Rep Joe Barton Thinks Oil in Alaska Disproves Global Warming

Okay, well he didn’t exactly say that, but he certainly is a smug son of a gun who asked a grade school question to a Nobel prize winner in physics, apparently expecting a “gotcha” moment (via TPM):

Dudes even so proud of himself that he (or his staff) posted this video on his YouTube page.

BEDEVERE: Exactly. So, logically…
VILLAGER #1: If… she… weighs… the same as a duck,… she’s made of wood.
BEDEVERE: And therefore?
VILLAGER #2: A witch!

Then again, what should you expect for someone who produced this:

Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.

Through The Eye of the Beholder

Scott the optimizer asks a question on a wim:

Come up with a catchy name for growth rates of the form 2^(n^&alpha) , 0< &alpha<1.

I thought the answer was obvious: “probably in BQP.”
update: does html superscript not work in a blockquote? I guess the answer is yes.

What Am I? I Choose Neither

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a question that I’m nearly constantly asked: “So…[long pause]…are you a physicist…[long pause]…or are you a computer scientist?” Like many theorists in quantum computing, a field perched between the two proud disciplines of physics and computer science (and spilling its largess across an even broader swath of fields), I struggle with answering this question. Only today, after a long and torturous half year (where by torture, I mean interviewing for jobs, not the eerily contemporaneous fall of the world’s finances) in which I have been daily contemplating what to do with my life, did it finally dawn on me that I actually know the answer to this question: I’m neither, damnit! Not both. Not one or the other. No, I’m neither a physicist nor a computer scientist.
Warning! Extended, and I mean extended, wildly meandering story below. Probably only of interest to my mom. Proceed with caution, or, to get to the point, skip to the end!
Continue reading “What Am I? I Choose Neither”

Discovery Channel Production Company Trademarks "Qubit"

Kamil sends along a pointer to “Qubit,” according to the website is a new quiz show on the Discovery channel:

Qubit is a quiz show for the 21st century – fast-paced, cut-throat and fun!
Driven by stunning HD visuals, Qubit showcases science, technology and natural history. Not your ordinary quiz show, Qubit challenges convention by including the odd, unique and truly quirky aspects of the world of science.

Sounds like a fun show.
But “Qubit”? Really? I wonder if the PR firm that sold them on that name knew what the word meant and whether Ben Schumacher is offended or ecstatic? And I’m kicking myself for not, thinking of trademarking qubit myself (At the end of the about page: “Qubit is a trademark of Exploration Production Inc.”) Does this mean every talk I give I’m going to have to stick the little TM mark after qubit?

Nine Days, Four Qubits

Stephen sent me a fun google query, discovered by one of his students:
Those are some pretty impressive four entangled qubits: sticking around for nine days without decohering :)!

Earth to Republicans: Curing STDs Would Probably Be a Good Thing

On Morning Edition this morning, there was a story about the annual Conservative Political Action Conference which contained a line which made me guffaw:

Representative Paul Ryan: “[rant on spending in stimulus plan]…$400 million dollars to study sexually transmitted diseases!” [rant on about how his daughter is more responsible that President Obama]

Oh my! The horror. Actually spending money studying diseases that infect 65 million U.S. citizens. Yes Rep. Ryan, it would be a real shame if that money improved the lives of those 65 million people (and maybe it might even help, you know, those outside of the United States as well…I know, I know blasphemy.)
Now I’m all for the Republican’s ranting on the stimulus bill and spending, but really guys, why do you keep picking on the scientific studies (Jindal’s “something called volcano monitoring”, McCain’s Bear DNA)?

A What Bit?

A correspondent writes to me about a recent article in the APS News describingThe Top Ten Physics Stories of 2008 and notes a very troubling sentence:

Diamond Detectors
Work on the molecular structure of carbon continues to show great promise for quantum computing. This year scientists were able to construct a nano-scale light source that emits a single photon at a time. The team first removed a solitary atom from the carbon’s otherwise regular matrix and then introduced a nitrogen atom nearby. When they excited this crystal with a laser, single polarized photons were emitted from the empty space. These photons could be used to detect very small magnetic forces. Additionally the photons emitted contained two spin states and were able to exist in that state for nearly a millisecond before their wave function collapsed. The emitted photon is essentially a long-lasting qbit which could, with further development, be entangled with other adjacent qbits for uses in quantum computing. Another team at the University of Delft in the Netherlands, working in conjunction with UCSB, was able to detect the spin of a single electron in a diamond environment. At the same time, a group at Harvard was able to locate within a nanometer a single Carbon-11 impurity using its nuclear spin interactions.

Qbit? What’s a qbit? Doh.

More on Fixed Points

In a prior post I asked about the how the structure of fixed points of stochastic maps changes under composition of such maps. Robin provided an interesting comment about the setup, linking this question at least partially with zero error codes:

R has at least one fixed point. If it’s unique, there need be no relationship between fixed points of P and R. (Q can project to a single vector, which becomes the unique fixed point of R.) If R has N > 1 fixed points, then things get more interesting. The fixed points are closed under linear combination, so they’re a subspace (I’m actually assuming N is the dimension of the subspace). An N-dimensional fixed subspace gives an N-symbol noiseless code for N (not necessarily obvious, but see arxiv/0705.4282), and therefore an N-symbol correctable code for P. Q is the recovery map. So, the dimensionality of R‘s fixed-point space (N) is tightly bounded by the size of P‘s largest zero-error code, and the fixed-point set itself has to be a subspace of one of those codes. You can also transpose R and get an identical bound in terms of QT‘s zero-error codes. (Yes, I know QT isn’t necessarily stochastic, but it works anyway). The zero-error codes are independent sets of P‘s adjacency graph, so (a) there can be quite a few of them, and (b) finding the bound on N is isomorphic to Maximum Clique.

Robin scores double bonus old school points for linking to a paper by Shannon. Okay, so given that the general case seems hard (and my question was vague), maybe it’s better to work with a simpler concrete example of what I’m thinking.

Continue reading “More on Fixed Points”