Well, my fifteen seconds of fame are here for all to see. Stewart Mandel over at CNNSI dissects my complaint that the MAC (home of my bowl-bound UB Bulls) gets no respect – and shoots me down. But, hey, not everyone can say they got shot down on a major national website. In any case, I guess I see his point about Ball State, but I can certainly take issue with Kevin Armstrong’s ranking of the Bulls at 55th while Central Michigan and Western Michigan are over fifteen places higher. Considering that, ostensibly, margin-of-victory is supposed to play a role here, UB’s ranking is a little odd considering their four losses: on the last play of the game to Central Michigan, in OT to Western Michigan, by nine points to Pitt, and, while losing by twenty-one to Mizzou, they kept it close into the fourth quarter.
Archive for November, 2008
I can’t say I’ve ever been prouder of both my alma mater and the city I’m from. This is a companion piece that accompanied an Outside the Lines episode that aired this past Sunday spotlighting the University at Buffalo’s decision to turn down the – until now – only bowl bid in its 102 year football history because the teams two African-American players were told they weren’t welcome. Even today, UB is ahead of the game as the only DI-A school whose Athletic Director, Head Football Coach, and Men’s Basketball Coach are all African-American.
A student of mine spent this past summer in a nuclear physics research program at Jefferson National Laboratory where he learned a good deal about QED and QCD. In class recently, he brought this up in relation to the difference between a theory and a model. He argued that QED was a theory because it has a specific idea or two behind it. For example, if you could sum it up, it basically predicts that the change in the number of vertices in a set of Feynman diagrams is proportional to the fine structure constant (that’s a very rough way of saying it). My student argued that QCD was more of a model precisely because it lacked any unifying element, any grand idea so to speak, as QED does. To him it really is a collection of mathematical models of observed phenomena. I honestly do not know QCD well enough to comment, but I think the premise of the question is intriguing.
People with cryptography obsessions or who only pay attention to casual news may think quantum computers are only useful for breaking cryptosystems like RSA. In fact, they should also prove quite useful for a number of physical chemistry problems. A new paper just out analyzes its use in classical Bayesian networks. I haven’t read through the whole thing yet, but it seems like a pretty interesting application. What I’m looking for is something that D-Wave can use that unequivocally proves one way or the other whether or not they have really succeeded in building a quantum computer.
Update: Wow, I’m absent-minded. Not only did The Pontiff cover this story already, but I commented on it.
Cryptography guru Bruce Schneier, creator of the solitaire algorithm (among others), has dissed quantum cryptography as ultimately pointless. As someone who works in this area I was more than a little curious as to why. I understand that, at present, it is fairly useless since most current encryption algorithms are secure against attacks from classical computers. For example, when properly implemented, RSA is essentially unbreakable by classical methods (note that by ‘properly implemented’ I mean one chooses sufficiently large prime numbers). But, as Peter Shor showed nearly fifteen years ago, RSA is vulnerable to an attack by a quantum computer. Schneier’s reply is that “[i]f one were built — and we’re talking science fiction here — then it could factor numbers and solve discrete-logarithm problems very quickly.” He maintains that even if one were built, symmetric cryptography (which I admittedly know very little about) would not be completely compromised. The question then seems to boil down to the practical reality of quantum computers. While I am among the many who are somewhat skeptical of D-Wave’s claims of a 16-qubit quantum computer, I have no doubt actual quantum computers are on the near horizon and thus I think Schneier’s comments are premature to say the least. (Note: I first heard about Schneier’s comments from the Quantiki message board.)
At what point do I, as an American taxpayer, become a voting shareholder in AIG?
Back in ’04 I saw a political cartoon that made fun of the “red” state/”blue” state distribution by noting that all the blue states could connect in some way to Canada and by labeling the red states the “United States of Jesusland.” But it assumes that everyone in each state is, in fact, red or blue while the reality is a mixture. Check out these maps (produced in ’04 as well) that give a better idea of the geographic distribution of voters.
It seems a couple of PhD students (who also happen to own their own computer security firm) have devised (discovered?) a method whereby an eavesdropper can obtain information typed into a keyboard via the electromagnetic signals given off by the keyboard. Here is a link to their research website that includes two demonstration videos. Here’s a link to the lab’s site. This appears to be brand new research, i.e. the videos were just posted and I could not find a link to a paper anywhere. It would be interesting to independently verify this. In all honesty, all you’d need to do to at least buy the feasibility of this is to make sure that for each typed key you could detect a unique and non-random signal.
Here’s something to get your mind off politics: my favorite automaker, Porsche, has just introduced the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) (don’t you just love those German words?) double-clutch system that not only introduces increased performance, it also increases fuel economy. I have been a Porsche fan since childhood. Amazingly enough, once I was old enough to care about such things, I discovered that, while being one of the best sports cars on the market, the 911 can get upwards of 26-28 miles per gallon (and that’s before this new invention came out!). Some of its competitors have a fuel economy in the single digits. So, if Porsche has been doing it with the 911 for all these years, why can’t everyone else?
On this election eve, let’s take a break from all the politics for a moment. Let’s talk quantum mechanics. I will be teaching QM in the spring again and have been desperately looking for a good book for quite some time. Last time I taught it, I used a mash up of Nielsen & Chuang’s Quantum Computation and Quantum Information and Sakurai’s Modern Quantum Mechanics but it wasn’t the best option. None of the normal undergraduate texts have ever gotten me all that excited, especially from a pedagogical point of view. But, thanks to a heads up from Bill Wootters, I have the privilege of previewing a new undergraduate QM text by none other than Ben Schumacher and Michael Westmoreland. The former, of course, is the person who coined the term ‘qubit.’ Anyway, Ben sent me a draft copy of the book to read through over the next couple of months. In the interest of protecting copyright and all that I won’t be posting excerpts or anything, but I will say that you have to like a book that starts with a discussion of the information theoretic aspects of the ride of Paul Revere!!