Archive for November 5th, 2007

Magnetic monopoles in solid state systems

November 5, 2007

Doug at Nanoscale views draws attention to an arXiv paper:

One of the things that I find so interesting about condensed matter physics is the idea of emergent degrees of freedom. For example, phonons (quantized sound waves) are quantum mechanical quasiparticles in solids that can have well-defined quantum numbers, and arise because of the collective motion of large numbers of atoms. In a more exotic example, Cooper pairs in ordinary superconductors are objects with spin 0, charge -2e, yet are “built” out of electrons plus phonons. In a very exotic example, the quasiparticles in the fractional quantum Hall effect can have fractional charges and obey exotic statistics. In an even more extreme case, these authors propose that there are quasiparticle excitations in a kind of magnetically ordered insulator that act like magnetic monopoles. It seems that magnetic monopoles do not exist as elementary particles. Indeed, they would require a modification of Maxwell’s equations. (In this solid state system the argument is that they exist as monopole/antimonopole pairs, so that the net divergence of the magnetic field is still zero). “Forbidden” particles emerging from the collective action of many electrons – a very neat idea, and it would appear that there may even be some experimental evidence for this already.

Is your mobile phone kosher?

November 5, 2007

There are even kosher mobile phones. You cannot send text messages with them, take photographs or connect to the Internet. More than 10,000 numbers for phone sex, dating services etc are blocked. Calls to other kosher phones are cheaper and on the Sabbath any call costs $2.44 a minute, a steep religious penalty. “You pay less and you’re playing by the rules. You’re using technology but in a way that maintains religious integrity.”

Anthropologi.info points to a New York Times article and a few online resources on all things kosher.

The economics, aesthetics and ethics of giving books away for free

November 5, 2007

There are three reasons why it makes sense to give away books online. The first is that publishing has always been in this kind of churn and flux—who gets published, how they get paid, what the economic structure is of the publishers, where the publishers are, all of that stuff has changed all of the time. And it’s just hubris that makes us think that this particular change—the computer change—is the one that’s going to destroy publishing and that it must be prevented at all costs. We’ll adapt. If we need to adapt, we’ll adapt. And today, the way that we adapt is by giving away e-books and selling p-books.So that’s the economic reason. But then there is the artistic reason: we live in a century in which copying is only going to get easier. It’s the 21st century, there’s not going to be a year in which it’s harder to copy than this year; there’s not going to be a day in which it’s harder to copy than this day; from now on. Right? If copying gets harder, it’s because of a nuclear holocaust. There’s nothing else that’s going to make copying harder from now on. And so, if your business model and your aesthetic effect in your literature and your work is intended not to be copied, you’re fundamentally not making art for the 21st century. It might be quaint, it might be interesting, but it’s not particularly contemporary to produce art that demands these constraints from a bygone era. You might as well be writing 15-hour Ring Cycle knock-offs and hoping that they’ll be performed at the local opera. I mean, yes, there’s a tiny market for that, but it’s hardly what you’d call contemporary art.

So that’s the artistic reason. Finally, there’s the ethical reason. And the ethical reason is that the alternative is that we chide, criminalize, sue, damn our readers for doing what readers have always done, which is sharing books they love—only now they’re doing it electronically. You know, there’s no solution that arises from telling people to stop using computers in the way that computers were intended to be used. They’re copying machines. So telling the audience for art, telling 70 million American file-sharers that they’re all crooks, and none of them have the right to due process, none of them have the right to privacy, we need to wire-tap all of them, we need to shut down their network connections without notice in order to preserve the anti-copying business model: that’s a deeply unethical position. It puts us in a world in which we are criminalizing average people for participating in their culture.

That is Cory Doctorow in an interview at Kottke.org. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Reovlutions from whom I got the link, has this to say:

The economics have yet to be worked out but I think Cory has got the aesthetics and the ethics right.

Take a look!