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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Seeing The Quantum World


RBCC #149 (1977) Art by Mike Zeck. Captain Action © DC Comics
The Quantum Information Science center at the U of Calgary has produced a four-minute animated intended to help people see how a quantum computer would work and its underlying science.
"The animation incorporates state-of-the-art techniques to show the science and the technology in the most accurate and exciting way possible while being true to the underlying principles of quantum computing," says Sanders.


"There is a history of simple visualization over the last century to convey quantum concepts," says Sanders. He notes that Erwin Schrödinger introduced his eponymous cat, which is left in a tragic state of being in a superposition of life and death, an illustration of the strangeness of quantum theory. And the uncertainty principle associated with Werner Heisenberg and his fictional gamma ray microscope, has found its way into common English parlance.

"The imagery of the early days of quantum mechanics played a crucial role in understanding and accepting quantum theory. Our work takes this imagery a quantum leap forward by using the state-of-the-art animation techniques to explain clearly and quickly the nature of quantum computing which is, by its very nature, counterintuitive." link


Watch the spin-up scene: the quantum information encoded on the electron spin transforms smoothly between zero and one poles—the quantum analogue of a NOT gate.

Watch more clips HERE.
Ref: Visualizing a silicon quantum computer. 2008. B.C. Sanders, et al. New J. Phys. 10 125005 (20pp).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bees On Cocaine


JLA © DC Comics
Abstract: The role of cocaine as an addictive drug of abuse in human society is hard to reconcile with its ecological role as a natural insecticide and plant-protective compound, preventing herbivory of coca plants (Erythroxylum spp.). This paradox is often explained by proposing a fundamental difference in mammalian and invertebrate responses to cocaine, but here we show effects of cocaine on honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) that parallel human responses.

Forager honey bees perform symbolic dances to advertise the location and value of floral resources to their nest mates. Treatment with a low dose of cocaine increased the likelihood and rate of bees dancing after foraging but did not otherwise increase locomotor activity. This is consistent with cocaine causing forager bees to overestimate the value of the floral resources they collected. Further, cessation of chronic cocaine treatment caused a withdrawal-like response.


JLA © DC Comics
These similarities likely occur because in both insects and mammals the biogenic amine neuromodulator systems disrupted by cocaine perform similar roles as modulators of reward and motor systems.

Given these analogous responses to cocaine in insects and mammals, we propose an alternative solution to the paradox of cocaine reinforcement. Ecologically, cocaine is an effective plant defence compound via disruption of herbivore motor control but, because the neurochemical systems targeted by cocaine also modulate reward processing, the reinforcing properties of cocaine occur as a `side effect'.
Ref: Effects of cocaine on honey bee dance behaviour. 2008. Andrew B. Barron, et al. Journal of Experimental Biology 212: 163-168 (2009)

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Tale of Sword & Sorcery


© Walt Simonson
From Star*Reach #1 (1974) comes this tale by Ed Hick and Walt Simonson. The ending appears to have been lifted by Ralph Bakski for the ending of the film of his rip-off of Vaughn Bodé's "Cobalt 60", "Wizards". Looks like Ralph stole from the best!


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Read Simonson's, "The Hyborion Age", HERE.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Aquaman in The Ocean of 1,000,000 B.C.


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From Adventure Comics #253 (October 1958). Aquaman © DC Comics

Friday, December 26, 2008

Discovered This Day: Radium

“In 1898, Polish-French scientist Marie Sklodowska Curie discovered the radioactive element radium while experimenting with pitchblende, a common uranium ore. She had observed that this ore was more radioactive than refined uranium. This indicated that there must be another element, even more radioactive than uranium, mixed in with this ore.

During the years between 1899 and 1902, Marie Curie dissolved, filtered and repeatedly crystallized nearly three tons of pitchblende. The goal of that work was a refined sample of the element - the yield was about 0.1 gram. This was enough for spectroscopic examination, and to determine the exact atomic weight of radium. This discovery, along with the element polonium, earned her a second Nobel Prize in 1911.” From Today In Science History

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Worldwide Adventures In Science


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From Adventure Comics #237 (June 1957) © DC Comics

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Preventing The Next Ice Age


Strange Adventures #79 (April 1957) © DC Comics
Powerful simulations on the world's most advanced computer climate models lend strong support to the radical idea that human-induced climate change began not 200 years ago, but thousands of years ago with the onset of large-scale agriculture in Asia and extensive deforestation in Europe.
What's more, according to the same computer simulations, the cumulative effect of thousands of years of human influence on climate is preventing the world from entering a new glacial age, altering a clockwork rhythm of periodic cooling of the planet that extends back more than a million years.

Using climatic archives such as 850,000-year-old ice core records from Antarctica, scientists are teasing out evidence of past greenhouse gases in the form of fossil air trapped in the ice. That ancient air, say Vavrus and Kutzbach, contains the unmistakable signature of increased levels of atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide beginning thousands of years before the industrial age.

"Between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago, both methane and carbon dioxide started an upward trend, unlike during previous interglacial periods," explains Kutzbach. Indeed, Ruddiman has shown that during the latter stages of six previous interglacials, greenhouse gases trended downward, not upward. Thus, the accumulation of greenhouse gases over the past few thousands of years, the Wisconsin-Virginia team argue, is very likely forestalling the onset of a new glacial cycle, such as have occurred at regular 100,000-year intervals during the last million years. Each glacial period has been paced by regular and predictable changes in the orbit of the Earth known as Milankovitch cycles, a mechanism thought to kick start glacial cycles.

"We're at a very favorable state right now for increased glaciation," says Kutzbach. "Nature is favoring it at this time in orbital cycles, and if humans weren't in the picture it would probably be happening today." Read the press release

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

WeirdWorld by Moench & Ploog

For Christmas a tale of Fantasy & Adventure:


© Marvel Comics
Weirdworld was set in a dimension of magic not unlike Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings. The protagonists were two elves: Tyndall and Velanna , both from the floating ring-shaped island of Klarn, and an irascible dwarf dubbed Mud-Butt (because he tended to land on his backside in a quarrel)." link

Weirdworld (later changed to “Warriors of The Shadow Rhelm”) was created by Doug Moench and Mike Ploog and first appeared in the black and white magazine Marvel Super Action #1 (January, 1976). This tale from Marvel Preimere #28 (1977) is the 2nd of 1st three tales illustrated by Ploog, and the only one inked by Alex Nino. The whiplash-inducing ending suggests that the creators had their original page count for the story chopped at the last minute.

Weirdworld kicked around a variety of Marvel titles between 1976 and 1982, and one of the swamp serpents even made a cameo in X-men First Class II (2008). The three part mini-series in Marvel Super Special, illustrated by John Buscema, was heralded at the time for its use of full color paintings throughout. Although Ploog and Nino have very different art styles, they mesh surprisingly well in this story. This is a series that would benefit from a good collection, with an added tale or two to finish up the story.


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Tim Perkins has a nice overview of the series and features some of his own unpublished “Weirdworld” art.

Lots of information about Weirdworld here.