Quantum leaves in fact and fiction

When one tries to wrap one’s brain around quantum mechanics chances are that the distinctions between fact and fiction blur, and on most good days that which we think to be logic eludes us. Those are the good days!

It surprised me to come across this little piece: Material witness: Quantum leaves in fact and fiction : Nature Materials : Nature Publishing Group: “Quantum coherence refers here to the way that electronically excited quantum states of the pigment chromophores called excitons maintain a correlated phase relationship for long enough to assist transfer of the excitation energy towards the reaction centre, where an electron is ejected from chlorophyll. These quantum dynamics depend on the precise nanoscale arrangement of the pigment molecules.”

Why? Oh why! I get excited about these things, passionate even. I think that what we think is logic is an insufficient (if not inadequate) guide to understanding our universe and the rules by which it plays with what we call chemistry and physics. The only trouble is that I have  yet to figure out what would complement or evolve our logic.

I have spent a few weeks around thoughts centered on nanotechnology, technology, discovery and invention because, whether you like it or not, there distinctions here that are economically relevant and that may infringe in that which we consider the common good. The common good that comprises humanity’s knowledge of the arts and sciences is what I like to call culture.

I can argue that perhaps information does not want to be free, only because information lacks a will, but when it comes to the rules by which the universe plays chemistry and physics, these are facts of nature that belong to us all. Now imagine that some multinational comes up with the idea of making a photovoltaic process that does nothing else than mimic what nature does in photosynthesis and then vaults that process in a patent. What consequences would that have? What kind of patents would be allowed? What kind of patents would not be allowed? Is the present patent system capable of adequately preserving our access to culture and knowledge?

Indeed, how the average plant leaf transfers energy from one molecular system to another is nothing short of a miracle (Ian McEwan, Solar). By the way, I have not yet read Solar, but it promises some delights in the confusion of climate change. What I find of more interest than the climate change debate itself, nanotechnology as such,  quantum mechanics, is the fact that humans will label anything which they can not comprehend with the rudiments of their logic as a miracle.

Written under a different tone but echoing some of my sentiments is another piece by Daniel Sarewitz that expresses in more details some of the ideas hinted at above.


Books: Social Something and the Agent

For the life of me I really could not get what he found so particularly interesting about bars, I always preferred sitting in his Schwabing kitchen having a coffee, tea, or a glass of wine and some good conversation while a few rooms down the hall some music played in the background.

…Although I often consult books on the web and use google books to preview books, read table of contents, search for keywords, I still have found no replacement for the paper book when I want to evaluate a book as to its relevancy and appropriateness for the research that I am doing.

I have failed at understanding what it is that twitter does or at conveying to you how I use facebook. The truth is that I do not know what these websites are good for, and truth be that I use them but I can also live happily ever after without them, like I can live happily ever after without bars. I go into bars. I meet people at bars, I talk with people at bars, and I can live without bars. It has always been this way.

I remember a discussion many years ago with a friend in Schwabing (Munich) about bars when he insisted that we go to a bar (1). For the life of me I really could not get what he found so particularly interesting about bars, I always preferred sitting in his Schwabing kitchen having a coffee, tea, or a glass of wine and some good conversation while a few rooms down the hall some music played in the background. He had a neighbour whose last name was Depp and my visits to him had this highlight of marveling at the neighbours door and wondering what it is like to wake up each morning having Depp as a name. The Depp and the bakery scents from downstairs together with lots of argumentation marked my experience of those days. I could not warm up to the idea of bars, still can not. But then, I do lots of things out of curiosity, not necessarily out of preference. The bars are now digital, they are called twitter, facebook, myspace and what have you not. I like digital objects. Actually, I love digital objects. But now I am stressed. Yesterday a friend with whom I had not conversed in a while asked if my book had been published….

Continue reading “Books: Social Something and the Agent”

Virtual Connectivity

This is indeed thought provoking: Bell Towers, Virtual Spaces and Hard Covers. It is a must read. It expresses a bit of what in my view is the glue that binds virtual and real, that is the relationships between the people, and it incorporates quite a bit of cohesive elements that would not exist without this collective.

I have created a persona in Second Life some months ago, however I have not had the time to play with it. Having taken action did however heighten my own sensitivity to anything on the matter, that is, when anybody says anything about SL, I listen. I am curious. With these new jangled and entangled web applications and tools, there is nothing like exploration and experimentation. Technology does indeed produce very interesting artifacts, it is our curiosity and incessant play that brings any meaning to it all. I quote from Riccardo’s post:

Hard Covers Last but not least, after Maeda’s talk, I rushed to Amazon and bough books. Plenty of them. With one characteristic: all hard covers. Here the point is that I start feeling that if I love a specific book as an artifact, appreciate its aesthethic and did to make an effort (i.e. invest a significative amount of money to get it) probably two things will happen: 1. You’ll definitely get to the end of it 2. You’ll learn more, as your experience will be more intense therefore your attention much sharper.

Interesting! So why is the old paper press afraid of the new media? Damn it, when will they get it that it does sell books, physical books, the kind that I take to bed.