Thursday, January 21, 2010

The first rule of holes
Oliver Kamm and William B. Shockley

Quite a lot of special in the comment thread of this piece, but I think there are 2 points to address:

[1] OK writes:

"T Tsikas of Media Lens, excuse me? In what possible respect is William B. Shockley a racist? How is it racist to make an estimate of possible casualties in a conventional invasion? What is notorious about him? Did he steal the Nobel Prize from someone else?"

I expect the reason that William Shockley was described as a racist is because he was, in fact, a racist. It hardly takes away from his achievements, but it is still true. It is dealt with in every biography of Shockley I have read. One might even describe it as notorious.

[2] A commenter posts a link to the Economist obituary of Yamaguchi Tsutomu (link here, more here from Mainichi, which leads to OK's remarkable response:
"Paul Hutton, as you raised the issue of Tsutomu Yamaguchi - let me add that one of my historian correspondents has pointed out that, however much in bad taste it may sound, Yamaguchi's account of having seen both A-bombs cannot be right. Even if he'd been totally uninjured, there is no way he would have been able to travel the 290 miles by sea or the 310 miles by rail from Hiroshima to Nagasaki. That of course doesn't obviate the sufferings of the civilians of both cities." [enphasis mine].

I don't know if Mr. Kamm's correspondent is a historian; he is certainly not a geographer.

PREDICTION: You know, one day, when the last hibakusha has died, there will be an entire industry devoted to denying the Americans ever dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday evening brain dump
Stream of consciousness

I have a paper to draft and a number of characters to learn before tomorrow, so clearly the best thing to be done is write twaddle for 20 minutes. I've have been unconscionably lazy today:

1. While dallying in a coffee shop after church, I saw 5 loudspeaker-festooned black-gloss vans full of Japanese fascists speeding down by Kamiyacho. They were going so fast I thought that the vast rising sun flags were going to be torn off.
Less than a minute later, a fire engine was speeding in the opposite direction, although I am sure this was just a coincidence.

2. Speaking of the far-Right, I am currently working my way through "国家の品格" ("The dignity of the nation") by Fujiwara Masahiko. It is well mad. A review may be forthcoming, combined with the Yasukuni Jinja post that has been promised.

3. In addition to getting Dignity of the Nation (thanks, James!) for Christmas, I also got Tony Judt's "Reappraisals" and A.N. Wilson's Victorians/After the Victorians/Our Times trilogy (thank you Gareth!). In "After the Victorians" he records this epic wind up:

"My husband" remarked Mrs Sumner, wife of the Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, when introduced to [Frederick, later Lord] Lindemann ('the Prof') "my husband always says that with a First in Greats you can get up science in a fortnight"(After the Victorians, page p.374)

Poor old Prof. Mind you, if you've read Most Secret War by RV Jones, you will recognise the attitude.

4. And on the subject of science, I have had a very pleasant time re-reading Andrew Hickey's series of hyperposts. Some excellent, thought-provoking writing here - I'm not a many-worlder myself (Bohmian mechanics FTW!), but this is just the sort of mind expanding stuff that science fiction can explore. I'm looking forward to AH's forthcoming zine, too.

5. Oh, and speaking of many worlds and it's enthusiasts, does anyone else think that equation 11 of Tegmark (2000) [1] is inconsistent with the claim that the brain is "too warm" for quantum computation to take place, and are in fact evidence that the brain is not warm enough? This isn't something I care about very much, and I certainly not familiar with the literature to offer constructive criticism on this point, but a coherence time proportional to a positive exponent of temperature strikes me as unusual to say the least. [There is a reason why experimentalists get through quite so much liquid helium...]

4. Friends of this blog PJ and LemmusLemmus have been very patiently educating me on statistics - I think I understand now.

5. And finally, my old uni mate MTPT has been interviewed on Charon QC's podcast. Well worth a listen.

[1] Tegmark Phys. Rev. E, 61 4194-4206 (2000). Link here, you can read an arXiv copy here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The monopoles OF DEATH

Q. Are physicists trying to keep transgressive papers off the arXiv by blacklisting heterodox researchers?

Whilst readers are encouraged to enjoy the whole thing, p. 829-832 contains Section III B (entitled "Even worse than destroying the earth"), which has brightened up my evening no end. I assume this is the "brilliant review" of which the AEI's Dr. Kevin Hassett speaks so highly of here (link via Professor DeLong).

Monday, January 04, 2010

Are earthquakes more likely on a Sunday?
In which the earth moves

I experienced my second earthquake last month (woke me up, as did the first one in 2008), so I was interested to read this paper (via Prof. Rabbett) from Pieter Vermeesch about statistical significance.

Question to the stats-mavens (you know who you are): don't you really have 7 hypotheses (e.g. Monday is the most common, Tuesday ...) which you've selected one (Sunday) after you've looked at your data. Doesn't this need to be accounted for?

From Vermeesch, P., 2009. Eos Trans. Am. Geophys. Union, 90 (47), p.443

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What about the International Students Society?
More things I don't understand

Today, I shall mostly be failing to understand Con Coughlin's statement:

Even though Abdulmutallab is not even a British citizen, he was still allowed to be elected president of the Islamic Society at University College London (UCL)... [source]

They are called student societies because their membership, and the officers drawn from that membership, are students. If Mr. Coughlin is unaware that non-citizens study at British Universities[1], it might be advisable for him to refrain from comment on university-related matters.

[1] And how many! About 30% of UCL students come from outside the UK. According to UCAS, "n the UK last year there were 1.8 million full-time undergraduate students in higher education, which included over 104,000 international students.". Definitionally, this doesn't account for graduate students.

[Via Malcolm Grant in THES who is excellent]

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Happy New Year! This is what I hope to be writing about this year ('*' indicates things that were promised last year, but not delivered, so this might be a vain hope)


Introduction to lasers

Why you should care about electron spin*

Quantum whats? Semiconductors at the nanoscale

Photonic crystals

Space based solar power - WITH LASERS

The QW solar cell

Research blogging - doping quantum dots

[Update the links]

What I Did On My Holidays

“What do you tell the dead when you lose?” - Yasukuni Jinja

Shinjuku metropolitan building and aging modernity

Book reviews

A review of Japanese-English dictionaries

Public service and notes to self

Hermite polynomials

Python practice

A note on SESAMs


Random Dictator with Quota - the best form of PR

Why Physics should be more like Media Studies

The history of the LASER as a counter-example to the Libertarian model of scientific innovation

Penrose: the case for the defence*