The Wonder of Chocolate

Thanks to Jesus Diaz for sharing this amazing video of cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire actually tasting chocolate for the first time!

Jesus adds:

Watching them marvel about this sweet food that comes from the beans they harvest is amazing to me. First, because it’s a joy to see their faces. Then, because it’s a stark reminder of how amazingly lucky we are.

For us westerners chocolate is just one more thing. It’s inconsequential. We like to eat it, sometimes we get delighted by it for a minute. But more often than not it’s just one more snack to stuff our fat faces with. We don’t think about it and the incredible effort and resources that are required to make it. We take it for granted along with the other billion foods and the other billion other technologies and privileges we didn’t fight for.

I’m not posting this to be preachy. This comes from a place of true wonder, to remind myself about my own comfortable numbness and the hundred things that I take for granted every day. One day something fatal will happen and then you will realize how much time you wasted whining about this or that rather than enjoying the infinite amount of awesome (yes, everything is awesome!) stuff that exists around you.


Quantum Cheshire Cats

Scientists have created an effect comparable to a subatomic Cheshire cat. Rather than a grin that has been separated from its cat, they have created a property of magnetic moment (I’ll not pretend I understand what that is) separated from its neutron. As Stephen Luntz explains,

In the classical world we are familiar with the idea that a property like magnetic moment cannot be separated from its object – it would be like taking the taste away from a chocolate bar so that the bar produced no sensation on the tongue, but a disembodied taste could be detected somewhere quite distinct.

However, things work differently in the world of the very small. In the 1990s, Professor Yakir Aharonov of Tel Aviv University proposed the properties could indeed be detached from particles (his book explaining it is delightfully subtitled Quantum Theory for the Perplexed). The idea develops on Schrödinger’s famous feline thought-experiment. However, instead of ending up with a live and dead cat, you have a cat without its properties, and properties without the cat. The naming after Carroll’s Cheshire moggy was inevitable.


Denkmayr and his co-authors…temporarily removed the magnetic moment from the neutrons using an interferometer. They used a silicon crystal to split a neutron beam and reported, “The experimental results suggest that the system behaves as if the neutrons go through one beam path, while their magnetic moment travels along the other.” The beams were then reunited, leaving no disembodied magnetic moments prowling the universe.

It’s a Good Thing She Didn’t Just Blow Up the Place

Check out Aaron Goldberg, “Powering Disney’s Frozen with a Carnot Refrigerator,” Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics 3 (19 Feb 2014). Here’s the abstract:

Frozen is Disney’s latest film, in which the character Elsa unleashes winter on her entire kingdom. This paper quantifies the amount of water frozen and the amount of work required by a Carnot refrigerator to do so, arriving at values of 5.49772788 x 10^2 moles and 5.8 x 10^15 Joules, respectively.

You can read about how a Carnot refrigerator works here. Basically, it is possible to harness a temperature difference between two reservoirs to generate work (a Carnot engine). But you can turn the equation around and harness work to create this difference of temperature. This effect is called a Carnot refrigerator.

In layman’s terms this means

It has been shown that in Frozen, Elsa froze approximately 5.5 x 10^12 moles of water. To accomplish Elsa’s feat, a Carnot refrigerator would require 5.8 x 10^15 Joules of energy. This amount is equivalent to the energy released by the Hiroshima nuclear bomb 115 times over, or that released by 63 Nagasaki nuclear bombs. This immense number puts Elsa’s power into perspective, implying either that the Snow Queen has enormous strength, or that Disney underestimated the ramifications of their animated fantasy.


I’m going with the second option on this one, but it would still be pretty cool if Elsa could generate enough energy to basically hold her own with the likes of Superman or the incredible Hulk. That’s a movie I’d go see.

(H/T: io9)

If Amazon Goes Bad…

I’ll be the first to tell you that my fiction writing is a hobby that (somewhat) pays for itself. I’m not trying to make a living doing this, just sharing a little bit of my craziness with the world. If that changes in the future, I’ll let you know. (Not the craziness: that’s not going to change.)

A rather significant conversation among those who are trying to make a living as an indie author has to do with Amazon and what happens if the company gets too big (if it isn’t already) and decides to use its monopolistic power inappropriately.

On that front, my friend Jennifer Becton has some helpful words. If anybody knows the indie author beat, it’s Jennifer. Listen to what she has to say.

Sunday Inspiration: Books

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of magic.
—Carl Sagan