Working for Free and Other Hazards

A "Doonesbury" comic that hits close to home. Click for the whole thing.

The month of April is rapidly filling up, and while it’s mostly good stuff, I’m feeling a bit daunted at the moment! One thing I am going to try to do, however: I need to stop saying “yes” when people ask me to work for them without pay. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop doing anything I’m already committed to—I just need to steer clear of any more unpaid gigs.) I know many people say that the cost of entry into a field is that you work 80 hours every week for no money, and that working for free is a way of getting exposure. However, at this point, I have a lot of exposure, even though this blog still isn’t bringing in a huge number of readers. Maybe this is an arrogant attitude, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to be paid for work.

In any case, here are some good things I found on the internet for you:

  • Cosmologist Mark Trodden talks about the relationship between geometry, topology, and the evolution of the universe. His title is catnip to someone like me.
  • Via Maria Popova, I just learned of a book of correspondence between Albert Einstein and children. She highlights a particular letter in which Einstein tells a young girl that he takes her every bit as seriously as he would take a boy.
  • If I ever write a textbook, I want Randall Munroe to do at least some of the diagrams. His latest is a comparison of various depths in the ocean, including how deep some creatures (sperm whales, David Bowie) can go.

I covered a lot of good stories for Ars Technica in the last week too.

  1. Future telescope array drives development of exabyte processing: the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is a planned array of over a million radio telescopes that will provide sensitivity far beyond what we currently have. However, that sensitivity comes with a price: all those telescopes will be generating over one exabyte (260 bytes, or approximately 1 billion gigabytes) of data every day. Obviously, that’s going to require some new computer technology.
  2. Scale made with a carbon nanotube sensitive enough to register a proton’s mass: How do you find the mass of something really tiny? Using mechanical vibrations instead of gravity!
  3. Extreme pressure could force hydrogen into a high-temperature superconductor: If you want a superconductor that operates at room temperature, you may need to squeeze it really hard.
  4. First superradiant lasers produce nearly no photons (and that’s expected): while lasers are very monochromatic, for some purposes even that isn’t good enough. A prototype shows how synchronizing atoms can create laser light that’s even more monochromatic, with a surprising side effect: there are hardly any photons involved.
  5. New quantum controls use vibrations to control other vibrations: resonance is a familiar phenomenon, but it’s hard to control, especially on the microscopic scale. Sound waves in a solid are quantized—they act like particles, which are called phonons. However, that particle-like property means they interact in a particular way, so researchers figured out how to make one set of phonons control another set, which may lead to entangling phonons with each other.
  6. Carbon nanotube circuits could outsource their heat to a separate device: If you run current through a wire, it heats up. If you run current through a carbon nanotube, the electrons dump the heat into a nearby device. There’s a lot of interesting physics going on, and while the researchers are most interested in talking about new electronics, I’d like to know exactly what the mechanism is!
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