Tag: physics

Stephen Hawking, Automation, and Politics

This year has been particularly charged with emotion. The stars that have lit up our Universe for a decade, or a century, have slipped away, one after another: Prince, Bowie, Princess Leia and her Mother. Stephen Hawking, who was doomed to an early death more than 50 years ago, celebrated his 75th birthday this past weekend. One never knows what life puts in our path… Hawking thinks he knows, though, and he is warning us. Hawking, indeed, seems to have become an Oracle, the Faust of the 21st Century. This is how, in 2015, he and Berlioz’s Faust were simultaneously reinvented under the demiurgic hand of the director Alvis Hermanis and the bemused eyes of its Parisian audience at the Opera Bastille in Paris. This was nearly one year ago. What’s next? The one, whose existence and career as a physicist has been made possible thanks to technology, as he (more...)

Deflategate, or Ballghazi, and the Conundrum of Expertise (or: why anthropologists should write about football)

It is the week of Super Bowl Sunday and I live with a Patriots fan. For the last two weeks all serious conversation in our house has revolved around some aspect of the upcoming game. Unless you have been living under a rock (or inside a book), you can probably guess that most of our conversations center around why a set of footballs used by  the Patriots during the AFC Championship game were found to be under the minimum psi level specified by the NFL. Were the Patriots cheating by manually deflating footballs? Or is there a "natural" explanation for the deflation? The interesting question from an STS perspective, and the hinge which cheating allegations revolve around, is whether or not the atmospheric conditions at the AFC championship game could have caused a football to deflate what the NFL has called "a significant amount." The question is a thorny one (more...)

On the Verge of a Scientific Breakthrough…Ten Years and Counting

A decade ago I did an ethnographic study of the little known, but highly promising, field of quantum information physics. I immersed myself in the work and world of physics: reading the field’s latest papers, attending the important conferences, interviewing the thought leaders, and taking thick notes on everything I saw and heard. After three years, when my notebook and brain were both filled with all cultural data they could carry, I wrote up my results, filed my doctoral dissertation, and sat back to wait for the scientific breakthroughs that I thought were soon coming, for the global information technology reboot that the field was on the verge of creating. I waited …and then I waited a bit more. (more…)