Category Archives: english

On truth and its perils

What is true, what is false, what is wrong?

With the rise of large scale misinformation, this question has become more and more important, as it seems political parties around the world have reached the escape velocity of facts.

polarization in US politics really goes only one way…

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Hyperloonies

Mr Musk is having a hard time, and even though I have great appreciation for his making engineering look cool again, I won’t relent  as I believe his efforts are misguided.

Nothing can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own. – Sidney J. Harris

Today, I’ll talk about Hyperloop.

edit 12/18/2018: Hyperloop startup Arrivo is shutting down -The Verge — lol

edit 10/10/2019: Was the Ocean Cleanup Just a Pipe Dream? – Outside online
Jenny Allen: “Male privilege in science is a 24 year old guy with no formal training being called a ‘boy genius’, receiving millions of dollars in funding, and referring to qualified female oceanographers as ‘Ms’ instead of ‘Dr.’ when they critique his project.”

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An efficient bureaucracy

What if… the world goes round thanks to an inefficient bureaucracy?

The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.
– Eugene McCarthy

Think about it… the nazis were able to corrupt all of Germany thanks to the legendary rigor of its population – a case famously documented by Hannah Arendt in her series Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. (I, II, III, IV, V)

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XFELs as non-kinetic weapons

A family tale goes that my grandfather, who was working in an ammunition factory near Chatellerault which became under German control during WWII. As he was ordered by the German command to paint the factory, he chose to buy buckets of red and white, and paint the factory with a beautiful bull’s eye ornament, what didn’t escape the British RAF notice. They were able destroyed the critical facility that fell into the hands of the invader…

I’m not sure how much of this story is true. I do not have reason to doubt it, however!

As we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the first world war, I can only think of the many ways, under the promise of surgical interventions, making war has become worse. But maybe — maybe — if we can keep the enemy from dropping bombs on us, we can be safer.
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Art & Science (X) – Science pictures

Vision, and the means to capture it – photography – plays a momentous role in science.
I was much impressed by a remark of Aldous Huxley, that we owe our civilization largely to the fact that vision is an objective sense. An animal with an olfactory sense or with hearing, however well developed, could never have created science. A smell is either good or bad, and even hearing is never entirely neutral; music can convey emotions with an immediateness of which the sober visual arts are inca pable. No wonder that the very word “objective” has been appropriated by optics.
Dennis Gabor – Light and Information
It is therefore fitting to take a look at all the great pictures that have been recorded by all means.
Here is a selection of scientific picture competitions and galleries you might want to have a look at:
I found that The Atlantic and The Guardian usually have beautiful galleries.Astronomy is an obvious domain where picture are breathtaking, but more so is space imaging.
Here are some amazing pictures from the past few years:

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dlsr.org

Hi there!

Preparing for the new generation of synchrotron light source, I’ve just started dlsr.org (Diffraction-Limited Storage Ring), and created relevant articles on Wikipedia (entries for (Diffraction-Limited Storage Ring  and Beijing’s High Energy Photon Source.)

The goal is to have platform to share knowledge and ideas in a format more flexible than conferences and papers (it takes inspiration from Rüdiger Paschotta’s momentous Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology, though it does not aim to be as comprehensive!)

Let me know if you’re interested in contributing!

How to retrieve and handle x-ray data

A bit wonky, but here’s where you can get x-ray data, how to use it in python, and some common conversion.

Here are two important database to know:

CXRO database

NIST database

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Nine months

In the past twelve months, I’ve seen 15 of my close friends living in the Bay Area having kids. That’s a lot, with more than one new cute little name to learn (Felix, Moritz, Ilya, Oliver, Hendrix…)

Since most of my friends are about my age or older — 35 on average — and often in a stable relationship for many years, I am left wondering why the sudden spike.

I came up with two reasonable explanations and a ton of thoughts!

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UBI et Orbi

There’s been recently a lot of discussion around universal basic income (UBI). As we are entering in an increasingly certain era, where politics melts down and society braces for changes to come related to automation. There was an actual attempt to bring it to the mainstream in France during the last election cycle (incumbent Parti Socialiste was running on that platform, but they got crushed.)

Who’s afraid of being bored?

Here’s a reading list with articles and books that might be good resources for the discussion:

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Art & Science (XI) – Resources in the Bay Area

Here’s a short list of Art & Science resources in the Bay Area.
It is not comprehensive, and I will augment it as I go!

In San Francisco

Grey Area (2665 Mission Street) is a space dedicated to art and technology (lots of VR and visual art.) The Exploratorium (Pier 15) has a lot of very neat experiments that do have an artistic component to them, while the  Cal Academy of Science (Golden Gate Park) sometimes run events based on art and technology.
For 2018-2019, the French Embassy is assembling a series of events around arts and science called After Tomorrow. There’s been events at the Cal Academy of Arts and Gray Area, but oftentimes they’re here to promote a French artist, rather than giving a systematic treatment of art and science.
There’s also Leonardo/ISAST (International Society for Art, Science and Technology), which is based in the Bay Area and organizes event, such as the LASER talks, The Convening (for their 50th birthday.)

At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

There is a large source of content at Berkeley Lab, especially given it’s the host of national user facilities:
the Advanced Light Source (x-ray imaging), the Molecular Foundry (electron microscopy), NERSC (computer simulations) and Joint Genome Institute (biology), each with over 1000 users per year from all over the world, and a rich history (including 12 Nobel Prize laureates). Over the past year I’ve tried to consolidate the material available. Here is some things you can find online:
I’ve been collecting data (art-at-lbl-gov goes straight to my mailbox,) and I have a bunch of scientific friends who are themselves artist, such as Sinead Griffin. I even ventured into this myself; the following picture was made by superimposing partially coherent light on atomic scale variations of a substrate seen with an x-ray microscope (a tribute to “Suprematist Composition: White on White” by Vladimir Malevich):

Incoherent on Coherent (Antoine Wojdyla, 2015)

I believe there are many cool things in tandem with BAM/PFA or SFMOMA, or even CalPerf: the music venue should try to get closer to what people are doing in the EECS department — and I believe the University of Michigan should do the same with UMS.
I’m not very familiar with what happens at UC Berkeley or Stanford in that field, apart from are a few independent events, such as this one. I would love to invite David Stork, Edward Tufte and others, and I’m sure that there are many ways to bring in other national labs, Bell Labs (Bell Labs researchers basically fled to national labs when things went down, but there seems to be a revival nowadays.)
And there’s of course some art on novel unusual media (silicon wafers or EUV photomasks) that could be used!