Physics Journals learning from Open Science

It is good to see some of the biggest names in physics journals embrace ideas pioneered by the open sciences community.

I hope they push further! Any comments of future directions you would like them to take?

Theorem: Consider the set of all sets that have never been considered. Hey! They’re all gone! Oh, well, never mind…

People Do Science

Have you ever wondered how is science done? Why do people do it? What is the output? What is success, what is failure? Check out this wonderful one hour long documentary, Naturally Obsessed.

It follows a group of graduate students in a molecular biology laboratory. Independent of the details of their science, the focus is on where the people (grad students) doing it: their backgrounds, their personal lives, and their emotions in the laboratory. This is a vivid and clear exposition of the human aspect of doing science, without Hollywood drama, without heroic altruism. Science is enough drama on its own. Highly recommended.

Lisa: You should really listen to him. He’s a man of science, and you can barely read.
Homer: Bah, science. Has science ever kissed a woman, or won the Super Bowl, or put a man on the moon? Here’s what I think of your precious science. (Goes full speed into a blood vein. Submarine begins to go out of control) Help me science!

Quantum Minesweeper

If you are vaguely interested in quantum mechanics, you must check out the game Quantum Minesweeper. You might want to start with the video tutorial before you play online.

The game differs from classical Minesweeper in the following ways:

  • The board is really a quantum superposition of two boards. It is your goal to figure out the superpositions. It is simplified, as only one kind of phase is allowed.
  • There are three different kind of measurements that you can do, each one a limited number of times. The measurements are:
  1. classical measurement – collapse that can trigger a mine probabilistically. Very risky!
  2. entropy measurement – it indicates if there is a superposition or not, but doesn’t tell you if there is a mine or not!
  3. interaction-free measurements – it is very magical, doesn’t collapse the wave function, actually gives you the phase information. Very powerful!

This game is fantastic!

Technical digression:

I have a question that might be a good undergraduate research project for someone interested in quantum information. What is the optimal strategy for the game? That is, if you thought of this game as a kind of state tomography problem, is there a general protocol to extract the state with high fidelity, given the constrains of the number of measurements? To make it more interesting, imagine a version of quantum minesweeper where the boards could have between them any kind of phase, how much harder would solving it be?

Give it one last try
til the next
one more
last try.
-A Wilhelm Scream

Video: Quantum Effects in Photosynthesis – FermiLab

The video and slides for my talk for undergraduates at FermiLab can be found here:

Quantum Effects in Photosynthesis [RealPlayer video link].

This is a good introduction to my research. If you are curious about what I do, by all means watch it.

[I know RealPlayer is so 1998 and sucks, I’m trying to get the file in another format from the FermiLab people.]

[Previous post here.]

Universe as Quantum Information

Vlatko Vedral, from Oxford/CQT Singapore is promoting his new layperson book.

Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information

An infuriatingly theologically focused video interview can be found here. I’ll assume The Guardian editing is to blame.

Although I am always highly critical of all popularizations of quantum mechanics, I’ll admit I’m biased towards liking this one. Vlatko’s work on the thermodynamics of quantum information have influenced my own interests, and I’m currently working with several people in his group. I can’t wait for this book to come out.

I know it is hopeless.
Hell ain’t big enough to hold us back.
Come one, let’s pick a fight.
We hunt for trouble tonight!

The union that never returned?

The word on the street is “What’s up with the MBTA?”. The Mass. Bay Transport Authority, who runs the extensive and vital public transportation system on the Boston metropolitan area, is on the public eye. MBTA threatened to increase fares, cut down lines, and increased the number of employees and their benefits. Meanwhile, a cellphone ban was enforced (and violated) after an MBTA conductor caused an accident on the Green line while texting his girlfriend. The latest news is that a major restructuring of the system will make a monstrous Department of Transportation that will now oversee the MBTA. It is too early to tell what changes this will bring to the subway system, but the MBTA union feels very threatened. The MBTA drama will continue.

This mess is a perfect excuse to listen to some good music. I was able to track down the history of a song that is very close to Bostonian’s love-hate relationship to their public transportation.

First, the original song “The Ship that Never Return”

narrates how a ship on the east coast lacks the money to pay docking fees, and was unable to return home. This song was later adapted to the more familiar “Charlie on the M.T.A.” song.

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn’d
He may ride forever
‘neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned.

Charlie, the man who, according to the 1948 song, didn’t have enough money to pay the exit fare and was unable to leave the subway system (then called the M.T.A).

“This could happen to YOU” [banjo]

The exit-fare system was abolished after the introduction of the CharlieCard on 2006, card system named as a tribute to the song.

And of course, this song inspired a modern version by Boston’s own Dropkick Murphys titled “Skinhead on the MBTA”.