Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Brothers and Sisters: Winston Deaver (12/5 1959 - 11/23 1991)

by Charlotte Deaver

My brother was handsome: square-jawed, tall, intense, sensitive, fierce. But most of the time my siblings and I avoided him because we always expected he was going to either say something mean or annoying, or just punch the shit out of us.

At the age he was in this picture above (18), he wasn't punching me anymore. He took his rage and frustration out on my younger brother, other fucked up kids, and himself, but not his little sister. We smoked pot together and listened to a lot of the same music. He was nice to my friends, a few of whom we even had in common. We were seniors in high school at the same time, Winston having stayed back a year to graduate. Because I had missed the submission deadline, his graduation picture appears in our senior yearbook and mine doesn't. I used to regret that I'm not in my high school yearbook, but now I like to think of Winston's photograph there, representing us.

I found this postcard recently and realized that I am not crazy for remembering, along with the difficult stuff, the sweetness of my brother. He loved me. He cared about me. He even met a girl he compared to me. For our family, as childhood brothers and sisters, this kind of tenderness was rare.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

"Ghostly, flowing supersolid? No, it's quantum plastic." Or "puny flaps."

This "solid that flows, ghostlike, through itself" relates beautifully to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "fluttering stranger" from Frost at Midnight, I must say.

New Scientist
30 June 2010 by Eugenie Samuel Reich
Magazine issue 2767

Ghostly, flowing supersolid? No, it's quantum plastic.

IT'S one of the weirdest things predicted by quantum mechanics: a solid that flows, ghostlike, through itself. As if that's not enough to get your head round, experiments that claim to have made this "supersolid" may in fact have resulted in something completely different.

"We still do not understand the phenomenon. It's something new," says John Reppy, of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who claims to have glimpsed the new effect, dubbed quantum plasticity.

In a solid, atoms are bound together in a regular lattice, keeping their structure rigid under normal circumstances. But at certain temperatures supersolidity is thought to kick in. Cool some solids close to absolute zero, and they should become frictionless and flow like a liquid, while retaining their lattice structure.

In 2004, Moses Chan and Eun-Seong Kim, then at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, claimed to have produced a supersolid by cooling a cylinder of helium-4 to within a whisker of absolute zero.

They placed the cylinder so it oscillated around a central axis - rotating a short distance in one direction and then switching to the other. As they lowered the helium's temperature, Chan and Kim noticed that the cylinder was oscillating more slowly. They assumed this was due to a drop in the fraction of solid helium rotating along with the cylinder. As it is friction that causes the helium inside the cylinder to rotate when the cylinder itself rotates, the researchers attributed this drop to a decrease in the friction of the helium. They concluded that the supersolid effect had come into play at low temperatures (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1101501).

While Chan and Kim's results have been replicated, Reppy says their interpretation may be wrong. To probe supersolidity further, he added a flexible diaphragm to the top of the cylinder that allowed him to crush the helium, creating extra "defects" in its lattice. Previous experiments hinted these might enhance supersolidity, but Reppy found no evidence of this effect.

What's more, he found that as he raised the temperature above 200 millikelvin, the frequency of the oscillation decreased, though the transition to supersolidity isn't supposed to happen at these temperatures (Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.255301).

He concludes that the link between temperature and oscillation frequency is down to a totally new quantum effect, not supersolidity. This new effect, Reppy says, occurs due to the defects inherent in all solid helium-4, which change their behaviour at different temperatures.

Reppy reckons that as the temperature rises, the defects become more mobile, making helium's structure less rigid. This "wobbliness" slows down the oscillations. Because it is different to normal softness and is probably due to quantum effects, the phenomenon is called quantum plasticity. "It's different from normal plasticity," says Reppy.

We still do not understand the phenomenon of quantum plasticity, it's something new
He isn't ruling out the existence of supersolidity altogether but suggests that those who say they have seen it may in fact have been observing quantum plasticity.

Kim, now at KAIST in Daejeon, South Korea, disputes the notion that he and Chan misinterpreted their results but finds Reppy's findings intriguing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Make Hay, Save the Gulf.

Wait for it... it looks like magic but it's just plain 'ol hay! The hay WILL NOT SINK and can be skimmed off. The amount of oil it absorbs is extraordinary. The hay can also be recycled (e.g. compressed into coal or some other form of usable energy).

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"What birds plunge through is not the intimate space" —Rainer Maria Rilke

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the Open, you would be denied
your self, would disappear into that vastness.)

Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you. Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits. Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.

—Rainer Maria Rilke—

Friday, March 21, 2008

Are You Prickles? Or Are You Goo?

Why is it that often the best kind of brilliance can be understood and appreciated by children just as much by adults? It's not less smart because kids like it too. If anything, it's smarter, trickier, to express an idea with sophistication, irony, depth of knowledge that only an adult is (likely to be) capable of, but that a child might well enjoy.

Two words placed together in a way that gently startles, makes us see newly, or see the same thing we've seen many times before but differently, might also be called poetry. Kids do this all the time, too. Kids, philosophers, artists, lively minds. And poets. Which we all are, in my view, at least sometimes, if not as often as possible.

So here is Alan Watts -- philosopher, translator, "entertainer" (his words -- not mine!), child, and poet, speaking in a video animated by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I do hope you watch and enjoy! xo