Archive for August, 2007

Quantum effects in solid mechanics

August 31, 2007

The September Journal Club theme at iMechanica is Quantum Effects in Solid Mechanics. Harley T Johnson has put together a nice introduction and a few important questions for further discussion:

  1. … how solid mechanics, through the effects of deformation, connects to the quantum mechanical behavior of electrons in a solid …
  2. How does strain affect optical properties at the nanoscale?
  3. How does strain affect electrical conduction at the nanoscale?
  4. How does electronic structure influence elasticity?

From one of the papers that Johnson refers to, I learn that coherent interfaces are also known by another name, namely, pseudomorphic structures:

Structures are called pseudomorphic when they are lattice mismatched to their substrates, and the strain is accommodated entirely elastically without plastic relaxation via dislocations.

By the way, are they also known an Rank One connections? I need to check that.

In any case, though the papers themselves are relatively old (from 1995 to 1999), and none of them are review papers, they all seem very interesting (and might even have a distant relationship to some of things that I have been doing), and, I am looking forward to the discussions.

Friday late night links

August 31, 2007
  1. Review of the book How to talk about books you haven’t read: Yes; the reviewers have read the book (and rate it A):

    How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read is a very good read: all aims aside, it’s just damn entertaining. But it’s also thought-provoking and clever, and if Bayard occasionally gets carried away (insisting readers should welcome books in absolutely ” all their polyvalence”, etc.) he’s on solid-enough ground most of the way.
    A must-read for anyone who cares about books.

  2. No! not every single vote counts; and, Fabio also explains why that is a good thing;
  3. I think it is Rajaji who pointed out the crucial role played by the English education that the Indian middle class obtained from the British in our freedom struggle; and, it probably is K M Munshi who said that on that day when the middle class refuses to engage in politics, it will be the death knell of democracy. In this piece in Prospect, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad talks about the failures of Indian middle class (via A&L daily);
  4. Scriptwriter of Chak De India on the script; a tribute to Qurratulain Hyder; a tribute to the man who moved the mountain (Reminds me of Blake: Great things are done when men and mountains meet // This is not done by jostling in the street). All three links are via Uma at Indian Writing.

Happy reading!

Hypocrisy, bad taste and careerism

August 31, 2007

Ram Guha in the Telegraph:

This column, then, is not about the rights and wrongs of the nuclear deal. It is about the ways in which it has been discussed and debated. In this (as yet unconcluded) debate, three varieties of indecorous behaviour have been put on display. Let us call them hypocrisy, bad taste, and rank careerism.

Take a look!

1 Gflop for less than $100

August 31, 2007

This is wonderful news indeed; probably, every computational lab in IISc and IITs can afford as many supercomputers as the number of students!

Microwulf is a personal, portable Beowulf cluster, providing over 26 Gflops of measured performance, for less than $2500. Its dimensions are just 11″ x 12″ x 17″, making it small enough to fit on one’s desktop or in a suitcase.

Microwulf was designed and built by Calvin CS professor Joel Adams and senior Tim Brom.

I learnt about Microwulf via /. The Microwulf page also gives the details of the design and hardware; at present, Microwulf is apparently running Ubuntu.

A couple of Open Access links

August 30, 2007

RPM at Evolgen points to videos of interviews with notable scientists on Open Access:

One of Ashburner’s recent project has involved mining the scientific literature and providing smart databases. He points out that open access literature allows people who mine scientific papers to make their results available. Even thought he and his colleagues are free to search any article they have access to, they can’t share those results with people who can’t access the protected literature. In the video, he lists three reasons to publish in open access journals: it’s the moral high ground, it increases the amount of people who read your articles, and you maintain the copyright on your work. Additionally, he points out that non-open access journals are scam because universities end up paying for the research twice — once to generate the results and again to access them.

PRISM makes revere crazy; Dave and revere make each others day!

eSkeptic reviews How Doctors Think 

August 30, 2007

Remember Jerome Groopman’s  How Doctors Think? In this rather devastating review (via A&L Daily), Charles Lambdin writes about one important problem with the book:

The problem is, this does not tell us anything about how doctors think, only how they think they think.

What is more important,  he also tells how the available research indicates that the solutions prescribed by Dr. Groopman, are in fact not effective:

Unfortunately, what research Groopman cites to back his claims is somewhat one-sided and sometimes off the point. Two articles he cites both argue that decision aids pertaining to treatment (rather than diagnosis) don’t take into account when patients have multiple illnesses requiring multiple medications, which may interact with each other. This is an important point, but to attempt to argue from this single issue that decision aids shouldn’t be relied on is to make a rather specious generalization.

Most doctors do not like decision aids. They rob them of much of their power and prestige. Why go through medical school and accrue a six-figure debt if you’re simply going to use a computer to make diagnoses? One study famously showed that a successful predictive instrument for acute ischemic heart disease (which reduced the false positive rate from 71% to 0) was, after its use in randomized trials, all but discarded by doctors (only 2.8% of the sample continued to use it). It is no secret many doctors despise evidence-based medicine. It is impersonal “cookbook medicine.” It is “dehumanizing,” treating people like statistics. Patients do not like it either. They think less of doctors’ abilities who rely on such aids.

Here is the final paragraph of the review:

Groopman makes comparisons to the perspicacious (and fictitious) “deductions” of Sherlock Holmes. Such comparisons are disingenuous. Most medical patients are not unique mysteries with atypical solutions (though the anecdotes in Groopman’s book are). Accuracy under uncertainty often boils down to what types of errors one is willing to make: a few false negatives with exotic conditions, or a great many “zebra-chasing” false positives. Oddly, Groopman rebukes doctors guilty of “zebra retreat,” but bungles the example this term is derived from. He quotes: “When you hear hoofbeats, think about horses, not zebras.” The actual lesson is, “When in Wyoming, if you hear hoofbeats and think you see stripes, it’s still probably a horse.” Groopman scoffs at this, which is unfortunate because treating every patient as a uniquely rare case will only increase error over time. When one looks at the research Groopman largely ignores, the lesson is clear. Medicine needs to become more science and less art.

Take a look!

A bit of post-independence history of Carnatic music

August 30, 2007

Sriram Venkatkrishnan, in a piece accompanied by some nice photographs, tells about the formation and death of The Society for the Preservation of Carnatic Music:

The origins of the Society had happened in a meeting at the Music Academy, held on April 25 that year, when concern had been expressed over the poor sales of gramophone discs and the removal of non-selling records from the catalogues and the destruction of the masters (again a recurring theme ever since the beginning of the recording industry and continuing till date).

The minutes of the meeting, as reported in The Hindu stated that unless a cultural organisation came forward to resurrect the available recordings by collecting the old gramophone discs of late masters, , the little that was available now would also be lost to posterity.

Sriram mentions a couple of intriguing things about the Society: why the job was not entrusted with Music Academy (to which almost all the founding members of the Society belonged to), and why the society itself died after the first meeting. Finally, though Sriram does not mention it, I am also curious to know if the Society did manage to salvage any discs of any of the masters.

Compiling the dictionary

August 30, 2007

Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? When does a made-up word become real? And could you use “synecdochical” in a sentence, please? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways in which today’s print dictionary is poised for transformation in this internet era.

A wonderful talk! Have fun!

Pharyngula to play Rajnikant!

August 29, 2007

Or, at least, that is the plan:

I think the plan, though, is to pretend I can’t, so Mooney and Nisbet get all cocky. Then, just when Greg is down, trapped in a headlock by one and the other is doing the dreaded pinky toe pincer, I come parachuting down off my Northwest Airlines passenger flight, carom off the ropes, launch into a flying tackle on both, and Greg and I then spend the next hour kicking and punching two cripples. And then we buy them both a Bud Light.

Or, is it Sharukh Khan that is being planned? Either case, it should be fun. Pity I wouldn’t be there in the audience!

Something you should see. Right-away. This very moment.

August 28, 2007

Inventor Dean Kamen gives a 5-minute talk about the extraordinary prosthetic arm he’s developing at the request of the US Department of Defense, to help the 1,600 “kids” who’ve come back from Iraq without an arm (and the two dozen who’ve lost both arms). Kamen’s commitment to using technology to solve problems, and his respect for the human spirit, have never been more clear than in this deeply moving clip. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, California. Duration: 05:41.)