(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Bohr

“In eternity there is no time, only an instant long enough for a joke”*…


Finnish artists Juha van Ingen and Janne Särkelä have developed a monumental GIF called AS Long As Possible, which loops once every 1,000 years. The 12 gigabyte animated image is made of 48,140,288 numbered frames, that change about every 10 minutes [the first and last frames are above].  van Ingen and Särkelä explain:

In the early days of World Wide Web GIF was the most popular tool for artists working on on-line projects. But in mid 90’s the technically more versatile Flash took over as the number one creative tool for presenting art works on-line. Recently with the huge success of photo-sharing services such as Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr GIF has had its second coming and has regained its popularity also as an artistic medium.

The name of ASLAP is homage to John Cage composition “ORGAN2/ASLSP” (1987) which is played with Halberstad organs for the next 625 years. The abbreviation of Cages composition included and instruction to the performer of the piece: As SLow aS Possible. However, if the piece was to be played as slow as possible the first note should be played for ever.

As humans capability to comprehend eternity is limited, it is easier understand the dimensions of a composition lasting hundreds of years than something playing for ever…

They plan to start the loop in 2017, when GIF turns 30 years old (and Finland celebrates its Centennial of independence). “If nurturing a GIF loop even for 100 — let alone 3,000 years — seems an unbelievable task, how much remains of our present digital culture after that time?”, van Ingen said. The artists plan to store a mother file somewhere and create many iterations of the loop in various locations — and if one fails, it may be easily synchronized with, and replaced by, another.


* Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


As we take it slowly, we might send itty-bitty birthday greetings to Niels Henrik David Bohr; he was born on this date in 1885.  A Danish physicist and philosopher, Bohr was the first to apply quantum theory,to the problem of atomic and molecular structure, creating the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete, and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another– a model the underlying principles of which remain valid.  And he developed the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analyzed in terms of contradictory properties, e.g., particles behaving as a wave or a stream.  His foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory,won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Nothing is more memorable than truth beautifully told”*…


If physicists and mathematicians can’t be rock stars, they can at least have rock star logos.  Dr. Prateek Lala, a physician and amateur calligrapher from Toronto has obliged with 50 nifty “scientific typographics” of important cosmologists and scientists through the ages.


Inspired by the “type biographies” of Indian graphic designer Kapil Bhagat, Lala designed his logos to make the lives and discoveries of various scientists more engaging and more immediately relatable to students.

Dr. Lala’s work was for a poster that was published in the latest issue of Inside The Perimeter, the official magazine of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.  One can subscribe to the magazine by email for free here.

Meantime, one can read the backstory, and see many more of Dr. L’s lyrical logos at CoDesign.

* Rick Julian


As we ponder personal branding, we might send dynamic birthday greetings to Daniel Bernoulli; he was born on this date in 1700.  One of the several prominent mathematicians and physicists in the Swiss Bernoulli family, Daniel is best remembered for or his applications of mathematics to mechanics, especially fluid mechanics, and for his pioneering work in probability and statistics.  His name is commemorated in the Bernoulli principle, a particular example of the conservation of energy, which describes the mathematics of the mechanism underlying the operation of two important technologies of the 20th century: the carburetor and the airplane wing.

A contemporary and close friend of Leonhard Euler (see above), Bernoulli was the son of Johann Bernoulli (one of the early developers of calculus), nephew of Jakob Bernoulli (who was the first to discover the theory of probability), and the brother of Johann II (an expert on magnetism and the propagation of light).  Daniel is said to have had a bad relationship with his father: when they tied for first place in a scientific contest at the University of Paris, Johann, unable to bear the “shame” of being compared as Daniel’s equal, banned Daniel from his house.  Johann Bernoulli then plagiarized some key ideas from Daniel’s book Hydrodynamica in his own book Hydraulica, which he backdated to before Hydrodynamica.  Despite Daniel’s attempts at reconciliation, his father carried the grudge until his death.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them”*…


They have just found the gene for shyness. They would have found it earlier, but it was hiding behind two other genes.
– Stuart Peirson, senior research scientist, Oxford University Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology

Other howlers at The Observer’sScientists Tell Us Their Favourite Jokes.”

[cartoon source]

* Niels Bohr


As we titrate out titters, we might send birthday yucks to Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA; he was born on this date in 1942.  A theoretical physicist and cosmologist, he is probably best known in his professional circles for his work with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, for his theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation (now called Hawking radiation), and for his support of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

But Hawking is more broadly known as a popularizer of science.  His A Brief History of Time stayed on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for over four years (a record-breaking 237 weeks), and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

“We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”




Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

(Not so) Solid Gold…

During World War II, Hitler banned the export of gold from Germany.  But gold, valuable in small amounts and not easily traced, is notoriously difficult to regulate.  (Indeed, that is likely where much of its value derives.) Hitler’s edict was, frustratingly to him, mostly unenforceable.

One exception? Nobel Prize medals.

Before 1980, the medals given by Sweden (that’s to say, all but the Nobel Peace Prize , which is awarded by Norway) were made of 600 grams of 23-karat gold — thus subject to Hitler’s export ban.  And as the recipient’s name was engraved on the back of the medal, its ownership was all-too-clear.  This proved particularly perilous for two German physics laureates, Max von Laue (winner, 1914) and James Franck (1925).  At the outset of World War II, they had entrusted the Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen, Denmark (the research institution of fellow physics laureate Neils Bohr) with the safe keeping of their medals, assuming that Nazi soldiers would otherwise confiscate their prizes.  But when Nazi troops invaded Denmark, they also raided the Institute.  Had von Laue’s and Franck’s medals been discovered, the consequences for the learned duo would most likely have been dire.

Enter Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy, a future Nobel Laureate himself (in Chemistry).  He, Jewish, had gone to the Institute looking for — and temporarily at least, finding — safe haven from the Nazis.   He and Bohr decided that more standard ways of hiding the medals (e.g. burying them) would not suffice, as the risk of harm to von Laue and Franck was too great to chance the medal’s discovery.  The chemist de Hevesy took more drastic action.  He created a solution of aqua regia — a concoction consisting typically one part nitric acid to three parts hydrochloric acid, which is so named because it can dissolve two of the “royal” metals, gold and platinum.  (Wikipedia explains how, for those with a sizable understanding of chemistry.)  He then left the gold-bearing aqua regia solution on his laboratory shelf within the Institute, hidden in plain sight as Nazi stormtroopers ransacked the Institute.

The plan worked, and von Laue and Franck were safe — as were their awards.  The gold remained safely on that shelf, suspended in aqua regia, for the remainder of the war, unnoticed by the German soldiers.  When the war ended, de Hevesy precipitated the gold out of the solution, and the Nobel committee recast the medals.

Bonus fact: Throughout human history (through 2009, at least), mankind has successfully mined roughly 165,000 metric tons of gold.  At gold’s density, that comes out to about 300,000 cubic feet — a relatively tiny-sized amount. For comparison’s sake, all the gold ever mined could be contained by the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room (seen here), which has a volume of approximately 1.2 million cubic feet.

From the always-illuminating Now I Know.


As we remark that sometimes even things that don’t shine are gold, we might send elemental birthday greetings to Morris William Travers; he was born on this date in 1872.  As the laboratory partner of Sir William Ramsay (who later won a Nobel Prize for the work), Travers participated in the discovery of the “noble gases”– Neon, Xenon… and Krypton.

Bohr model of a Krypton atom

Not, as Wired reminds us, to be confused with the planet Krypton…

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in Action Comics No. 1 (published June 1938), they named their superhero’s home planet after the chemical element discovered 40 years earlier. Retellings of Superman’s origins place his arrival on Earth around the time of World War I, a mere 20 years after Ramsay’s and Travers’ discovery of krypton.

Siegel and Shuster may have been inspired by the element’s cryptic name [from the Greek kryptos for hidden], its ghastly glow, or perhaps just its sound– like George Eastman favoring the strength of the letter K.

Travers went on to be the founding director of the Indian Institute of Science in the course of a long and productive career as a chemist in both academe and industry…  still he was, from his days with Ramsey, known in scientific circles as “Rare Gas Travers.”


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

Monsters of Grok…


From Amorphia Apparel:

Fake band t-shirts for history’s greatest minds:  I don’t know about you, but I think science and philosophy are pretty bad ass, so join me in rocking out with some the most influential thinkers of all time!

More sagacious shirts at Amorphia Apparel


As we opt for ring-spun wisdom, we might wish a thoughtful Happy Birthday to cognitive and computer scientist John McCarthy; he was born on this date in 1927.  A recipient of the Turing Award, McCarthy coined the phrase “Artificial Intelligence” (in a 1955 proposal for a 1956 Dartmouth conference), founded the first A.I. Lab (at MIT in 1958), and created LISP (List Processing Language), the computer language most commonly used in AI research.

In 1961, McCarthy was the first to imagine and propose a future in which computers could be shared by multiple users, and computing could be provided as a utility.  The idea was popular in the late 60s, then waned in the 70s, as it became clear that hardware and software weren’t (yet) up to the task.  But with the new millennium, McCarthy’s concept retook the fore– and in the last few years, rose to The Cloud…



%d bloggers like this: