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Comment Re:Outside factors (Score 2) 184

I took an algorithms course at Harvard. It was just as hard as anything I took at MIT, and I took 18.313 back when G.C. Rota was still alive (greatest math teacher ever, by the way).

Of course there are people who are there because they're "legacies", and I suppose they take different courses, but the kids who get in because they're smart are pretty damned smart.

As for left-wing indoctrination, Harvard is a bastion of the establishment. The prep school crowd in particular has been thoroughly indoctrinated in the perfection of capitalism and the moral entitlement of the ruling classes. It doesn't mean that some of them aren't apostates, of course.

Comment Perhaps he's making flakes of Rydberg matter? (Score 1) 186

The secret sauce seems to be ultra-dense deuterium, "D(0)" whatever that means. Looking through the author's other papers, it looks like he's claiming to have made metallic hydrogen, which would be a Nobel Prize right there.

If he can demonstrate this, then fine ... he's a super genius.

Perhaps he's making flakes of Rydberg matter, floating in a near-vacuum.

(If I understand it correctly) this is matter where the individual atoms have been NEARLY ionized, by pumping an electron up to ALMOST, but not quite, the energy needed to free it from the atom, leaving an ion. (You can do this with a laser tuned to the energy difference between the ground state, or the state the electron WAS originally in, and the state you want it in.) If you get the electron into one of the high, flat, circular orbitals, it looks almost like a classic Bohr atom (earth/moon style orbit), and the state lasts for several hours.

Atoms in such a state associate into dense hexagonal clusters. (19-atom clusters are easy and heavily studied, and clusters of up to 91 atoms are reported.) The electrons bond the atoms by delocalizing, forming a metallic, hexagonal grid, similar to a tiny flake of graphite sheet. You can't make them very big. (There's some issue with the speed of light screwing up the bonding stability when the flakes get too big.) But you can make a lot of them, creating a "dusty plasma".

So hitting gas with the right laser pulse could end up with lots of flakes of this stuff, with deuterons held in tight (dense!) and well-defined flat hexagonal arrays by a chicken-wire of delocalized electrons, with zero (or tiny) net charge, floating around in a near vacuum and suitable for all sorts of manipulation. (Like slamming them into each other, for instance.)

Now how this interacts with substituting muons for electrons (something analogous to an impurity in a semiconductor crystal?), missing or extra electrons (ditto?), occasional oddball nuclei (again ditto?), or perhaps how it might generate muons when tickled by appropriate laser pulses, all look like good open questions for active research.

The point is that it's pretty easy to get these long-lived, self-organized, high-density, stable regular geometry, crystal flakes of graphite-like deuterium floating in a near vacuum, where you can poke at them, without any pesky condensed matter to get in the way.

Easy as in maybe you can do it on a desktop with diode lasers, producing "maker" level nuclear physics experiments. B-)

Comment E-fields foul chromosome segregation. (Score 2) 34

Some recently approved cancer treatments (particularly: for inoperaable brain cancer) are basedt on a recent discovery:
  - The electric fields from changing magnetic fields interfere with chromosome segregation during mitosis.
  - The affected cells generalluy do one of two things:
        - Complete the division with missorted chromosomes - then both offspring cells commit suicide.
      - Give up on cell division - then the new diploid cell commits suicide.
Cells not undergoing mitosis keep perking along just fine. (Perhaps this is why large-range electric fields aren't present in cells except during division: Electrical effects occur across membranes or in very close range between molecules - because the use of the fields in the chromosome segregation mechanism means any newly-evolving "feature" that involved long-range E-fields would kill the cell partway to evolving it.

This is great for brain cancer treatment: Essentially nothing is splitting except the cancer cells. Maybe you lose some nerve stem cells and have slightly lower brain plasticity over the coming decades - but that's a heck of a lot better than dying in agony and gradually-increasing dimentia over 6 months to a year.

But start poking at brains with this in the long term - especially brains of people under 21 or so, when the brains are still doing substantial interconnection and cell division - and you might start seeing some nasty damage.

Comment Re:Missing piece of a puzzle? (Score 3, Interesting) 186

Looked it up:

They replace an electron in a hydrogen atom/molecule - but are heavy so the resulting muonic atom/molecule is much smaller, allowing the nuclei to come within fusion distance.

H2 (D-D, D-T) molecule.

The fusion kicks the muon off and it repeats the process. [...] The problem has always been that it takes a lot of energy to make a muon and it has a tiny lifetime - long enough to do maybe four fusions before it decays.

Actually the muon lasts a couple microseconds which is a LONG time at molecular and nuclear speeds. But in addition to decaying it has maybe a 1/2% to 1% chance of sticking to the helium and getting lost until it times out. So it only catalyzes maybe 100 to 200 reactions. You need somewhat more than 300 to break even for the energy used to create it in an accelerator (maybe times a factor of about 2.5 to make up for the accelerator efficiency).

Comment Missing piece of a puzzle? (Score 4, Informative) 186

I followed the link to the original paper. It's a bit sketchy. But on a skim I don't get quite as much of a "what did he do" as the author of that piece did.

What it looks to me like he did is:
  - Made some "ultra dense" duterium - apparently by the same method as F&P: Using electricity to force it into palladium by electrolysis, with the solid palladium holding it at high density and in particular orientations.
  - Hit it with a laser.
  - Got muons out - with energies above those that could be explained by the laser excitation, and apparently with energy totalling substantially more than spent on the laser and the electrolysis drive power.

Now if this is real, and can be repeated and engineered:

1) High-energy charged particles, at well-defined energies, emerging from a well-defined location, and with adequate lifetimes to last through a few microseconds of the process, can easily have most of their kinetic energy collected as electricity by pretty trivial equipment.

2) Muons catalyze fusion - at room temperature (or even liquid hydrogen temperature). They replace an electron in a hydrogen atom/molecule - but are heavy so the resulting muonic atom/molecule is much smaller, allowing the nuclei to come within fusion distance. The fusion kicks the muon off and it repeats the process. This has been known for decades: Just point a muon beam at some hydrogen and watch the fun.

The problem has always been that it takes a lot of energy to make a muon and it has a tiny lifetime - long enough to do maybe four fusions before it decays. So muon-catalyzed fusion (using accelerators to make muons) would never approach breakeven. If this guy has figured out how to make muons in a simple cell, with the energy to make the muon coming from a fusion reaction, it could change the game big-time.

Also: If muons manufactured by such a process were a step in the very sporadic, looked-like-fusion, effects seen by the people trying to do cold fusion, it could explain why the effects were sporadic - and understanding the process might lead to being able to produce it reliably and consistently.

So maybe this is just another will-o-the-wisp. Or maybe it's something that could lead to substantial repeatable interesting physics. Or maybe it could lead to real energy-producing reactors on a less-than-tokamak scale.

And just maybe it's a missing piece of a real room-temperature fusion process that led to the cold-fusion flap and might become practical. Wouldn't that be nice?

Regardless, this just got published within the last month or so. If it's real it should be pretty easy to reproduce, and from there not too hard to figure out. So let's see what happens. Maybe nothing, maybe little, just the off chance of another roller-coaster ride. B-)

Comment Re:It could work. (Score 0) 681

It's not a theory, it's the truth.

In fact the mkLinux you mention was originally a port done by two guys named Mark and Karl, hence "mk".

Steve Jobs saw Slackware on a CD and, being that he wanted to see the floppy disk die, he chose that distro to port as Mac OSX. Most other distros at that point were still on floppy disk. Woz and Seymour Cray were drinking buddies so when they needed some high performance multi-threading support from Cray's UNICOS system, Woz tapped his pal and got access to the necessary code for a handshake rather than the usual multi-million dollar licensing fees.

The whole "NeXTSTEP" thing was to fool investors into thinking they had a solid product, not something they hacked out over a few weeks. In fact if you do any development on Mac OSX or iOS, you will see "ns_____" things called all the time. The "ns" does not mean "NextStep" as many people think. It means "Nice Seymour" as a tip of the hat to the man that made all that code available for free.

I remember all this like it was yesterday.

Comment Re:It could work. (Score 0) 681

Nope. OSX is a fork/mix of early Slackware Linux with some earlier Cray UNICOS multi-threading library support.

NeXTSTEP is based on AT&T SysV UNIX with graphical libraries borrowed from Ashton-Tate's (ahead of its time) Framework suite. If memory serves I think they also uses some of CP/M's successor MP/M 86 for some sweet multiuser stuff.

I remember it all like it was yesterday!

Comment Re:It could work. (Score 2) 681

Good thing you mentioned Apple's OSX, I forgot about that one in my well-researched history.

OSX is a fork of Linux, Slackware specifically, which itself is some original old Linux code with some Cray UNICOS bolted on for what was then some decent HPC.

Comment It could work. (Score 4, Funny) 681

Remember that forks sometimes do succeed.

Take Linux. It forked from OpenBSD which itself was forked from QNX with smatterings of FreeBSD code.

QNX programmed itself from vacuum tubes and trace wires left on the ground at Quantum Software in Ottawa one evening. Dan Hildebrand (RIP) apparently had something to do with this metamorphosis.

Meanwhile across the ocean, FreeBSD was forked from Windows 95 which itself came from the unholy union of MS-DOS and the GEM environment. MS-DOS was bought from a company in Washington State and was a fork of CP/M. GEM was a stand alone thing and should never have been born.

Where was I? Oh yeah, CP/M. CP/M was a copy of Apple's SOS used in the Apple /// series of super-powerful business computers. The source code was left at an airport where Gary Kildall read it when his plane was on auto-pilot.

Apple SOS was a mix/fork of Apple ProDOS and TRS-80's OS; I forget the name, not important. Radio Shack forked their TRS-80 OS from some source code they saw in Lions' Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition.


Comment Re:This is why you call your bank before tourism (Score 1) 344

Local banks commonly have card machines in their offices. Chase operates theirs from a central location, but I've never had a replacement card take longer than two days to arrive and it's usually the next day. In the meantime, existing authorized autopayments (Verizon, virtual server, a few other things) usually go through for at least a couple of months.

Work expands to fill the time available. -- Cyril Northcote Parkinson, "The Economist", 1955