(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘superconductivity

“Electricity is really just organized lightning”*…

A diagram from Galvani’s De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius, 1791.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in 1818, the young Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with the idea that electricity is a kind of fluid that endows living things with their life force. This obsession leads to tragedy.

Shelley’s view of electricity was, in fact, not an uncommon perspective at the time: just a few decades earlier the Italian scientist Luigi Galvani had shown that a shock of static electricity applied to the legs of a dismembered frog would cause the legs to kick. Galvani concluded that there existed a kind of “animal electric fluid” that was responsible for the animation of living creatures.

In the two hundred years since Frankenstein our view of electricity has certainly evolved, as has our ability to generate and control electric currents. But do we really understand what we’re doing? Do we even know what electricity is?

Physicist Brian Skinner (@gravity_levity) explains “Here’s why we don’t understand what electricity is.”

Pair with “Bruno Latour, the Post-Truth Philosopher, Mounts a Defense of Science.”

* George Carlin


As we plug in, we might send really fast birthday greetings to Leon Cooper; he was born on this date in 1930. A physicist, he shared the Nobel Prize in 1972 (with John Bardeen and John Robert Schrieffer) for contributing the concept of Cooper electron pairs which forms the basis of the BCS (their initials) theory of superconductivity. He is also one of the the namesakes and co-developers of the BCM theory of synaptic plasticity.

He went on to become a cofounder and co-chairman of Nestor, Inc., a company that applies neural-network systems to complex applications. The company built computer-based adaptive pattern-recognition and risk-assessment systems that could, for example, accurately classify complex patterns in sonar, radar or imaging systems. He also founded and was director of Brown University’s Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, which develops cognitive pharmaceuticals and intelligent systems for electronics, automobiles and communications.

The character “Sheldon Cooper” in Big Bang Theory is partially named for Cooper.


In vino volo…


In Slashdot “cold fjord” reports:

Red wine is a popular marinade for meat, but it turns out that it may become a popular treatment for creating iron based superconductors as well (Link to academic paper): Last year, a group of Japanese physicists grabbed headlines around the world by announcing that they could induce superconductivity in a sample of iron telluride by soaking it in red wine. They found that other alcoholic drinks also worked–white wine, beer, sake and so on — but red wine was by far the best. The question, of course, is why. What is it about red wine that does the trick? Today, these guys provide an answer, at least in part. Keita Deguchi at the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and a few buddies, say the mystery ingredient is tartaric acid and have the experimental data to show that it plays an important role in the process. . . It turns out that the best performer is a wine made from the gamay grape–for the connoisseurs, that’s a 2009 Beajoulais from the Paul Beaudet winery in central France.


As we soak our cable connections, we might recall that on this date in 1860, M L. Byrn of New York City, N.Y., was issued a patent for an improved corkscrew – a “covered gimlet screw with a ‘T’ handle” (No. 27,615). The inventor claimed the design would provide greater strength and durability and which could be manufactured at less cost than prior construction methods using a spiral twist of steel wire that gradually tapered from the handle to the point. Byrn claimed the gimlet-type screw with wider threads would also be strong enough to “remove a bung of the hardest wood from a barel or hogshead.”


Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 27, 2012 at 1:01 am

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