Thursday, January 30, 2014

So, Phssthpok, Monopoles Do Exist!

In response to a post that indicated that magnetic monopoles had at last been created in the laboratory I posted:

I want to believe this, but I need some proof. Magnetic monopoles have proven to be so elusive that I stopped expecting that they actually existed.  I feel the way I did when I first learned about the massless particles called neutrinos and then, years later, that they had a small amount of mass after all. I am confused and excited, but also cautious.

A bit later I added, "Good news for string theory, if confirmed", because string theory predicts the existence of magnetic monopoles, and many scientists are unhappy that string theory doesn't seem to predict much of anything that can actually be tested.

Having checked a couple of reliable sources, it seems that the story is correct. Of course, only one team has looked at the results at this time but I'm hopeful they will be confirmed.  So now I add:

Okay, so it appears that there is strong evidence that an artificial Dirac monopole has been created in the laboratory.  Interestingly, in order to create it they had to magnetically manipulate a Bose Einstein condensate. This weird state of matter is one in which a cloud of atoms act as if they were a single atom as the atoms contained within the cloud smear out and cease to occupy a clear position in any one particular place. That is to say, they attain a state of quantum superposition.

It is also interesting that in order to create this artificial magnetic monopole, (the first ever created, if the research is confirmed), the researchers utilized a cloud of ultracold rubidium atoms. I find that interesting because the first Bose Einstein condensate created back in 1995 used a cloud of ultracold rubidium atoms.

Even more interesting, as I searched for supporting evidence that this had actually been accomplished, I discovered a number of commercial sites which are eager to sell me magnetic monopoles.  Apparently, time travelers are bringing goods from the future for all of us to enjoy here in the past. Well, their past but our present.  Although if they came back with their goods I suppose it makes this their present. But that would mean their present was now in their past...well, know what I mean.

Since I love science toys, I have ordered a couple of dozen monopoles, some for me and some to put away as Christmas gifts. While I was at it, I also ordered 17 kilos of dark matter and 4.2 × 10 to the ninth joules of dark energy.  With these it should be easy to whip up a perpetual motion antigravity machine.

I wanted to order a few sparticles, but you know how expensive those are! I mean a single selectron costs more than all the rest of the stuff I ordered put together, and a squark would bankrupt a small nation.  Maybe someday, if I ever win the Lottery...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Trust Me, I'm a Fully Qualified Do It Youself NueroPhysiologist!

In response to a friend's post inquiring about the effectiveness of nuero-enhancing medications, I said:

Have you considered direct electrical stimulation of the brain? 

From the Forum column of Scientific American February 2014: Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) applies electrodes to the scalp which then deliver miniscule amperages of current to the brain.  For reasons not fully understood this  causes adjustments in the electrical potentials of the membranes of the neurons closest to the electrodes, increasing or decreasing their likelihood of firing. Again, for reasons not entirely understood, measurable improvements in memory, language, attention, and other cognitive domains can result.

Although the authors go on to state that the FDA has not yet approved this procedure and that the consensus among experts is that it should be performed only under qualified supervision, they point out that it is:

A. Safe, portable, easy to implement, and inexpensive. (If used properly.)

B. Some do-it-yourselfers have already built and are using their own devices at home.

It is reported that the effects of this device make users smarter, faster, and more attentive.

I bet you and Nick could whip up one of these over a weekend. If you do, I'd love to see a video of the results.

PS, if you do try this and post a video to YouTube you will get more hits if Nick rubs his hands together and gleefully chortles "It's alive! It's alive!" at the end of the experiment.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lottery Luck

So you think you've had a bad day?

 In 1980 Maureen Wilcox bought two tickets, one for the Massachusetts State Lottery and one for the Rhode Island lottery.  With an incredible display of good luck, she chose the right combinations to win both lotteries. With an incredible display of bad luck, she chose the numbers on the wrong tickets.  The numbers she chose for the Massachusetts State Lottery were the numbers that won the Rhode Island lottery. The numbers she chose for the Rhode Island lottery were the numbers which won the Massachusetts State Lottery.

(From Scientific American February 2014)

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ten Cannots That Lincoln Never Said

The 10 Cannots, sometimes referred to as the 10 Commandments of Capitalism. Falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln, these are often quoted by conservatives to prove that Lincoln was a conservative. This somehow ignores the fact that Lincoln was universally regarded as an extreme liberal around the world. He was praised for this and condemned for this, but there was no doubt that he and his Republican Party were extremely liberal in their day, so liberal that conservatives around the world were terrified of them.

It occurred to me that conservatives would believe the 10 Cannots even if they were aware that Lincoln was not the one who said them. So I decided to take a look at each one and analyze its impact in the real world.

 * You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

Unless you're a wealthy banker. Then you encourage people to take out mortgages they cannot possibly afford, place bets that they will fail to pay the mortgage, and then collect the money when they are unable to pay the debt that you encouraged them to incur. They get poorer. You get richer.

* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

Unless you're a slaveholder. Then your own physical and intellectual weaknesses vanish as you exploit the strength and power of those you have enslaved. This also applies to those who exploit the desperation of workers by forcing them to work for substandard wages simply to stay alive. This is not slavery, although it does operate on a similar general principle

* You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.

But you can make help big men grow even bigger by tearing down little men. If  you tear down a few hundred million of them, your bank account grows exponentially.

* You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

But you can make the wage payer obscenely wealthy by half starving the wage earner.

* You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

But you can make the rich richer by destroying the poor.

* You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.

But you can establish sound security by buying your own personal congressmen.

* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

But you can win the class war by saying that those who agree with Jesus that there should be social justice are inciting class hatred. (Now that one's clever!)

* You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.

Which is why rich people should always be sure that the poor class is kept near starvation. That way they won't have any money to spend on things like political campaigns.

* You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.

What you can build is your own vast wealth. There is nothing more certain to keep you wealthy than keeping millions of your fellow citizens so desperate and poor that they cannot build initiative and independence.

* You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

But you should give hundreds of billions of dollars every year in government subsidies, tax breaks, and welfare for the wealthy to those who are already billionaires.  After all, that's something they can and should do for themselves through the congressman they have bought.

The Decalogue is from the link below.  All comments are mine.

--variously known as the "Industrial Decalogue," the "Ten Don'ts," the "Ten Cannots," "Ten Things You Cannot Do, "or the "American Charter" --