Free Thought

Sparks Fly Over Shoestring Test Of 'Holographic Principle' " "The beauty of it is that we have the people who can come up with this low-risk, high-reward experiment," says Fermilab's Raymond Tomlin. "It's one shot, and if you discover something you go to Stockholm [to collect a Nobel Prize]. And if you don't see anything, you set a limit." Not everyone cheers the effort, however. In fact, Leonard Susskind, a theorist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and co-inventor of the holographic principle, says the experiment has nothing to do with his brainchild. "The idea that this…
As threatened a little while ago, this is the first of ten hopefully weekly posts looking back at the ten years this blog has been in operation. This one covers the period from the very first post on June 22, 2002 to June 21, 2003. When I started doing this look back, I was more than a little afraid that it would prove cringe-inducing. It's been ten years, after all, and in that time I've gone from a wet-behind-the-ears, recently married assistant professor to a tenured father of two and a published author. That's enough external change that I was expecting my early posts to seem, well,…
Why we need blue-sky research Internet con men ravage publishing Why I Pirate - An Open Letter To Content Creators Open Access Tenure: Put it in the File Bletchley Park tweet saves Alan Turing computing papers The little guys stand up to Amazon: Book distributor IPG fights for say in e-book pricing Are books and the internet about to merge? Reflective Teaching for Librarians Comments -- The Weakest Part of Blogs, the Weakest Part of Online Journals Censorship is inseparable from surveillance Libraries as Community Publishers: How to Turn the Tables Fighting HEARSE: Higher Ed Apocalpyse…
Bear in mind that my ancient philosophy is deeply unreliable; I'm just using NA as a label for a trait I think I can see amongst the "skeptic" folk one sees at WUWT and the like: an inability to abstract. Let me try to explain that by example, in case it isn't clear. To many people nowadays, with the success of science so obvious, the idea of abstracting problems isn't difficult. If you need to consider the motion of a ball on a surface, you begin with an abstract perfect sphere on a perfectly flat surface and ignore friction. You can then learn about Newton's laws of motion, about momentum…
Dear FSM, by all that is unholy, I think this is the last one. A final bunch of lists for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. Top Books We Read in 2011, by L.A. Weekly Writers. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah BlumSan Antonio Express-News: Best books of…
A couple more lists for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. San Francisco Chronicle 100 recommended books American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation's Deadliest Bioterror Attack by Jeanne Guillemin Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White Steve Jobs by…
Another list for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. This post includes the following: Powell's Books Staff Top 5s of 2011. The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer Physics of the Future: How Science…
Another list for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. This post includes the following: Year in Reviews: Wall Street Journal: Twelve Months of Reading. The Quantum Universe: (And Why Anything That Can Happen, Does) by Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Stephen Pinker Steve…
The Links Dump item about software patents this morning includes a lament that there are so many silly little software patents, organized so badly, that finding one you might be infringing would take forever. This may or may not be a convincing argument against them, but for a physics geek like me, my first reaction was "You just need a quantum computer running Grover's algorithm for searching an unsorted database." And I suppose there's a background element for a satirical SF novel in that-- quantum computers ultimately being developed not by banks or the NSA, but by lawyers looking to speed…
Breaking the barriers of time and space: the dawning of the great age of librarians. The Great Age of Librarians Achieving the "Golden Age of Librarians" -- An Ambitious Project of Deep Redefinition Nobody cares about the library: How digital technology makes the library invisible (and visible) to scholars Snooki, Whale Sperm, and Google: The Unfortunate Extinction Of Librarians When They Are Needed Most Potential Crisis May Be Brewing in Preservation of E-Journals Privacy?? Forgetaboutit!! Notes from the AE's desk (about being an editor at a journal) Computers in classrooms don't guarantee…
Brookesia micra sp. n. from Nosy Hara, northern Madagascar. Imagine a supercomputer suitable for this cute little guy, the recently discovered Brookesia micra. Developing computers and transistors at smaller and smaller scales is happening at a stunning rate. The most recent discovery, just published February 19 in Nature Nanotechnology takes the prize: a single atom transistor! From their Abstract {excerpted for clarity}: The ability to control matter at the atomic scale and build devices with atomic precision is central to nanotechnology. The scanning tunnelling microscope can…
Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide' Reading and Believing Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms? "if libraries did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them" Academia as Music Industry Wolfram Alpha Pro democratizes data analysis: an in-depth look at the $4.99 a month service Physical Sciences Case studies: information use and discovery New Media Consortia - Horizon Report - Ten Top Trends in Education Why Pay for Intro Textbooks? The Future of Taxpayer-Funded Research: Who Will Control Access to the Results? Tim Berners-Lee Takes the Stand…
Imagine the killer from the infamous "Headless Man Found in Topless Bar" murder was convicted using a photograph of the face of the victim, with reliability rivaling that of DNA analysis. Impossible? With a skull found, how can we determine to whom it belonged? A research group at the University of Granada has developed a new method that merges facial photographs with 3D images of a skull called craniofacial superimposition that could revolutionize forensic analysis. How did they do it? Identifying remains using photographs or even paintings has been used since the 19th century. This group…
Known as "the authority on the future of technology " and the world's oldest technology magazine,Technology Review - published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - is bringing its prestige and expertise back to the Festival as a Media Partner! Technology Review, published by MIT since 1899, continues today to provide unparalleled insights into cutting edge technologies that are changing the world and the way science and engineering do business. In returning as a Media Partner, the magazine joins a growing list of other top science media leaders who are also serving as Festival…
Another list for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. This post includes the following: The Independent Books of the Year: Science, History. The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen The Magic of Reality: How we know…
Another list for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. This post includes the following: January Magazine Best of 2011: Art & Culture, Non-Fiction. The Magic of Reality: How We Really Know What's True by Richard Dawkin Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard…
"In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms." -Stephen Jay Gould Those of you who follow me on either google+, facebook or twitter know that I sometimes post interesting articles about science from around the world, including this very good article about myths about outer space, from the often-entertaining cracked.com. So, as you can imagine, I was (at first) very excited when I saw this article…
"You cannot hope to build a better world without improving individuals. We all must work for our own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity." -Marie Curie Most of us remember the importance of being charitable on a few rare occasions throughout the year, most commonly around the year's end. But what about the rest of the year? Obviously, we don't have an unlimited amount of resources, so for most of us, it's not a viable option to do as Magnolia Electric Company suggests, and Give Something Else Away Every Day.But what if I told you there was a way…
The always interesting Timothy Burke has a post that's basically a long links dump pointing to two articles about the state of humanities in academia, which includes a sort of aside that is more interesting to me than either of the linked articles: This leads me to the second piece I really liked in this past week, at Ian Bogost's blog. Now, look, to some extent this essay is just Bogost being Bogost: whether in tweets, blogs or books, you get the clear sense that he exemplifies the quip about not wanting to be part of any club that would have him as a member. The voice that I've built up on…
Another list for your reading, gift-giving and collection development pleasure. Every year for the last bunch of years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best sciencey books" lists that appear in various media outlets and shining a bit of light on the best of the year. All the previous 2011 lists are here. This post includes the following: Discovery News: A Little Light Reading: 2011 in Physics Books. The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe by Frank Close The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the…