August 12, 2010

Superconductors go fractal

The team knew the material was made like a layered cake, with layers of superconducting copper oxide alternating with spacer layers. At higher temperatures, oxygen atoms tend to roam around in the spacer layer. But when temperatures drop, they settle down. These oxygen atoms — and the electrons they bring to what would otherwise be vacancies — are thought to contribute to the drop in resistance that accompanies superconductivity. But until now, no one had been able to see the structure with high resolution.

Bianconi and his team got a shock when they realized the pattern formed by the once-roaming oxygen atoms was fractal. The pattern looked the same at the 1-micrometer scale as it did at the 400-micrometer scale.

This self-similarity was completely unexpected in superconductors, Bianconi says. “We were very astonished. We couldn’t believe our eyes,” he says. “This is not an area where we expected to see a fractal pattern.”

Fractals promise higher-temperature superconductors

Their analysis also revealed that the superconductor is a “scale-free” network, meaning its structure obeys the same mathematics as can be used to describe connections within the internet and some social networks. “I find it plainly mysterious,” says condensed matter physicist Jan Zaanen of Leiden University in the Netherlands. “It is telling us something very deep.”

The researchers also found that the greater the length scales at which the pattern persisted – or the more complete its “fractality” – the higher the maximum temperature at which the crystal could superconduct. Bianconi speculates that the scale-free distribution of the interstitial oxygen helps preserve the “quantum coherence” of electrons in the crystal. Superconductivity is thought to depend on this property, which breaks down as temperature rises.


August 12, 2010

In order for the artist to have a world to express he must first be situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men.

Charles Baudelaire (via anin) (via libraryland)

August 12, 2010



If this happens universally I’ll go back to paper books in a heartbeat!

*image is a mockup of a possible future.

August 12, 2010

When we do radical experiments giving away our content people tend to ask if we’re not afraid of losing control. But they are getting it wrong. The future is about the audience. The future is about the fact that if you want control over your content you have to be the best provider of it.

Your content will end up on YouTube and the Pirate Bay anyway. But when you’re the best provider, people come to you. Giving you the chance to interact and learn. And giving you the chance to build a business model.

The future of public service broadcasting

Office Depot Steals Livelihood From Speaker!

August 12, 2010

When imitation isn’t flattery…it’s theft…

Scott McKain has the details at that post. Go watch these two videos (people seeing this via the Tumblr Dashboard, come to my post or click through to Scott’s site for them):

There are certain things you don’t do in life. One of them is stealing bread out of a little guy’s mouth.

Especially if you’re two massive corporations with megabucks in your respective bank accounts!

This speaker experienced this for himself. He drew a lesson from it that he could share with his clients. It was original to him and his trademark. Now he will be seen as someone so lame that he’s quoting a television commercial! That story — which was key to making his living — has been stolen from him.

There are writers out there who also have one-line specialities that define them.

One of them is Ken Bruen, who is known for this:

I didn’t know what to say, said, “I don’t know what to say.”

Only Ken Bruen came up with that one. Anyone who sees that elsewhere — and has read Bruen’s work — would instantly recognize it as being Ken Bruen.

Writer Arthur Miller had a line go famous from his play The Death of a Salesman:

So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.

This is usually shortened to:

Attention must be paid.

Here on the Internet, we grab and re-use things from people all the time. But we do it from each other in here, and would not transfer this behavior to out there.

This is the new land I’ve been edging towards in my notes about market versus social (here and here).

Writer Warren Ellis understands the importance of ownership of just one line can make to a person’s livelihood:

I wonder if the person who made the first OM NOM NOM image ever feels like R Crumb after his “Keep On Trucking” earned millions for someone else.

Here’s a brief Wikipedia entry about R. Crumb’s creation. That image was everywhere at one time. It made millions for lots of people — but not a dime for its creator! Yet if, god forbid, Crumb should wind up injured and destitute and require medical/financial assistance from the State, he’d be seen as a self-indulgent useless artist who never contributed a big bank account to society! People would never know the theft that kept him from having a big bank account for himself.

All professionals understand the importance of intellectual property out there in the world of the market. You do not steal as much as a single line from another person.

So Office Depot’s ad agency fully understood the thievery involved when they created this ad. Their theft was willful and brazen.

Scott McKain is boycotting Office Depot. I think all of us should too.

Office Depot needs to make this right.

Market Versus Social Notes #2

August 12, 2010

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely:

As Margaret Clark, Judson Mills, and Alan Fiske suggested a long time ago, the answer is that we live simultaneously in two different worlds—one where social norms prevail, and the other where market norms make the rules. The social norms include the friendly requests that people make of one another. Could you help me move this couch? Could you help me change this tire? Social norms are wrapped up in our social nature and our need for community. They are usually warm and fuzzy. Instant paybacks are not required: you may help move your neighbor’s couch, but this doesn’t mean he has to come right over and move yours. It’s like opening a door for someone: it provides pleasure for both of you, and reciprocity is not immediately required.

The second world, the one governed by market norms, is very different. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about it. The exchanges are sharp-edged: wages, prices, rents, interest, and costs-and-benefits. Such market relationships are not necessarily evil or mean—in fact, they also include self-reliance, inventiveness, and individualism—but they do imply comparable benefits and prompt payments. When you are in the domain of market norms, you get what you pay for—that’s just the way it is.

When we keep social norms and market norms on their separate paths, life hums along pretty well. Take sex, for instance. We may have it free in the social context, where it is, we hope, warm and emotionally nourishing. But there’s also market sex, sex that is on demand and that costs money. This seems pretty straightforward. We don’t have husbands (or wives) coming home asking for a $50 trick; nor do we have prostitutes hoping for everlasting love.

When social and market norms collide, trouble sets in. Take sex again. A guy takes a girl out for dinner and a movie, and he pays the bills. They go out again, and he pays the bills once more. They go out a third time, and he’s still springing for the meal and the entertainment. At this point, he’s hoping for at least a passionate kiss at the front door. His wallet is getting perilously thin, but worse is what’s going on in his head: he’s having trouble reconciling the social norm (courtship) with the market norm (money for sex). On the fourth date he casually mentions how much this romance is costing him. Now he’s crossed the line. Violation! She calls him a beast and storms off. He should have known that one can’t mix social and market norms—especially in this case—without implying that the lady is a tramp. He should also have remembered the immortal words of Woody Allen: “The most expensive sex is free sex.”