Escapism (The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter)

Escapism

Imagine a world where magic is strong
and hunger is cured with the wave of a wand
where you can just fly
anywhere that you want.
Now imagine there are muggles who can’t.
They don’t have your contactless cards
or quite the right passports to pass border guards
but they’ve heard tales
of a land in the clouds
where the streets are paved
not bombed-open ground
and childrens’ lives are saved
when cash can’t be found
but without the right papers,
all they have to claim a place with is a story
and we rarely listen to oral traditions now
we spend our days playing zero sum games
where for one to gain, person two has to lose
so we choose to keep players few, forgetting
that humans are creative.
However little we take with us,
we carry whole worlds of new opportunity
and I’m tired of living
on a tiny mind’s island overfilled by one
so let’s escape.
Let’s all emigrate
to a kingdom of heaven
that lies inside
whose passport is love and whose boundaries are wide
as the number of people who fit in your head
so stretch out your thoughts with the stories you’ve read
and fly with me into this imagined nation
because the true reason for escapism
isn’t running away
but a way to see how things should be run.

 

This poem is based on the study ‘The greatest magic of Harry Potter: reducing prejudice’, about the impact of Harry Potter on out-group attitudes towards immigrants,  asylum seekers and gay people, full-text available here (researchgate).

 

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GOSH, that’s handy: open-science hardware

 

Global Open Science Hardware extends the philosophy of open source coding to making real objects. It is rapidly gaining importance as hardware manufacturing becomes more digital and DIY, with advances, such as 3D printing and modular electronic controllers. This brings exciting new opportunities for collaboration, both between academics and with interested citizen scientists.

A few weeks ago, a group of international pioneers compiled a manifesto for the Open Science Hardware movement at the Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. This movement aims to reduce barriers between the various creators and users of scientific tools. The values condensed in the manifesto align well with the wider Open Science movement; they have served the pioneers well while disrupting the “business as usual” community. The truth is, not every development needs exclusive legal protection, either in hardware or software. Sharing can create large and active user communities that add value to the product or publication. What’s more, user-based development can be more suitable, more adaptable and much cheaper.

Consider the story of Arduino, an open source prototyping platform, whose adaptability has captured the imagination of millions over the last years. Technology magazines are full of news about the component that allows users to easily automate and control almost any hardware. While the component has found its way into household appliances, toys and workshops, there has also been an academic motivation for the development of Arduino: Tom Igoe, one of the co-founders and a professor in New York, got involved because it was the tool he needs for teaching interactive systems and arts, “I’m not interested in whether students learn to be good programmers, or good electrical engineers. I just want them to have a platform, with which they can build tools they need. I think there is an attitude in many fields that you should just accept what experts give you. That seems backward to me. Expertise should be used in service to one’s larger community.” Originating from a laboratory in that spirit is the Open Quartz Crystal Microbalance, a sensitive microbalance applied in chemistry, biology and material science when small weight matters. An openQCM team member Marco Mauro, details his experience, “When we tried the approach of open source hardware as a private company, by launching one of the first scientific analytical instruments in the world completely open, we would never have imagined this level of positive reinforcement. The community of users has helped us a lot optimising the device and inspired our next products.”

On the other side of the world, a US company from Ann Arbor, Michigan, with operations in Chile, called Backyard Brains, has made teaching neurophysiology cheap and appealing through demonstration sets combining electronics and cockroaches. They initially chose open hardware because they wanted to put their first dollar to work instead of serving legal fees. To date, they have spread thousands of educational tools around the globe from cyborg insects to microscopes, while maintaining a lean operation. That said, what must be the coolest open source microscope, so far, has been designed by Richard Bowman. It’s so exciting that it deserves its own Lab Times article.

These tools are appropriate for both professional and citizen scientists. Targeting the latter is the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist Open Science Hardware lab in Canada. They create do-it-yourself monitoring devices, or trawls, that target marine plastics, so people most affected by pollution can investigate their environments. The director Max Liboiron is also an advocate for a thorough community engineering approach, “We recently tested our open science hardware trawls against the expensive industry standard, so we can be sure that our DIY versions capture data comparable to other research tools, and it got a lot of media attention.”

Joshua Pearce, author of the book OpenSource Lab has been using open hardware in his lab for several years already. For us, he summarises, “Now that most labs have access to digital fabrication equipment such as 3D printers, it just makes sense for scientific equipment to be open hardware. It provides access to high-end scientific tools at low costs, while enabling reproducibility of experiments by replication of equipment itself. At the same time, the more stringent sharing of source code for the hardware makes customisation of tools easy. Hundreds of tools are already available on the web and more are added or derived from them every day.” Still, much needs to be done to make open sharing of science hardware designs the status quo. Currently, scientists often publish results without providing information about the hardware used to obtain them, particularly if it’s home-made. To change this, a lot of infrastructure has recently been created that addresses some of the open hardware-specific challenges. Two new journals are being created, to provide a platform for academic exchange and to enable further recognition of involved scientists: HardwareX and the Journal of Open Hardware (launching later this year beside the existing Journal of Open Research Software, but submissions are already welcome). Business models based on open source hardware are tested by an increasing number of start-ups and studied by academics. Licences specific to open hardware are created by the likes of CERN OHL, TAPR, and Solderpad. And the open source documentation software DocuBricks is developed by community members, which makes creating good instructions easier for hardware makers. This addresses an important concern of the community about quality management and the interpretation of the open source hardware definition. Many currently released instructions are step-by-step guides that enable users to recreate hardware. But to be called open, they also need to contain modifiable design files with information that gives power to the community to creatively modify. It is worth writing a documentation that communicates the design rationale and allows for modularity. Only when other makers can improve and adapt the design, can we unleash the true power of open sourcing.

If you want to benefit from more handson teaching, improved impact opportunities, better reproducibility and new pathways for collaboration at lowered cost, there are many ways to get involved: (1) Talk about it! (2) Start creating hardware. (3) Remember that documenting and sharing is worthwhile for you and essential for the community. (4) Get your hardware designs published! As early free software pioneer Dennis Allison said, “Let us stand on each other’s shoulders, not each other’s toes.”

 

Article by Tobias Wenzel and Robin Lamboll, first published in the Lab Times. Original at:

http://www.labtimes.org/epaper/LT_16_04.pdf

The Gospel according to the Antichrist

A poem constructed out of quotes from Nietzsche’s The Antichrist and true statements about science or etymology. Nietzsche quotes in BLOCK CAPS!

 

THE EQUALITY OF SOULS BEFORE GOD – THIS FRAUD
IS CHRISTIAN
DYNAMITE
is TNT absorbed
into a stabilising framework to
prevent the inconvenient ignition that will
one day rip open those closed carbon rings
using the oxygen it already contains
to free it all into gases
exploding out, in search of
GOD ON THE CROSS –
IS MAN ALWAYS TO MISS THE FRIGHTFUL
INNER SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS SIGN?
EVERYTHING THAT SUFFERS,
EVERYTHING THAT HANGS ON THE CROSS, IS DIVINE.
WE ALL HANG
under gravitational forces,
bone resting on bone,
compressing our spine
but Einstein’s equivalence principle
says only the curve of the earth
marks the difference between weight and everyone
uniformly accelerating up, towards
THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPT OF A GOD
– GOD AS THE PATRON OF THE SICK
GOD AS THE SPINNER OF COBWEBS,
GOD AS A SPIRIT
IS ONE OF THE MOST CORRUPT CONCEPTS
THAT HAS EVEN BEEN SET UP
Your nuclear fusion reactor
with a pinhead of fuel held
in place with spider’s silk.
It will remain strong yet flexible
at temperatures where air will freeze to rock,
Holding stead that ball of all potential
to await the incomparable brightness of
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BELONGS TO CHILDREN.
IT IS A SORT OF RECRUDESCENT CHILDISHNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
IT DOES NOT REALISE HOW IT WILL ONE DAY SET MAN AGAINST
man, from old English, meaning person, human being.
Sense of ‘adult male’ emerged around 1000 years after Christ
SPEAKS ONLY OF INNER THINGS
– IN HIS SIGHT, THE WHOLE OF REALITY HAS SIGNIFICANCE
ONLY AS SIGN, AS ALLEGORY

THE EQUALITY OF SOULS BEFORE GOD –
THIS IS cosmic expansion means
our universe is exploding.

Rainbow

 

To celebrate its diversity
South Africa became the rainbow nation.
There are a few problems with this.
Black isn’t on the rainbow.
White isn’t on the rainbow.
Brown isn’t on the rainbow,
pink isn’t on the rainbow
no-one’s actual skin colour is on the rainbow.
How is this when rainbows show every type of light?
Our eyes have only three colour-sensors[1]
so can’t tell a mix of blue light and green
from the aquamarine that lies in between
but know red plus purple isn’t myrtle
so you invent a colour, magenta,[2]
discover the rainbow is not enough
you must have pink.
This prompts us to think that
things reflect the whole spectrum
to different extents.
But some colours don’t exist if they get too intense
To find brown, tone things down
cause the same light
can look orange or yellow[3]
like gray looks white
if the dimness around it makes it look bright.
The amount reflected matters too.
Look, what I’m trying to say to you is colour’s complex,
context dependent, curiously hard to see[4]
how we can judge by the colour of skin
whatever kind of content lies within
when we can’t even pick out from that shade
the actual light waves overlaid so
when we talk of a rainbow of people or preferences
understand that our language has limited references
because people don’t fall onto lines
any more than they fit into boxes,
a spectrum is too small an infinity to capture personality[5]
so if you’ve dared to have a dream
where real people can be seen
because they know what eyes and words don’t show
then you can find me
somewhere over the rainbow

 

[1] There are 4 types of light-sensing cells in eyes, but the three cone cells (2 in the colourblind) are the ones that mainly judge colour. The other cells, rods, specialise in low-light or peripheral vision, and don’t compare results to other cells in order to judge shade most of the time, although they may help in low light. There are, however, a small number of humans with 4 distinctly different cones – functional tetrachromats, who may have higher levels of colour vision.

[2] This is effectively wrapping together the ends of the spectrum to make a loop.

[3] Dark red can also appear brown.

[4] Large amounts of colour vision are ‘filled in’ by the brain, due to the concentration of red and green cones in the fovea – outside the middle of our vision, colour perception is very weak for non-blue colours.

[5] This refers to a slightly technical point about the mathematics of infinity. It can be shown that there are several different types of infinity of differing size. All of the following depend on what assumptions are made about how numbers work, but the most common version is: we can say that the ‘smallest infinity’ is the number of whole numbers (1,2,3…). This is the same as the number of even numbers, as doubling each whole number gets an even number: there is a one-to-one match, so there must be the same number of numbers (even though there are clearly whole numbers that aren’t even). However there are definitely more numbers of any kind between, say, 0 and 1, than there are whole numbers. This is proven by Cantor’s diagonalisation argument. This is usually identified as the ‘next highest infinity’, the continuum, which is the infinity of a (non-pixellated) rainbow. Eyes can only distinguish between a few million (brightness-limited) colours, so can’t even manage the lowest infinity. However an object’s reflection is a function of the light wavelength being reflected with a different possible value at every point in the spectrum. The list of all possible reflection functions is a ‘power set’ of the rainbow, and power sets of infinite lists are always a higher infinity than that of the list. There are a few mathematical caveats that mean this may or may not be true in practice.

Science paper

Our group’s paper is on the front page of Science!
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6280/1430

Basically, a new variety of solar cells called perovskites can re-use light rather than letting it go to waste. Some light hitting solar cells moves electrons around but does not result in electricity, but in these perovskite cells we find that this electron movement can turn back into light rather than being wasted. These solar cells have already generated enormous interest from researchers and businesses due to achieving high levels of efficiency in a very short time and this research suggests an extra factor that might allow us to improve them further. Their best efficiency has recently overtaken conventionally designed silicon solar cell efficiencies and this trick we’ve learned about is what makes the best simple solar cells (made of gallium arsenide) work so well – they make light tens of times before current is generated. There are a number of problems with implementing the same tricks in current perovskite cells (and it’s nowhere near as efficient as in gallium arsenide), but this is another reason to think there is a bright future for solar energy!