Lost your prefrontal lobe? Out of the boat!

Filed under: academe,random @ 19:11

From a Caltech press release: Study implies certain types of brain damage can improve utilitarian moral judgments

The study constrained itself to “utilitarian moral judgments” which were themselves limited to having only two allowed answers, so maybe people with damaged prefrontal cortexes (cortexen?) are just faster at choosing between two options. You should read the paper and let me know. I’m not going to bother :) Here’s an excerpt from the press release, though.

Quick response! What’s the best thing to do on a lifeboat with one too many people on board? Should one throw a mortally injured person overboard to ensure definite survival for everyone else, or refuse to act and ensure certain death for all individuals in the boat?

If you said “throw the injured person overboard”, science has concluded that you have brain damage.


Have I been working too hard or not nearly hard enough?

Filed under: academe,slice @ 17:11

I just printed out a paper. It was only after reading all the way through the first section that I realized I’d already read it. And that I have another copy of it sitting in front of me on my desk.


It is finished — 14:51

As of 11:30 this morning, I have officially passed both of my physics quals.


Classical Qualifying Exam — 11:20

It is possible I passed.


It pays to be a wise ass

Filed under: academe,neat!,news @ 12:31

My Quantum Field Theory professor, Professor Wise (check out the hot website), gives out change for correctly answered questions in order to encourage class participation. Previous to last week, I’d earned something less than a dollar for my efforts. There’s a couple people in the class who consistently make about ten or fifteen cents a lecture and there’s one person in particular who answers “zero” to every question for which that answer could be appropriate. Professor Wise has lauded (and suggested) this strategy, claiming that nearly all of the questions he asks can be answered correctly with that response.

In Tuesday’s lecture, we were discussing grand unified theories, and he posed the (implied) question, “Guess how many grand unified theories I understand.” I responded quickly and authoritatively, “Zero.” The professor immediately burst out laughing and headed for his wallet. Fishing around for a quarter he said, “No, no, no. That deserves something more”. He pulled out a single, but said, “No, no”, and pulled out a five spot. Coming over to my seat he proclaimed to the class, “This is the most money I have ever given out in all my days as a lecturer. No one has ever had the chutzpah to say something like that. Congratulations.” I expressed my deepest honor and gratitude and stuck it in my pocket.

The rest of the class responded with a mixture of laughter, shock, and (I’d like to think) admiration (for the both of us).

To make the deal even sweeter, Professor Wise also finalized his plans to take the class out to dinner the following evening.

Five bucks and a free meal for going to class and being a smart ass. Awesome.


Ad Infinitum

Filed under: academe,slice @ 14:46

Have you ever taken any functional derivatives? Because as of now, I can honestly say I have taken an infinite number of them. Multiple times. All you variational calculus jocks out there are laughing in mockery (“Have I ever taken a functional derivative? Please.”), but I’ve never messed with the things before this Quantum Field Theory course I’m taking (Path Integral Formalism rocks). Well, not messed with them to the extent I have now, anyway.

They play a little hard to get, functional derivatives do. But once you get the hang of them, they’re reasonably straightforward to cope with. I’ve known and loved various sorts of delta functions for quite some time; functional differentiation isn’t such a step from there. It’s the functional integration that gets a little tricky. As far as I’m concerned, defining and comparing measures is done by waving tiny little hands over yellow bits of paper and writing down an equal sign here or there.

I have never once thought, “I know enough math.”


Spatial Quantum Search

Filed under: a group of folks,academe,physics @ 01:03

Following Paul.za’s lead, I’ve decided to write up a brief sketch of some of the background behind my current research: Quantum Spatial Search. Be warned, this is the longest post blogwaffe has ever seen. Skip to the last page of this post and read the last line if you want the short of it. For the long of it, read on.

Use the little page numbers below to navigate this post.


She ain’t no April Fool

Heidi passed her candidacy exams yesterday, to the joy of all who joined her in celebration at Amigo’s. My claim to fame concerning the event is that I responded so quickly to her announcement email, that, due to some asynchronicities (don’t bother to look it up) in Caltech’s network, my reply is time-stamped before her original. Take that causality.

Michelle wondered to me whether these announcements and subsequent, or supersequent as the case may be (don’t bother to look that one up either), congratulatory notes will get boring by the time they would be applicable to either of us. I wonder whether there will be anyone around by the time such announcements concern me.

But Amigo’s was good at any rate. Katie (bless her) made a delicious chocolate cake (recall, now ISO standard) for the occassion which Heidi kindly offered to the always happy staff at Caltech’s favorite geek bar. I bailed on the party early, though, as it was also Quantum Margarita Night; at about 9:30 I moved to the table next door and talked shop for the next… many hours over margaritas. I hope QMN doesn’t get permanently moved to Thursdays, though. I TA lab this term on Fridays at 8:00am.


Apparently a good (but nascent) idea

Filed under: a group of folks,academe,neat!,news @ 18:32

I gave a talk at group meeting yesterday, and it went reasonably well; I was able to answer not one but two Sergey questions, and Preskill seemed to think the question Andrew and I are asking is fairly interesting. It’s nothing monumental, but there may be a clever answer to it nonetheless.

In other news, it seems likely (it used to seem unlikely) that I’m being funded by IQI over the summer. Not a sure thing, though.


TKO — 00:43

Knock em dead Dixie.

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