DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.
For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.
For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.
If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."
The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.
"He showed that the physics inside a hypothetical universe with five dimensions and shaped like a Pringle is the same as the physics taking place on the four-dimensional boundary."
And who said science can't be funny? (and the rest of this is worth the read...)
People are not as stupid as you think they areThis show may poke fun at - or make sob stories out of - people who do the hard, dirty work. But I saw these people expressing concerns, offering ideas and proposing solutions that could make the work friendlier to them and at the same time more efficient and productive for the company. I'd suggest that an executive who has never been on the front lines would have a much harder time reaching the same conclusions. Yet, most corporations find it hard to take ideas that come from the front lines (there's a whole body of work on how and why), despite a general understanding among leadership that it would be a good idea. I'm sure this show is entertaining. And even though the lessons in it are not as rigorous as academic case studies, the points are the same. So I'll choose to ignore the paternalistic, cynical view that Mr. Evans espouses, but rather choose to see an opportunity for a broader audience to learn by example about a shortcoming and opportunity in a business. And I'll hope that a few businesses take the message to heart and do a better job of recognizing the value of their people. Mr. Evans post here:
I watched CBS's new Undercover Boss, and I have a question.
What time is the Revolution?
Unveiling the series in the post-Super Bowl slot, CBS clearly has high hopes for UnBoss, a reality show for the New Depression. Rich man helps poor man. Beneath every Donald Trump there's a George Clooney struggling to breathe free.
Not since Welcome to the Neighborhood--ABC's bright idea in 2005 to build a feel-good program around residential redlining--has a reality show struck me as so clueless, zeitgeistwise. Take away the faux socially responsible trappings and UnBoss is an odious exercise in noblesse oblige. Bring on the tumbrels.
Each UnBoss episode is to feature some corporate big shot going "undercover" to work side by side with the company clock-punchers. The UnBoss inevitably learns the error of his white-collar ways and promises whatever corporate concessions might help the lot of his bedraggled minions.
The debut episode stunk. UnBoss Larry O'Donnell, garbage man-in-chief of Waste Management Inc., visited a sampling of his massive company's outposts, trying his hand at trash-picking with a pointed stick, sorting recyclables on a Lucy-in-the-chocolate factory conveyor belt, driving a garbage truck and cleaning portable johns. During his walk on the menial side, O'Donnell assumed the nom de stiff Randy Lawrence, an unemployed construction worker being filmed for a documentary on entry-level jobs.
The flawed ruse (the workers were playing to a camera, even if not the camera they thought) was easily dismissed as standard reality show phoniness. What made Undercover Boss so repellent was its hard-times play-acting, its purpose nothing more than a weekly halo-placing atop a watered-down Scrooge.
During his seven-day tour of the salt mines, the beneficent O'Donnell/Randy was shown the ropes by one put-upon worker after another, each, in the eyes of this program, more pathetic than the last. There was Janice, a garbage hauler who fretted over the creepy "route managers" who occasionally trail the drivers, even as she peed in a can lest she fail to meet her pick-up quota. And Jaclyn, a 29-year-old administrative assistant/cancer survivor at a landfill doing the work of at least three people, all to support her husband and daughter, her sister and brother-in-law, and her father. In a house under threat of foreclosure.
You get the idea. But we're not done yet. O'Donnell also met the gruff but hardworking Walter, a trash-picker on dialysis, and Sandy, the middle-aged conveyor belt worker who bolted, panicked, from her 30-minute packed lunch so as not to be docked two minutes' pay for each minute late.
O'Donnell's dressing down of Sandy's time-docking supervisor made for queasy viewing, coming off less like a welcome comeuppance than a scapegoat's bullying.
But for condescension, nothing beat the segment with a remarkably chipper portable toilet cleaner named Fred. O'Donnell marveled to the camera at how anyone could take such a "funny and fun" approach to the nasty job. "If we could all be that way," O'Donnell said wistfully, "what a great company we would have."
Fred's reward for putting a shit-eating grin on the face of the world's crappiest job, along with the tying-up of the other Cratchit miseries, was announced by O'Donnell at the company pep-rally ending the episode. Gone the scruffy beard, work boots and tearful empathy of Randy Lawrence, replaced with the rootsy, feel-your-pain air of an executive who has been properly media-trained. (That crooked index-finger jab is a dead-giveaway.)
Happy Fred got invited to speak with senior management, apparently to boost morale (whose, exactly, wasn't clear). That two-minute penalty? Fixed. The overworked mom was promoted to a salaried job, the trash picker landed some paid time off to counsel other dialysis patients (unless I missed it, not his idea), and the can-urinator learned that a task force would be formed "to make an environment that works for you."
Nothing like a task force to relieve a full bladder.
Judging by the time slot, CBS sees big potential in targeting today's angry middle-class--Right or Left, Tea Party or Progressive--and stands ready to entertain and assuage with Big Daddy promises, Band-aid solutions, and camera-friendly group hugs. Maybe they even asked a task force to study it.
But I wonder if anyone at CBS heard something ominous during The Who's halftime performance, something under the crowd's roar as Roger Daltry sang that bitter ode from another age.
"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."
SAP Chief Quits; Co-CEO Steps In
The New Golden Age
The history of investment and technology suggests that economic recovery is closer than you think, with a new silicon-based global elite at the helm.
Recession. Depression. War. Terrorism. Unemployment. Enemies on the march. Every day the headlines remind us that there is plenty to worry about and more than enough real suffering to try our souls.
And yet, if we step back and take a longer view, we see that industrial society has been here before. The global economy is poised to enter a new phase of robust, dependable growth. Technological and economic historian Carlota Perez calls it a “golden age.” Such ages occur roughly every 60 years, and they last for a decade or more, part of a long cycle of technological change and financial activity. (See Exhibit 1.)