly gleeful about a subsequent story in New Scientist Magazine, headlined "Why Scientists Can't Avoid a Creation Event." That piece called the substance of the conference "the worst presents ever," referring to the failure of several theories attempting to explain the origin of the cosmos.

The story set off a round of virtual chest-thumping. One writer said it raised the "thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator."
Supposedly, this is what Hawking uttered:

A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.
Really? Just that?

I'll leave it up to you to read the rest of the article, especially the response by Alan Guth. But what I want to address here is this:

1. Do creationists that are so happy with such a statement completely neglected all of Hawking's history and written pieces on his opinion of God, that one single quote somehow negates ALL of that? It is not even physics!

2. If you hang on so closely to his words (as if they are Divine gospel) and somehow believe him this time, how come you dismissed all of his earlier comments on the same topic before this? How are you able to pick and choose which ones to accept and which ones to reject?

This is unbelievably hilarious. Rather than strengthen the case for creationism, it has reduced such idea to a pathetic desperation for any kind of justification and validation.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Revival of "Heisenberg Microscope"

I've often mentioned that one of the most popular misconception in physics is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP). A lot of people think that it has something to do with our instrumentation inability to measure these observables. The concept certainly came out of the infamous "Heisenberg microscope" being given as the example.

Still, incorporating the Heisenberg microscope into the HUP hasn't been empirically shown... till now.

Then, in 2003, Masanao Ozawa at Japan's Nagoya University derived a new universal expression of the uncertainty principle that includes error and disturbance – as well as the standard-deviation terms. Now, Ozawa has joined forces with Yuji Hasegawa and colleagues at the Vienna University of Technology to confirm the calculation using spin-polarized neutrons. Instead of looking at position and momentum, the experiment measures two orthogonal spin components of the neutron – quantities also governed by the uncertainty principle.
But people still need to realize that the standard form of the HUP that we know and love still isn't about such "error and disturbance" effect. It is an inherent property within QM.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Science of Color

If you have an hour to spare (not necessarily continuous), this is an educational video on light and color understandable almost at all levels.


"I Want To Do Theoretical Physics"

I see that statement surprisingly often enough. Whenever I talk to high school students who are interested in doing physics, or even new undergraduate students thinking of majoring in physics, I often ask what they would like to eventually go into. The response I get is of the type "I want to do theoretical physics".  When I ask them what they mean by "theoretical physics", I often get a reply that to the effect that they want to study string theory, elementary particles, etc.. etc. In other words, to many of these people

theoretical physics = string theory, elementary particles, and that type.

This, of course, is a highly faulty understanding of what "theoretical physics" is. It is no different than this very poorly written "guide" on becoming a physicist.

For better or for worse, physics has many different fields of study. If you look at the various division of the APS, you will get a good overview of all the different areas of physics that currently covers most, if not all, of the professional physicists in the US. So these are the different types of physics that people are working on. But also note that, in many cases, a person could be working in more than one field of study, i.e. the work involves more than just one field.

Now, within each field, we have both experimental and theoretical areas, well, all except string, which has no experimentalists! :) So if you are working in, say, nuclear physics, you can be either an experimentalist, or a theorist. Even so-called "applied" field, such as condensed matter physics, accelerator physics, etc., you can have both theoretical and experimental work.

So what this means is that, if you say you want to do theoretical work, that's rather vague and puzzling, because, it means that you haven't made up you mind what area of physics you want to work in. That's similar to someone saying "oh, I want to do experimental work", and someone would then reply "yeah, but doing WHAT?" Now, it's OK if what you mean by saying such a thing is that you don't quite know what field you want to work in, just as long as you are doing theoretical work. If this is really what you intended, that's fine. But most of the people who claim that they want to do "theoretical physics" don't mean that. They have a very narrow view of what physics is, and more importantly, what "theoretical physics" is. I've seen a look of surprise when I told them that Phil Anderson, Bob Laughlin, John Bardeen, are all theorists in condensed matter physics (which is often thought to be an "applied"  physics), and they all have won Nobel Prizes in physics!

I think this is one of the "myth" about physics (and about physicists) that I try to constantly smash to pieces. Physics isn't just the LHC, and physicists aren't just the Brian Greene's. It is also the iPods, the MRIs, etc.. etc. And for someone who still don't know that "theoretical physics" does not automatically mean what they think it means, it is highly advisable that they hold off on focusing on what they want to do before they have done sufficient "window shopping" to see what physics really is and what it has to offer. At some point, there needs to be a dose of reality injected into a decision on what one wants to do.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Origin of Mass

This is a good, "light-weight" article for the general public on what we think is the origin of mass. And no, it is not all due to this Higgs boson, or doughnuts!

It is commonly said that nucleons are made of three quarks, which is true to a point. It is logical to think that each quark has one third the mass of the nucleon, but that's not actually true. The mass of the three quarks in the nucleons make up only about one to two percent of the mass of the nucleons. What makes up the other 98 percent?

This is where things get cool. First, you need to know that a nucleon is not a static object with three ingredients. A nucleon consists of three very light quarks held together by the strong nuclear force. Those three quarks are moving at high velocities inside the nucleon. To picture this, imagine three ping pong balls in a lottery machine. Those ping pong balls aren't the most important thing; rather, you should focus on what's forcing them into motion. Think of nucleons as three quark flecks, tossed furiously inside a little subatomic tornado. The tornado is far more important than the tiny flecks.
The Higgs only comes in the explanation for the mass of the quarks themselves, which obviously is only 2% of the mass of a nucleon.

Isn't it interesting that the "god particle" plays such an insignificant role in this case?


Friday, January 13, 2012

FRIB Might Be In Funding Jeopardy?

No one is saying it is, but this news article reads between the lines and is sounding an alarm that the Facility for Rare Isotope Beam that is to be built at Michigan State University might be in a funding jeopardy.

But yesterday, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu came to Detroit and strongly hinted that the project was in jeopardy.

“We have to be careful,” about starting too many new things, he said, adding that when the project was approved in the waning days of the Bush Administration, quote, “we did not anticipate the depth of the recession, (and) the budget issues.”

If this was a trial balloon, it went over like lead. The Energy Secretary’s words threw Michigan’s U.S. Senators, both Democrats, into something like a tizzy. Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin, one of that body’s most powerful members, said “it would be unconscionable if the federal government failed to live up to its commitments in meeting this critical national priority.” Debbie Stabenow, who is facing a tough reelection fight, noted that the state and the university have already begun investing in the new facility, adding, “it would be absolutely unacceptable if the rug was pulled out from under them now.” She is right, of course. This project is no “bridge to nowhere” but a spaceship, of sorts, to knowledge and, conceivably, a better and more prosperous future for mankind.
Welcome to science funding, ladies and gentlemen! I show you several study cases : the Superconducting Supercollider, the ITER, etc... etc. Many of these were approved and initial funding committed, only later to see funding completely shut down, or cut drastically.

Also note that the Obama Administration requested considerable increase for the DOE and NSF budgets for 2012. Guess who was responsible to chopping those down? You elected people who want to indiscriminately chop budgets left and right without thinking of the long-range effects to the country, much less, to science and its future economic impacts. But when the cuts are in YOUR backyard, and affects you directly, you cry foul and suddenly, the fate of knowledge and "future of mankind" come into play.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Apple's "Education Event".

So there is a buzz surrounding the invitation-only education event hosted by Apple on January 19, 2012 at the Guggenheim museum in NYC. Of course, people are already speculating what the event will entail. One interesting speculation is that is could be a major announcement related to iPad platform for textbooks.

Although Apple typically holds its events in Silicon Valley, Morris' sources said Apple chose New York for the event because of its proximity to major textbook publishers. He also said Apple would not be unveiling any new hardware at the event, despite hopes that the company would show off the next iPad sooner rather than later.

Apple's push into the education market isn't much of a surprise. In Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs, the author wrote that the company's late co-founder had "set his sights on textbooks," since he believed the $8-billion-a-year business was "ripe for destruction."
I can certainly see that. I already mentioned earlier on what I would like to see in a physics digital textbook. Being able to have several physics text on an iPad would be a tremendous convenience, especially when one has no internet connection. Of course, nowadays, everything wants to be on a cloud.

It will be interesting to see if it really is about textbooks (and more), or if it is something else.


Did The Media Made Hawking Famous?

There's no question that Stephen Hawking is the most famous living physicist right now. The brouhaha surrounding his 70th Birthday is evidence that only someone like him can commend such a symposium with such publicity. But how did he become THIS famous and this well-known, and why?

This article makes a critical examination on Hawking's celebrity status.

The build-up began in earnest last week when Hawking gave an exclusive interview to New Scientist in which he discussed the most exciting development in physics over the course of his career (finding evidence that the universe expanded rapidly after the Big Bang), his biggest scientific blunder (thinking that information was destroyed in black holes), and his advice to young physicists (formulate an original idea that opens a new field).

But none of these comments was as newsworthy, seemingly, as the response he gave to a question about what he thinks about most during the day: “Women. They are a complete mystery.” This quote was chosen as the lead in stories about Hawking by, among others, CBS news, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Huffington Post.

This focus on Hawking-as-personality illuminates a recurring theme in his public life: that his fame—his reputation as “the brightest star in the scientific universe”—has as much, and perhaps more, to do with his media-created popular appeal as with his scientific achievements.
The article certainly mentioned the role of the media in not only presenting him to the public, but also in helping to shape his image, all with the participation of (and maybe even orchestrated by) Hawking himself.

But for journalists examining Hawking’s wider profile, the crucial point to note is that these characteristics—his cosmological research, his popularization work, his physical condition—have all been combined and packaged in his media portrayal. His public image could not have occurred without the media. With his participation, they shaped and molded it.
But does he warrant such publicity? Has he really contributed to some of the most important ideas in physics? What do other physicists think about him? More importantly, who would they rank as the physicist that has made the most important contribution to physics?

This has led to tensions within his field. Other physicists have been, at times, ambivalent about his reputation, because of what some of them see as his having a public profile that is out of proportion to his scientific merit.

In 1999, Physics World surveyed approximately 130 physicists and asked them to name the five researchers who made the most important contributions to the field. Albert Einstein came first with 119 votes. Richard Feynman came seventh with 23 votes. Paul Dirac came eighth with 22 votes. Hawking received one vote.
 I will admit that, as a physicist, I would not have put Hawking anywhere in the top 10, much less, top 5. One tends to select a physicist whose work has impact in ALL areas of physics, not just a narrow section of physics. Certainly Einstein, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Heisenberg, etc. all have done so. As someone who specialized in condensed matter physics while in college, and then became an accelerator physicist, I don't ever recall using or learning something that came from Hawking's work. I certainly am aware of when I was using something that came out of Einstein, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Heisenberg, etc., and often, in many different subject areas. Hawking's contribution to the body of knowledge of physics isn't pervasive enough.

Now, if you want to talk about his contribution to popularizing physics, especially to the public, now that's a different matter. Physics and physicists certainly owe him a lot of gratitude for his part in making the subject of physics hip and cool among many who followed Hawking's celebrity status.

Come to think of it, I think I read a while ago that Carl Sagan also suffered from a certain level of "disdain" by fellow astronomers due to his popularity in the media. Of course, one can't be a professor at Cornell if one is a lightweight in astronomy. So as in the case with Hawking, Sagan had produced quite a bit of work. But I don't recall Sagan having such an "idolization" as much as Hawking. Certainly no one insisted that Sagan should "... have won the Nobel Prize many times...” and “ somebody who has discovered many things in his lifetime.....”, as stated by Richard Branson in the article. The level of celebrity is just different now with the media and the internet.

Members of the public, and Richard Branson in particular, need to examine why there is disconnect between how physicists perceive Hawking, and how they perceive him. Do you care more about the bells-and-whistles instead of the substance? Sure you do! Admit it! :)


"Supersolids: What and Where Are They?"

This is a review paper on supersolids that will be published in Rev. Mod. Physics, so you get to see and read it right now. It should address all the questions you have on supersolids, but were afraid to ask!



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Intro To Metal-Insulator Transition

This is a terrific review of the phenomenon surrounding the metal-insulator transition. I highly recommend it.

And if you think this is a boring topic (who cares about a metal-insulator transition?), read this review. In one swoop, this topic covers everything from high-Tc superconductivity to quantum phase transition. It also has a concise coverage of band structure description, why it works, where it doesn't, and why it doesn't. In the process, you get to learn about charge transport, charge localization, and a bunch of other fascinating stuff in the world of strongly-correlated systems.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Do You Know Everything?"

Er... yes, I have been asked that by high school students and even undergraduate students. What they wanted to know by asking that is whether a physics know everything that was taught in an undergraduate curriculum, and that that information and knowledge is something that a physics can simply dial up whenever he/she wants to.

It's an interesting question, and something that can have a range of answers, depending on the nature of that physicist job. I suppose if you are a university instructor, you will have a very well-honed knowledge of the subjects that you regularly teach. If you are a practicing physicist/research physicist and you don't teach, you probably are well-versed in the subject area that you deal with everyday, but not so much on the other areas. If you are a physicist that has left the field, or don't often make use of the topics that you came across while in college, then you may not be able to dial in such topic.

But the thing I always stress when I try to answer such a question here is that, as physicists, we all share the same basic knowledge. All of us know what Maxwell equations are and had done countless problems in E&M. All of us know what a "Hamiltonian/Lagrangian" are and have equally done numerous problems in classical mechanics. We certainly know what Schrodinger equation is and have an idea of what it can do. Now, we all may not be able to look at an advanced undergraduate mechanics problem and solve it immediately the way we did when we were taking such a class, but given enough time and some refresher activity through our old notes or text, we should be able to solve such a problem again. The point here is that we may not be able to immediately tackle such a problem, but we have that ability and knowledge to solve it if we have to.

So in a sense, we do know everything (almost) that we came across while in college. We may not recall how to tackle them, or what they are right away,  but we have that ability to recall such things given time and effort. As physicists, we share that common knowledge and skill. And one of such skill is the ability to learn, which I consider to be THE most important thing that I learned in being a physicist.


Monday, January 09, 2012

A Universe From Nothing

Lawrence Krauss had a new book out titled "A Universe From Nothing". In it, he makes the same claim as Hawking/Mlodinow did in "The Grand Design", that one can use just the physics that we know of today to show that the universe can spontaneously form out of nothing. He doesn't make use of the exotica that was employed in Hawking/Mlodinow book, and in that sense, this might be easier to digest and understand than that book.

First, you have to clearly define nothing, since it isn't an official scientific term. Scientists talk about empty space as well as a state in which space and time themselves don't exist. Either type of nothing can spontaneously produce stuff.

Empty space, as it turns out, can't be perfectly empty. Every type of matter has an equal and opposite counterpart, and pairs of particles and their anti-particles can spontaneously emerge from empty space and then disappear again.

One consequence of quantum mechanics' uncertainty principle is that a vacuum cannot remain perfectly empty forever. Not only will particles pop in and out of existence without violating the laws of physics, they have to.
I've mentioned Krauss's argument in an early blog post. So obviously, this book is now out. Now, of course, as expected, it doesn't garner as much brouhaha as Hawking's book, even if the argument is as damning (and in my opinion, stronger) than Hawking's. Did those people who made all those noises against "The Grand Design" got tired and ran out of rants?


Hawking's Best Quotes

Looks like many of the news agencies and websites are going ga-ga over Hawking's 70th Birthday symposium and celebration, even though he missed the first day of the event.

Wired Magazine has compiled what it called as Hawking's best quotes. While they're good, I'm not sure they have the same "catchyness" as Einstein's, or even, for that matter, Feynman's.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Hawking Misses Birthday Celebration

The celebration to commemorate Stephen Hawking's 70's birthday missed the guest of honor. Hawking wasn't well enough to attend the beginning of the celebration after being discharged from a hospital last Friday.

Hawking's remarkable career is being honored as part of a daylong conference on cosmology being hosted at the university. But Vice Chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz said the celebrity scientist was released from hospital on Friday, and that "unfortunately his recovery has not been fast enough for him to be able to be here."

He didn't say when Hawking was hospitalized or specify the nature of his condition, although he did say that Hawking would be well enough to meet some of the attendees over the next week.
Even without Hawking, anyone attended the conference?


How Many Slaves Would It Take To Pick Those Oranges?

The 8-year olds at the Beaver Ridge Elementary school somewhere in Georgia had a rather "colorful" math homework assignment. They were asked to solve math problems with very eye-raising context:

"Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"

"If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"
It is never too young to instill bigotry or violence, I suppose.

Supposedly, the possible reason why the math teachers gave such questions was .....

"In this one, the teachers were trying to do a cross-curricular activity," Gwinnett County school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.
 Really! What curricular activity were they trying to cross with math? Child-beating 101?

At best, some people used very poor judgement and poor tastes.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Greatest Living Physicist?

I'm always uncomfortable with question like this. Not only is it almost impossible to pick one, but what exactly do we mean by "greatest"? Is it in size of the person's waistline?

In any case, Physics World is conducting a poll on on their Facebook page on who people would consider as the "greatest" living physicist. They proposed or nominated 5 names:

Philip Anderson
Stephen Hawking
Steven Weinberg
Frank Wilczek
Ed Witten

At least they included a condensed matter physicist!

You can cast your vote there if you wish. I'd rather ask you on who you think should have been included for consideration on that list, and why.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Art Is Like Science? NOT!

Why do people want to "justify" something by equating it to science or physics in particular? We have seen this "physics envy" in economics, and we have seen many crackpottery and pseudosciences that try to validate themselves by claiming that physics "explains" whatever it is that they believe in. Now along comes the practice of art!

This "practicing artist" is equating what she is doing as being similar to being a scientist.

As a practicing artist I see a lot in common with my scientific counterparts. My studio is my laboratory where I'm constantly experimenting with new materials and subjects. I wear a really messy version of a lab coat splattered with paint. I 'publish' my findings in the form of exhibitions. I even conducted an experiment on myself while painting to dissect the the creative process, which I determined to have eight stages, in one my earliest essays for HuffPost. Of course whether or not my art is predicting the next major breakthrough in physics remains to be seen.
Of course, she's only making a comparison at the superficial level here because she doesn't see things underneath that. Let's dissect this carefully, shall we?

1. My studio is my laboratory where I'm constantly experimenting with new materials and subjects. The artist is experimenting using new materials and subjects. That's the extent of it. A scientist is performing an experiment to figure out what Nature is trying to say. A scientist's experiment must produce a set of results that are REPRODUCIBLE, meaning the result is not subjective. And practically ALL scientific experiments are subjected to not only the accuracy of the instruments, but the accuracy/statistics of the results. When was the last time one sees such criteria being imposed on art?

2. I wear a really messy version of a lab coat splattered with paint.
Ignoring the really stupid statement being made here, I could also easily say that she has a lot in common to a butcher (messy coat, splattered with blood). So how come she doesn't make that comparison? And how many experimental physicists do you see wearing lab coats anyway? I don't even own one, much less, wear one!

3. I 'publish' my findings in the form of exhibitions.
This is laughable, that she would compare an art exhibitions to a scientific publication. Just think of (i) the refereeing process, (ii) the reason for a science publication (scrutiny, reproducibility by independent sources, etc..) is way different than having an art exhibition.

4. I even conducted an experiment on myself while painting to dissect the the creative process, 
How is this even similar to what scientists do is anyone's guess. We don't do an experiment on ourselves. This is not a common practice.

5. Of course whether or not my art is predicting the next major breakthrough in physics remains to be seen.
Oh, I can answer that easily. There won't be, and I'm 100% certain of that.

All of the above comparison done by the artist is based on a superficial appearance of what she thinks a scientist does. There is no attempt at understanding the what, why, and how. It is like she can't tell the difference between a mallard duck and Sesame Street's Big Bird ("oh, they both have what looks like feathers!").

People should not try to piggyback on top of science to justify what they are doing, especially when there's no justification for such comparison.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Temporal Cloaking

OK, we have had cloaking of objects using these matematerials. Now along comes an experimental demonstration of not spatial cloaking, but temporal cloaking[1]!

Abstract: Recent research has uncovered a remarkable ability to manipulate and control electromagnetic fields to produce effects such as perfect imaging and spatial cloaking. To achieve spatial cloaking, the index of refraction is manipulated to flow light from a probe around an object in such a way that a ‘hole’ in space is created, and the object remains hidden. Alternatively, it may be desirable to cloak the occurrence of an event over a finite time period, and the idea of temporal cloaking has been proposed in which the dispersion of the material is manipulated in time, producing a ‘time hole’ in the probe beam to hide the occurrence of the event from the observer. This approach is based on accelerating the front part of a probe light beam and slowing down its rear part to create a well controlled temporal gap—inside which an event occurs—such that the probe beam is not modified in any way by the event. The probe beam is then restored to its original form by the reverse manipulation of the dispersion. Here we present an experimental demonstration of temporal cloaking in an optical fibre-based system by applying concepts from the space–time duality between diffraction and dispersive broadening. We characterize the performance of our temporal cloak by detecting the spectral modification of a probe beam due to an optical interaction and show that the amplitude of the event (at the picosecond timescale) is reduced by more than an order of magnitude when the cloak is turned on. These results are a significant step towards the development of full spatio-temporal cloaking.

There is also a News and Views article on this work in the same issue of Nature.

I'm still reading this, but thought those who have access to Nature might want to looking into it. Fascinating work!


[1] M. Fridman et al., Nature v.481, p.62 (2012).

Assembly of Prototype Blocks for NOvA Detector

For those who don't get to see the "behind the scenes" of all the hard work that goes into constructing some of the stuff that we want to do, here is a video of one such endeavor. This is the assembly of the prototype NOvA detector prototype that will eventually be employed at Ash River in Minnesota. It took a lot of engineering effort to come up with not only to come up with the design, but also to figure out how to properly assemble these detectors at the remote site.

A little bit of insight into this video. This testing was done at Argonne National Lab. They assembled and tested it under the High Energy Physics division's effort. What they didn't mention in the video is that the "glue" that they used to assemble the detector STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN! :) :) I've always wanted them to actually use the glue each time we have high-level visits by some administrators from DOE or somewhere, so that these people can smell the stink! But I suppose that would be bad form. :)


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Stephen Hawking 70th Birthday Celebration

For someone who was given only 2 years to live, Stephen Hawking has not only outlived that, but has lived a life that is quite remarkable, to say the least.

This article briefly looks back at his life and times. It also mentioned the upcoming 70th Birthday celebration in his honor, and a new exhibition devoted to Hawking.

On Sunday, Hawking will celebrate his 70th birthday, and this week a conference will be held in his honour in Cambridge: the 27 invited speakers are world leaders in black holes, cosmology and fundamental physics. While his body was paralysed, Hawking used his mind to journey through the cosmos, glimpsing the origins of space and time. And that, indeed, is the story of his life: he is a man who has defied the laws of medicine in order to rewrite the laws of physics. 

If anyone reading his is planning on attending the conference and/or the exhibition, I would appreciate a report.


Monday, January 02, 2012

The Race To Build The ILC

Happy New Year!

This article describes briefly the need for the International Linear Collider, and why the US is losing its grip on its ability to build one. It is another indication of the sad state of high energy physics in the US.

To physicists, a circular collider like the one at CERN is like a telescope, Brau says. It reveals where all sorts of new particles hang out like a telescope discovering new stars. But a straight-line linear collider like the ILC is more of a microscope. It offers very precise views of what is going on at pre-set magnifications, locations that have to be revealed by the circular collider discoveries.
Japan wants to build it, Europe wants to build it, and Russia wants to build it. The ILC effort in the US, on the other hand, is languishing  in a sea of uncertain funding. While this describes science funding in general in the US, the high energy physics, and the ILC in particular, has not had that much of a financial support.

If this track continues, the next big particle physics experiment would  not be built on US soil. Now, this may not mean much to those who don't have a clue on such an impact, but it means that it will be DECADES dramatic impact. This is because the planning of such a facility now takes at least a decade. Construction adds another several years. You just can't get back into the game that easily and that quickly. Not having the ILC in the US means that it will be another 20-30 years before it can even be considered to host another such large-scale facility. That is a very long time to go without.