Silent killer of the night

Submitted by cvining on

The liver is the only thing standing between the smoker and death! Also certain other things have to be avoided... like, uh, feather beds, and romantic novels... and the, uh, touching of one's organs. Masturbation is the silent killer of the night! The vilest sin of self-pollution! It is the sin of Onan!

Sex is the sewer drain

Submitted by cvining on

Sex is the sewer drain of a healthy body, sir! Any use of the sexual act other than procreation is a waste of vital energy! Wasted seeds are wasted lives!

Run over by both sides cvining

He who walks in the middle of the road gets run over by both sides

Quote Author

Faux Chinese Proverb

Dust in the cosmic wind

All we are is dust in the cosmic wind, from fricking 2 billion miles away! The fastest object ever made by man (the NASA Parker Solar Probe) has reached only 400,000 mph and would take 3,350 BILLION YEARS to get to where this blast came from (even if it's were going in the right direction). And the big bang was less than 14 billion years ago.

It's genuinely difficult to get one's mind around the scale of this cosmic event which, from that mind boggling distance, shredded our ozone layer, however briefly. It may be worth pondering the distances and massive energy involved.

The universe is staggeringly large, and affects us despite all that. While nothing, absolutely nothing on this planet has nor ever will have the slightest effect on the vastness of the universe. So it is well to be humble about our, any of us, our own importance. And to savor each moment as if a far distant gamma ray burst might wipe us all out the next. Because, dear friends, it may.

For me this is not depressing but liberating.…

Remains a fool cvining

He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.

Why I can't celebrate Veterans Day

Submitted by cvining on

Yesterday, November 11, was Veterans Day. I dId not celebrate. Never do. 

We grow up being told we owe our liberty, freedom, our very way of life to the brave veterans of war, and those who gave their lives. And surely there's much to be said for this. Without the soldiers of the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI and WWII would there even be a nation? 

Probably not. And what of these mostly young, mostly men? They've risked and often given all by merely heeding the patriotic call of their nation. All this is true so surely we owe them a great, even unpayable debt.

So that's all on one side of the ledger. But let's push on and look at the other side of the ledger.

When I was 10 or 12, in the thick of the Vietnam War (1967-9) a thought occured to me watching the gruesome evening news with daily body counts and senseless carnage. Surely the Vietcong were just as brave, just a sure they were fighting the good and just fight as our own American boys. Over the years I've thought of this over and over. In the case of Vietnam we Americans were clearly the bad guys. And eventually we got our butts kicked.

But even WWII has the same problem. The rank and file Nazi or Japanese soldier was no less dedicated, no less convinced they were in the right, fighting for the good of their respective homelands than the Soviet, British, Chinese and American soldiers who eventually did prevail.

Confederate soldiers were no less dedicated and fought no less bravely the Union soldiers did. And what of the American Revolution? The colonists were not nearly universal in their opposition to England. Had we lost, or never fought, that war there would still be a great nation here. Just look at Canada. Life is not so bad in Canada.

Bernd T. Matthias: a few stories of my academic grandfather

Bernd T. Matthias was my academic grandfather as he was thesis advisor my thesis advisor, Robert N Shelton. I was in the same room as Matthias only a few times and never had so much as a conversation with him. Even so he had a strong influence on me, and I'm grateful for that. I thought I would put down some of the stories I remember about him. He was a remarkable scientist with encyclopedic knowledge of the properties of materials and uncanny scientific instincts, which I hope to illustrate here. For a more complete biography see this link:

My first indirect encounter with Matthias

I joined Shelton's solid state physics group in Ames, IA in 1978 to study superconductivity and magnetism. Bob (I always called him Bob and he never corrected me though everyone else called him Robert) had just arrived in Ames and was building a lab from empty rooms with concrete floors. I felt I needed a lot of hands on experience and saw the required building of equipment as an opportunity. 

About the first real project Bob put me on involved the family of ternary Rare Earth Rhodium Borides typified by YRh4B4. Before Matthias physicists had studied superconductivity in nearly every element, and nearly every binary compound consisting of any combination of two elements. The prevailing view was that compounds of three elements (called ternary compounds) would be chemically more complex but exhibit no new physics compared to the simpler materials. Matthias had shown that view was wrong, so as I was getting started the new area of ternary superconductivity was just getting going.