|w e b l o g s
zaa zaa furi
zen calm ink
idea of the day
wood s lot
c o n n e c t
teller (he's still alive!)
w e b r i n g
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
born of rape
Hands covering her eyes, her thin legs crossed to try to stop what she could not, Eugenia Muhayimana screamed out to God as the baby pushed through her birth canal. She said she yelled and kicked during two hours of labor, hoping her heart would stop, her soul would drift away and she and her infant would pass to a world where they could live in peace.
watch and listen
"We are already dead," Muhayimana recalled thinking. "I wished we could just disappear."
"These are some of the survivors of a systematic campaign of rape, murder, and pillage"
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Monday, March 29, 2004
history is a lie that no one questions
We, amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present, have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrieveability of its moments and events.
faith is the evidence of things not seen
J. R. Capablanca, world chess champion in the 1920s, was asked how many moves ahead he looked. He said, "Only one. But it's the right one."
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Saturday, March 27, 2004
"Remember 'identity politics'? Back in the 80s, it was one of the intellectual hallmarks of the left, because it espoused one simple but powerful philosophical idea: That one's background -- ethnic, national, gender, etc. -- informed a heck of a lot of one's experiences, and thus one's attitudes towards society and life. It isn't a terribly new idea; hell, half of The Republic is devoted to Socrates intellectually bitchslapping people based on the inherent limits of their subjectivity and personal experiences."
"A statistician, who refused to fly after reading of the alarmingly high probability that there will be a bomb on any given plane, realized that the probability of there being two bombs on any given flight is very low. Now, whenever he flies, he carries a bomb with him."
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Friday, March 26, 2004
"Children of the future Age / Reading this indignant page, / Know that in a former time / Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime."
"You two are the first foreigners to be sitting here in the King's garden since 1979."
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
brooklyn rapid/disneylands handdraw
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Sunday, March 21, 2004
Sirius, a mastiff / alsatian / border collie mix with a brain enlarged by _in utero_ hormone treatments, is as smart as an above-average human, but retains the senses and instincts of a dog. His life is not an easy one, despite having loving human step parents and siblings. The novel follows his childhood and education in Wales, his experiences as an anonymous social observer in 1940s London, and his career as a sheep farmer. (What better job for a dog?) We also learn about an affair with his human step-sister, and his painful brooding about his place in the world and the meaning of his strange life.
I suppose picking holes in SF is very often quite easy. In terms of the larger debate on bacteria, I'd say bacteria are easily the more dominant lifeform. Ability to manipulate the environment is just something humans decided to value because it made them feel good about themselves. There's just no need to introduce hypothetical intelligent bacteria to decide the issue.
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Saturday, March 20, 2004
As near as I can discover, Mortdieu occurred seventy-seven years ago. Learned sons of pure flesh deny that magic was set loose, or even that the Alternate had gained supreme power. But few people could deny that God, as such, had died.
All the hinges of our once-great universe fell apart, the axis tilted, cosmic doors swung shut, and the rules of existence lost their foundations. I have heard wise men speak of the slow decline, have heard them speculate on the reasons, the process. Where human thought was strong, reality's sudden quaking was reduced to a tremor. Where human thought was weak, reality disappeared completely, swallowed by chaos.
This is all conveyed to us by an unnamed narrator who, musing one late night alone on his discontent about his small town life and marriage, is somehow or another (it's not clear why or how) telepathically transported to not only other worlds, but other galaxies and parallel universes. For each realm that he visits, the narrator is telepathically merged with one of the inhabitants, who then collectively proceed to visit and experience other parts of the universe, thus becoming a snowballing sort of immanent Borg that travels not only across galaxies and universes, but back and forth in time.
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
from the mar. 3 onion
Kerry Volunteer Gets Some Kerry-Primary Victory Sex
from the mar. 17 onion
ST. PAUL, MNóFollowing U.S. Sen. John Kerry's win in the Minnesota Democratic primary, campaign volunteer Ron Pelles, 24, got a little Kerry-primary victory sex off of fellow volunteer Dawn Beecher Monday. "Dawn and I were on such a high after Kerry took the state," Pelles said Tuesday morning. "She gave me a congratulatory hug while we were loading up the van, and there was just so much energy in the air thatóbam!" Pelles said that he and Beecher, a political-science major at the University of St. Thomas, went back to his apartment and had intercourse twice, once with Beecher on top and once in the spoon position.
News Of Uncle's Death Deleted By Spam Filter
PALO ALTO, CAóAn email from Marison Octrup containing word of her husband's death was deleted by Eric Rawson's spam filter Monday, a review of the deleted-items folder would have indicated. "Dear extended Octrup family, it is with great sadness that I write to you to report the end of George's battle with emphysema. George died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday night," read the e-mail, which Rawson never received. "The funeral will be held at St. Francis' First Lutheran Church on Thursday, for those who might be able to attend." While the death notice did not reach Rawson, 14 offers for low-cost Cialis did.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
national character writ large (addl)
March 17, 2004
comic series gains currency (dkkc)
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
TOKYO - Of all languages in the world, Japanese is the only one that has an entirely different set of written characters to express foreign words and names. Just seeing these characters automatically tells the Japanese that they are dealing with something or someone non-Japanese.
So foreign names, from George Bush to Saddam Hussein, are depicted in these characters, called katakana. What's more, the names of foreign citizens of Japanese ancestry are also written in this set of characters, indicating that while they may have Japanese names, they are not, well, really Japanese.
By contrast, in Chinese, no such distinction is made. There, non-Chinese names are depicted, sometimes with great difficulty, entirely in Chinese characters. Foreigners are, in effect, made Chinese.
At bottom, the differences reflect each country's diverging worldview. In contrast to the inner-looking island nation of Japan, China has traditionally viewed itself as the Middle Kingdom of its name, the center of the world. If it is natural for Japan to identify things or people as foreign, viewing them with some degree of caution, it may be equally natural for China to take "Coca-Cola" or "George Bush," and find the most suitable Chinese characters to express them.
In Japan, the rigid division between the inside and outside in the language underscores this country's enduring ambivalence toward the non-Japanese. The contrast with China is stark, and speaks also to the future prospects of Asia's two economic giants as they compete for influence in a world of increasingly fluid borders.
While today's Japanese travel overseas with an ease and confidence that would have been unimaginable only two generations ago, they remain uneasy about foreign things and people coming here. Safer to label them clearly as foreign.
Not so China.
"China is a big continent and has an inclination to think that it is No. 1 and that others are uncivilized," said Minoru Shibata, a researcher at NHK, Japan's public broadcast network. "Therefore, they feel that giving Chinese names to foreigners is doing them a favor."
China and Japan represent the two nations that still widely use Chinese characters in their writing. The Chinese, as the creators of this system, still use them exclusively.
Come to Japan, and things get extremely complicated. In their everyday lives, the Japanese use three different sets of characters in writing ó four if the widely used Roman alphabet is also included.
First are the Chinese characters, called kanji here. Japanese names are written in kanji. Currently, the number of kanji permitted for names stands at 2,230, and selecting a character outside this list is illegal. Parents have been pressing for an expanded list, though, and so the justice ministry said recently that it is considering adding between 500 and 1,000 characters.
Second is a set of phonetic characters used for Japanese words. Third are the katakana, the set of phonetic characters for foreign words.
"There is no other language that has three sets of characters ó only Japanese," said Muturo Kai, president of the National Institute for Japanese Language.
In the United States, parents' freedom to name their children may be absolute. Here the government and the media set the boundaries of names and the way they are written, thereby also setting the boundaries of Japanese identity.
In the media, the names of George Bush and Saddam Hussein are written in the characters reserved for foreign names. But so are the names of people of Japanese ancestry, like Alberto Fujimori, Peru's deposed president, or Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of "Remains of the Day," who left Japan at the age of 5 and is a British citizen. Their names could be written in kanji, but are instead written in katakana, in an established custom indicating that they are not truly Japanese.
The distinctions are sometimes difficult to draw, as they touch upon the difficult question of who is Japanese, or, rather, when does someone stop being Japanese. If Mr. Ishiguro had kept his Japanese citizenship all these years, would his name be written differently here? Why is the name of Mr. Fujimori, who holds Japanese citizenship and now lives in exile here, not written in kanji like the names of other Japanese? The media have no set criteria.
Are the criteria citizenship, blood, mastery of the Japanese language or customs? Or, in this island nation where leaving Japan has always meant leaving the village, does one start becoming non-Japanese the minute one steps off Japanese soil?
There is a strong argument to be made for that. Children of Japanese business families stationed overseas for a few years invariably encounter problems returning here. Schoolmates often pick on them and call them gaijin, meaning foreigner or outsider. That problem has decreased in recent years, as more and more Japanese have spent time abroad. But those children are still considered to have suffered from their years overseas, in contrast to, say, an American child whose experience living abroad would usually be considered a plus.
Chinese identity is a different matter. Whether you are a fourth-generation Chinese-American student at Berkeley, or the children of Chinese operating a restaurant in Lagos, Nigeria, you are considered Chinese, or an insider, upon returning to China. Your name will be written in the same way as everybody else's. Unlike Japan's, Chinese identity transcends borders.
"Chinese people have a strong feeling of comradeship toward overseas Chinese," said Naokazu Hiruma, who is in charge of language use at the daily Asahi Shimbun and studied in China. "Overseas Chinese have a long tradition, and they remain Chinese even after generations have passed. Japanese regard second- or third-generation overseas Japanese, even though they are of Japanese origin, as `people from that country over there.'"
In Seedy World of 'Golgo 13'
A Cunning White House
Is Behind Japan's Yen Sales
By MIYAKO TAKEBE
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
March 17, 2004
TOKYO -- September 2003. The White House. Two advisers to the U.S. president -- a man and a woman -- discuss the meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations' finance ministers to be held that month. They hatch a plan to engineer a dollar fall that makes Japan intervene repeatedly, keeping the dollar weak while maintaining the appearance of a hard economic line, a key issue in an election year.
Forget economic fundamentals. Japan isn't intervening in the currency markets to save its exporters from a strong yen, as it often tells the world. It is really being strong-armed by a cunning White House that knows it needs Asian dollar buying to plug the U.S. budget and current-account deficits and keep the Treasurys market from crashing.
At least that is what Japanese readers are being told in a hugely popular comic book. The storyline of the thriller "manga" series "Golgo 13" does, in fact, jibe with the well-known symbiosis between the U.S. economy's reliance on Asian money and Japan's massive yen-selling interventions.
But facts aside, the popularity of the serialized comic shows not only how traders are guessing about Japan's motives in its multitrillion-yen intervention campaign, but also how much foreign-exchange policy has pervaded the mass consciousness here.
In the murky world of Golgo 13, which chronicles the assassin Duke Togo and which takes its sinister name from the hill where Jesus was crucified plus the unlucky number 13, international finance and geopolitical power collide.
The two White House advisers are thinly disguised caricatures of top U.S. officials: The woman is modeled after National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, while the Svengali-like political adviser is a takeoff on political guru Karl Rove. On their exercise bikes in the White House fitness room, "Tice" and "Rose" plot about the G-7 meeting in Dubai -- typically, the preserve of the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.
In real life, that decisive meeting sparked a dollar plunge that was followed by Japan stepping up its already unprecedented dollar purchases.
After defending •115 for much of 2003, Tokyo watched the market erase that line after the G-7 adopted a U.S.-led call for freer exchange rates. Markets saw the G-7 statement as a push for Asian authorities to let their currencies rise against the dollar, but Japan has insisted the market was wrong to think the G-7 was referring to the yen -- and Tokyo has intervened massively. Japan sold a record •20 trillion ($181.29 billion) in 2003 and half that much in the first two months of this year, fighting the dollar's slide to three-year lows.
Market participants long have suspected the U.S. -- which rails against China's yuan selling but has been largely silent for months on Japan's intervention -- condones Japan's huge purchases of Treasurys, which keep a lid on U.S. interest rates. The quid pro quo, this argument goes, has let Japan aggressively chase the dollar higher even after it rebounded off February's •105.16 low and back above •110.
In afternoon trading in Asia, the dollar was at •110.15, with Japanese official bids apparently supporting the U.S. currency at its lows.
Conventional wisdom is that Japan is intervening purely for its own interests -- to keep export growth fueling the country's economic recovery and to fight deflation.
But in Golgo 13, the rabid intervention is a U.S. plot, and Japan -- milked by the U.S. for money to aid the reconstruction of Iraq -- decides to fight back. This effort is led by a former top Finance Ministry bureaucrat who is now a deputy governor at the Bank of Japan -- a character patterned after the Japanese central bank's Toshiro Muto.
Conspiracy theorists could say Japan hasn't just been a pliant fund-raiser for the U.S. government.
After Tokyo sat out of the market for six business days following the Dubai G-7 meeting -- leaving a gash in the dollar/yen chart as the U.S. currency plummeted five yen in less than a week -- some speculated the Finance Ministry was reminding Washington how much its fortunes are intertwined with Japan's with regard to the market's dependence on intervention.
Such thoughts resurfaced the other week when the Japanese central bank suddenly pulled its dollar bids, throwing the currency market into turmoil.
More ominously, market participants have speculated in recent weeks that Japan may be trying to work out a strategy to kick its chronic intervention habit after the end of the fiscal year two weeks from now. But analysts say Japan would have plenty to lose if it upset the current system with any rash action.
A dollar crash would mean a strong-yen recession here and could take the U.S. bond market with it, with spiraling U.S. interest rates slamming the world's biggest economy, a locomotive for the global economic recovery. Moreover, plunging U.S. Treasury prices would decimate the value of Japanese taxpayers' giant investment there.
Former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said in February that while Japan is acquiring great amounts of U.S. Treasurys with its intervention proceeds, the purchases are made in Japan's interests, and not to benefit the U.S.
"That's just the way things have been for decades," he told a seminar, noting that the dollar's standing as the world's key reserve currency has created a system in which Japan has no choice but to support the dollar and buy U.S. Treasurys to protect its own interests.
With regard to the possibility that Japan may threaten not to buy U.S. government debt, Mr. Miyazawa said: "It's hard to consider using this as a weapon -- even though from time to time it might be possible." But he added that eventually the U.S. "will likely say, 'Stop buying if you can.' And yet of course we can't."
So what happens next?
That is anybody's guess. But for what it is worth, Golgo 13 is being read not only by strap-hanging salarymen on Japan's commuter trains but also in the dingy corridors of the Finance Ministry. One official, though quibbling with the accuracy of the manga's portrayals, says, "The next episode seems like it could be exciting."
Golgo 13 readers will have to wait until the March 25 issue of Big Comic magazine to learn who has hired the merciless Mr. Togo to kill whom -- and for what purpose. But as millions of readers already know, Mr. Togo never misses.
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Monday, March 15, 2004
what does one make of mars? (rr)
"What does one make of Mars? The planet in our sights could be anything -- a launching pad, a distant science lab, a place of commerce. It might even offer common ground for those who are weary of the earth that seems perpetually torn between easy wars and easy pieties. Common ground -- imagine that."
what we miss while we fight
"This great moment is beyond right and wrong. It is an inevitable extension of life from our little part of the universe. It makes the feeble bigotry over sexuality and the greedy power grabs shrink in significance. It puts the human race in its place and at the same time rewards its patient curiosity and commitment to science."
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Sunday, March 14, 2004
"Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? March 13 at 2:30 p.m. Filmed during a shooting hiatus from his film I Was Born But..., Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?, part student comedy and part 'salaryman film', examines social hierarchy and class division as the friendship of four recent graduates is strained when one of them inherits his father's business and becomes the employer of his friends (1932, silent with piano accompaniment, 92 minutes)."
"The University of Illinois has sort of a 30-year round-trip shuttle bus. You grow up in the Chicago suburbs, you head downstate for four years of college, you come back up to Chicago to live in the city until, you become the oldest guy at the bar or start having baby fever, and then you move to the suburbs and put your children through the exact same thing. In a weird way, it's kind of a well-rounded life; you've pretty much covered all your bases."
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Friday, March 12, 2004
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Thursday, March 11, 2004
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Tuesday, March 9, 2004
majickal connexions and familiar suchlike
We have been throwing technological innovations into the world since we discovered fire (at least a half million years ago), and since that time the technological world, the world of artifact, has been talking back. The history of humanity, viewed in this way, can be seen as a continuous process of feedback. As we talk to the world through our hands, the world accepts these invocations, which modify the environment within which we participate, which modifies our own understanding of the world, which leads to new innovations, which modifies the environment, which modifies us, and so on, and so on.
the new era of spintronics
In just a dozen of years, we have seen spintronics increasing considerably the capacity of hard disks and now getting ready to enter the RAM of computers. In the next decade, spintronics with semiconductors has the potential to gain an important place in the microelectronics industry. Another perspective, at longer term and out of the scope of this paper, is the exploitation of the truly quantum-mechanical nature of spin and the long spin-coherence time in confined geometry for quantum computing in an even more revolutionary application.
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Monday, March 8, 2004
on computable numbers
Two camps, one albeit much smaller than the other, believe in different kinds of programming. One believes that programs should address memory, should read and write variables, should execute loops, and generally act as if they are specifying a set of rules to be followed by a machine. The other believes, well, that programs should be written in a version of the lambda calculus. The first is, of course, programmers who use C and its ilk, the other is Lisp. And of course these are equivalent in expressive power, because Turing and Church showed that they are equivalent formulations. But these camps are essentially followers of Alonzo or Alan, sticking to their favorite metaphor.
the hero types
A fourth type is the one who, by speaking truth, especially if by doing so reveals hidden truth, changes the nature of the world. This is a high-sounding phrase that includes such ordinary types as Hercule Poirot or the Continental Operative. Borrowing from Hyde (although I think perhaps he would disagree with my doing so), I call this hero type "the prophet." Prophet not because they predict the future, but because (as is the original meaning of prophet), they speak eternal truths. I think this archetype might explain the enduring fascination that people have with mystery novels. They are powerful reminders of the power that revealing hidden truth has.
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Saturday, March 6, 2004
robert birnbaum vs brian greene
RB: You mentioned that one of things that physics does and is doing is giving people the signal to go out and look at the world and instead of seeing what you are predisposed to see, you will see something different Ė you may not see the entities that physics deals with but Ė thatís an age-old dilemma isnít it? Like the fable of the three blind men and the elephant. Everybody touches a piece of reality and claims thatís the thing.
BG: The one difference relative to that particular story is Ė that story always struck me as showing how different perspectives that seem disjointed and disconnected can have a hidden unity between them, so long as a you have an overarching seer who puts it all together.
RB: Somebody, some storyteller has to say itís an elephant and that the men are touching parts of it Ė
BG: Exactly. So the person who sees the elephant puts all the pieces together. What I am referring to is related to that but in a sense itís deeper. What physics is really revealing to us is that everything that you see is this glossy exterior to an underlying reality that physics is revealing, that is very surprising and very rich. Very elegant and very beautiful. And that underlying reality, we can see it once in the equations, itís not as though we only have one piece or another. Certainly our understanding is not complete but as we go deeper and deeper we do see that everything that we are aware of through common perception is not truly how the world is put together.
RB: What was that game you played with your father?
BG: When I was a kid, my dad and I would walk down the street and the game was to look at some event that you might see Ė some of the examples I give in the book, some simple ones: somebody drops a coin, or an ant walking along some surface of some sort Ė and not describing the event from your point of view but describing the event from some arbitrary but definite point of view that is completely different from your own. From the point of view of the ant or the point of view of the falling coin, and so forth. And the challenge of the game was when one or the other of us would give this description of the world from this unspecified perspective to go from the description to whose perspective it was that things looked that way. If you are walking along some brown cylindrical object and you have these textured walls and there is this white stuff coming from the sky Ė that would be the point of view of an ant walking on an hot dog and you have a street vendor putting sauerkraut on it. Itís a very interesting game in the sense of it allowed you to see different perspectives, forced you constantly to look at things from a very different point of view.
RB: For me, that summons forth the notion of empathy. That in human interaction it is of great value to see peopleís behavior and responses through their own eyes.
BG: Thatís right. Thatís a touch deeper than the game we were playing when I was little. That game is a first step toward being able to do that because you are constantly going outside your own head.
RB: Why is the most common laymanís description, maybe I even saw it in your bookís press materials, Ďhead numbing,í Ďheadache producingí? Is this string theory information too much for people to process? Because we are not used to it?
BG: We are not used to it. What you are asked to do by modern physics is to, in a sense, mistrust everything that you experience. Thatís hard to do, especially if you havenít done it before. Because what you see seems to be what there is. Reality seems to be revealed by our sense of sight, our sense of touch, our sense of sound. To recognize that it isnít really true is pretty tough and itís not something everybody wants to do. For example, my mother cannot understand why anybody would spend their life doing this kind of thing. And thatís fine with me and there Ė
RB: Ė [affects the voice of the disappointed mother] ĎBrian, you should have been a doctor.í
BG: ĎWhy arenít you a doctor or a lawyer?í I understand. [laughs] It makes some sense from a certain perspective. To me the world just becomes much more wondrous when I see everyday stuff as part of a much bigger story.
RB: Do you explain what you think about to your mother?
BG: I tried and I can get just so far and itís not that she doesnít have the ability to get this Ė everybody does. Itís that she doesnít feel compelled to understand it. She is a much more practical person. She likes real estate.
RB: [laughs uproariously]
BG: She is very concrete, [laughs] which is great. To me, I just gravitate toward Ė and I think many people do Ė letís look at popular culture again. The Matrix, a very successful movie. Why? Well, it was a great movie (Matrix one, I am referring to) but at its heart it had the notion that what you see is not really what there is. That touches people, because everybody or many people are searching for a deeper reality and anything that kind of brushes up against a deeper reality.
RB: I find that impulse a little frightening Ė its outcome is frequently religious dogma.
BG: It can be for some people but for many people itís not. Ultimately the deeper levels of reality that are subject to experimental testing, those are the ones that grab me. Thatís not the right measure for the religious sensibility. My brother is a Hare Krishna and his deeper reality differs from mine. He finds it very fulfilling, what he does. Itís not his full-time occupation, but it is the grander picture for him. Now, thatís not an experimentally testable framework, I donít think. And I donít think thatís the right measure. For him, itís a more spiritual measure. For me itís, ĎDoes it work? Can you test it in the lab? Can you test it through astronomical observations?í I donít think one is better than the other. Certainly one grabs me more than the other. But thatís a personal choice.
putting the weirdness to work
For a glimpse of this endeavor, drop by the lab of William Phillips and his team in Gaithersburg, Md. Sprawling over a giant lab bench is a maze of precision mirrors and lasers, all converging on a small glass vacuum chamber where the quantum world is being probed. Phillips won his Nobel in 1997 for a technique known as laser cooling, in which beams are used to slow atoms down. That chills the atoms until they are a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. Now, using rubidium atoms, Phillips is making them even colder by letting the warmer ones "evaporate."
Inside the glass chamber, he is creating the fragile Bose-Einstein condensate. The clump of atoms can be huge -- big enough to be visible to the naked eye. At that scale, you would expect the stolid laws of Newtonian physics to rule. Instead, the atoms obey the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which specifies that an electron or atom can't be pinned down to any one location. Even though the clump is a tenth of a millimeter across and contains a million atoms, "every atom is everywhere -- that's what makes it so wonderful," says Williams.
This strange state of matter was predicted by Einstein, building on work by Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, back in 1924. It was first created by Phillips' NIST colleague, Eric A. Cornell, and Carl E. Wieman of the University of Colorado, in 1995 -- a Nobel prize-winning achievement. Now, an estimated 50 groups around the world are experimenting with the strange stuff. "It can do some amazing things," says Phillips.
One of the most intriguing -- and potentially useful -- maneuvers in Phillips' lab involves putting the atoms into neat little rows. The trick is using precisely tuned laser light. Imagine dropping pebbles into a pond, sending waves across the water. Then drop pebbles at the opposite shore, dispatching waves in the other direction. Where the two groups of waves meet, they create so-called standing waves -- an unchanging collection of peaks and troughs, like a row of sand dunes in the desert.
Laser light is also a wave. So two intersecting beams similarly create peaks and valleys. Scientists call this an optical lattice. And when Phillips and other researchers shine intersecting laser beams though the Bose-Einstein clump of atoms, individual atoms almost magically go from being everywhere at once to nestling in the valleys. "It's a great gift of nature," says Phillips. "We've been lucky that things worked better than expected."
To information scientists, such a neat arrangement of atoms looks startlingly like the basis for a computer. It can be arranged that each atom is in one of two energy levels, separated by a small quantum jump. Thus, each atom could represent a 0 or a 1, like the bits in a regular computer.
But these are no ordinary bits. Because of quantum weirdness, an atom can be a 0 and a 1 at the same time. What's more, the different quantum bits, or "qubits," can be entangled with each other, even if there is no actual connection. "Because of the mystery of entanglement, the state of one atom will be dependent on the state of the other," explains Williams. "It's a much stronger relationship than marriage." As a result, for some calculations, the power of a quantum machine grows exponentially with the number of qubits -- twice the bits gives you four times the power. A 300-qubit machine could store more combinations than there are atoms in the entire universe, says Williams.
Without doubt, there's a long, long path to building such a machine, and today's researchers have only begun the journey. Phillips and his team are now working on the next small step. They're trying to figure out how to get information to and from the individual qubits, by flipping the atoms from one state to the other with laser beams.
Meanwhile, other labs are pursuing clever alternatives. At the University of Mainz, Bloch is also putting Bose-Einstein condensate atoms into the valleys of an optical lattice. His special twist is creating two simultaneous lattices with two different "colors" of laser beams. He also puts his atoms in two states at the same time. Then he can move one of the landscapes so that the atom particles interact in new ways. "We can entangle hundreds of thousands of atoms and measure the state of each particle," he says. "It is a completely new way of thinking about a quantum computer."
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Friday, March 5, 2004
It'd be ironic if the famously "rational" Greeks, who according to legend even drowned the guy who proved sqrt(2) was irrational, chose the most irrational number as the proportions of their most beautiful rectangle! But, it wouldn't be a coincidence. Their obsession with ratios and proportions led them to ponder the situation where A:B::(A+B):A, and this proportion instantly implies that A and B are incommensurable, since if you assume A and B are integers and try to find their greatest common divisor using Euclid's algorithm, you get stuck in an infinite loop.
Last July 22, the New York Times ran an ominous headline: "ASTRONOMERS REPORT EVIDENCE OF 'DARK ENERGY' SPLITTING THE UNIVERSE." David Letterman found this so disturbing that he mentioned it several consecutive nights in his Late Show monologue, wondering why the Times buried the story on Page A-13.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2004
deckchair colossus (cuts)
"I am in the way now that I interpret the past through the scrim of these photos and how that veil is more or less a distant shadow of me."
hollywood death (rr)
"Celluloid, after all, confers a kind of immortality. And what we call our real memory becomes confused with what never was, and still is."
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Tuesday, March 2, 2004
all watched over
by machines of loving grace
so like, what lasts forever is death, and...
what doesn't last, what's transitory and ephemeral, that's life
to die, is to have been alive! to leave no trace and slip back into undifferentiated randomness (redundant i know :)
are each pair of people friends or enemies?
gogol13: i'm thinking they're all friends, cuz the way it's framed, like why would you take a picture with your enemy? besides it's all random anyway until you know their backstory.
also btw, feel good lost is like a chillout lounge loveless
like shoegazey bladerunner vangelis record
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