August 14, 2012
Neutrinophone — Neutrino-Powered Telephone
From the March 17, 2012 issue of The Economist:
A group of physicists at Fermilab have just submitted a paper to Modern Physics Letters A in which they describe how they have built themselves a neutrino-powered telephone.
Naturally, their neutrinophone is digital. A pulse of neutrinos (small, elusive subatomic particles with no electric charge) corresponds to the digit "1" while no pulse corresponds to "0". The neutrinos themselves are created by smashing bunches of protons into a target made of graphite. They are detected roughly 1km away by researchers who, in their day jobs, work on a neutrino collaboration called MINERvA. By modulating the pulses of protons the group was able to send a message in binary that, when translated, read "neutrino". Whether this will go down in history alongside Alexander Graham Bell's first message, "Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you," remains to be seen.
The point, though, apart from sheer wackiness, is that neutrinos are not easily intercepted by collisions with other sorts of matter. If humanity wanted to broadcast its existence to intelligent life forms that might be out in the galaxy listening, a modulated beam of neutrinos would be a good way of doing so. Conversely, some people argue that listening for ET at radio frequencies is the wrong approach. The right one, they think, would be to build a neutrino-receiver. And that would mean plenty of work for neutrino physicists. Perhaps, then, from its makers' point of view, the neutrinophone is not such a nutty idea, after all.
A longer Economist piece (from its Babbage blog) on the neutrinophone is here.
Much more on the subject here.
But enough about the Modern Physics Letter A paper, you say: You want to read the original.
Your wish is my demand.
Below, the abstract.
Demonstration of Communication using Neutrinos
Beams of neutrinos have been proposed as a vehicle for communications under unusual circumstances, such as direct point-to-point global communication, communication with submarines, secure communications and interstellar communication. We report on the performance of a low-rate communications link established using the NuMI beam line and the MINERvA detector at Fermilab. The link achieved a decoded data rate of 0.1 bits/sec with a bit error rate of 1% over a distance of 1.035 km, including 240 m of earth.
The paper in its entirety — 10 pages, 7 figures, updated with final figures used in the Modern Physics Letters A publication — is here.
Free, the way you like it.
Swiss Cheese Board
Wrote Katie Hagar on Better Living Through Design, "How about a nice slice of Swiss to show off your cheese selection? A composite of acrylic resin and powdered bauxite means the material is similar to marble, so think about chilling it ahead of time to keep your cheeses fresh on the table. If you look closely, you'll see that one hole goes all the way through for easy hanging. No worries about bacteria or odors as the board is non-porous."
From the product website: "The surface has just enough give that it won't harm a fine knife blade, and any knife scratches can easily be removed with a good rub using a nylon scrubby sponge. For a totally new surface, simply sand the board lightly with some fine sandpaper."
The boards are made by a small CNC milling workshop in Brooklyn.
Designed by Bjarke Ballisager.
11.5" x 9.25" x 0.5".
Shark Laundry Basket — Episode 2: In which we get email from its creator
Above, an email that came in last evening via Etsy from Jolanta Uczarcyck, the Krakow-based creator of the wonderful Shark Laundry Basket (below),
which drew "oohs" and "aahs" from admirers after it appeared here in Episode 1 this past Saturday followed by sighs of regret when they learned it was sold out.
I've already replied to her email, letting her know that 1-2 weeks is fine and that more than one person would love to order it.
Here's what I'm gonna do for you: I'm going to buy the next one she makes, then make it the prize for a contest yet to be created by moi.
How's that for tantalizing?
Why can't we all just get along?
If only the real world got along as well as the virtual one.
Witness the countries in the bottom row in the graphic above, depicting where current visitors to bookofjoe are located.
One Finger Glove — It's not what you think
Perhaps no tool will make an artist feel more at home on the iPad than the Hand Glider, a lightweight sleeve for your wrist and pinky that prevents your skin from triggering multitouch gestures or wayward marks while using a stylus. By outward appearance alone, the glove looks a little silly, but its function far outweighs its design quirks.
Though the Hand Glider website specifies both left and right-handed models, the two are anatomically identical—the only difference is which side of the glove hosts the company logo.
Learning to trust the glove may be the biggest hurdle to using it: I wore it for nearly 30 minutes before I realized I was still drawing in my stilted iPad way, fingers and palm curled around the stylus so as not to accidentally brush the digital canvas.
After forcing myself to relax and draw like I would on paper, the positive aspects of this glove were immediately apparent: You can focus on minuscule details you might otherwise have to zoom in to work on. Your hand becomes much steadier. Your fingers don’t cramp around the stylus. In general, I found my sketches when using the Hand Glider were much looser and more enjoyable than their pre-Glider counterparts, especially when using a program like Paper.
The glove is surprisingly lightweight and gives off very little extra warmth.
No, the Hand Glider isn't an engineering marvel; instead, it's simply the right tool for the right gadget. And if you love to draw on your iPad, it’s a no-brainer.
A belated tribute to my silent majority
I pay far too much attention to what people say in the Comments section of boj and via direct email, such that a mean but spot-on criticism or remark can ruin my whole day.
I know — you wouldn't think I'd be all that sensitive but I am, even though at the same time I really don't care what anyone thinks.
A contradiction but in a quantum world two opposites can exist simultaneously as long as you don't try to figure out which one's currently active.
I read that somewhere in a book.
But I digress.
Jack Kent Cooke memorably remarked, "Never complain. Never explain."
I consider those four words mission critical to my world view.
Almost as much as these: "The hard way is the best way. Not because it is the hard way, but because it is the best way."
That's from a letter to the editor of the New York Times magazine circa 1990.
But I digress yet again.
All of which is a prelude to my decision to make future changes to bookofjoe based on what's best for me — without annnouncing or justifying them — with the thought that if you like what you see, you'll be fine with whatever I decide.
If not, hey, you'll be like Gray Cat (below, caught napping)
and vote with your virtual feet* and click away in a Podunk town yoctosecond, never to return.
At least, not for a long time.
But I'm still digressing.
What's my problem?
Don't go there.
Where was I?
Ah, yes, Gray Cat.
Hold on... oh, yeah, changes to bookofjoe.
The last time I had one of these virtual one-way town halls, I got all manner of flack from some longtime readers and fans about how I should be happy just to produce boj and have people read it, and that attempting to make money with it was venal and beneath contempt.
One reader said he buys stuff from Amazon only after making sure he doesn't use my link — or that of anyone else who's an Amazon Associate — so as not to add his few pennies to our commission income.
I just don't get that.
If something doesn't hurt you and helps someone else, why wouldn't you do it?
I mean, that's my default approach to life, sometimes leading me to bend over backwards and go out of my way to do what I can to enable someone else's internet or real world success.
Yes, if you go to Amazon via the box in the upper right up top, I get a commission of from 4%-7% of the purchase price of anything you happen to buy — and it doesn't cost you one red cent.
What's wrong with that?
The hundreds of hours a month I devote to the 240-odd posts I put up every month, that should be free?
But it is — the way we like it.
There's no subscription fee — never has been and most likely never will be.
So that I want to cash in to whatever extent I can without charging you anything, and finally have a way to do so, that's un-American?
I don't think so.
But only in the past few weeks, after discussions with some of my best bookofjoe friends, did it come to pass that I finally — finally, after all these years! — realized that 99% of my readers will never comment and never email me but are just happy to be here and visit because they like what they find.
The 1% who decry my efforts to gather a few pennies here and there — without sticking a knife in my readers' backs and demanding cash up front — well, too bad, it's been nice.
The other 99%, my wonderful silent majority, I love you more than ever and I say it right here, right now, in public.
And when I put something up top under the Amazon box about using it as a transit point instead of going there directly, well, I suspect you'll not be capable of caring less.
As it should be.
*That was one messed-up simile, wasn't it?
"I'll shop at Stupid.com when pigs fly! We hear this sentence all the time. That's why we were so happy to find the Flying Pig! What is it? It's a battery-powered pig with an impressive set of wings. Attach him to a ceiling or beam and switch him on. The pig's wings begin to flap, causing him to fly around the room in large circles. He circles around bringing about the impossible in your world. You'll be early to work, the dog won't wake you in the morning to a shredded couch, you'll stick to a new year's resolution, the neighbor will stay out of your mailbox, and so many more once impossible notions will dissolve. Why would you want to own a Flying Pig? Heck, you got a lot of impossible missions to take care of and so do we."
$9.95 (Requires two AA batteries — not included).
*My rap name