Monday, September 29, 2014

Work in Progress

Work in Progress 2014

Come for the lunch
And stay for the tantra:
Taking new chances
In life-and-death dances
With creatures
That you barely know.

Come for the truth
And stay for the magic:
Share drugs and kisses,
Hesitations, near misses
With seekers
You meet in the flow.

Come for the sex
Stay for quantum reality:
Learn tricks of attention
In half-sensed dimensions
From teachers
Whose lessons explode.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nick Emits Antimatter

Nick emits: 1 positron every 12 seconds
Fausto Marcon recently drew my attention to a blog post  by "tertiary source" entitled What's the Antimatter Content of a Banana? .

I guessed "Zero" but I was wrong.

I know that bananas are radioactive because they contain a lot of Potassium. And some of that Potassium exists as Potassium-40 (K-40), a long-lived radio-isotope left over from the creation of the Earth. But I had imagined, that K-40, like most naturally occurring radio-active substances, emitted beta and gamma rays which are just high-speed electrons and high-frequency light. In other words, ordinary matter -- just a bit more highly excited than the matter in your lipstick and in your coffee cup.

And that's for the most part correct.

But if you look up Potassium-40 in Wikipedia (which can be trusted on subjects as uncontroversial as the properties of atoms), you will find that this isotope possesses three separate decay modes. And that one of these decay modes involves the emission of a positron (or anti-electron) which is a fundamental particle with the same mass as the electron but with opposite charge. The positron is the simplest example of "antimatter" with the property that when an electron (matter) meets up with a positron (antimatter) both particles disappear in a flash of light (gamma rays) -- a process aptly named matter-antimatter annihilation. The positron was the first anti-particle discovered (by Carl Andersen in 1932) but every known particle has an antimatter partner, all of whom (I believe) have now been detected.

So along with a bunch of ordinary radioactivity, a banana emits antimatter as well, at a rate "tertiary source" estimates to be about 1 positron every 75 minutes -- or about 20 positrons per day.

But my body is filled with Potassium too. And I weigh a lot more than a banana. How much antimatter does Nick emit per day?

Let's face it. Everybody emits radiation whether they are aware of it or not. The main bodily radioisotopes are Potassium-40 and Carbon-14. If you are of average height and build, your radioactive Potassium will produce about 5000 decays per second while your radioactive Carbon produces 3000 decays per second. Much of this radioactivity is absorbed by the body but some escapes and can be detected by a sensitive radiation detector.

Though no fault of your own your body is radioactive.

During the past 60 seconds, the Potassium and Carbon inside your body have produced nearly 1/2 a million radioactive decays. But only a small fraction of these half-million decays are made of antimatter. The body's positron emission rate is about 5 per minute.

A banana takes about 75 minutes to create a single positron, but Nick emits antimatter every 12 seconds.

Nick emits antimatter every 12 seconds.

And so do you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Detour John

Quantum Physicist or Outlaw Biker?
Several years ago my friend Fred McPherson and I carried out a monthly Dump Run Ritual. We'd get up early, put on our old clothes, load up Fred's pickup truck with trash, brush and garbage from both our homes, then drive to the outdoor dump in Ben Lomond where we would empty the truck and hung out with other dumpers and scavengers. Afterwards we would return to Boulder Creek to eat lunch and drink beer at Adelita's Mexican restaurant -- alas no longer in business -- which served the best chile rellenos in Santa Cruz county.

As we pulled into Adelito's parking lot we noticed a cluster of newly arrived bikers who belonged to one of the local outlaw motorcycle clubs and who seemed to share our taste in Mexican food. (Such clubs were plentiful in Boulder Creek in the old days, but today a guy on a Harley in Boulder Creek is more likely to be a manager at Apple than a Hell's Angel from Oakland.) These guys in the lot were the real thing, not Angels I think but some local gang like Ghost Riders from Lompico.

The bikers watched our truck pull up. And then the biggest, hairiest and most decorated of these Black Knights of the Road slowly walked over to my side of the car. I had no idea what to expect as this Levi-jacketed berserker stared me right in the eye and reached for my door handle.

Suddenly the big biker stopped and laughed. "Excuse me," he said. "I thought you were somebody I knew." Then he turned and sauntered back towards his pack. "Hey, come back here," I shouted to his retreating form, no longer puzzled about his purpose. When he turned in our direction, I asked him what was the name of the guy that I reminded him of?

"Detour John," said the biker and rejoined his crew.

I really like the name.

And it amused me immensely that Nick Herbert could be mistaken in Boulder Creek for an outlaw biker. But most of all, I was pleased that somewhere in this marvelous world there exists an outlaw biker whose name is Detour John and who looks like a quantum physicist from Stanford.

Speaking of quantum physics, Nick just co-authored a physics paper on a special class of faster-than-light signaling schemes. John Cramer (University of Washington, Seattle) came up with an original idea for an FTL signaling scheme that involves polarization-entangled photons interacting with a novel beam-spitting device -- a device which I dubbed the "Cramer wedge". At first, it looked as though this wedge could robustly accomplish its intended job, and that FTL signaling was indeed within our grasp. However soon John and I were able to show to our satisfaction, that when the operation of this wedge is correctly calculated, all signaling effects vanish. Our paper entitled "An Inquiry into the Possibility of Nonlocal Quantum Communication" is scheduled to be published in Foundations of Physics journal. A preprint of this work is available today on the ArXiv.

I was honored to be asked by John Cramer to take time out of my busy life to collaborate with him on this paper. I was glad for the chance to work with a famous physicist on a new FTL scheme that I had never before encountered.

Thanks for the engaging detour, John.

Illustration from the Cramer-Herbert paper on subtle FTL communication schemes

Sunday, September 14, 2014


GIF art from Fall into Fade


Suzi's hooked on meditation
Brian speaks to God on grass
Sufi Sam's a Whirling Dervish
And Brenda levitates at Mass.

Nature broadcasts night and morning
From every atom, leaf and bone
A trillion voices fill the Cosmos
But most are deaf to allahphone.

Go some place where humans aren't
Take an animal along
Allow yourself to deeply listen
Can you hear Dame Nature's song?

Nature broadcasts noon till midnight
From every rivulet, star and stone
A roaring wisdom fills the Cosmos
But most are deaf to allahphone.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Question for Men

The Melting Kiss by Awer


When she whispers
In the midst of the mystery:
"You can do anything you want with me."
What do you actually do?

See also Harlot Nature.