Archive for December, 2009

Should I change the name of the blog?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2009 by quantummoxie

Maybe I should rename it Quantum Pariah or something like that.  If you’ve read the blog recently, you may have read this post about my problems with QIP 2010.  Well, after appealing to the Chair of the Program Committee as well as the Chair of the Organizing Committee, I was told that, though they don’t normally allow revisions, they’d be willing to consider it once they sent me the reviewer comments (remember this is for a poster, not a talk – if you’d like to judge for yourself, here’s the latest version of the paper).  The original decision was made December 14th and they promised to get the reviewer comments to me within “a few days.”  It is now December 29th and I have received nothing.  I leave for the workshop on January 16th.  If they were serious with their offer (which it appears they weren’t), they’d have given me more time since, were my revision to be accepted I would then need to make a poster.  Polite inquiries about this have met with no response.  Granted, we just had Christmas, but presumably this task shouldn’t have been any harder than forwarding an e-mail to me.

Throughout this process, appeals to people on the Program Committee who I thought were “friends,” at least in some sense of the word, didn’t produce much in the way of assistance.  As I mentioned before, my college gave me several thousand dollars beyond my usual budget to attend this workshop with the understanding that I would be presenting a poster (since I had been given the impression only lunatics were denied posters – again, you may judge for yourself if you think the paper qualifies me as a lunatic).  The plane tickets have been purchased and are non-refundable (and on SwissAir, so it’s not like I could necessarily switch them to go to a different conference – SwissAir doesn’t fly many places from Boston).  Plus I’d be leaving Todd Brun in the lurch since I agreed to room with him (assuming he hasn’t pulled out on me without telling me – with my luck I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened).

So perhaps Quantum Pariah is a better name than Quantum Moxie since it seems that’s what I am.  Yeah, I know the real world sucks sometimes, but there still seems to be a lot less kindness, compassion, and civility in the world than there used to be.  Some of these people are truly the most nasty, narcissistic people on the face of the planet (to borrow a line from RR Tucci).  They’re intellectual bullies and their bullying can be just as psychologically damaging as the usual kind of bullying.  Unfortunately, as a good friend of mine recently said to me, giving up on The Quantum Times as a form of payback would really just amount to career suicide.

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Insane college nicknames and mascots (and other oddities…)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 22, 2009 by quantummoxie

My son got me on a quest to track down the weirdest college athletic team nicknames and mascots and, boy, did I find some doozies.  The absolute best is at the end of this post (it is really, really worth looking at, trust me), but if you want to see a nearly complete list of American university and college athletic team nicknames, check this guy’s website out (you have to scroll past a lot of ads).  The following are some of my personal favorites including one that will make physicists, chemists, and engineers quite proud, plus the requisite reference to Bill Wootters.

  • UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs Anyone with an interest in this somewhat arcane topic has heard of these guys.  Apparently there are a lot of these things on campus.
  • UC-Irvine Anteaters There must be something about California state schools.  Well, it’s California after all.
  • St. Louis University Billikens No one really knows what a ‘Billiken’ is but the mascot looks like a cross between a leprechaun and an alien.
  • College of the Atlantic Black Flies I live in Maine and my cousin’s daughter goes to school at CAB.  Maine is also home to the Black Fly Breeders Association and forty-two species of mosquito.  Wanna come for a visit?
  • Presbyterian College Blue Hose According to the college’s website, “A Blue Hose is a fierce Scottish warrior.  If you have ever seen the movie Braveheart, you have seen a true Blue Hose.”  Um, ok.
  • U. of Arkansas – Monticello Boll Weevils Technically only the men’s teams have this nickname (the women are Cotton Blossoms).  Supposedly the former university president responsible for the name claimed the boll weevil was the only thing that had ever licked the South (conveniently forgetting that little thing called the Civil War).
  • Brooklyn College Bridges Likely a publicity stunt since they used to be the Kingsmen.  I guess you could argue it was also a PC move in order to include the women, but who knows.
  • Lubbock Christian University Chaparrals According to Wikipedia, a chaparral is “is a shrubland or heathland plant community found primarily in the U.S. state of California”.  (Lubbock is in the US state of Texas, by the way).
  • Columbia College (Hollywood) Claim Jumpers While I can’t find any reference to this on the college’s website (I mean, why would you want to admit to something like that anyway?), several other websites claim this is true.
  • Cal. State-Long Beach Dirtbags Technically only the men’s baseball team, but still…
  • U. of San Francisco Dons Players are required to wear diamond rings on their pinky fingers and scholarships are awarded to people named ‘Vinny.’
  • Williams College Ephs Eph U!  (A number of my relatives have gone there and, of course, quantum genius Bill Wootters teaches there.)
  • NYU Violets My in-laws both went there and confirmed this.  I guess it’s no worse than any of the innumerable other teams named after colors.
  • St. Louis College of Pharmacy Eutectic OK, dig out your thermodynamics text if you want to know what ‘eutectic’ means.
  • Evergreen State Geoducks First, you should know that it is pronounced goo-ee ducks.  Next you should know that a geoduck is, in fact, a mollusk.  Click here to watch the mascot perform during a basketball game.
  • Webster University Gorloks What is a ‘gorlok’ you ask?  It is an intersection, specifically the intersection of Gore and Lockwood Avenues.
  • Stetson University Hatters Clever (think about it).
  • Pace University Setters Even more clever (think some more).
  • Washburn University Ichabods Only the men’s teams have this nickname.  Not sure what message this is intended to send.  Too bad there’s not a team out there called the ‘Headless Horsemen.’
  • Brandeis University Judges At least they’re not the Attorneys.  Oh, wait, nevermind.
  • Bryant & Stratton College – Cleveland Lemmings This is unverified but amusing considering the college’s reputation.
  • Southwestern College Moundbuilders They’re apparently not talented enough to build actual structures.
  • Rowan University Professors Awesome!  I always dreamed of being a mascot.
  • Lincoln Memorial U. Railsplitters I have no idea.
  • SUNY College of Enviro. Sci. & Forestry Stumpies I know someone who went there.  Clever.
  • Trinity Christian College Trolls Something’s just not right about that.
  • Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys Obviously only the men’s team.  This has ‘double-meaning’ written all over it.
  • University of Akron Zips These guys are in the same conference as my alma mater and I have thus wondered for many years just what the f%&^ is a ‘zip?’
  • U. of South Carolina-Sumter Fire Ants Nasty.
  • U. of Alaska-Southeast Humpback Whales Do they called themselves the ‘Humpies’ for short?
  • Thomas Jefferson University Medics At least they’ll get expert medical treatment when they get clobbered by opponents.
  • Muhlenberg College & Central Missouri State University Mules Yeah, let’s name our teams (only men in the case of the latter) after an infertile hybrid pack animal!
  • Oglethorpe University Stormy Petrels Oglethorpe is in Atlanta which is a landlocked city.  Petrels are strictly pelagic meaning they come to land only when breeding.  Hmmm…
  • Heidelberg College Student Princes OMG, there’s so much I could do with this, but it’s all so un-PC.

And, my all-time favorite nicknames/mascots:

  • Sweet Briar College Vixens Sweet Briar is a women’s college.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Rhode Island School of Design Nads As in ‘Go Nads!’  Don’t believe me?  First, click here to verify the school actual supports this.  Then click here to read more about the history.  Then click here for a picture of the mascot (‘Scrotie’) along with two t-shirts.  Note that the basketball team is called the ‘Balls’ but seems to share its mascot with the hockey team.

There are a lot of other weird ones out there including a lot named for animals not indigenous to North America (Camels, Koalas, Kangaroos, etc.), ones involving odd juxtapositions (Battling Bishops, Praying Colonels, Demon Deacons, etc.), ones with distinctly artsy names (Poets, Chanticleers, Penmen, etc.), ones with dignified names (Judges, Presidents, Senators, Governors, etc.), ones with religious connotations (Maccabees, Deacons, Crusaders, Prophets, Spires, etc.), ones with D&D-like names (Dragons, Magicians, Paladins, etc.), ones named for machines (Boilermakers, Threshers, etc.) and, as I mentioned, plenty of colors.

Some schools have two or more official nicknames including the University of Virginia (Cavaliers and Wahoos), Virginia Tech (Gobblers and Hokies – the latter is actually a made up word with no meaning), and Georgia Tech (Yellow Jackets and Ramblin’ Wreck).

But nothing – and I mean nothing – beats the RISD Nads.

No dark matter … yet

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2009 by quantummoxie

I’m feeling obliged to post this since everyone else with a physics blog has done so.  Personally, I’m more interested in the results that should start coming out of the LHC (which is back online as of a couple of weeks ago).  Even if they don’t find the Higgs boson, they’re already running at higher energies than any other collider or accelerator ever has.

Too freaking hilarious

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2009 by quantummoxie

Well, cyber criminals are certainly creative; I’ll give them that.  The following e-mail popped up in my Inbox today.  I had to cut and paste the whole thing because it’s just too priceless, though I have annotated some of my own comments in bold.  Note that, in the actual e-mail, the top was emblazoned with an FBI logo under which it listed the cybercrime division.

Attention Beneficiary,

Records show that you are among one of the individuals and organizations who are yet to receive their overdue payment from overseas which includes those of Lottery/Gambling, Contract and Inheritance. (Tip off #1: atrocious grammar.  Attorneys, especially federal ones, have impeccable grammar.) Through our Fraud Monitory Unit (Their what?) we have also noticed that over the past you have been transacting with some imposters and fraudsters (scoundrels and rapscallions!) who have been impersonating the likes of Prof. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Frank, Anderson, none officials of Oceanic Bank, Zenith Banks, Kelvin Young of HSBC, Ben of FedEx, Ibrahim Sule, Dr. Usman Shamsuddeen and some imposters claiming to be The Federal Bureau of Investigation (These guys must have a sense of humor.).

The Cyber Crime Division of the FBI gathered information from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICCC) formerly known as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) of how some people have lost outrageous (See note about lawyers above.  Bureaucrats don’t use words like ‘outrageous.’) sums of money to these imposters. As a result of this we hereby advise you to stop communication with any one not referred to you by us (Oh, OK, whatever you say sirs!).

We have negotiated with the Federal Ministry of Finance (Whose Federal Ministry of Finance?  This is America, dude.  We ain’t got no ‘ministries.’  They’re called ‘Departments,’ ‘Agencies,’ and ‘Bureaus’ around here, pal.) that your payment totaling $6,100,000.00 will be released to you via a custom pin based ATM card with a maximum withdrawal limit of $5,000 a day which is powered by Visa Card and can be used anywhere in the world were you see a Visa Card Logo on the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). We have advised that this should be the only way at which you are to receive your payment because it’s more guaranteed, since over $5 billion was lost on fake cheque (Did I mention this is America?  It’s ‘check’ buddy.) last year 2008.

We guarantee 100% receipt of your payment, because we have perfected everything in regards to the release of your $6.1 million United States Dollars to be 100% risk free and free from any hitches as it’s our duty to protect citizens of the United States of America (Read that sentence again. Maybe it’s a Jedi mind trick.). (This is as a result of the mandate from US Government  to make sure all debts owed to citizens of American which includes Inheritance, Contract, Gambling/Lottery etc are been cleared for the betterment of the current economic status of the nation and its citizens as he (Who?) has always believed “Our Time for Change has come” because “Change can happen” (This is a joke, right?)).

Below are few list of tracking numbers (That don’t work.) you can track from UPS website to confirm people like you who have received their payment successfully.

Name : Donna L. Vargas: UPS Tracking Number: 1Z757F991598420403 (www.ups.com)
Name : Rovenda Elaine Clayton: UPS Tracking Number: 1Z757F991596606592 (www.ups.com)

To redeem your fund you are hereby advised to contact the ATM Card Center via email for their requirement to proceed and procure your Approval of Payment Warrant and Endorsement of your ATM Release Order on your behalf which will cost you $350.00 only (Ah, there’s the hitch!  I knew there was one in here somewhere.) nothing more and no hidden fees as everything else has been taken cared of by the Federal Government including taxes, custom paper and clearance duty so all you will ever need to pay is $350.00 only.
(Prepare to laugh.)

Contact Information
Name: Dr. Daniel Smith
Email: danielsmith11001@yahoo.cn
Phone: +234 -703 232 5254
(Maybe things are so tight in Washington that we’re outsourcing federal jobs to China and at such a deep discount that these employees have to use Yahoo e-mail.)
Do contact Dr. Daniel Smith of the ATM Card Center via his contact details above and furnish him with your details as listed below:

Your full Name:
Your Address:
Home phone:
Cell Phone:
Occupation:
Age:

On contacting him with your details, your files would be updated and he will be sending you the payment information in which you will use in making payment of $350.00 via Western Union Money Transfer (These guys are not very clever.) for the procurement of your Approval of Payment Warrant and Endorsement of your ATM Release Order. After which the delivery of your ATM card will be effected to your designated home address without any further delay, extra fee or any authority raising eyebrow (Yeah, like the FBI???).

Upon receipt of payment the delivery officer will ensure that your package is sent within 24 working hours. Because we are so sure of everything we are giving you a 100% money back guarantee if you do not receive your ATM CARD Shippment Confirmation within the next 24hrs after you have made the payment for shipping.

Once again we are so sure of you receiving your payment at no any other cost as we have taking it upon our duty to monitor everything in other to cub cyber crime that is perpetrated by those impostors (scoundrels and rapscallions!).

Thanks and hope to read from you soon. (Keep reading.)

ROBERT S. MUELLER,

DIRECTOR
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20535
TELEPHONE: 206-666-5283 (I wonder how many calls the FBI will get from this.  Keep reading.)
FAX: 206-666-5283

Note: Disregard any email you get from any impostors or offices claiming to be in possession of your ATM card, you are hereby advice only to be in contact with Dr. Daniel Smith of the ATM card center who is the rightful person to deal with in regards to your payment and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office via the above fax number so we could act upon it immediately. Help stop cyber crime. This has GOT to be a joke.

Scientists are human beings too

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2009 by quantummoxie

I wish – I really, really wish – some of the arrogant fu©king a$$hats in the quantum information and foundations community could spend a couple of days in my shoes.  I have spent four years working very hard on the The Quantum Times, having done a lot of favors for a lot of people in that time (I wonder if they even realize how much time goes into it).  All I ever asked for in return was to be treated with respect.  A little time spent helping me get a paper published or – gasp – even collaborating didn’t seem like too much to ask.

Now, I have a life too – incredibly energetic kids, including one with Asperger’s, bills to pay (or try to pay), a long commute (to go with a longer story), not to mention diagnosed ADD and OCD (there, I said it) – so I know the demands life places on people.  I haven’t taken a vacation to a place without relatives (parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) since 1998.

But, instead, I could paper my walls with e-mails from people in the QI community saying something to the effect of “sorry, I don’t have any time.  But could you do X for me?”  As a result some journals can’t even find reviewers for my papers (apparently the reviewers don’t even respond to the journal when they’re dealing with papers by me).  And now, despite having spent a fu©king fortune to get to QIP 2010, I have been denied the opportunity to even present a (mainstream, non-controversial, and, in the form currently in possession of the Program Committee chair, error-free) poster there.

I have even seen my ideas ever-so-subtlely incorporated into other people’s papers with no reference at all to my work or, sometimes, to actual conversations I’ve had with these people about the topic at hand (which usually warrants an acknowledgement at the very least).  The evidence for priority is on the arXiv but it does little good if the community decides to simply ignore it.  How would they like it if I simply ignored their requests for my assistance when they need it with The Quantum Times?  It’s oh-so-wonderful to know I put forth a genuine effort for people who accord me virtually no respect and are not particularly interested in interacting with me unless they need something.  And don’t even get me started on the tone of reviewer comments.  Criticism is one thing, but why is it so rarely supportive or constructive in tone?  Even for complete cr@p there’s no need to be condescending and nasty.  I have a hard-earned PhD from a respected institution.  I’m not an idiot (and I’d be willing to bet most of these people couldn’t hold a candle to me in the classroom).

But I’m human and four years of being treated like this has proven to be psychologically wearing.  They should try rejection and invisibility and see how they hold up.  I’m sure more than one would crack under the psychological pressure.

But I’ve run out of things to say and I’m sure no one has even read this far so I’ll just stop typing now.

Spacefaring monks

Posted in Uncategorized on December 15, 2009 by quantummoxie

Following up on my previous post, I’ve been giving some thought to the ideal astronaut for one of these lengthy trips and, once again, I am inspired by Neal Stephenson (repeat: please do not give away anything from Anathem) and the Guinness Book of World Records.

Given the isolation of the voyage – at least 39 years in a spacecraft with increasingly little contact the further away it gets – and the likely limited amount of space on-board the spacecraft, it would be imperative that the astronauts not have intense wanderlust, claustrophobia, or a longing for home.

So what type of person might have that type of personality?  Why, an ascetic, of course!  As I mentioned in the previous post, St. Simeon Stylites sat on pole for 37 years (hence the Guinness Book of World Records reference).  In Stephenson’s Anathem the main character is a member of a ‘concent’ which is like a monastery for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers.  Some portions of these concents remain closed to the outside world for a thousand years at a clip.  The members of these places behave much like monks (though they’re co-ed).

So, why not spacefaring monks?  Well, ok, maybe not.  But you’d at least need people with that kind of mindset and, make no mistake, people like that exist.  The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that someday – maybe in hundreds and hundreds of years, but still someday – humans will send a manned ship to another star system (assuming we don’t annihilate ourselves first).

Interstellar travel?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 by quantummoxie

I’m in the middle of reading Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (which is awesome by the way – please don’t post any spoilers since I’m not done!).  Anyway, it inspired me to think a bit about interstellar travel from a realistic point of view.  In other words, I decided to try to put some hard numbers to things.  Specifically, I wanted to put some relativistic numbers on a trip to the nearest extrasolar planet (which, as of now, happens to orbit Epsilon Eridani and is 10.5 light-years from earth).

So, the first thing I did was to look up about how many “g’s” the human body can take without blacking out.  It turns out it can handle about 5.  Then I made the assumption that my hypothetical spacecraft would be able to travel at 3/5 the speed of light (I’ll let the engineers figure out how to do that).  If our ship accelerates constantly up to that speed, it would take about 42 or 43 days or so which is really pushing it for the humans.  So maybe we draw that out a bit more – say we double it.

Next, I drew a spacetime diagram and, in the absence of a good ruler but with an approximate straight-edge, estimated that the ship would arrive (with a lengthier deceleration since the human body has a harder time with that I believe) at its destination in about 18.5 years of earth-time.  To the astronauts onboard this would actually be closer to 14.8 years since they spent a great deal of time travelling at relativistic speeds.  Let’s assume that, considering the time and effort expended to get them there, they spend a good two years checking the place out before heading home.

All told, that means that they would be gone for a total of 39 years of earth-time which, to them, would be closer to 31.6 years.  That’s a long time – but not an entirely unreasonable amount.  Consider this: Saint Simeon Stylites sat on a pole for 37 years.  Considering we just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, just think if we had actually sent Neil, Buzz, and Mike – who are all still alive – to Epsilon Eridani instead (with the proper equipment, of course)!

In short, aside from the obvious engineering hurdles, interstellar travel does not seem quite as far fetched when you actually look at the numbers.  It’s a long way away from happening – if it ever does – but it seems to me that if the human race put its mind to it (and doesn’t annihilate itself beforehand), this feat could be accomplished (for one particular engineering idea on how to keep the astronauts alive, see Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series of books).