Higher Math on the Sands of Santa Barbara

UCSB

UCSB, looking NW

Spent Sunday afternoon with world-renowned mathematician Michael Freedman (short bio here) walking the beach and bluffs above, just northwest of UC Santa Barbara, talking about a number of absurd and not-so-absurd possibilities in the future applications of quantum computing.  Here’s an example of the kind of stuff I was trying, very hard and maybe somewhat successfully, to grasp while walking in the California sun and trying to ignore the nude sunbathers and hang-gliders.  If that’s unhelpful (as most of it is for me), here’s a straightforward description of some of his main work and its possible applications. 

Continue reading

Theory of the Fireball, Supercomputing, and other Los Alamos Tidbits

Back in the early ’90s when I was first dating Kathryn, now the lovely bride, we went on some awesome roadtrips, including many cross-country – great way to get to know someone.  At the time my brother was an Air Force pilot, flying the F-117 stealth fighter, so we once paid him a visit at Holloman AFB on a 10-day drive through the Southwest.  I’ll have to find and upload to Flickr the pictures he took of each of us sitting in its classified cockpit – surely a massive security violation which I lay entirely at his feet (lucky for him he’s retired from the Air Force now and flying for Delta). 

Sadly, the F-117 Night Hawk has also now been officially retired, replaced by the F-22 Raptor.

As much as that was a thrill, though, the highlight of that particular roadtrip was driving up to the Los Alamos plateau and spending some time touring around the Lab, the Museum, and the interesting little town that’s grown up around all that PhD talent in the middle of the high desert.

That lab’s on my mind because I’ve been thinking about supercomputing and the revolution it could undergo thanks to quantum computing. I’m in Santa Barbara visiting the “Station Q” research program in quantum computing, and will write more about quantum computing soon, since I’m actually beginning to understand it.

But as an interesting artifact in my preparatory reading, Microsoft’s John Manferdelli sent me a link to a Federation of Atomic Scientists archive of declassified Los Alamos National Lab technical reports and publications, from “the good old days” at Los Alamos.

Continue reading

Google Accelerates Hiring of Nobel Laureates

FACT:  Answering a question in this week’s Business Week about several recent high-profile departures of Google executives and engineers, CEO Eric Schmidt said: “What bothers me is that some people write: ‘So-and-so left the company.’ Well, they don’t also write that we hired 120 people that week, five of whom have Nobel prizes, three of whom have PhDs, and so on, who are beginning their career here now.”

ANALYSIS: There have only been some 700 Nobel Laureates awarded in the history of the program since 1901, according to the official Nobel site, and at least as of a 2001survey there were approximately 210 living Nobel prize-winners.

So, with some trepidation, I calculate that by Schmidt’s aggressive hiring of five Nobel laureates in a typical week, the entire roster of living prize-winners will be working for Google within a year.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: