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*


LemmusLemmus said...

Request: Dictionaries, Physics/Media studies. The "random dictator" stuff somehow sounds fun, although I don't know what you're on about.

Concerning the laser, here's some material to work with.

Happy new year to you, too, and rest assured you're not the only one with long-held plans for posts that somehow just won't write themselves.

Political Scientist said...

Ask and ye shall receive! "Random dictator" is half writen and will come along first. I was saving physics/media studies for the traditional august moral panic about the UK exam results, and need to do a fair bit of research for it, but I could hurry it up. Dictionaries is another one that should definitely be one the way soon.

Thank you for the GNXP post - I always felt sorry for Schawlow, who missed out on the Nobel prize (although he did get to marry Townes younger sister) and Maiman, who made the bloody thing work after all, and still didn't get a Nobel.

Also, thank you for listing my post on best posts of 2009! My former newsagent is a great man.

LemmusLemmus said...

He certainly is - let him know should you get the chance any time soon. Your post crept onto the list in the last minute, after I had decided that your title was significant enough a contribution to make your post an original work. Oh yes, I thought about these things!

(On reflection, however, maybe I shouldn't have included #8?)

pj said...

Penrose, Penrose...

Political Scientist said...

Happy New Year, PJ! Was the hospital over Christmas dreadful, or was there any consolation?

As I promised Penrose defence to you last year, it is another one on the definitely list. I shall have to re-read the bloody book tho', and at least two of the works of the secondary literature. I shall have a bit of reading time come March so I shall have a proper crack. (There also will be a taster on Tegmark before hand - there's a decidedly odd aspect of his Physica E paper that I really don't understand, and it would be good to see if that's just me being daft or if there's actually a problem). Also, a surpising number of people believe you can't have quantum coherence in large systems or at biological temperatures - this is quite mistaken. Nuclear spin can have T2 times of ms and higher at room temperature, and long T2* times are possible over length scales comparible with the dimension of a laser excitation spot (otherwise optical orientation wouldn't work) suggesting coherence lengths of longer than tens of microns.
Now, fair enough, it's a bit ambitious[to put it mildly] to generalize from what goes on in a biological system, but I don't think it's a priori absurd. On the other hand, if I were a would-be quantum biologist, I think I'd go for something a bit less challenging the conciousness: look for other signatures of QM in the bological world: there's been some work on coherence in chlorophyll that looks pretty promicing (although Engel 2007 Nature paper was at liquid nitrogen temp: have there been any similar results at RT?). In work like that, too, it's clear what physicists are"bringing to the party": fast laser experise, optics know-how, knowelge of QM etc, whereas what I think got a lot of peoples backs up about Penrose was he didn't have as deep a knowledge as people who have spent there entire lives working on such a large and intractable problem. They were presumably quite annoyed to be told by someone who wasn't familiar with the field that "UR DOIN IT RONG". If you're going to say that to someone, better be sure you're right.

There's a lesson in there for physicists in general, I think.

pj said...

"Was the hospital over Christmas dreadful, or was there any consolation?"

Happy New Year...nope, pretty dreadful, at least people had the good grace to wait until I'd finished before they started dying.