De meningen ge-uit door medewerkers en studenten van de TU Delft en de commentaren die zijn gegeven reflecteren niet perse de mening(en) van de TU Delft. De TU Delft is dan ook niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van hetgeen op de TU Delft weblogs zichtbaar is. Wel vindt de TU Delft het belangrijk - en ook waarde toevoegend - dat medewerkers en studenten op deze, door de TU Delft gefaciliteerde, omgeving hun mening kunnen geven.

Posted in October 2011

Elections to the Works(?)council

Guess I lived longer than my reason and got politically engaged after all. Today there are elections to the Works(?)council of our university. Not sure I translate this correctly: it is a rather artificial organ that supposed to represent the employeers at highest university level. It is requred by Dutch law. It’s first time in my TU Delft career I went so far as to vote. I voted for an only independent candidate in the list since I like hopeless enterprises in general. Besides, he’s some good points concerning transparency and languages (one quarter of TU Delft employers do not master Dutch).

Superconducting topology

rocks: our March cond-mat submission with Dima Pikulin,
Topological properties of superconducting junctions has finally made it in press. You can upload the published text here.

The publication of the article did not proceed as planned. In fact, I’m very much frustated and dissapointed with severe cases of reading disability we had to cope in course of peer review of this article in Physical Review Letters. A friend has suggested that these cases have been caused by some “non-nuanced critisism” from our side. Perhaps. Though I thought that such mechanism of pathogenesis is typical for children rather than for adults. Perhaps I had to take into account that the referees nowadays are significantly younger than me, and behave accordingly.

Seriously, I regard this article as one of the highlights of my scientific career. I’m upset with misunderstandings encountered. Fortunately, there are countries and publishing houses where real physics is still appreciated:).

Parliamentary questions

I’m rather fed up with the publication I mentioned and fuss around, yet since I’ve started the topic I have to go on.

Our MP’s read newspapers as well. To understand the read better, they’ve formulated several questions to the minister (in our time of deep saving measures, she’s not only minister of education, she also runs culture, science and public-paid television). The questions vary from innocent: have you read the article? to provocative: do you think it is fair that the university uses public budget money to pay lawsuits against the government and fines imposed on the top-brass?

I’d be interested to learn her answer.

Ondernemende universiteit in zwaar weer

is the title of the bad publication that has (yet with a week of (optionally repentant) delay-time) appeared in NRC Handelsblad last Saturday. Translated from poetic-bureaucratic Dutch, it just means “Enterprising university in trouble”(that’s our TU Delft). A muckraker obviously got hands on some old internal financial accounting reports as well as on some accounts of the confindential meetings our beloved top-brass. Very well, he’s made his job: with few playing cards in hand, he maganed to draw an astonishing and hardly attractive picture of our University. Quite expectedly, illustrated with a photograph of a fire that destroyed one of our buildings four years ago. Funny they haven’t added the portraits of students tortured in course of their initiation to student societies.

That felt pretty nostalgic to me. Chernukha, a russian word rooted in ‘black’. Though could be translated as ‘muckraking’ it surpasses the latter by scale, like ‘Black square’ of magnificient Malevich surpasses any painting ever. Chernukha is a genre of journalism that differs from libel in such a way that each statement taken apart is rather innocent and can not cause a lawsuit, while their skifull combination should make the reader depressed, remorse any possible association with organisation/subject/topic under consideration, and finally fountain-vomit. Chernukha is much stronger than libel: it’s contibuted quite a bit to the fall of Soviet state… Thus encouraged, I’ve carefully checked the text for missing articles, occurencres of double negation and traces of declensional inflections: nothing, no sign of my wonderful mothertong, the author must be close to native Dutch.

What surprised me beyond any measure is an overwhelmingly excessive, almost hillarious reaction of our beloved top-brass. The warning about the publication was issued a week in advance. Precisely an hour before the newspaper get to subscribers one can read on the web-site of our university a point-by-point rebuttal of the article (encompassing at least a half of the points, good score!). Next day the rebuttal has been translated in English: to reach those who had no chance to comprehend the Dutch-language article. This is given by the fact that the article in question was not available freely on internet (now it is here, thanks to an anonymous road engineer). In fact, the article was reliably buried in the forty-pages saturday edition. I read it by my friends who subscribe. It took us 5 minutes to find the article in this paper heap. From this, I would estimate the potential audience by 100 persons. The relentless efforts of the top-brass have probably brough the audience to ten thousand. Wonder if in addition to the sins listed somebody has also a secret share in Handelsblad distribution…

Dissipative quantum mechanics

is a chapter from the text-book we write with Jeroen Danon. We work rather slowly than steadily and the deadline is already approaching. We need to accelerate. As a part of the acceleration, I just revised the text of this chapter. It still needs more polishing work. If you wish, you can sample this chapter here. Yet in this case you owe me a comment…

No bad publication?

It is interesting to note that ‘bad’ newspaper article mentioned in my previous post has not appeared as scheduled. It was supposed to be a part of saturday edition of NRC Handelsblad. Our university chairman call us to “brace yourself” on friday, yet no impact has followed.Is this the way to prevent unfortunate things to happen or just a delay given to us to think through the stuff? Anycase, let His will prevail.

The Protection of the Mother of God 2011

, this warm authumn feast came to us again. I’m confined in my usual squirrel wheel, no real progress in anything, too busy to think why is it so. Mother, protect me and those around me from consequencies of me being unreasonable.

A rumour has come today of upcoming press report that will be very negative for our Delft University of Technology. While the report is aimed at a small group, it is feared that it will have a serious negative impact on our university as whole. Given the fact that our financial position is reasonably close to disastorous, the consequencies can be devastating. Mother, protect the innocent, do not let the cruel things happen.

Chris Monroe

from Joint Quantum Institute (University of Maryland + National Institute of Standards and Technology) gave today a talk about quantum simulator based on trapped ions. You see we are rich in talks this month, and all are good.

I’ve learned a lot about ion traps, including intimate details like spontaneous exchange of ions in the trap or complete melting of ion micro-lattice in cause of a collision with an alien atom, that happens once in fifteen minutes. All experiments presented were breath-taking in two aspects. First aspect is a challenging complexity of quantum manipulation involved. Second aspect is that the sucsessful accomplishment of the experiment relies on so many fine details: if you go through all conditions required, and imagine that a failure at each step would be fatal, your breath is taken away.

Gerhard Abstreiter

from Walter Schottky Instituut Munchen gave a talk today in our nanoscience seminar. Gerhard Abstreiter is a name and a legend in a field that used to be optics of semiconductors and is called nanoscience now. He is one of few scientists in our big field who can compete with me in beard length.

He started his talk by describing the buildings of Walter Schottky Instituut: one may find it strange if not feeling the affiliation of the speaker with the place and his personal involvement with the materialization of these buildings. He gave a short overview of the research in his group, nuclear-spin engineering of SiGe heterostuctures and hand-made photon crystals being the things that impressed be most.

The main topic was optical spin control in self-assembled InAs quantum dots. Gerhard made introduction with his own pioneering works in optical control of a single dot made in early nineties. Later he elaborated on spin-to-charge conversion by adding a polarized exciton. Last part of his talk was about dynamical nuclear polarization that me and Jeroen Danon were busy several years ago. The results reported have not been obvious, I still have to think about.

Arxiv+ ?

On Thursday, Sergey Frolov has given a talk at Quantum Transport group meeting. Second half of his talk was not scientific. Rather, it was about the imperfections of modern science. I must say I initially disliked this part and even showed my dislike to the speaker. Well, there are many traditions/rules/rites in science that are obviously bad, irrational and harmful for science. Is there a point to criticize those or complain about? One could also complain about the fact that scientists must consume food and get rid of waste thereafter, thus being distracted from the research process. The efficiency of such complains would be rather low. It seems so much more efficient to regard the imperfections as external boundary conditions and silently adjust to them.

Of course, these external boundary conditions become more and stringent and one can already forsee science being totally and irreversibly replaced by priopity programs, topsectoren, european flagships and valorisation efforts. It’s too sad to forsee, this is why Sergey’s talk was so irritating. No hables de la soga en casa del ahorcado.

He even dared to criticise the back-bone of modern natural science communication, the Arxiv, calling this awing oblation effort an anachronistic mailing list and a usenet message board. I was disgusted and decided to talk to him afterwards.

This have changed my attitude. It appeared Sergey didn’t just complain: he has certain ideas and suggestions, and I must admit some of them sound quite appealing. Let me explain the Arxiv+ idea, due to Reinier Heeres an him, in a way I understand it.

A concise definition would be: a tailored collaborative framework build on the top of the Arxiv. Let’s have a large research group, an institution, a formal or informal research network of medium-to-large size. They set up a site that provides Arxiv browsing with a set of additional features: those may include annotations, comments, reminders, google-like likes/dislikes, pools, surveys, highlights… add it yourself.

Sergey has skifully provoked me to list the features I would personally like (at the level of Quantum Transport group or our institute). Here it is:

  • Function for a user to tag the articles with tags like ‘spin-orbit’, ‘theory’, ‘citing QT’,’useful review’. Tag list is better supplied by admin, while the users can request an addition to tag list.
  • Function to add a short comment (signed, dated) to the article like ‘I use Eq. 7 to fit my data, but do not understand its derivation, Vincent, 24-7-2013’ , ‘Cited this in my arXiv:/0789.9087, Sergey, 15-2-2012’.
  • Function to do a convenient tag search like I want to see the list of all tagged with ‘spin-orbit’ and ‘nano-tube’ published in 2010-2013 in ETH.
  • Naturally, tags and comments related to an article should appear whenever you navigate to the article starting from an arxiv+ window: that may be technically challenging since requires interception of http requests, yet the system would be very confusing otherwise.
  • News feature: newly tagged articles, new comments upon arriving to arxiv+.

All this would be useful only if there is a substantial user activity like 5-10 tags/comments per day.

At later stage, one could consider

  1. Function to upload and link to an article raw data/ technical notes/ref.reports/master/PhD theses (local storage should be arranged, requires a permission settings feature), extremely useful on a long time-scale.
  2. Function to make user-specific collections with user-specific comments (if this function is provided from the beginning, no collective effort would ever emerge)
  3. A convenient interface to journal version.

Do you have a feature idea? Please do not hesitate to comment on this or write to Sergey directly.

© 2011 TU Delft