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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Physics, Theoretical and Applied

A January 2012 (January 14) post on “Physics and the arXiv…” mentioned an article that my father-in-law, Q.N. Usmani, and colleagues had recently published.  Now he has another article, published in September 2012 in Physical Review C, a journal of nuclear physics.  The abstract alone was hard for a lay person like me to follow, given the theoretical nature of the material.

Adam Frank of the University of Rochester wrote an October 14 New York Times op-ed on “the possibilities of quantum information.”  He concludes: “When a revolution in science yields powerful new technologies, its effect on human culture is multiplied exponentially.  Think of the relation between thermodynamics, steam engines and the onset of the industrial era.  Quantum information could well be the thermodynamics of the next technological revolution.   The discovery of the Higgs — the confirming stroke of a grand, overarching theory of matter — will, eventually, yield a Nobel Prize, and when it comes the award will be justly deserved.  But the discovery’s impact on human society will most likely be dwarfed by the consequences of quantum information theory.  The steady advances at its frontiers are turning us into safecrackers, nimbly manipulating the tumblers guarding the deepest secrets of nature and our own place within it.  What we find when the locks snap open on the quantum world will surely be something far richer and far greater than our imaginations today can conceive.”

Howard M. Wiseman, in “News & Views” comments in the journal Nature this month, introduces a publication by R. Vijay and colleagues. 

R. Vijay et al. note: “The act of measurement bridges the quantum and classical worlds by projecting a superposition of possible states into a single (probabilistic) outcome.  The timescale of this ‘instantaneous’ process can be stretched using weak measurements1, 2, such that it takes the form of a gradual random walk towards a final state.  Remarkably, the interim measurement record is sufficient to continuously track and steer the quantum state using feedback3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.  Here we implement quantum feedback control in a solid-state system, namely a superconducting quantum bit (qubit) coupled to a microwave cavity9.”

Their Nature article can also be found via Pub Med or in a May 2012 version on the arXiv.

Vijay, who earned his doctorate in applied physics from Yale and recently completed his postdoctoral research at Berkeley, is joining the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.  Congratulations to Vijay, a good person whose interests range from physics to the guitar and who, in his New Haven days, could be found on the cricket fields of the Elm City!

9:20 am edt 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the regional Center for Domestic Violence Services is hosting a conference October 19.

A January 2012 (January 21) post discussed the “Center for Domestic Violence Services – and the Need for Those Services.”

10:33 am edt 

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