liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
([personal profile] liv Aug. 16th, 2017 12:28 pm)
Recently read:
  • Dzur by Steven Brust.

    I didn't love this; I'm not sure how much it's a weaker member of the series and how much it's me. It is book 10 in a set of 19, of which the last five are still to be written. I may have left it too long since I read the previous volumes, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. I decided I couldn't be bothered following all the complex allusions to the meta-structure of the whole series, and as a single novel it's never more than just ok. I didn't find Vlad's voice or Loiosh's asides witty, and the pacing dragged, and I didn't care about the mystery. Because I hadn't been following the chronology properly, the twist at the end wasn't a delightful surprise, it just unsatisfyingly didn't make sense.

    When I was reading 50 books a year, I intended to read the whole series, because both the individual novels and the way they fit together into a complex whole appeal to me. Now that I read more like 15 or 20, I'm thinking I may drop this. Not sure; one weaker book doesn't mean the whole series isn't worth bothering with.

  • A taste of honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. This was a Hugo-nominated novella, which meant that several of my friends read it, and were enthusiastic about it. So I ended up reading the copy from my Hugo packet on the way back from Worldcon, which is not exactly in the spirit of things. And I regret not reading it in time to vote for it, not that it would have made much difference since McGuire's Every heart a doorway (which I wasn't keen on) won by miles.

    Anyway, this is a really amazing fantasy romance story. It's beautifully written, great characters, twisty, thought-provoking plot. The worldbuilding is really deep; looking it up it turns out this is a companion novella in the setting of a novel, which I'm now definitely going to seek out. I had dismissed Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps mainly because the name is so clunky; I assumed it was parodic or just really generic swords and sorcery.

    It's hard to describe exactly what's so great about AToH without spoilers, but it's a really moving romance, and has a lot to say about choices and sacrifices made for love. [personal profile] jack thought it maybe needed some content warnings; some of the content is about homophobia and abusive parenting. To me it didn't feel like misery porn, it felt as if it centred its variously Queer characters and described some of the bad things in their life as well as the good. But I can imagine some readers finding it hard going.

    Up next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. I'd been meaning to read this, though I'm a little scared of what I've heard about it, and I've now bumped it up my list since the sequel won a second Hugo.
  • jack: (Default)
    ([personal profile] jack Aug. 15th, 2017 07:45 pm)
    Does anyone understand pilot wave theory even a little bit?

    Prodded by several recent articles, I've been trying to follow what it says, and am still quite unsure of the realities.

    The analogy usually presented is, if you have a small oil drop on the surface of water, and the water container is subject to a regular pattern of vibration, the water forms standing waves in shapes affected by the edges of the container and any obstructions in the surface of the water. And the oil drop tends to move across the surface of the water following the paths in those waves.

    If you look solely at the oil drop, you can't tell which of two equal paths it would follow, but you can predict it will take one of them with equal probability, and predict its motion probabilistically. And if you couldn't see the standing water waves, you could deduce something in that shape exists.

    You can even get some analogies for weird quantum behaviour like the an electron passing through two parallel slits and experiencing interference with itself: the water waves form possible channels for the oil drop, and the oil drop goes through one slit or the other, but ends up only at certain places on the far side.

    However, the analogy to actual quantum physics is still unclear to me. Not whether it's true, but even what people are suggesting might happen.

    Are people suggesting there's some underlying medium like the water? In that case, isn't there some propagation speed? The water waves exist in a steady state once all the obstructions are set up, but they don't respond to changes instantly. If the water trough were miles long, the oil drop would set off following water wave paths that existed at the point it passes through, not the paths corresponding to the obstructions that are going to be in place when the oil drop passes through them.

    And yet, as I understand it, no-one expects a propagation delay in quantum experiments. People keep checking it out, but there never is: it always acts like an electron propagates just like it is itself a wave.

    I agree, if there WERE some delay, if you changed the slits at this time, and got one result, and changed them at another time, and got another result, that would be massive, massive, evidence of something, possibly of something like pilot wave theory. But AFAIK proponents of pilot wave theory aren't advocating looking for such delays, and don't expect to find any.

    Contrariwise, if this is just an analogy, and the quantum equivalent of the water waves (equivalent to the wave function in other interpretations of quantum mechanics) propagates at "infinite" speed, then... that is undetectable, indistinguishable from other interpretations of quantum mechanics. But it raises red-flag philosophical questions about what "infinite speed" means when all the intuition from special (or general) relativity indicates that all physical phenomena are local, and are influenced only by physics of nearby things, and "the same time" is a human illusion like the earth being stationary. Even if you don't expect to detect the pilot wave, can you write down what it should be in a universe where physics is local? Does that in fact provide a way to make QM deterministic and independent of observers, even if you change the reference frame? Because it doesn't sound like it will work.

    FWIW, those are very superficial objections, I don't understand what it's saying enough to actually evaluate in depth. But I don't understand why these don't show up on lists of "common objections and rebuttals". Common objections have confident rebuttals in several places, and I've *seen* articles about them, but not understood well enough. Can anyone explain better?

    Digression

    I do agree, the idea that QM equations are an emergent property of something else, ideally a statistical interpretation of a deterministic underlying reality, would be very nice in clearing up a lot of confusion. But AFAIK, the closest candidate to that is Many Worlds, which doesn't appeal to many people who want to get away from QM unpleasantness.
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    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    ([personal profile] liv Aug. 11th, 2017 11:48 am)
    A song that has many meanings for you. I think this has to be Some kind of stranger by Sisters of Mercy. Partly because it's lyrically complex; I have never been sure if it's about a positive relationship or a breakup, a long-term connection or a casual affair, and it may well not be about romantic love at all.

    This is another song that [personal profile] doseybat introduced me to when we were teenagers. So it's tied up with discovering alternative music and the goth scene, and forming my own tastes in music as well as more broadly. A period of my life when I think I did the most growing up.

    In some ways it's a song about keeping faith in spite of everything that might push you towards despair. And that's why I keep coming back to it, whether it's faith in a person or just more broadly:
    And I know the world is cold
    But if we hold on tight to what we find
    We might not mind so much
    That even this must pass away

    Then it's the soundtrack of my PhD. The bit where my brother had a bad accident and I was in an emotional mess, but the science was still inspiring and still needed doing. The bit where it wasn't inspiring any more, it was a slog, and I had to keep going. One more step, one more flask of cells, one more measurement. The long repetitive bit at the end Come here I think you're beautiful over and over again, when I was sitting in the cell culture room with my headphones a portable tape player, and just keeping my cells alive and nourished before I could actually do any experiments took about three hours three times a week. You can't miss a sesssion or the cells die or mutate and you lose months of work. You have to concentrate enough not to get anything contaminated, but it's not exactly intellectually stimulating. In fact, a lot of the point of my PhD was providing justification for replacing me with a robot, but grad students are cheaper than robots, and I was just sitting there screening through hundreds of potential new drugs.

    It's also a song about making friends with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, towards the end of that PhD and the years just afterwards. [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel is also a Sisters fan and gave me a recording of one of their concerts, since it's nearly impossible to buy studio versions of most of their music since the 80s. The ambiguous words might be about a sudden, intense yet enduring friendship, maybe. Some kind of stranger / some kind of angel.

    And even though it's a pretty downbeat song, it's a very happy song for me now. It promised me that I could endure, and I have. My brother is fine now. I still love most of the people who sustained me in my late teens and early 20s. I've succeeded at some things that were hard and failed at others, but I have people who love me for myself, not my achievements. And nothing is permanent, but as long as I'm here and get to experience things and love people, I can cope with that.

    video embed, audio only )
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    liv: Cartoon of a smiling woman with a long plait, teaching about p53 (teacher)
    ([personal profile] liv Aug. 8th, 2017 03:18 pm)
    I'm on a mission to redeem group work in education. I expect this to be controversial among many of my friends. So if I'm right and lots of you have terrible memories / experiences of being made to do bad group work, I invite you to comment here and tell me what was bad about it. Do you think it's just awful, or are there problems that might be fixed? I believe strongly that while it can be dire, it can also be great, or perhaps I might phrase it as, there are things that look like group work superficially but are actually great.

    Because I'm on a mission this may turn into a more formal research survey at some point, but in that case I'll pose the question in a formal context with ethics and everything. Right now I'm just trying to gather some opinions and not just rely on my own ideas. Plus I am eye-deep in paperwork and I could do with some distraction, so do rant away.
    chanaleh: Mama with Aria, age 18 months (aria-18mos)
    ([personal profile] chanaleh Aug. 3rd, 2017 08:09 pm)
    It feels like Little Miss has been "almost two" for long enough already that actually having a birthday is a bit anticlimactic. But now it's official.

    birthday week festivities )

    Based on roughly 500 more viewings of "Zoe Loves Rocco" (from Sesame Street, about Zoe's pet rock), she has taken up a fascination with rocks. Every time we go outside, she finds a new one that she has to pick up and bring inside. [personal profile] bluepapercup, you will be so proud. She has also picked up "jump in muddy puddles!" from watching Peppa Pig. Fortunately we don't have too many muddy puddles, at least as long as she stays out of the septic drainfield (!).

    She has recently reached the toddler stage of Everything is Mine. Sometimes it's a simple descriptive, as in "Where my bunny?", but then as soon as you try to take something away from her, it becomes a protest. "Noooo! MY cup! MY book! MY tabwet! MYYYY toofbrush!" Classic.

    The instant she sees me do something new, she immediately says "I do it, I do it, I do it, I do it!" until I let her try. [livejournal.com profile] etrace has also discovered that she can not only identify and open the cookie drawer, but pull out the package of Oreos, open the package, and consume most of a cookie before he even knows she's gotten to it. She is, in short, as smart and determined as ever, and getting more accomplished every day.

    And OF COURSE she is also the most beautiful child that ever childed. :-)
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    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    ([personal profile] liv Aug. 4th, 2017 04:57 pm)
    I'm up to the thinky items in the list: a song that makes you think about life. I'm not quite sure what to do with this because in general I don't listen to music to inspire deep thoughts.

    digression on what music is for )

    One song that often makes me stop and think is Song of choice. I heard it interpreted by Solas, a group with a Celtic-ish style that I find hard to classify, it doesn't seem to fit well into either trad or neo. I think this song isn't original to them; I know there's a Peggy Seeger version, but again, she often doesn't perform her own material. But anyway, I really like Karan Casey's voice, and the lyrics are all about taking decisive action before it's too late, a message that seems important to me:
    In January you've still got the choice
    You can cut the weeds before they start to bud
    If you leave them to grow higher, they'll silence your voice
    And in December you may pay with your blood
    But I think my pick for this meme is going to be Farthest star by VNV Nation. I need to have some VNV in this meme, and they tend to have very thinky lyrics. So some of what I think about life is contained in:
    We possess the power
    If this should start to fall apart
    to mend divides, to change the world
    to reach the farthest star
    If we should stay silent
    if fear should win our hearts,
    our light will have long diminished
    before it reaches the farthest star
    It's a call to action, but a more optimistic one than the Solas. video embed, audio only )
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    liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
    ([personal profile] liv Aug. 3rd, 2017 11:57 am)
    I've had a lovely week, really, with a whole range of pleasant social things. I hope this is a sort of foretaste of what my life will be like when I properly live in one place.

    social diary )
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