Monthly Archives: March 2004

March Meeting: day 2

This morning: more qubit talks, mostly less relevant than yesterday’s. Then, the Nobel session. Unfortunately I couldn’t see or hear the Nobel talks very well, the floor not being sloped and the mike not turned up enough. Still, I got some of it. Abrikosov noted that something like half of all physics Nobelists had their initial work on the subject rejected. Don’t follow the fashion, he said; if you do, your career will blossom, but you can forget about a Nobel Prize. Right now I’m not thinking much about prizes and more about taking a nap. Sadly, there aren’t many good places to lie down here, and there’s another quantum computing session in a few minutes. Maybe I’ll get out of it early enough to go running before dinner. (On a treadmill; I’m not equipped to go running in this Hoth-like weather.)

Live from the March Meeting

I was so proud of myself for mastering the predictive text function, and then I lost the post I had painstakingly composed. Anyway, I’m updating by phone from the March Meeting, having recently given my talk. The good part: I finished on time. However, I delivered it as if language were a new concept to me. During the question period I contemplated hiding under the table. Afterwards I got the adrenaline crash and fought to stay awake for two and a half hours, with mixed results. At least it’s done. On to the next screen.

Is there hope for Georgia, Part IV

Even with our talk in less than 8 hours, we here at Arcane Gazebo are dedicated to pursuing our continuing series, Is there hope for Georgia? Today’s installment:

Christians Try To Censor Georgia School’s Reading List
Among the books the Crusaders for Christ want banned are “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

Subversive titles, those. It puts me in the mind of a letter written by Mark Twain on the subject of the removal of Huckleberry Finn from the children’s section of a public library:

21 Fifth Avenue,
November 21, 1905
I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady — she will tell you so.
Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck’s character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.
If there is an unexpurgated in the Children’s Department, won’t you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?
Sincerely yours,
(Signed) S. L. Clemens

And now, my noble Georgia-bashing work completed, I shall go to bed.

Montreal: Day 0.5

A plane full of physicists, and I get the seat directly in front of the single passenger below the age of 10. Have I mentioned that I despise children with the intensity of a thousand burning suns? Just checking. (Also, the movie was Love Actually, but I ignored it in favor of the exploits of Takeshi Kovacs. Okay, I looked up occasionally when Keira Knightley was on the screen.)
Anyway, I got here and the city is indeed covered with a strange white powder. The citizens don’t seem too alarmed, so I assume it’s neither ash from wildfires nor an anthrax attack. Fortunately, the hotel has internet access so I can research this bizarre substance.

Unholy Army of the Undead Update

Frozen Lobsters Brought Back To Life
BOSTON — Call it cryonics for crustaceans. A Connecticut company says its frozen lobsters sometimes come back to life when thawed.
The company was scheduled to attend the International Boston Seafood Show, which began Sunday, armed with video showing two undead lobsters squirming around after being frozen stiff in a minus-40 degree chemical brine for several minutes.

It strikes me as highly negligent that the reported failed to ask whether the reanimated lobsters had a newfound taste for human flesh. Fortunately, the company is taking some precautions.

For instance, the company plans to ship the lobsters with rubber bands on the claws, as a consumer protection measure.
“I wouldn’t remove the rubber bands,” Liberman said. “It’s not worth the risk.”

Famous last words. I for one intend to flee to Canada ahead of the impending zombie lobster attack.

Mutant power or monkey’s paw?

I seem to have developed some kind of time-delayed wish fulfillment power lately. “I wish there were a sequel to Altered Carbon” is perhaps the most benevolent example. In most of the cases I’ve noticed, though, the fulfillment of the wish has arrived too late to allow me to derive the expected utility from it. I am now hesitant to wish for, say, a million dollars, because the most likely outcome would be the collapse of the U.S. economy, followed by hyper-inflation, followed by my acquiring a million dollars in time to spend it in the Coke machine (which will be out of everything but Diet Coke). I should nevertheless try to find a way to harness this power for good, or at least my own personal benefit.
(Am I being deliberately vague about the actual events that inspired this post? Yes!)

Attention, Tall Humans:


Asteroid heads for close call with Earth
SAN DIEGO – Earth is in for its closest brush with an asteroid in recorded history Thursday, when a chunk of rock passes about 43,000 kilometres above the planet’s surface.

Great Scott! Look how close we came to annihilation! And astronomers didn’t notice the asteroid until Monday… that’s not enough time to send Bruce Willis and a deep-core drilling team! Civilization itself could have been destroyed… oh, wait:

If there was a collision, the asteroid would likely burn up in the atmosphere, NASA said.

In other words:

Lisa: I can’t believe that extra-thick layer of pollution that I’ve actually picketed against burned up the comet.
Bart: But what’s really amazing, is that this is exactly what Dad said would happen.
Lisa: Yeah, Dad was right.
Homer: I know, kids. I’m scared too!

(Apparently, it’s Reference Day here at Arcane Gazebo.)

Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?

Experts downplay Phatbot danger
Security experts downplayed the danger of a Trojan horse program named Phatbot that uses peer to peer (P-to-P) technology to create a network of infected zombies for carrying out attacks or spreading malicious code.

I’d rather not ever read an article reporting, in any context, that experts are downplaying the danger of something that creates a network of infected zombies. We all know where that leads.
That said, it is very hard to take seriously something named “Phatbot”.