Monthly Archives: November 2005

Clarke group research in ScienceMatters@Berkeley

My advisor was profiled in the latest issue of ScienceMatters@Berkeley, an online UCB publication written by Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz. Most of you know about my work on the qubit project; the ScienceMatters article also covers some of the other research in the group.
UPDATE: It’s pretty cool to see one of our figures on Boing Boing, even if it is from the (admittedly more photogenic) MRI project rather than the qubit research.

The introversion/extroversion interface

Time to revisit the ever-popular topic of introversion. There’s this old Atlantic Monthly article on the subject that was discussed recently by Kevin Drum and Chad Orzel. In general I thought this article tended to overstate matters, and was overly harsh on extroverts (maybe this was intended for comic effect). For example, this paragraph:

Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.

The “barking and yipping” bit is just obnoxious, but more importantly, I’ve met plenty of extroverts who understand introversion. Usually they tend to have done some reading on the subject rather than having an intuitive grasp of what it’s like, but they still do understand. On the other hand, it’s true that some extroverts really don’t understand, and when I meet such people they will usually either write me off as aloof and uninteresting, or get offended that I don’t want to talk to them, or regard me as a weird and fascinating specimen in which case I will have to fend off endless questions about why I’m so quiet. So, one shouldn’t do any of these things. But I thought the article went to far in the opposite direction: the author seems to not like to hear people talk at all, and suggests that introverts be left alone:

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation.
Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say “What’s the matter?” or “Are you all right?”
Third, don’t say anything else, either.

I read this and thought, “That’s exactly wrong!” Because when I’m in a social situation, and I’m not talking to anyone, it’s really great if some extroverted person comes along and talks to me and gets me involved in the conversation. But I realized this relates back to the distinction between introversion and shyness—regardless of how introverted I may be in general, if I go to a party (for example) it’s because I want to socialize and connect with people, and then it’s only my shyness that’s a barrier. So for introverts who aren’t shy, standing alone lost in thought may signal something different.
In any case, one shouldn’t assume that just because an introvert isn’t talking, he doesn’t want to be talked to. The author of the Atlantic Monthly article doesn’t seem to like extroverts very much at all, but I’m the opposite: I often really enjoy conversations with talkative people, because a conversation where I’m supplying only 10% of the dialogue is a lot easier and more comfortable than one in which I need to supply 50%.
I suspect that if I weren’t shy, I’d be a lot less introverted (although not quite extroverted).

Eminent physicist sentenced to prison

This is not the sort of story one expects to read about a physics Nobel laureate:

Nobel Prize-winning physicist gets 2 years in Santa Maria crash
Associated Press
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A Nobel Prize-winning physicist was sentenced Monday to two years in prison for killing a man and injuring seven others when his speeding Mercedes-Benz slammed into a van.
John Robert Schrieffer, 74, a Florida State University professor who once taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara, pleaded no contest July 25 to felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for crashing into the Toyota van near rural Orcutt.
Schrieffer had nine prior speeding tickets and was driving on a suspended license at the time of the Sept. 24, 2004 crash. He also admitted to a criminal enhancement of causing great bodily injury to three people in the van.

Schrieffer was the “S” in the BCS theory of superconductivity, which describes conventional superconductors and is therefore highly relevant to my own research. I’ve never seen him in person, but it’s still kind of shocking. Later in the article his colleagues protest that he’s not an “extreme personality”, but nine speeding tickets? He sure sounds like a reckless driver, at least.
Via Fark, where the headline writer inexplicably went for quantum tunneling as the basis for the obligatory joke rather than something on resistanceless flow.

The California Love and Puppies Act [Open Thread]

Reaction of the poll worker when I turned in my card: “That was fast!” I didn’t really know how to respond to that. I did at least take time to read the names of the propositions to make sure I wasn’t accidentally voting against some previously-unknown initiative that was slipped in between 74 and 75 and guaranteed love and puppies for all, or something.
Ask Darth how I voted!
And now, a music review:
The Rosebuds: Birds Make Good Neighbors: Here’s another album I’ve really enjoyed lately; I’m always up for some good indie-pop. These songs manage to be fun while covering some dark and angsty topics. The first track is called “Hold Hands & Fight” which is a pretty good hint of the themes of the album. My favorite song here is “Leaves Do Fall”: the lyrics are very evocative and the music is perfectly matched to the mood of the song. They have some more tracks for download at their website, apparently full songs and not just samples.
In other news, according to Amazon A Feast for Crows is shipping. I had meant to have finished Woken Furies by now so I wouldn’t have to decide which to read first… Dammit.

2005 Election Endorsements

We have an election tomorrow in California, with eight ballot initiatives. Needless to say, I am doing appropriate research beforehand:

This blog endorses a “no” vote on propositions 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, and 78. I’m also leaning towards “no” on the remaining two, 79 and 80, although they seem like good ideas in principle: I’m skeptical of deciding complex policy by ballot initiative.
Mark Kleiman has a good summary of the ballot at his blog. As he points out (in the “details here” link), Proposition 77 leads to urban voters being underrepresented; this should be seen as part of the GOP’s nationwide program to redistrict states in their favor (as in Texas and Colorado) rather than as some sort of attempt at fairness and anti-gerrymandering.
Here’s Brad DeLong’s take along with excerpts from other commenters. And here’s Kevin Drum’s explanation of why he always votes “no”, a stance that becomes more and more appealing to me every year.
As usual, attempts to change my mind are welcome. Those of you not in California may be content to point and laugh at our ridiculous governor instead.

Reuters on US Anti-Science Attitudes

Via Shellock, there’s a Reuters piece today outlining concerns about increasing anti-science sentiment in the US. I was glad to see this in a mainstream source; it’s what scientists have been saying for a few years now. The piece is a bit disjointed but manages to hit several related topics: Bush administration abuses of science, the intelligent design battle, general scientific illiteracy and weaknesses in science education. They could have been tougher on the ID crowd but it’s nice to see them correctly place ID in the larger anti-science trend.

And I thought it was a long way to drive

My friend Eliza is training for the AIDS/Lifecycle bike ride, which runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles over seven days. In the process she is raising money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. She has a webpage on the AIDS/Lifecycle site where I am told a training blog will be appearing.
Needless to say we at Arcane Gazebo are all about severe tests of human endurance, especially if they also involve beautiful California… vistas. So please join me in cheering her on, and if you have a few bucks to spare to help her toward her fundraising target, it will not only go to a good cause but you will be rewarded with the ability to carry more arrows. No, wait, that’s just in Zelda. But it will still go to a good cause. (It’s possible to donate online through the link above.)

Rampage [Open Thread]

I held off posting the open thread because the Halloween thread seemed to be filling that role. (Not because I was distracted playing Katamari Damacy. No.) My media selections this week are strongly correlated with Mason’s.
Mirrormask: This movie has already generated some contentious discussion in comments, so I feel like I’m a bit late to the party. I basically agree with Mason’s take, that Gaiman is aiming for a fantasy in the vein of Alice in Wonderland, in which plot is secondary to exploring a different world that follows its own logic. The visual execution of this was quite good, but I felt that Gaiman wasn’t really at the top of his game in terms of finding clever twists on one’s usual assumptions. Nevertheless it was mostly successful, and there are some great moments (like the encounter with the Sphinx).
We Love Katamari: After hearing about Katamari Damacy and its successor for months, I finally got a chance to play. Now I’m hooked. The game mechanics are pretty simple: the player rolls around a small ball (the katamari) that’s sticky so everything smaller than the ball gets picked up. You start out picking up small items like thumbtacks and pencils, and as these things get stuck to the ball it gets larger and you can graduate to books and fruit and small animals, until the ball gets a little bigger, and so on until you’re rolling around an enormous wad of stuff picking up houses and trees and giant squid. There’s a real turning point once the ball gets big enough to pick up people, and the citizens who were previously walking around obliviously suddenly start running away when the ball approaches. At that point there’s a feeling of rampaging through the city like a proper Japanese monster.
Vitalic: OK Cowboy: Wow, this is some brilliant and strange electronica. The album opens with some sort of electro-polka and closes with two and a half minutes of fanfares played only on drums; the tracks in between are slightly more conventional but definitely awesome. Recently I bought new speakers and a substantial subwoofer; this was one of the first albums I played on the new system and it was as if I was hearing it for the first time: the bass is really supposed to be penetrating, so adjust your set appropriately. It’s a bit tough to choose a representative track from this disc, but try “Repair Machines”.

This explains so much

I hadn’t been keeping up with David Brin’s blog, but fortunately Brad Delong has, and linked to Brin’s latest insight: we are living in a simulation, and the simulation is a certain person’s Mary Sue fantasy:

How about this one? That we are all living inside someone else’s Start Trek Holodeck dream. Is there any way we could test this hypothesis? A method that goes even deeper than cybernetics, neurophysiology or even physics?
Simply look around and see who has been impossibly fortunate, vastly out of all proportion to personal talent and competence, or even family privilege, or even any possible intervention by anomalous good luck!

You can probably guess the punchline at this point, but the whole post is entertaining.

But did he write Shakespeare’s plays?

Wow, apparently Bach didn’t write the Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor:

Scholars now think the Toccata was originally a violin piece Bach transcribed.
“If you know the piece you can just see it was written for the violin,” says Don Franklin, a Pitt musicologist specializing in the composer. “It has idiomatic figuration for the violin [and] the initial statement of the fugue subject can easily be played on the D string, crossing over to touch the G string.”
The opening of the Toccata, too, is violin-like, offering “the solo violin an opportunity to drop down through its four strings,” writes Williams. And there are other nuances that add up to an organ piece covering up its origins.
This hypothesis fits. “Bach did a lot of transcription,” says Franklin, also past president of the American Bach Society. Perhaps this Toccata simply lends itself to transcription. After all, Leopold Stokowski’s orchestral version worked out pretty well in “Fantasia” and in concerts.
The evidence all points to the fact that Toccata does not match organ music of the time, especially Bach’s. It does fit the period’s string music, however.

Via Marginal Revolution.