Mar 24 2016

Bill, we love you, but please stop saying that.

Rosemary

Please.

Seriously.

Dude!

This is actually painful.

Bill Nye is a great guy, and a great science communicator, and has been for so many years.   I love him, you (probably) love him — of course we do.  That’s what makes this hurt!

Fortunately, physicist Chad Orzel (benevolent fellow that he is) views this as a teachable moment, and thanks to Forbes.com he can get the word out to a wide audience.  Excellent.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, on the other hand, is just mad. With good reason.  

Orzel and Hossenfelder each break down the misconceptions point-by-point, and I urge you to click on the links above for the real scoop from people who know what they’re talking about.

Want a really short version?  How about this:

Bill: “…If this turns out to be a real thing…” Entanglement is a real thing, no “if” about it.  But you can’t use it to communicate faster than the speed of light.  It doesn’t work out like that.

Bill: “…it carries, for me, the belief that we’ll be able to go back in time…”  No.  If we could use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light, then we could send information back in time, yes…  But that won’t actually happen since we can’t use it to communicate faster than the speed of light.

Bill: “…we’ll be able to harness energy somehow from black holes …”  What? Where is this coming from? What has one thing to do with the other?    I see no connection… unless — wait!  That’s right!  If it’s possible  to send information back in time, then our future selves in their future advanced civilization will send back instructions to us, on how to harness energy from black holes!  Brilliant!  Wait, why haven’t they done that yet?  Oh, right: we can’t use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light. Because it doesn’t work that way.  Darn it.

Quoting Chad here:

“There’s no way to determine the outcome of a quantum measurement in advance, so the physicists on either end of an entanglement experiment end up with a set of random numbers that convey no information. Those numbers are perfectly correlated with each other, but they need to compare the two lists in order to learn that, and the comparison can only be done via communication channels at light-speed or below.”

Seriously, check out the links above.

I’m going to lie down and put a wet cloth on my forehead.  This is giving me the fantods.


Dec 20 2015

Yes, the dreaded chores of officaldom ate my week…

Rosemary

… but only because I was still fighting that dratted cold/flu thing.    Not at my sharpest, I’m afraid, and yet still had to do all those official-type things previously mentioned, plus one more that I had not even known about.

Apparently, on acquiring an off-site office for my writing, I became an Actual Business in the eyes of my town’s tax code.   And the other day I got a call from the Town Assessor’s office about property tax on the contents of my office.   I had not filed a thing I was supposed to file but never knew about, involving money that I should have paid them!   They were not angry, just concerned.

Much discussion, with two different people at the Assessor’s office.   They did not know quite what to make of me… I don’t manufacture anything, I have no clients, I’m not a service nor a consultant.  And yet, I have a location, and objects in it, used in the course of plying my trade.  It seems that I’m the only actual real author they ever had to deal with!   I guess all the other authors have offices in their home or in their attics.

I had sad visions of getting hit with a bill that would make it impossible for me to afford maintaining my beloved workspace… But not to fear.   After the complex detailed form was completed (carefully confirming that I did not have any horses or ponies, did not store farm equipment, did not have any manufacturing equipment, etc), it looks like my tax bill will be a whopping $35, or thereabouts.

I’m pretty sure I can handle that.

Eight pages of this.

Eight pages of this.

So, all is well.   Plus, I am now known at Town Hall, which is always a good idea.

And the cold is almost gone, just in time for Christmas.  And all my really important shopping is done.   Well, urgent shopping, anyway.  There are people I don’t see until well after the holidays, which means that I can snag prezzies at sale prices.  Heh.

News about people who are not me:

nec

Jo Walton has revealed the cover of her next book, following on The Just City and The Philosopher Kings.   This will be coming out in June, which is a long away away, alas…

But if you want something Right! Now! , and you loved Ellen Kushner’s  Riverside (from Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, and The Fall of the Kings — her collaboration with Delia Sherman), do check out the Riverside-inspired stories being released in serial form by Serial Box.   You can have ebook versions or audio versions, and I’m going to get one set, but I haven’t decided which yet.  And I do believe that there are more on the way.  (Also, check out the cool hand-cut silhouette art that illustrates the “covers.”)

And sad news: the famous Emmy, co-star of Chad Orzel’s How to Teach (Quantum) Physics to Your Dog and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog has passed away.  I’m sad I never got to meet her. In my mind,  she will live forever, trying to chase quantum bunnies around both sides of trees.

 


May 17 2015

How many random things does it take to make a post?

Rosemary

Still at loose ends, trying to plow through a collection of largely disconnected chores and tasks and stuff that otherwise need action or decisions on my part…

But!  Need to blog… So, here are some random things I’ve done, read or noticed:

Over at Chad Orzel’s science blog at Forbes online from a couple of weeks ago,  Chad explains why a particle’s momentum will increase when you confine it (contrary to what intuition tells us), by relating it to strings on a guitar, which was THE critical analogy for this finger-pickin’ gal (Emmy the dog’s contributions aside).   When he said that, I went from “WTF?” to “Of course! Makes perfect sense.  Could not be otherwise.”

When you shorten a guitar string, you limit the number of frequencies at which it can vibrate.   Some wavelengths just won’t fit on that string anymore.  The longer wavelengths go away.

On a guitar string, frequency relates to pitch.  You shorten the useable length of the string by putting your finger down on it, pressing it against the fret.  Only the part of the string between your finger and the bridge can now vibrate.  And it’s shorter.  So: you get a higher note.

Obviously —  and absolutely according to my natural intuition as a guitarist.  Makes perfect sense.

And for a quantum particle, wavelength relates to momentum.  Confine it, and the range of possible wavelengths becomes limited — to shorter wavelengths.  So the damn thing is moving faster.

Could not be otherwise, right?  That’s lovely.

Then Chad gives us a video of guitarist Richard Thompson (ALIAS GOD!), so, that’s  a bonus.

Also, speaking of guitars:

Once the crazy chemo finger-pain was gone, and my post-chemo peripheral neuropathy diminished (probably as much as it’s going to), I had wanted to get my playing chops back.  I’m spending tons of time at my new office, and for a lot of the time I’m the only one in the building.  So, why not play guitar there?  But I  didn’t want to be hauling my guitar back and forth every day…

I already owned a “backpacking” guitar: a sturdy guitar with a small body.  I figured I’d just bring that to the office one day and leave it there, handy to grab at odd moments.  Sure, it didn’t sound particularly good, but as long as it stayed in tune, it would keep my fingers exercised.

Except: it was the crappiest instrument ever!   The strings were a mile above the fret board!  The intonation wandered away to the hinterlands by, like, the third fret.  The neck was fat enough to double as a baseball bat!

There are some guitars where you’re just doing yourself damage to play them, and that is definitely one.  I’d forgotten how evil a device it was.   I think it was made by LL Bean.

I’m trying to get myself back to performing level, but playing a guitar that PUNISHES me was not going to encourage me in any way.

So I did a bunch of research and settled on this lovely:

Washburn Rover

Washburn Rover

 

The Washburn Rover is a  “travel” guitar – essentially a higher-end backpacking guitar.  Absolutely playable,  quality materials, great workmanship.

Key points: A full-length fingerboard, instead of a shortened one.  I’m going to be establishing habits, and I want them to translate directly over to my full-sized instrument.  Of the travel guitars available, this one had the full-sized fingerboard.   Strings not too high off the fingerboard.  Spruce top, mahogany body.   Compensated bridge, which I did not expect! And very, very affordable.

It feels way better in my hands that I’d thought possible for a guitar at that price.   And the tone does not suck!   It doesn’t sound like a full-size guitar, by any means — but it has its own characteristic tone, which I actually like.  I’m thinking that for certain very roots-style songs, I might even prefer the sound.

Last random thing: over at xkcd, Randall Munroe has an Emojic 8-Ball that has to be seen (and used) to be believed.

If you believe in that sort of thing…

 


Mar 19 2015

The Shrodinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction

Rosemary

(I almost left mentioning this until too late — but there’s still time to get in!)

The Schrodinger Sessions is a three-day workshop in modern physics, specifically for creators of science fiction in all its forms (print, movies, television, gaming, etc.)

It’s organized by Chad Orzel (of Dog Physics and Eureka! fame), and Emily Edwards and Steve Rolston of the Joint Quantum Institute, and will be held right there at JQI.

The whole idea is to help us writers to actually know what we’re talking about when we reference quantum mechanics in our work.

Come on, there’s a lot of bad science being promulgated out there, folks — don’t you want to get it right? Here’s your chance — a workshop with actual experts telling us exactly what we most need to know.

It’s not too late to apply — appplications are being accepted through March 20th — that’s tomorrow.

So, read about it. Fill out the form. Let’s see how many of us can get there this year.

(I really ought to have mentioned this weeks ago — there are exactly two days left to apply! I blame a sudden influx of Mundane Life Crap for distracting me…)


Mar 9 2015

Physics poem

Rosemary

Chad Orzel’s take on Robert Frost.

What’s especially interesting is how well it works.

Seriously, go check it out.

(Ack! I’m not supoosed to be blogging today… You didn’t see me do this!)


Dec 8 2014

Next gift suggestion: Chad Orzel’s EUREKA!

Rosemary

eureka

 

Another book that I jumped right up and ordered as soon as I knew it existed: Eureka! Discovering Your Inner Scientist, by physicist Chad Orzel.

Chad has been making a name for himself lately as a science communicator, as well as being  an actual working scientist. And this, by me, is good. As much as I love science, it’s through the science journalists that I find out what is going on.

His previous books were How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog. In them he revives the grand tradition (going all the way back to the Greek philosophers) of presenting ideas by means of a conversation between two parties. In this case it’s especially useful, as Emmy is a very practical, focused and pragmatic dog.   It’s a good idea to stay grounded, when you’re discussing something like quantum physics…

Chad and Enmy

I haven’t yet received my copy of Eureka. I pre-ordered it so that it will pop up on my Kindle on December 9th, the instant it’s released (I’m writing this post on December 8th).

But I couldn’t wait, so I went exploring through the book on Amazon, using the “Look Inside” feature. I was able to look at a lot, possibly because I was on record as having bought the book. And I found much to love.

The moment that made me sit up straight and say “YES!” was when he first expresses the scientific process as taking place in four stages: looking, thinking, testing, and telling.

Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s what the Steerswomen do.

Chad works out those four stages in the rest of the book  — and his point in Eureka! is that the scientific process is not some mysterious activity engaged in only by hyper-intelligent (and socially clumsy) braniacs.    In fact, we use scientific thinking every day, and have done so ever since we were us.

“For as long as there have been humans, then, there have been humans doing science. The process of looking at the world, figuring out how things work, testing that knowledge, and sharing it with others ought to be taken as one of the defining traits of our species. The process of science is not some incidental offshoot of more general human activity; it’s the very thing that makes us who we are.”

Eureka! Discovering Your Inner Scientist, on Amazon

Here’s a video of Chad Orzel explaining what playing bridge has to do with the discovery of dark matter.

And here’s a video of Chad explaining what stamp collecting has to do with Darwin and the theory of evolution through natural selection.

And here’s Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel’s blog.

And, oh, look: Yet another little article of mine from the misty depths of antiquity, coincidentally discussing a closely-related topic.

(As Cecil said on the very first episode of Welcome to Night Vale: “We have all been scientists at one point or another in our lives.”)


May 14 2014

A glowing endorsement from Chad Orzel

Rosemary

So, there I was, perusing my morning blog feed, when was greeted with:

“One of the very best treatments of the scientific method in fiction that I’ve read– I suspect it may be the best, but years on the Internet make me want to hedge everything– is the Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein...”

Chad Orzel is a physicist, an associate professor at Union College in Schenectady NY, an author of popular books on physics (How to Teach Physics to Your Dog and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog), and a blogger over at Science Blogs.

You should read the rest of his post; I couldn’t ask for a better recommendation!

I follow Chad’s blog — it’s a nice mix of crunchy science, academic life, observations on the world in general, books, and family plus Emmy the dog.  I run into him fairly often at conventions.  I love it when I can get a chance to chat with him and wife, Kate Nepveu.

(Yes, that Kate Nepveu.  You know:  lawyer, active in the SF community, writes for Tor.com, runs the whole Con or Bust phenomenon, has her own blog — that Kate Nepveu.)

This is a great signal boost from someone I admire —  and I am (as the Brits say) chuffed!

 


Aug 7 2013

Via Chad Orzel’s blog, a survey and raffle

Rosemary

Over at Chad Orzel’s Uncertain Principles blog, he mentions that a colleague of his is doing a research project with a summer student, about physics education.

You can help.  Because they need data.  There’s a survey, and the more people participate, the better.

More participants = better science!   You want better science, don’t you?  Of course you do.

It’s short, it’s painless, and to entice you to take part, they’ll automatically enter you into a raffle for a new Google Nexus 7 32gb tablet.

Yes, they’ll need to take your email address (so they can inform you if you win), but they won’t use it for nefarious purposes.  Because they are scientists.  They will not spam you.  Trust me.

Here’s the quote, with survey address, lifted from Chad’s blog:

I’m doing a summer research project at Union College with a student, and I need as many people as possible to fill out a survey that we created. If you complete the survey by 11:59pm (EST) on Sunday, August 11, 2013, you will be entered into a raffle to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet (32Gb), and you will receive an additional entry into the raffle for each person that lists you as a referrer. You can find the survey at http://tinyurl.com/q7pmzlh. It should only take 5-15 minutes. Thanks!

The scientists themselves remain intriguingly anonymous.   I assume, so as not to unduly influence you with their mellifluous cognomens.

 


Jul 19 2010

Asleep at the wheel again

Rosemary

Hey, look what I missed.

Yep.

I missed applying to attend Launchpad last year from finding out about it too late, when I’d used up all my vacation days.

I missed it this year from completely forgetting that it existed at all, and making other plans that used up most of my vacation days. Admittedly, I used those days to work on Book 5, which is a good thing. But had I freakin’ REMEMBERED about Launchpad, I could have taken those days earlier or later, and shifted some things around and tried to sign up.

Because — hello — it’s NASA.

Plus: FREE!

On the other hand, I’m certain there are writers whose need was far greater than mine… But I could have used some uplift and inspiration.

Okay. Next. Year.

Chad Orzel just now suggested that someone do something similar to Launchpad, but for quantum physics. A great idea…

Catherynne Valente has referred to the Internet as a “terrifying wish engine” — this after she voiced a desire for an accordion and a teacher, and both appeared.

So, let’s give it a try:

Ahem. ‘Scuse me? People on the internet — hello? Yes, you, the hive-mind.

We could really use a workshop on quantum physics for science fiction writers.

Because, you know, it would be good if we didn’t look like idiots when we write about it. As we so often do.

Plus: If we wrote about it compellingly, young persons would be inspired to study it, and advance the field even further, to the betterment of all mankind. No, really.

Also: after I finish the current series, I have a couple of projects in mind, and one actually involves quantum physics. If I had a workshop about quantum physics, I’d gravitate toward that project instead of the other one.

I’m just sayin’.

Thank you for your time.

nothing to do with quantum physics, just a cool picture


Mar 6 2010

Stacks

Rosemary

I’ve got stacks of books to read.

I’ve also got stacks of books to write…

Today, I decided to consume instead of produce.

This inspired by the fact that although David Anthony Durham’s Acacia has been in my possession for nearly a month, I have not finished reading it.

And Chad Orzel’s How to Teach Physics to Your Dog.

Not to mention Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which (as far as I’ve yet read into it) is exceedingly wonderful in every way.  And is also online and free to read, so you have no excuse  not to go there right now.

Plus: I will play some guitar and sing for my own bemusement amusement.

That’s my day.no pic of valente's book -- it's online