All posts by K. McDonald

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Change is Good


One thing I’ve liked about running a website is that it feels like there is a flow, like it is alive. Just as in the transient nature of life, a post is made, then it fades, and a new subject takes its place. It is in the moment. Then, it has become a building block woven into the interconnectedness of the web.

But, as I hinted at earlier this year, I’m planning to change my priorities somewhat in how I spend my writing time. Much as I wish I could do it all, I’ve got some projects pending that simply won’t get done unless I spend less time doing the online work at the pace I’ve been keeping around here. Plus, I don’t believe in stagnation. Change is good.

What are my new priorities?

For more than a year, I’ve wanted to work on a freelance piece that never gets done because of what I do here. I want to follow that through to completion. There will be more after that.

Some work that I’ve done on this site in the past warrants more attention. I knew that when I worked on a particular subject a couple of years ago here, but, now, with the recent encouragement of a Professor from Australia who has taken interest in the project by giving me guidance, I plan to work on getting it published in, at minimum, E-book form, and, hopefully, hard copy, too. Thank you, Keith.

Unrelated to writing, I’m also on the schedule to do an art show here in Boulder a number of months down the road, which I’m looking forward to very much.

So expect posts here on Big Picture Agriculture to be less frequent and more sporadic going forward, perhaps more like twice a month.

All in all, my new goal is to try to enter a more professional level in my writing efforts, not to diminish that this has been a Google News site which I’ve been proud of, but I will have far more flexibility in the way I approach writing, which by now has become an important part of me.

Finally, I will leave you with a photo of a baby hummingbird fledgling which I took two days ago on Balboa Island. Being from the Midwest, I’d never seen a hummingbird nest before, and I’d be lucky to ever see one again. I hope the bird makes it, since there was a cat living on the porch below.

Quantum Computing “Hype”

Schrödinger’s cat: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.
(source: wikipedia)

Last night, April Fool’s night, I attended a talk by 2012 physics Nobel Prize winner, Dr. David Wineland. The talk was titled, “Quantum Computers and Schrödinger’s Cat”. Though I won’t pretend to you readers that I understood what he was talking about, and the audience included two other physics Nobel Prize winners, so I was clearly out of my league, I’d gone to hear what he had to say about cats, since I have three at home.

And he did have quite a lot to say about cats, so I was not disappointed. He said that he didn’t think Schrödinger liked cats very much, since he put them in theoretical boxes only to wonder whether they were dead or alive.

The simple take-away from the evening, however, I thought was worth reporting.

Dr. Wineland is on one of the relatively few teams around the world that is working on developing quantum computers, and, his Nobel Prize was awarded for “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.” His job has been with NIST, (National Institute of Standards and Technology), here in Boulder since 1975.

He began his talk by showing us the cover of the February 17, 2014 issue of TIME magazine, titled “The Infinity Machine”. He used it as an example that there is a lot of “hype” in the media about quantum computing, gently, but clearly implying that he wasn’t smitten with TIME’s article.

The Nutshell
In reality, the teams working on quantum computers have some major obstacles to overcome and there is no big optimism on the near term horizon that they’ll overcome them. To date, what they’ve created can’t do as much as your hand held device can do.

And, that, readers, is the big highly simplified take-away of the evening.