Sunday, July 22, 2012

SKODA Tour De France 2012 Commercial

Nice to see the peloton give George and Chris honours to lead them onto the Champs-Élysées. Congrats to Team Sky for an excellent tour, Thomas Voeckler for a reminder to us to HTFU on race day and Jens Voigt for his awesome attacks.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

OK let’s set the record straight on today...

In keeping with the theme, “What do you do for recreation” I did what is called in triathlon a trainer brick this morning in anticipation of next week’s Bluewater Tri. A trainer brick involves riding your bike hard for a brief period on a stationary trainer and then running hard, repeat. Deadly but effective. So for the record I was not sitting at my computer all day.

So if you’re keeping score please note that.

Sparrow Mail migration to another Mac: an update for v1.6.x

Jakub Fedyczak (see link below) had some tips in this area that weren’t available on the Sparrow Knowledge Base. What he says for 1.5 is correct, you have to move the plist and the App Support files. However (at least in the 1.6.x sandboxed app store version) you have to find these in the ~Library/Container subfolders.

The other trick is you have to install Sparrow, start it up and quit immediately. This will make the Application Support and Preferences folders in the Container with aliases to everything but the sparrow stuff. You drop your files in (“Sparrow” data folder in App Support, your plist file from Preference, you can leave the lock file in) and viola, it works.

Sparrow: you could have saved me several hours by posting this information (I did wait ~ 18 hrs for tech support).

This is not souring me on the product and until Monday it is on sale on the App Store, a nice coincidence as I hadn’t realized this. Before this time support had answered a request for product information. This is a small company and maybe it is not reasonable to expect support on a weekend.

If you have been curious about Sparrow I recommend you buy it (or use the trial version first, maybe this would have gone smoother if I had downloaded the trial from the App Store and not the vendor, I then upgraded from the App Store).

Sparrow Mail migration to another Mac: an update for v1.6.x

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Friend Asks About the Higgs Boson

My good friend AO writes:
I am still struggling with how to explain the Higgs boson particle to my friends. Any physicists out there who can help me? The Margaret Thatcher/ Justin Bieber analogy in the paper today did not really help. ☺
As a professional in this area I am obligated to respond. My analog would be to hieroglyphics. We pretty much understand these and can interpret all the stories. But say there was one symbol that appeared a lot and, if we misinterpreted it, the rest of our understanding of the other characters would not be consistent. We aren’t sure what the symbol means, but we have some theories and a model that ties it all together that unfortunately has many free parameters (a math-y way of saying that it fits stuff because we pick numbers that let the model work). Also, the stories all make sense so there appears to be no need to change them, but we would really like to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. So we spend decades obsessively devoted to showing that, though we are still not completely sure what the unknown symbol is, no matter what it is the other stories will remain the unchanged.

The importance of this result was recognized by the team of Lennon-McCartney, who in a seminal work wrote:
I read the news today oh, boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

My personal part of the story is I almost spent my scientific career doing this stuff. I was fortunate enough to have a senior physics seminar with Leon Lederman. I worked a summer at Fermilab back in the 70s. And I sensed that, while intellectually challenging, this field was going nowhere after the glory days of the 50s and 60s. All they were doing at that time was searching for the Higgs Boson. Fast forward to 2012 and they have a statistical resonance in the correct location that will probably, in a couple years, actually turn out to be the Higgs.

And that will be that.

Sub-atomic physics was the 20th century. The 21st century is about macroscopic, complex systems like the economy, epidemics, weather and climate. You could know everything about a single atom but it won’t allow you to calculate how water will flow down a hill or how a new drug will behave on the molecular level.

By the way AO, I also have an extended rant about exoplanet research if you have an afternoon or 5 hour bike ride to kill go ahead, ask.