Thursday, March 05, 2009

This and That

Here in Waterloo, snow is slowly melting away, leaving behind garbage, coins and lost gloves. Below some founds that I came across recently and thought you might find more interesting than this useless piece of information:

  • Year of Science 2009, a website about “How We Know What We Know,” has dedicated the month March to physics and technology, and offers a nice collection of links.

  • Harry Collins, who attended our last year's conference on Science in the 21st Century, has an interesting article in the current issue of Nature, titled “We cannot live by scepticism alone”. He points out the necessity for science studies to move beyond cynicism and skepticism to being constructively useful by acknowledging the importance of the scientific enterprise for our societies. “Whenever a scientist, acting in the name of science, cheats, cynically manipulates, claims to speak with the voice of capitalism, the voice of a god, or even the voice of a doctrinaire atheist, it diminishes not only science but the whole of our society.”

  • This week's colloquium at PI was by Rob Cook from Pixar. Rob, whom I had previously met at SciFoo last year, talked about “Cartoon Physics,” and how animations use or abuse physics with many examples, from simulating clothes and water to wobbling bellies and more. Definitely worth a look! You'll enjoy it even if you know next to nothing about physics: PIRSA: 09030001

  • Most heartwarming comment we've ever had: “This is great information! Thank you for writing it; now I'm not scared to go to sleep at night. I was afraid the LHC would create black holes that would swallow the earth. Your explanation helped me understand there probably won't be many black holes, and if there are, they'll either shoot off into space or disintegrate. Thank you! --Jonathan, age 8 (typed by his mom),” in reaction to our post Black Holes at the LHC - What can happen?

  • As Tommaso pointed out, we are approaching our 1 millionth visitor!


  1. Science Foo Camp
    August 8-10, 2008

    Coincidentally, I ran into Rob Cook at SIGGRAPH 2008 (Aug 11-15) in Los Angeles, he's on the left (in the picture, above the picture of L. Riofrio). I went to do some networking for my idea of a "mobile scientist" (researchers can work from anywhere, using Ubiquitous Computing. E.g., mobile Technology like cellphone networks), which is a solution to your Science Foo talk "The Marketplace of Ideas or Why the academic system sucks".

    I met a woman from Disney Research. She told me Disney announced 2 new research CS (Computer Science) labs at CMU & ETH Zurich. This may be an opportunity for you, kinda like what happened to Kea (Computing Lab @Oxford). With reference to your recent post, this is how Tim Berners-Lee @CERN created an opportunity (WWW) for himself: "Computation".

    Computer Graphics/Animation (Pixar's field) came out ARPA research in the 60's ("military crap"), & had a weird spinoff into "Entertainment" (video gaming, PIXAR/Disney animation, etc). CERN/WWW project came out of "esoteric science", & had a similar spinoff into Entertainment/Business.

    "Coz that's what it is like, being a postdoc. After all, what counts are the letters. And just thinking about sending out a pile of applications again makes me want to crawl back into bed, and pull the blanket over my face."

    I think your next move should involve a composite of Physics & Computing. An analog of a Tim Berners-Lee CERN/WWW, directed at the problem of "mobile scientist" ("science hostels" as per G. Lisi). Call it Agile/Mobile/Hostile = AMH, a new "distributed architecture" concept for Science Research.

    Your current employer (RIM, mfrs of Blackberry cellphone) should be interested in this concept. I could see a proposal labeled as "vague but exciting". A high school alumni of mine is Director of Research & VP Corporate Technology @Intel ("Inference Computing" using mobile devices).

  2. Dear Bee,

    This one page PDF purports to be the fastest derivation of Lorentz transformations.

    Notice what is essential in this derivation is simply that different observers all agree on the motion of light rays. A metric would be derived after the Lorentz transformations are.

    But this and other derivations are bothersome because either they invest coordinates with physical significance (they are actual distance and time intervals) or they assume a metric.

    One reason it bothers me is that I think we should be able to recover a space-time, metric and all, from simply following the photons on a general manifold.

  3. It's not there, in the pi seminar archive. Tech Note: Not Recorded. Or am I completely missing something?

  4. Oh, you are right. Must have been a tech bug. That's too bad, sorry about that.


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