Here's the (short) story of what happened, and a short personal reflection.
2/ The setup to this story is simple: I walked into a public bathroom on campus and there it was, immediately visible at eye level, sitting on the paper towel dispenser.
My first thought was that it was fake, or a prop, or a toy of some kind. But no, this was a real pistol.
3/ So I immediately walked out of the bathroom and called the MIT police.
What followed was a short but intense phone conversation in which the officer on the line communicated only in short, clipped sentences.
A grant manager is lecturing us all about how "quantum materials are very hot in Washington right now". But I am completely failing to understand which materials are NOT quantum. Something not made from atoms?
Apparently some four-star general requested funding for "quantum radar"
If I were reading this in a Catch-22-style novel about science and politics I would be rolling my eyes because of how exaggerated it was
When people argue that "the current system for determining merit is flawed, so we should get rid of it", they usually don't think about what should replace it. The implication is that _nothing_ should replace it, which means everything will skew more toward the already-famous.
One example: when people lobby to stop using exam scores for grad school applications. If you do that, then your whole evaluation will be:
- how famous is the school you come from?
- how famous are your letter-writers?
- how impressive are your extracurriculars?
I know that exam scores bias toward certain demographics, but without them the system becomes almost entirely non-objective, and amounts to "are you already in the prestigious group?"
Upward mobility then becomes nearly impossible.
TRUE DRAMA from the late-night life of a theorist:
[Working hard on a derivation, I arrive at y = x^(12/5).]
"Hmmm. I really expected it to be a little simpler, like y = x^(5/2)."
[I pace up and down, think hard, and rederive using a better approach.
I get y = x^(32/13).]
If you don't appreciate this tweet you might as well unfollow me now.
I once tried to derive a simple equation to describe decision making in basketball (journals.plos.org/plosone/articl…), and it ended with the sequence
0 1/2 5/8 89/128
1/ I have seen people that I like and respect end up becoming crackpot theorists. What does it take for that to happen?
As far as I can tell, the biggest issue for most crackpots is not "craziness", but just a failure to understand what scholarship is.
2/ First of all, the obvious trait present in the proto-crackpot is irrational self-confidence. The person has to believe that, just by thinking about things, they can arrive at previously-unrealized truths about the world.
3/ This is a kind of crazy belief, but it turns out that such irrational confidence is a trait shared in common by both real theorists (aspiring and established) and crackpot theorists alike. So while it's necessary for becoming a crackpot, it isn't a sufficient explanation.
1/ How much water weight can you lose in two days?
A personal experiment
2/ Motivated by a recent interest in boxing (and a recent conversation with @evelynjlamb), I'm going to try to address for myself the question of how hard it is to manipulate your weight dehydration.
@evelynjlamb 3/ Right now, Friday night, I am well fed and well hydrated, weighing in at a robust 184 pounds, which is on the high side of my typical daily weight fluctuation. I'll weigh myself again on Monday morning after some strategic dehydration and well compare the difference.
2/ We showed, among other things, that adding disorder can turn an insulator into a conductor, even without doping (adding new electrons).
The key is that strong enough disorder creates "electron puddles", and short pathways for electrons to tunnel between these puddles.
3/3 We also ended up giving a new explanation for "linear magnetoresistance" (increase in resistance with magnetic field) in two dimensions. It comes from electric current getting focused into tight "pinch points".
At large field, the resistance becomes independent of disorder!
After 9+ years of existence, my blog just passed 1 million views.
I've let it fall by the wayside in recent years, but as a long-term project I've worked as hard on this as anything else.
I expected that by this stage I would read through my old blog posts with a feeling of embarrassment, like when you look at pictures of yourself being young and dumb in high school. But I'm strangely kind of proud of it. There's a lot of good work there. gravityandlevity.wordpress.com
It's all a question of how small you would put the probability.
But even if you assume that their results don't really come from a room-temperature superconductor, then how do you explain them?
That is an interesting and worthwhile question in its own right.
I (and others) will believe the results only when all possible explanations for the data seem less plausible than having actually found a room temperature superconductor in a mix of gold and silver nanoparticles.
2/ Room-temperature superconductivity has been a holy grail in physics for literally over 100 years. If we could find a material that was superconducting at room temperature, it would allow us to transport electrical power for free, and would revolutionize a bunch of industries.
3/ There is no fundamental reason (that we know) why some material couldn't be superconducting at room temperature. But after a century of trying to find such material the best superconductor still needs to be cooled to 90 Kelvin (-183 Celsius).