Friday, September 20, 2013

Link SING!

 What is a really really fun ways to talk about physics?  Answer: Music, as proved by the links below.

1. A cappella String theory, loops, renormalization (basically everything none of us quite understand).

2. A sonnet on Quantum Error Correction by Daniel Gottesman.

3. A poem on Quantum Cryptography by John Preskill. I liked it so much that I am putting it here.

Alice said to her friend Eve,
"Why do you practice to deceive?
You know I need to talk to Bob.
Without that I won't have a job.
"Bob can't know where my note has been.
He thinks that you are listening in.
He wonders if it's safe enough
For me to send him secret stuff.
"And Bob's right not to trust you, Eve,
With quantum tricks stuffed up your sleeve.
But he thinks we can freeze you out,
With quantum tricks we've learned about.
"With quantum states, what we achieve
Defeats whatever you conceive.
So even Bob has to believe
That you can’t hear us, can you Eve?"  
                                      (John Preskill)

You can "eve-sdrop" on some of Preskill's other verses here.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Link Think

Hi bloggers,

I am starting a new feature where I am going to share interesting web-links. mostly related to Science. These may include news articles, popular physics essays or even blog pieces written by the vibrant community of scientist bloggers. Here is the first installment.

1. John Preskill's nice piece, where he summarizes the different viewpoints prevalent in the scientific communities on the "Firewall Paradox", recently put forward  by the AMPS team (the acronym draws from the initials of the four researchers involved this work --- Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, and James Sully, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Dr. Polchinski of the KITP, Santa Barbara.) It boils down to a revisitation of the black hole information paradox, over which John Preskill had won a bet against Stephen Hawking in 2004. For an accessible commnetary, correct in essentials, see the New York times article here.

2. Scott Aaronson on NSA's recent claim about their groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities. He entertainingly alludes to the possibility of NSA acquiring a quantum computer from D-wave - a company of whose claims he is the self-proclaimed Chief Skeptic!

3. A slightly old, but really well written commentary in Quanta Magazine, on a recent theoretical breakthrough which shows how an untrusted or noisy quantum system may be employed for secure quantum key distribution.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

 Book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Author: Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been one of my overdue reads. I finally spotted it in the Carnegie Mellon Bookstore on a visit to my husband's office, and picked it up encouraged by the significant discounts offered on textbooks. I find I am still reeling under the effect of the three hours I devoted reading it in one-shot.

It is actually an easy one to finish soon --- partly due to its modest length shy of 200 pages; But mostly due to its vastly identifiable narrative, which gets even too close for comfort, repeatedly!Written in first person, it charts the life of a Pakistani immigrant named Changez in New York City, and the irrevocable changes the 9/11 attacks bring for him. Starting out as a princeton-graduated successful financier in New York City, he narrates the extinguishing of his American dream both professionally and personally, and his almost inescapable plummet into something the world would/can only identify as fundamentalism. His initial denial that anything can go wrong, the ensuing tension, doubt, self-reproach and final transition into a dark world outside neon lights of Times Square is described with heart-rending simplicity. It is the inevitability of this evolution, which Hamid conveys so masterfully to his readers, that makes the book so alarming yet so un-put-downable.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a chilling reminder that the emotional debris of WTC attacks extends far beyond ground zero; a poignant message that the fault-lines it created in hearts and minds will take much longer than 12 years to be healed. But it must be done before the fundamentalism takes over the reluctance...