Gmail interface horror

by Eric Drexler on 2014/07/09

Accidentally sending an unfinished, unedited email can be a really big mistake, so one wouldn’t want to make this mistake really, really easy…

Here is the button-filled corner of the “Reply” edit window in Gmail. Note the a measurement added in red:

Is there any imaginable excuse for placing the Send button just 10 pixels away from the Formatting options button? A button that gets clicked while you’re still editing?

Is it because someone thought it looked pretty?

Calling Google… Hello?


Keynote at TVC 2014

by Eric Drexler on 2014/07/03

Sorry for the late mention, but last week I gave a talk at the Technology Ventures Conference at the University of Cambridge. The organizers promise to post a video.

The conference was a lot of fun. I don’t know where else I’d have an opportunity to discuss nanotechnology, additive manufacturing, Haskell, and medicine all in the same day.

The theme of the conference was “Moonshot Thinking”, which let me place nanotechnology in the context of space systems engineering and the modes of thought and problem formulation that I learned in the AeroAstro department at MIT. The great gap in nanotechnology today, of course, is the absence of a well-developed field of molecular systems engineering.


Standard Model followup

by Eric Drexler on 2014/07/03

Here’s a reworked diagram of interactions in the Standard Model of particle physics, now in the Wikipedia article:

Interactions in the Standard Model

This supersedes and corrects the previous Wikipedia diagram.

Diagramming the Standard Model is a relatively good excuse to play with graphics.


Just in case you missed reading XKCD…

by Eric Drexler on 2014/06/11

Failing to read XKCD is, of course, a mistake.


Physics Quiz: Corrected Answers

by Eric Drexler on 2014/04/25

With thanks to Kevin, the previous post has been updated with corrections re. neutrinos and the Higgs.


Physics Quiz: Standard Model Answers

by Eric Drexler on 2014/04/19

Last week’s Physics Quiz asked about errors in Wikipedia’s current diagram of the Standard Model.

Here’s the diagram with [corrected] corrections; answers follow:

  1. What do the arcs represent?
    • The Standard Model interactions between particles: the boson-mediated strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces.
  2. Which of the arcs is incorrect? [And a question that got lost: Where is an arc is missing?]
    • The arc linking charged and uncharged leptons is spurious: It does not represent a force.
    • The arc representing the Higgs-neutrino interaction was omitted (see also #4).
  3. Extra credit, Wikipedia history department:
      How did one correction lead to both errors?
    • Neutrinos had been lumped together with the charged leptons, wrongly suggesting that all leptons interact with photons; when they were split off in the current diagram, the two classes of leptons were linked by the spurious arc, while neutrinos lost their link to the Higgs.
  4. Where is a[n] second arc missing?
    • The Z boson interacts with other Z bosons via the weak force, paralleling interactions between W bosons; this arc is missing.

Note that the Z boson is, from a practical point of view, a leading candidate for the most useless particle in the Standard Model. They’re crucial for neutrino-neutrino scattering, of course, as if anyone really cared.

Updated 25 April, to reflect the genuinely puzzling absence of Higgs-neutrino coupling in the Standard Model. My thanks to Kevin (see comments).


Physics Quiz: The Standard Model

April 16, 2014

The Wikipedia page on the Standard Model currently includes the diagram below: What do the arcs represent? Which of the arcs is incorrect? Extra credit, Wikipedia history department:   How did one correction lead to both errors? Added: Where is a second arc missing? (This makes question 3 ambiguous.) 17 April update: added question 4 after […]

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The five kinds of nanotechnology

April 4, 2014

Why understanding seems stuck: I count five kinds of nanotechnology, of which only three are called by that name. Of the three, one is a revolutionary prospect, one is a fantasy, and the third is mostly materials science. As for the other two kinds, one is the heart of today’s greatest technological revolution, while the […]

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Rise of the robots (per the Economist)

April 1, 2014

In the Economist: “Rise of the robots: Prepare for a robot invasion. It will change the way people think about technology”. The robotics revolution is, of course, riding the exponential wave of today’s leading nanotechnology, digital nanoelectronics, and today’s robots give only a taste of what nanomechanical technologies will enable through radical improvements in the […]

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The end of the thermodynamics of computation?

March 29, 2014

In a recent post, the always intelligent and provocative Cosma Shalizi notes John D. Norton’s argument against (nearly) thermodynamically reversible computation, but Norton’s argument is mistaken. In his paper “The End of the Thermodynamics of Computation: A No-Go Result,” Norton correctly states that “In a [nearly] thermodynamically reversible process, all component systems are in [nearly] […]

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Civilizational impact

March 13, 2014

Nanoelectronics is a nanotechnology that makes possible the drone technologies that threaten to upend the power relationships that underpin modern civilization: Drones will cause an upheaval of society like we haven’t seen in 700 years Noah Smith is often worth reading:

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Environmental Impact

March 5, 2014

From xkcd. How to roll back the impact of agriculture here.

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