Friday, April 06, 2007

With seconds to spare

A few random links...

  • First to a site which I mentioned, perhaps a year ago, but is always worthy of a plug. There's big news in the Beijing music scene this month as Sonic Youth are due out here. The tickets are very expensive but I would love to go and see them, so will attempt to pick some up tomorrow. Pandora is one of the best resources I've found to discover great new music. By selecting a band or song to begin with, this online radio player choses songs based on the style of music from your original choice. By telling the station whether you like a particular track or not it will evolve to give you more and more of the type of music you really like. Listening to a station today seeded with Sonic Youth I've found a host of new bands I'd never previously heard of.
  • Discovery sites (Digg, Pandora, Stumbleupon, del.ici.ous Plime, and presumably many more) are becoming big business and allow the user to find web content based on what other people with similar tastes have liked in the past, rather than based on a specific web search. It's a powerful tool but also an easy way to fritter away time jumping from one interesting site to another, not taking anything of any real content in. It's definitely one of the many new branches of web technology which will be interesting to keep an eye on.
  • On a side note I wonder if anyone has tried to develop a community del.ici.ous site where papers from the ArXiv can be tagged for searching more appropriately than the current search functions available online. At the very least I would like my pdf files to be tagged with the basic information about each paper and not have to type it all into an unweildy title name.

  • While we're on the topic of the ArXiv I'll point to both the papers by Jacob Bourjaily (here and here )and the subsequent positive analysis by Lubos Motl. The papers are geometric engineering of F-theory (a 12 dimensional theory where the complex dilaton-axion of IIB string theory take on a geometric interpretation as the complex structure of a two-torus). The geometry of the compactified dimensions determines the symmetries and matter content of the low energy theory and so in these papers the standard model gauge groups and matter content are constructed via this process of geometric engineering, 'unfolding' from larger gauge groups.
  • Jacob shows that not only is a three flavour standard model a generic feature of a particular (and perhaps natural, from the string theory perspective) orbifold singularity but that smaller gauge groups are more natural from this construction than grand unified theories with large gauge groups. He points out however that the fact that the standard model symmetries aren't completely 'unfolded' is not obvious from this model.
  • Lubos gives a more thorough explanation although the general idea of the papers isn't too difficult to understand, even without knowing the background in great detail.
  • There was lots of news a couple of weeks ago about a huge calculation of the structure of an immense but important symmetry group. I'll just leave this as a series of links, if you want to read the maths there's some fascinating discussion at John Baez's site and if you just want to look at the pictures, well, they're pretty too. The American Institute of Mathematics has some details here, too.
  • The subsequent edition of This Week's Finds also contains a wealth of interesting material on solar flares plus more information about groupoids.
Apart from that I've been rather too busy calculating to read any new science over the last week or so.
  • From the BBC comes the news that the new wing of the Tate Modern has been given the go ahead. Without a doubt it's an exciting piece of art but it has a lot of critics who are not impressed. I like the look from the artist's impressions and the claim that London is becoming riddled with different styles of architecture is a century or so too late. The architects, Herzog and de Meuron, are also the designers behind the Beijing Olympic stadium - The Bird's Nest. I go past this whenever I go to the airport and would love to get there some time to take some photographs myself.
  • My parents recently came back from a trip to Paris where they took this rather fun picture:

This is an original image.

  • From Kevin at the Weifang Radish came some useful hints for internet use in China, definitely good if you want to keep up with blogs and news but don't want the lag of proxies.
Right, the weekend beckons and I have another few hours to work before I start running around the city again. Happy Easter to all...


Chi said...

How are you^^?
wow! pandora is soo goood!
I like it!

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Chi,

I'm doing well, give or take a cold.

Pandora is a great resource, an amazing way to find new music. Glad you like it.

Chat soon,