Saturday, February 25, 2012

Light pulled from thin air

It is amazing what we are still discovering, thanks Mac for the article.

Late last year, with little fanfare, Chris Wilson and his team at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden pulled off the seemingly impossible. They managed to create light out of thin air.

In the process, they also proved what many physicists like Hal Puthoff, director of the institute for Advanced Studies at Austin in Texas, have maintained for many years - that empty space is not empty at all, but a plenum of energy and possibility, something that we can tap into at will.

The study was designed to offer first proof of a phenomenon known as the Casimir Effect.

Teeming with energy
In order to understand the magnitude of their discovery, it’s important to understand some things about so-called empty space. For the uninitiated, since the discovery of quantum physics, many quantum physicists have understood that empty space is not empty at all, but a place teeming with subatomic particles, constantly passing energy back and forth as if in an endless game of basketball.

All elementary particles interact through what are considered temporary or ‘virtual’ quantum particles, combining and annihilating each other in less than an instant.

The back-and-forth passes of these virtual particles, akin to two people taking turns constantly depositing and withdrawing the same amount of money from a bank, are known collectively as the Zero Point Field. The field is called “zero point” because even at temperatures of absolute zero, when all matter theoretically should stop moving, these tiny fluctuations are still detectable.

Disturbances in The Field
Although all matter is surrounded with zero-point energy, which bombards a given object uniformly, there have been some instances where disturbances in the Field could actually be measured.

One such disturbance was discovered in the 1940s, when a Dutch physicist named Hendrik Casimir demonstrated that two metal plates placed close together will actually form an attraction that appears to pull them closer together.

This is because when two plates are placed near each other, the zero-point waves between the plates are restricted to those that essentially span the gap. Since some wavelengths of the field are excluded, this leads to a disturbance in the equilibrium of the field and the result is an imbalance of energy, with less energy in the gap between the plates than in the outside empty space. This greater energy density pushes the two metal plates together, and this attractive force is called the ‘Casimir Effect.’ [AC1]

In the Swedish study, Wilson and his colleagues wanted to create a real demonstration of the ‘dynamical’ Casimir Effect, as predicted in the 1970s by an American physicist named Gerald Moore.

Moore had turned the Casimir Effect on its head. Instead of examining the effect of squeezing the vacuum and creating an attractive force between two plates, he believed that if you moved the plates together fast enough, you’d squash the wavelengths between them so much that the Zero Point Field would have to yield up some of its energy in the form of photons. In this way, he figured, you would transform virtual particles of light into true photons – or light beams.

To do this was no mean feat, though; you’d have to take these virtual photons and bounce them off a mirror traveling close to the speed of light.

Ingenious machine
Obviously there are problems trying to get any mirror, let alone a teensy mirror of the size of two subatomic particles, to move that fast. So Wilson and his colleagues came up with an ingenious solution through the use of varying electrical currents and a Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID), a quantum electronic component highly sensitive to the slightest of changes in magnetic fields. By passing a magnetic field through the SQUID, moving a mirror slightly and switching the magnetic field several billions of times a second at 5 per cent of the speed of light, they were able to simulate the effect of extremely fast-moving mirrors.

The result was a shower of sparks, exactly as Moore had predicted, all photons wrenched loose from the Zero Point Field.

The sea of virtual light had produced real light.

Significant breakthrough
The Chalmer team’s experiment, written up as a tiny news item in Nature magazine, was quickly latched onto by scientists and the lay public alike as one of the most unusual experimental proofs of quantum mechanics in recent years. It quickly became the most popular story at the Nature News site and was cited as one of the top ten breakthroughs of 2011.

A number of scientists realized the import of the Wilson experiment; by a little manipulation here and there of the Field you should be able to create certain pressures to push apart objects and so create machines that run on thin air.

Although the rank and file refuse to acknowledge The Field, an increasing number of scientists maintain that it accounts for everything from the Big Bang to all the Through-the-Looking-Glass properties of subatomic matter. Wilson himself wants to see if he can simulate the Big Bang with a variation of his SQUID experiment.

The Chalmers team’s discovery is the most dramatic demonstrations of the potential energy sitting out there in empty space. Although the study doesn’t offer any practical application, because it didn’t generate a large number of photons, Wilson hopes that it will demonstrate, once and for all, that the extraordinary energy-rich power of the Zero Point Field is, as one scientist put it, a Cosmic free lunch of free untapped energy.

But first mainstream science must begin to understand that in the universe out there, what you see is not all what you get.

Founding new businesses is not a monopoly of the young, even if it seems so nowadays

The topic of the day, you can no longer expect to retire. What does this mean?  Oscar Wilde said America went headlong from Barbarism to Decadence and missed out civilization,  most of us know in sales that when you miss out a step you always have to come back and repeat the missed step in order to get to a close.

How relevant for the USA? New business's will be started by us older mates focused on something we passionate about. So rather than huge meals, coffee or cakes it will be about quality. A renaissance of sorts We can already see it with Starbucks and their concept stores which are more refined and offering different flavors of coffee and now moving to utilize the store as many hours a day with wine and cheese. Aivars Lode



Enterprising oldies

Founding new businesses is not a monopoly of the young, even if it seems so nowadays

“A LAZY bastard living in a suit” is Leonard Cohen’s description of himself in his new album, “Old Ideas”. Mr Cohen is certainly fond of wearing a suit, on and off stage. But lazy seems a bit harsh. He is 77, which is 12 years beyond the normal retirement age in Canada, where he was born. But there is no sign of his laying down his guitar. He spent 2008-10 on tour, performing on stage in Barcelona on his 75th birthday. “Old Ideas” has won widespread acclaim. Mr Cohen says he has written enough songs for another album.
In the 1960s pop was a young person’s business. The Who hoped they died before they got old. Bob Dylan berated middle-aged squares like Mr Jones in “Ballad of a Thin Man”. But today age is no barrier to success. The Rolling Stones are still touring in their 60s. Bob Dylan’s songwriting skills, if not his vocal chords, have survived intact. Sir Paul McCartney warbles on.
It is time to do for enterprise what such ageing rockers have done for pop music: explode the myth that it is a monopoly of the young. This idea has been powerfully reinforced by the latest tech boom: Facebook, Google and Groupon were all founded by people in their 20s or teens. Mark Zuckerberg, aged 27, will soon be able to count his years on earth in billions of dollars. But the trend is not confined to tech: Michael Reger was a founder of one of America’s most innovative energy companies, Northern Oil and Gas, aged 30.
The rise of the infant entrepreneur is producing a rash of ageism, particularly among venture capitalists. Why finance a 40-year-old (with a family and mortgage) when you can back a 20-year-old who will work around the clock for peanuts and might be the next Mr Zuckerberg? But it is not hard to think of counter-examples: Mark Pincus was 41 when he founded Zynga and Arianna Huffington was 54 when she created the Huffington Post.
Research suggests that age may in fact be an advantage for entrepreneurs. Vivek Wadhwa of Singularity University in California studied more than 500 American high-tech and engineering companies with more than $1m in sales. He discovered that the average age of the founders of successful American technology businesses (ie, ones with real revenues) is 39. There were twice as many successful founders over 50 as under 25, and twice as many over 60 as under 20. Dane Stangler of the Kauffman Foundation studied American firms founded in 1996-2007. He found the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity among people aged between 55 and 64—and the lowest rate among the Google generation of 20- to 34-year-olds. The Kauffman Foundation’s most recent study of start-ups discovered that people aged 55 to 64 accounted for nearly 23% of new entrepreneurs in 2010, compared with under 15% in 1996.
Experience continues to count for a great deal, in business as in other walks of life—or, to borrow a phrase from P.J. O’Rourke, age and guile can still beat “youth, innocence and a bad haircut”. It is one thing to invent a clever new product but quite another to hire employees or build a sales machine. And even when it comes to breakthrough ideas, age may still be an asset. Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Bruce Weinberg of Ohio State University examined the careers of Nobel prize-winners in chemistry, physics and medicine. They found that the average age at which these stars made their greatest innovations is now higher than it was a century ago. Mr Wadhwa speculates that many of the most promising businesses in future will result from the mating of two subjects that each take years to understand—robotics and biology, say, or medicine and nanotechnology.
Experience may be nothing if it is not linked to mould-breaking creativity. But there are plenty of older people who are capable of breaking moulds. Ray Kroc was in his 50s when he began building the McDonald’s franchise system, and Colonel Harland Sanders was in his 60s when he started the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain. David Ogilvy worked as a chef and a spy before turning to advertising in his late 30s, an age when Bill Gates reinvented himself as a philanthropist. The late Steve Jobs was as creative in his second stint at Apple, from 1995 to 2011, as in his first.
This is not to say that the rise of young entrepreneurs like Mr Zuckerberg is insignificant. The barriers that once discouraged enterprise among the young are collapsing. Social networks make it easier to build contacts. Knowledge-intensive industries require relatively little capital. But the fact that barriers are collapsing for the young does not mean that they are being erected for greybeards. The point is that the creation of fast-growing businesses is now open to everybody regardless of age.
Back on the road again
The evidence that older people are if anything becoming more enterprising should help to calm two of the biggest worries that hang over the West (and indeed over an ageing China). One is that the greying of the population will inevitably produce economic sluggishness. The second is that older people will face hard times as companies shed older workers in the name of efficiency and welfare states cut back on their pensions.
Here, Mr Cohen is a man for our times. In 2004 he faced financial ruin when he discovered that his manager, Kelley Lynch, had misappropriated most of his savings. He sued successfully but could not lay his hands on the money. So he had no choice but to go back to work. Mr Cohen told the New York Times that reconnecting with “living musicians” and “living audiences” had “warmed some part of my heart that had taken a chill”. Let us hope the same is true of the ageing boomers who will have little choice but to embrace self-employment as the West’s welfare states discover that they cannot keep their promises.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

For boomers, it's a new era of 'work til you drop'

Many of you who have heard me talk about what happened in Australia in the 90's is now happening here in the USA. I have also commented that the stimulus packages have just delayed the realization that changes need to take place, like retirees understanding that they will have to continue to work for a  lot longer. Looks like that day has arrived. In Australia during the 90's many new business where created around something that people were passionate about. Making their own wine opening a gourmet restaurant or making the best croissant known to man.  This will be an exciting decade to experience the new pleasures that will be bought to us out of the current perceived hardship.  Aivars Lode

Steve Wyard, right, a 61-year-old regional sales director at All Valley Washer Service, chats with his colleague Larry Erlichman in their office in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles. Wyard and his wife have two sons, 19 and 21, to put through college, and they see that pushing back retirement for several years.
Buy Photo AP
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.
When Paula Symons joined the U.S. workforce in 1972, typewriters in her office clacked nonstop, people answered the telephones and the hot new technology revolutionizing communication was the fax machine.
Symons, fresh out of college, entered this brave new world thinking she'd do pretty much what her parents' generation did: Work for just one or two companies over about 45 years before bidding farewell to co-workers at a retirement party and heading off into her sunset years with a pension.
Forty years into that run, the 60-year-old communications specialist for a Wisconsin-based insurance company has worked more than a half-dozen jobs. She's been laid off, downsized and seen the pension disappear with only a few thousand dollars accrued when it was frozen.
So, five years from the age when people once retired, she laughs when she describes her future plans.
"I'll probably just work until I drop," she says, a sentiment expressed, with varying degrees of humor, by numerous members of her age group.
Like 78 million other U.S. Baby Boomers, Symons and her husband had the misfortune of approaching retirement age at a time when stock market crashes diminished their 401(k) nest eggs, companies began eliminating defined benefit pensions in record numbers and previously unimagined technical advances all but eliminated entire job descriptions from travel agent to telephone operator.
At the same time, companies began moving other jobs overseas, to be filled by people willing to work for far less and still able to connect to the U.S. market in real time.

"The paradigm has truly shifted. Now when you're looking for a job you're competing in a world where the competition isn't just the guy down the street, but the guy sitting in a cafe in Hong Kong or Mumbai," says Bill Vick, a Dallas-based executive recruiter who started in an effort to help Baby Boomers who want to stay in the workforce.
Not only has the paradigm shifted, but as it has the generation whose mantra used to be, "Don't trust anyone over 30," finds itself now being looked on with distrust by younger Generation X managers who question whether boomers have the high-tech skills or even the stamina to do what needs to be done.
"I always have the feeling that I have to prove my value all the time. That I'm not some old relic who doesn't understand social media or can't learn some new technique," says Symons, who is active on Twitter and Facebook, loves every new time-saving software app that comes down the pike, and laughs at the idea of ever sending another fax.
"Ahh, that's just so archaic," she says.
Meanwhile, as companies have downsized, boomers have been hurt to some degree by their own sheer numbers, says Ed Lawler of the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
The oldest ones, Lawler says, aren't retiring, and more and more the youngest members of the generation ahead of them aren't either. It's no longer uncommon, he says, for people to work until 70.
"People who would have normally been out of the workforce are still there, taking jobs that would have gone to what we now call the unemployed," he said.
John Stewart of Springfield, Mo., sees himself becoming part of that new generation that never stops working.
"No, I don't see myself retiring," says Stewart, who is media director for a large church. "I think I would be bored if I just all of a sudden quit everything and did whatever it is retired people do."
Then there are the financial considerations. Like many boomers, the 60-year-old acknowledges he didn't put enough aside when he was younger.

For more than 30 years, Stewart ran his own photography business, doing everything from studio portraits to illustrating annual reports for hospitals and other large corporations to freelancing for national magazines and newspapers.
As the news media began to struggle, the magazine and newspaper work dried up. As the economy tanked, his large corporate clients began to use cheaper stock photos purchased online rather than hire him to take new ones. Eventually he took his current job, producing videos of pastors' sermons and photos for church publications. He says he is glad to be one boomer to make a late career change and keep working.
"There were times when the money was really rolling in," he says of his old business. "But somehow retirement wasn't really in the forefront of my thinking then, so saving for it wasn't an automatic thing."
Steve Wyard, of Los Angeles, says he and his wife have planned carefully for retirement.
He's worked for 30 years for a company that sells and services commercial washers and dryers, and she's been with a health maintenance organization for even longer. They've invested cautiously, lived in the same house for decades and meticulously paid down the mortgage.
Plus he's one of the few boomers who figures that, no matter what technology comes along, his job won't go away.
"Everyone has to do the laundry," he says.
Still, he and his wife have two sons, 19 and 21, to put through college, and Wyard, 61, sees that pushing back retirement for several years.
Until then he plans to keep working, which is what every physically able boomer should consider doing, says USC's Lawler.
Union membership, which has been declining for years, now includes only about 10 percent of all eligible U.S. employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the number of defined benefit retirement funds offered by private enterprise have fallen from about one in three employers in 1990 to about one in five in 2005.

With unions no longer in a strong position to fight for benefits like pensions, with jobs disappearing or going overseas, and with Gen Xers and even younger Millennial Generation members coveting their jobs, Lawler warns this is no time for boomers to quit and allow the skills they've spent a lifetime building to atrophy.
"My advice is above all don't retire," he says. "If you like your job at all, hold onto it. Because getting back in in this era is essentially impossible."