Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bach and Webern - Jacaranda Music

My jaw dropped last evening when I heard and saw Tereza Lucia Stanislav's rendition of Bach's "Chaconne" from Partita for Violin No. 2, which he wrote sometime between 1717-1723.  It is arguably one of the hardest pieces that had been written for the violin at that time.  It is a very challenging piece to master and is divided into five movements, where the concluding movement Ciaconna (English Chaconne) enjoys a disproportionately larger chunk of time.  The audience were on their feet the moment Tereza Stanislav's violin hit its last note.  The applause was deafening!  My jaw was still wide open.  

I was at the Second Presbyterian Church on Second Street, Santa Monica, continuing my musical adventure from classical into modernism with the help of Jacaranda.  It is such a delight, and joy to have music of this quality and variety in Los Angeles.  For the last one year Jacaranda (Patrick Scott and Mark Alan Hilt) has been organizing a series of concerts based around Olivier Messiaen's works which they dub, "The OM Century."  Last night's program was a roller-coaster ride between classical music and modernism.  The evening both opened and closed with Bach.  In between we heard Anton Webern's quirky, atonal masterpieces.  The pieces were performed by the highly talented Denali Quartet lead by Timothy Loo who did a phenomenal job in Webern's Two Pieces for Cello and Piano (1899).  I also enjoyed a Webern piece that was performed by Sarah Thornblade on the violin accompanied by Gloria Cheng on the piano.  

The concert lasted for over two hours with an intermission in between.  During the intermission, while I was sipping on some coffee, I wondered what Bach would have thought of, had he been sitting in the audience and listening to Webern's pieces.  Would he have been able to trace his musical genes to Webern's atonal masterpieces?  

The second half opened up with Webern's Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5 (1909).  The five movements alternate between slow and lively rhythms.  Some of them are quite dark and none of them are too long.  To appreciate Webern you have to understand that he packed so much in so little.  His power of distilling notes and ripping the notion of classical quartets into just a duet between a piano and a violin or into a string trio is what one must look for.  

I had been looking forward to this concert for two months and I came out of last evening's performance with a big smile, light-headed and brilliantly mesmerized.  I thank Jacaranda and the Denali Quartet for putting up such a deeply moving program.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jake Lee-High @ Fringe Exhibitions

After finishing up my quota of Saturday reading, I felt like socializing with friends and strangers and so I jumped into my car and headed toward Chung King Court in China Town, downtown Los Angeles.  While I love doing things on a whim, my excursion to China Town was a planned one. My friend Matt Harmon who is a student at SCIARC (Southern California Institute of Architecture) had sent me an invite to an art installation opening called "Rain Field" over at Fringe Exhibitions in China Town by Jake Lee-High.  

By the time I arrived at Chung King Court, I had inhaled a very healthy dose of ash and smoke that had been infesting the air in southern California due to the Sylmar and Yorba Linda wild fires.  The galleries are all lined next to each other, but if you wander a few feet away, you will run into restaurants, and stores selling Chinese junk jewelry and souvenirs - touristy, commercial stuff.  I entered gallery 504 and was immediately enveloped in darkness, humidity, and a very earthy, raw smell.  The room was completely empty, except for a 12 feet by 12 feet black platform on the floor which was lined by a foamy plastic material.  Underneath the foam the platform was lined with 117 piezoelectric metal points.  A piezoelectric material expands and contracts as you apply a voltage across it.  The platform was doused in suspended subdued lighting from the ceiling.  I felt as if I was in some Ray Bradbury sci-fi novel or on some alien technology in a distant part of our galaxy ready to be teleported back to Earth.   

The idea of this installation was to give the audience a feeling of the dynamics of a weather system.  There were UV cameras and fans installed high up in the corners of the various walls that detected the motion of a person while he/she would be walking on the platform.  This motion would cause the piezoelectronics to respond which would in turn create sounds of rain droplets, slight rumble of clouds and the humidity that I felt in the air when I walked in.  I talked to Jake Lee-High and he explained to me that the inspiration for this project was his childhood memory of watching rain storms in Virginia.  He wanted to recreate that experience, and I think he did a marvelous job. 

I think there were too many people standing on the platform, and too many people surrounding it to completely enjoy the experience of what Jake had created.  But then again it was opening night and you couldn't possibly ask people to go inside one at a time.  I think it will be a marvelous idea to go to the gallery on a weeknight when there is no one about and just walk slowly on the platform or sit and meditate and enjoy the idiosyncrasies of the simulated weather systems.  

Here are the details on the exhibition:

504 Chung King Ct, Los Angeles, CA 90012
phone number: 213.613.0160
Exhibition Dates: November 15 – December 20, 2008
Gallery Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 12 – 6 PM and by appointment

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breaking Quantum Encryption

My advisor, Todd Brun, and colleagues Jim Harrington, and Mark Wilde recently uploaded a paper on arXiv that shows how one can break quantum key-distribution using closed time-like curves.  Their method allows one to distinguish perfectly between non-orthogonal states which is the key (no pun intended) to break quantum key-distribution protocols.  An article in the recent Science News explains the result.   
The arXiv paper is here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Brewery Art Walk

Where will I be next weekend (Nov. 1 + 2) you ask? Why I will be sauntering, and immersing in some of the finest art that Los Angeles has to offer to folks on this side of globe. It will be a spectacular spectacle of artsy proportions. If you love watching people, then you surely don't want to miss this. I was at the Brewery couple of years ago and enjoyed the experience. The art walk is free along with parking and it starts at 11:00 am and ends at 6:00 on Nov. 1 and 2.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

HELP! - Baby Bunnies Need a Home

My dear friend Lejla Hadzimuratovic has been involved with finding homes for baby bunnies. So far she has been able to save and find good and caring homes for 102 bunnies. She is an advocate for animal rights, and she at the risk of her own life, was able to get these bunnies out of deplorable and gut-wrenching conditions in Santee Alley, downtown, Los Angeles. You wouldn't want to be in or around that place, trust me! These vendors were selling these bunnies illegally.

When she found these baby bunnies they were only 8 to 21 days old. Right now she is left with 36 babies (8 WEEKS OLD) that DESPERATELY need a loving home TODAY. Please let her or myself know if you would like to adopt a couple or if you know of good soul who can. They are very cute, adorable and make great house pets. She wishes that she could keep them all, but she already has quite a few of her own. She can no longer keep them at her place as the folks who manage her residence have already issued her a warning that Animal Control will take these gorgeous baby bunnies away and they may end up back in Santee Alley yet again. Back to hell!

Please get in touch with me through this blog by leaving a comment or e-mailing me at bilalsha[at]usc[dot]edu. You can also get in touch directly with Lejla at
310 498-8600. Can it really be that hard to find a few homes that will take these remaining 36 bunnies? We need your help. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Writer's Festival at Whittier College

I have been attending the writer's festival at Whittier College for the past two days. On Monday, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Nilo Cruz read from his prize-winning play "Anna in the Tropics." He also read from his upcoming new play called "Interpreter of Desires." The latter is about an American man who is living in Cuba at the brink of the revolution and who hires an actress to play the part of a woman he loves but who has gone missing. Nilo talked about his life, things that inspire him, ideas on how to write plays and how he does not really think that there is such a thing as a writer's block. It was quite an evening.
Yesterday, I found myself yet again in Shannon Center at Whittier College listening to two extraordinary women of Persian and Palestinian descent talking about their lives, and afterward reading aloud their poetry. Sholeh Wolpe read a few poems from three different books "Rooftops of Tehran," "Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad," and "The Scar Saloon." Her poems are simple, honest, yet powerful and will shake you to your core. She makes you think about the politics of a nation through what the individual has suffered. Some of the poems she read were quite serious, heavy and laden with beautiful imagery and metaphor. She also read a couple that were more on the light-hearted side.
Nathalie Handal having been raised in Latin America, having lived in France and now New York is a treasure-trove of languages and cultures. This really comes across in her writing and in her reading style. The gesture of her fingers would remind me of an Arabic woman's gesture, while the sway of her hips and the intensity of her delivery made me think of someone from the Caribbean or Latin America.
I could identify parts of my life with both of these women. They are both first generation Americans, both of them poets, both of them have written extensively about political strife in their native lands, and both can bring this about through the human element. I am thankful to my friend Tony Barnstone who invited me to these readings and who himself happens to be an excellent poet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Agamemnon at the Getty Villa

I was looking forward to last evening. Right after my research group meeting I made my way to the corner of Pardee Way and Exposition Blvd on the USC campus. Why was I walking toward the - dare I say - business part the campus? The Visions and Voices folks had set up shop there for students to collect tickets, have dinner, listen to a lecture on Greek theater [tragic] and then board a shuttle that would take us to the Getty Villa where we would sit under a starry night and be transported to ancient Greece.

Even though I live so close to the Getty Villa, I had not visited it until last night. It took us only forty-five minutes to get to the Villa. By the time we got there it was almost ten-to-seven. The evening air from the Pacific was cool and I felt as if I had been transported to ancient Rome. The Villa was modeled after an actual Roman one that was buried during the Mt. Vesuvius eruption. We were allowed to wander around the Villa before the start of the play and so I visited the museum for a while. The Getty Villa has an impressive collection of Greek and Roman artifacts. Unfortunately I had only forty-five minutes to check them out. I must go there again, just for the museum.

The amphitheater was doused in subdued lighting which was perfect because we could actually see a starry sky. We were surrounded by the Malibu hills and the mood was very festive and positive. Incidentally, I saw Laura Linney roaming around with her fiance and longtime boyfriend Eric Schauer, both of whom later joined the audience. I recently saw her in "The Squid and the Whale" and her performance was excellent.

Agamemnon was played by Delroy Lindo, while Tyne Daly played Agamemnon's wife Clytaemnestra. Each and everyone gave a strong performance. But I was shaken and stirred by Francesca Faridany's performance of Cassandra which was riveting and I was so completely drawn in, that it jolted and carried my mind to new heights. I was absolutely ecstatic and full of goosebumps on my arms and my spine. The play was written by Aeschylus who lived in Greece between 525 B.C. and 456 B.C. After more than a thousand years, it is still being performed and some of the values that the play touches upon are true to this day. I wonder if he ever realized while he was writing the play that he would be forever immortalized and one day become as famous and as well-known as the gods of his time.

The play ends this month and all the performances are sold-out! I thank the USC Visions and Voices initiative that allowed me to be part of something truly wonderful and awe-inspiring.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Categorically Not - Bubbles

The monthly installment of Categorically Not is back for this season with three bubblicious talks at the Santa Monica Art Studios tonight starting at 6:30 pm. You can read more about it here:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ted Vasin's Art @ Tarryn Teresa Gallery - Bergamot Station

Here I was sitting at home on a Saturday evening when I called my dear friend Matthew who reminded of Bergamot Station's monthly art opening. He invited me to the Tarryn Teresa gallery. Unfortunately I showed up a bit late and missed out on some apparently good music, which I believe was a mix of electronica/techno/industrial beats. The music was part of the art installation and was intended to complement the latter and I think it did that quite beautifully. As I entered the gallery, my visual senses were blown away by seeing Ted Vasin's art. He has this inane ability to evoke other-worldly moods through his abstractions. The colors are very pop-artsy. The abstract landscape in the various pieces reminded me of vistas on some deserted and dilapidated alien planet, in fact something out of the Sigourney Weaver movie "Aliens" - but more colorful. Somebody pointed to me that the paintings resembled a kid's "paint-by-numbers" color book. I enjoyed watching and absorbing the way he chops up the space on the canvas. It is as if a samurai warrior scathed a line and asymmetrically divied up the white space. You can see colorful gashes, alienesque vertebrae and I for one recognized a face that resembled one of the characters from the early nineties hit cartoon TV series, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." My friend Matthew pointed out how the various flexible lines in the paintings resembled the wires wrapped around the synthesizers that were pumping out the electronica beats. I visited some other galleries as well and I liked couple of them.

When I was on my way out, I fortunately walked into Ethan Murrow's art installation and saw his work. I was absolutely shocked, and astounded. The simplicity of his art from a distance is breathtaking. The entire media is just graphite and paper! That's IT! His pieces are big, and they remind one of posters from the nineteenth century. However, when you go closer you can see that Ethan has a huge skill-set when it comes to shading and using light. His strokes are brilliant and his variation is infinite. There was a piece entitled, "The Allure is undeniable," that depicted a man waist-deep in water in a pond/lake. He brings out the ripples of the water quite remarkably. Now here's an artist who has spent hours thinking about water-ripples. In fact, he later told me that this was the hardest thing he had to do in all of his pieces. It took him anywhere from six to eight weeks to finish a single piece. Healso pointed out how doing art can be like any other job where one has to find the discipline to come into the studio on time and do one's work. He also told me how he used pure graphite pencils from 4H all the way to 9B. I love sketching and using charcoal, but compared to him, I am just a toddler. I did, however, get some good ideas.

It was quite the night. Gorgeous people, some good art, and beautiful California weather! Tarryn Teresa was a great hostess as usual and so were her friends, in particular Sterling. If you are bored at home, or watching too much TV, and live on the west-side, I suggest hopping over to the Tarryn Teresa gallery and checking out the art. It is good for the soul. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Other Side of The World

I was born on the other side of the world.
I grew up with passion for
a perfect cup of tea
and a sense for moral duty.
I was taught to do good
in this world.
But there are days when I stand alone.
These are the days when I reflect,
on how I was bad.
In my mind these are vivid days,
like an icicle reflecting a glass shard
Do I believe in a God?
Or are you asking if I believe in sin?
Life is a balance between black and white
etching a negative shade of grey.
I don’t think I am duty-bound to anyone.
I have often found that an argument
that leads to success can only be borne
out of clarity.
Am I a conscious being, you ask?
I am intuitive, I retort,
as I lie in the sun to bask.
Was there ever an emotion
more intense than hate?
Whereas I often think that
“beautiful” can be so vague.
The secret to a happy existence
is in finding contentment.
Why let your soul become complicated?
Why let your heart be negative?
In the end we all enter Earth.
Order and chaos, come and go in cycles
The ones who remain are the dominant
who eliminate the weaker
thus revealing Darwinian evolution.
I hope my knowledge-thirst never runs thin
for there are many an impact yet to be made
through long nights
and an immovable conviction.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Word Game

You erupted out of a piece of glass shard
Soaring above white cotton-candy clouds
The foreground emerges like a specter.
It colors itself and after a while
The contents of a locked heart
float above Earth, like bubbles
blown with some lip-flirtation
Rising up and above into empty space.
Isn't the heart asymmetric,
scrambling my mind into scrambled eggs,
as I anticipate your next move?
As you rotate your hips
and shift your canvas
in halftones, in fulltones,
in tones that seem complicated,
I can't help, but pull inwards
and ask myself how mindlessly,
I accelerated my heart into oblivion.
I dared and tried,
to enjoy your collection,
of beautiful, paintings which were
on the one hand lumpy, and on the other
seemed to give birth to a vast array of
leaky lines.
They magnified an infinite horizon of
infinite, multiple dots,
all connected in a delicate grid,
all balanced and full of passion.
These overlapping shapes, spilling
with sin-laden cognition,
draw attractive symbols,
cluttered with trashy, invertible
intuitive surfaces on a piece of
Perhaps in hindsight, all of love and life
is a collage of irreversible
mixture of colors.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I see your canvas splashed,
brushed with treks and lines of red,
my soul skips a beat,
even when there is no beat.
The orange in your paintings
feels as if my tongue is tasting
orange peeled in the middle
of a hot summer's day.
These black lines you etch
from the Arctic circle
to the end of Earth
engulf color, vigor, life and zest.
Death sits in the crevices,
and I know, know this
that life revolves around it.
Bands of blue shoot up,
through the stratosphere,
traveling the empty expanse of space,
and pierce our globe of golden fire,
shattering and pouring yellows,
reds, and mixture of pinks in the
hair of your paintbrush.
I know not what will become of us.
But this I know:
your colors enter my veins.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bubblicious Categorically Not

The new fall season is just around the corner and I am very excited about all the cool, fun and interesting things happening around Los Angeles. I have been attending K.C. Cole's "Categorically Not" series for the last two years. It is a series of salon-style based talks with three speakers speaking on a single topic. The catch is that they talk about the topic from their perspective, from their point-of-view. For the fall '08 season the series starts off with "Bubbles." I am sure it is going to be an eye and ear opener for all of us. The "Bubbles" talk is scheduled for September 14th at 6:30 pm at the Santa Monica Art Studios a.k.a "The Hangar." Yes, I know that it is still quite a ways away, but I like to give folks an early head-start. So jot down the date and time in your calendars. I am excited about this talk because I'd like to hear Perrin Chilles thoughts on autism. I had worked with a really gifted and talented autistic girl as a freshman in Whittier College. I am pasting a description of the talk from the "Categorically Not" website:

Bubble wrap or soap suds; champagne or soda pop; breakers or bread; all are built on bubbles. So, in a sense, are we—for any egg or seed is a kind of bubble enclosing a new life, and every cell in our bodies is a permeable membrane (a bubble) chock full of complicated molecular machinery that makes us go. Galaxies drape across the sky in what appear to be cosmic-scale bubbles; our universe may be one bubble among many, ever bubbling out of the void. Financial bubbles can wreck havoc with markets, while soap bubbles make almost everyone smile, and all of us, one way or the other, walk through life in self-created bubbles of our own.

For our September 14
th Categorically not, Bruce Tyson, President of the investment advisory firm Weston Capital Management, Inc., will tell us how identifying financial bubbles is critical to the investment process. Over the past year, the biggest bubble in generations has burst, and Bruce will talk about the disparate forces that came together to create the recent crisis as well as examine some basic elements usually present at bubble formation. Financial bubbles have a long history, and he’ll share thoughts on the subject by the Russian novelist Nicolai Gogol.

A bone fide “bubbleologist,” Sterling Johnson is a lawyer, former engineer, and bubble fanatic since JFK was president who believes that few things in life so consistently touch people's hearts as simple soap bubbles. He uses bubbles in performance to hook the imagination, sneak in some "oh, wow" experiences about wave interference patterns, thin films, and chemistry, but mostly to help people re-experience a piece of innocence. With a friend, he is currently attempting to engineer a 10' bubble on the Marin Headlands that (with luck) will float over the Golden Gate Bridge, into the Bay, and pop on Alcatraz.

Perrin Chiles is the founder of In Effect Films, a socially-conscious documentary film company which produced Emmy Award Nominee AUTISM: The Musical. The film takes a dynamic and intimate look inside the lives of several families with Autistic children as they create, prepare and then perform a live musical play on stage. Perrin will talk about the world of Autism and why people commonly refer to Autistic individuals living in their “own worlds,” or bubbles—and how the children in the film broke through their bubbles to defy stereotypes of what Autistic children can and cannot do.

QEC-07 Videos Online

Videos of talks, tutorials and such from the First International Conference on Quantum Error-Correction are now posted on QServer here. You know you want to learn all about protecting your quantum information from all that nasty noise from the environment!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I can close my eyes and imagine,
imagine that when I am not young anymore,
I can no longer delude,
delude thirty into twenty,
forty into thirty,
fifty into forty,
I can close my eyes, open them
and see blue, gnarled veins
protruding from my hands,
from my ankles to my toes,
from my temples down my neck,
coursing, snaking, slithering,
mapping a leather-covered,
earth-colored, topographic landscape.
I can close my eyes and imagine,
imagine for just a moment,
a mere moment, the moment an atomic-clock
transitions, and hears a sexy montone,
announcing its transfer to line 10, downtown.
In that moment I can see
your black tresses coil
like the spiraling, springing smoky waif
of a mixture of incense and antimony.
I can see,
the slenderness of your fingers,
in mine
and I am reminded of the tenderness
of the stem of an unborn Narcissus.
I can close my eyes and imagine,
when you walk on your toes
a sliver of air separates you and Earth.
And I ask, how can this ever be?
At that moment,
the brown of the pupils within your eyes,
is like the color of walnuts.
Their shape,
the perfect curvature of an almond
meticulously carved by God.
The dark arches above,
are like the curvature of space-time, and
the radiating sheen of your skin
is the skin of a Greek olive,
wet, oily, full of vigor, zest and spice.
I can close my eyes and keep
imagining, imagining for a long,
long time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Perimeter Institute - Waterloo - 3

My short stint at the Perimeter Institute is finally coming to an end. I will be leaving for Los Angeles tomorrow evening. I still have a day and a half left to enjoy the good weather and charms of this sleepy town.

I met up with Marcus Appleby at PI on Saturday afternoon. He had promised to explain me the connection between SIC-POVMs (Symmetric Informationally Complete - Positive Operator-Valued Measures) and the extended Clifford group. He and his wife both joined me in my office and we spent all of Saturday learning about this stuff. I liked his presentation and I quite enjoyed learning about this area since it has quantum mechanics, group theory and a bit of number theory and I enjoy reading and thinking about all three fields. Along the way we shared some stories and had a few laughs. It rained here a couple of days ago and one of the things that I found out about this sixty million dollar building is that the roof leaks in several places. The lobby was checkered with buckets and so were the second and third floors. I wonder if PI realizes that they have a huge liability on their hands. I found puddles of water on the stairs and that's an accident waiting to happen. I really think that they need to tear down the roof and start anew since they have been trying to patch up the leaky spots on the roof for quite some time now without an positive results.

Toward evening, I called up Sundance and I ended going with him and Philip Goyal to a local Indian restaurant on King Street called "Masala Bay". I must admit that I have rarely, rarely ever had such delicious food at an Indian restaurant in Los Angeles. King street is a short walk from PI and by the time we got to Masala Bay it was around seven in the evening. It was a bit cloudy, but there was very little humidity. Because of a gentle breeze that was blowing constantly in the evening and the nice weather we decided to sit outside on the patio which by the way is quite spacious. In my opinion the best way to enjoy Indian food is when you have three or more people so that you can treat your palate to a variety of flavors. I ordered the "Murg Tikka Makhani" which was essentially boneless pieces of chicken cooked in a mild, buttery sauce. Along with that I ordered some plain basmati rice and "naan bread." Sundance ordered the "Kerala Fish Curry", and the "Subj Diwani Handi" along with some saffron basmati rice. The "Subj Diwani Handi" was essentially a mixture of different vegetables and it went really well with the rice and the naan. Philip got an order of "Saag" and the "Machi Afgani", i.e. "Fish Afghani." The food came in these tasteful and cute copper bowl with copper ladels - very traditional and I quite liked the presentation. Now this was real Indian food. Not the mild, bland, Americanized stuff that one is usually tormented by in Indian restaurant around Los Angeles. So if you are in Waterloo, looking for some excellent ethnic food, I highly, highly recommend Masala Bay. The service is excellent, and the food is delicious. It may be a bit pricey, but the quality speaks for itself.

I woke up late on Sunday and headed to Cafe 1842 for some breakfast. I liked the ambiance and the food was quite good. I ordered an omelet, but then again there aren't that many ways in which one can make a mess out of an omelet. The weather was so gorgeous that I decided to take a walk around Silver Lake. This is the lake which is right next to PI. The lake is also part of Waterloo Park which I found out also has a small zoo. There are cages for Llamas, peacocks, ponies, and pheasants. The park was full of families and the children were all having a ball interacting with the animals. There's an old railway track that divides the park into two. On the east side you have Waterloo Park and on the west Centenial Park. I wanted a little peace, quiet and solitude so I headed to the latter. I walked for an hour in the park and then rested under the shade of a pine tree. The whole park is lush green with maple, pine and fir trees. I actually fell asleep for an hour. I woke up around five and then explored the park a bit more. The park has a couple of soccer fields and I ended up watching a game being played by a group of people from the Middle-East (Saudi Arabia, I am guessing) who were there for a picnic with their families.

I think it was a weekend well spent. Today I have been mostly typing up some notes on process tomography, reading a paper by Chris Fuchs and filling out an expense report form that I have to hand in to the PI folks before I leave for Los Angeles tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Perimeter Institute - Waterloo - 2

Another day is almost ending here at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada. After my talk yesterday, Jonathan Walgate was kind enough to take me to a local pub on King Street called "The Jane Bond" that offered an excellent vegetarian burrito. We ended up talking to Debbie Leung, and Sundance Bilson-Thompson for several hours afterwards. Topics ranged from the current cinema, academia, to personal histories. I was quite tired by the time I crashed on my bed at my apartment which is on the seventh floor and has quite a view of the Waterloo-Kitchener area.

I spent a couple of hours in the morning translating one of Ghalib's wonderful ghazals with Tony Barnstone on Skype. He is in Greece right now, so connecting via Skype is the best way forward for us right now. Ahhhh, the wonders of modern technology. When you use it in the right way, there are no limits to your productivity. Later I had lunch with Lee Smolin whose book ("The Trouble With Physics") I had read a while this year. I had been wanting to meet him and give my opinion and what I thought of his views. He is quite the gentleman and extremely down-to-earth.

Later in the afternoon, I talked with Chris Fuchs about SIC-POVM (Symmetric Informationally Complete Positive Operator-Valued Measure). His office which is essentially one door down from mine has a nice cream-colored leather couch and a low-rise coffee table next to it, all of which sits on a nice pastel-colored rug. Instead of sitting on the couch I decided to sit cross-legged on the rug while Chris derived the SIC-POVM formalism and explained its importance and a potential link to understanding the foundations of quantum mechanics. He gave me quite a bit to chew on. Now all I need to do is masticate really well and then be confident enough to digest all the mouthfuls. He makes one feel so comfortable part of which I think is due to his Texan drawl - very friendly and down-to-earth. He is full of great physics' stories. :)

I met up with Sean Gryb and we threw a frisbee on the front lawn at PI. He's a graduate student of Lee Smolin's and works in quantum gravity. Tonight is burger night at the Black-Hole Bistro and their beef patties come in three different hot settings: spicy, mild and plain. Any guesses to which one I will be having?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Perimeter Institute - Waterloo - 1

I arrived at the Perimeter Institute (PI) on Monday evening. The flight from Los Angeles to Toronto was uneventful, however, there was something bizarre that happened along the way. After I purchased my e-ticket at LAX, I proceeded to place the bag that I wanted to check-in on to the weighing scales. The lady behind the American Airlines counter tagged it and sent it on its way to the proper airplane. Now as I was going through security-check I realized that I had completely forgotten to screen the checked-in bag. It was too late to turn back and so I prayed to the airport gods that I see my bag arrive safely in Toronto. I am happy to say that I did. I do hope that these bags go through additional checks before they lug them into the stowaway compartment in the belly of the airplane. Incidentally my seat was next to Emily Liman who is an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at USC. It is a small world after all, isn't it? :)
After I procured my bag, I safely made my way to the limo service which the folks at PI were kind enough to arrange for me in advance. I don't think that there's any kind of shuttle that will take you to Waterloo from a Toronto-based airport. I had a nice chat with the driver who dropped me at my apartment - a rather quaint, older-looking building walking distance from the institute. Since I was famished and it was quite late in the evening, I decided to roam the neighborhood in search of food. I made my way to King Street which is essentially lined with all sorts of pubs, restaurants, and small shopping markets. There's a prevalence of pubs here. I guess the Canadians and the folks in the Waterloo-Kitchener area love their burgers and beer. Anyway, I had a great burger at an Irish pub and while I was eating outside on the patio I was entertained by a series of trivia questions being broadcast by the bartender. In all my life I have never scene an Irish pub so quiet! It was quite funny actually and a little disconcerting at the same time.
I spent the whole day today (07/08/08) at PI. I LOVE the building, the space and the layout. It is built in the modern architecture style with tall glass panes, pre-fab, steel and lots of concrete. My office which is on the third floor, overlooks a peaceful lake. The building is laid out on four floors with plenty of blackboards, lounge areas and espresso machines - your conversation essentials. Christopher Fuchs was kind enough to drive me and a couple of visitors to the Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo. It was a short drive and along the way Chris talked a little about his crazy ideas on the foundations of quantum mechanics. Later back at PI, Michael Skotiniotis (Barry Sander's student) gave a talk related to Spekken's recent work on a toy model for quantum states.
So far PI looks like an ideal place to think deeply on quantum information and interact with some very talented people. Tomorrow I will give my talk on how to encode a single logical qubit into six physical qubits.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Ambiguous Categorically Not

It is time yet again for another round of a long series of salon-based/salon-style talks at the Santa Monica Art Studios (a.k.a. "The Hangar"). This month's Categorically Not entitled "Ambiguity" features two USC faculty members: Bark Kosko (Electrical Engineering Department) who will be talking about how fuzzy mathematics is used in building logic for electronic chips, and Doe Mayer, professor at the Cinema School who will talk about communication in cultures of Zimbabwe and Fiji. The event ends with Australian singer/song-writer Libby Lavella.

Categorically Not was started by K.C. Cole who has this incredible knack for picking up topics and then bringing people from disparate fields to give their opinion which sometimes leads to interesting connections. I have been going to these talks for a more than a year now and I have always found them intellectually delicious; a raspberry-filled English tart for the mind.

The talks are scheduled for June 8th at The Santa Monica Art Studios which is located at 3026 Airport Ave, in the city of Santa Monica. You can help yourself to some refreshments starting at 6:00 pm. The talks start at 6:30 pm and there's a donation of $5.00 at the front door. So if you are not particularly busy on Sunday evening and just sitting at home and wasting away your precious neurons on television sit-coms, I'd say give yourself a treat by going to these talks on Sunday. Below is an excerpt from the Categorically Not website:


Nature loves ambiguity, even if human nature doesn’t. What exactly is a species? Where exactly is that subatomic particle? When did life begin? How do genes influence behavior? Why does music move us? What does that poem mean? What color is white? Is that guy flirting with me, or not? The answers are often far more indeterminate than we’d like to think. Heck, we still don’t know why the chicken crossed the road. Or what the meaning of is is.

Bart Kosko, USC Professor of Engineering, attorney and author of best-selling books
Fuzzy Thinking, Noise, and Heaven in a Chip will tell us how fuzzy math helps make things run smoothly. There is a lot more to "fuzzy math" than a put down. It involves thinking and reasoning in shades of gray--and getting computers to do so as well. Fuzz differs from randomness, chaos, and ambiguity although all four types of uncertainty interrelate. Much of intelligence involves navigating these interrelationships.

From another world(s) entirely, Doe Mayer, an official USC “remarkable woman faculty member” and holder of the Mary Pickford Chair at the Cinema school (and a joint appointment with the Annenberg School), will explain how ambiguous communication is essential for bringing critical health messages to cultures from Zimbabwe to Fiji. In her documentaries and other work in dozens of countries, Doe wrestles with such fuzzy issues as imposing values, learning to listen, measuring the effect of intercultural work.

For an artistic perspective, Australian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Libby Lavella will talk about how ambiguities make music interesting and sometimes frustrating. Once described by the LA Times as "Pop-Soul Fusion", a recent review said “Lavella is a delightfully uncategorizable artist,” which makes her a Categorically Not! natural. Libby has worked with Smash Mouth, Frank Gambale, Rain Phoenix, Michael Sembello, Kate Ceberano, Big Syke, Seal, BT, Ricky Martin and Robi Rosa.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quantum Computing Cribsheet

I found this interesting crib-sheet on quantum computers at Seed magazine. I really liked the illustrations depicting quantum superpositions and interference ideas. The writer of the crib-sheet, Lee Billings, also mentions D-Wave Systems at the very end, and how the company claims that they have demonstrated the first working commercial quantum computer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Mission (Accomplished) at the City Garage Theater

Los Angeles never ceases to amaze me. I was invited by my friend Lejla to this gem of a theater, called "The City Garage Theater" situated in an alley, yes an alley, in between third street promenade and fourth street in Santa Monica. It is a very small theater and seats about forty people which is fine by me because it makes the experience of watching a play all the more real and engaging. The play is directed by Frédérique Michel. The play was quite abstract, intellectually stimulating, hardy and packed with a powerful punch. There were a few scenes which I felt could have been done without the nudity. There were some plot lines which I wish could have been developed further. The wrestling, Indian Bharatnatyam, a bit of singing combined with current politics of the Bush administration makes this play worth watching. General audience tickets go for $20.00 and student tickets go for $10.00. You will have to show your student ID to get a discount. Below is an excerpt from their website.

In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq in the cause of global freedom and democracy. In 1794 the Revolutionary Republic of France, also in the cause of global freedom and democracy, attempted to create a slave rebellion on the island of Jamaica. Both were on a mission to liberate a suffering people from a history of brutal rule. The parallels are haunting. In this dreamlike fantasy a crusading George Bush, a trio of French revolutionary agents, a young soldier on a fatal mission in Falloujah, Maximillian Robespierre and Dick Cheney competing on American Gladiator, and a man trapped in an elevator who is mysteriously transported to the Iraqi desert, are lost in a surreal landscape. This new adaptation of Heiner Müller’s The Mission explores the troubling question of human freedom and how we bring it about -- or fail to -- reflected in a funhouse mirror of contemporary events and through the prism of American Neoconservatism. Is a passionate conviction of one’s own moral rightness a strength or a danger, not just to others, but to oneself?

Gary Palmer at Tarryn Teresa

Last evening I was admiring the work of Gary Palmer at the Tarryn Teresa gallery in Bergamot Station. The gallery was quite crowded and there were lots of people whom I hadn't seen or met before. While the Tarryn Teresa gallery might be small, it surely makes that up when it comes to exhibiting high quality contemporary art work.

Palmer's current work reminds one of seeing the horizon of a sand dune, or a desert mound far out in the California wilderness, speckled and spotted with vagabond and hardy bushes and shrubs, rising above the horizon. When I entered the gallery space itself amidst a throng of people and looked at the panels on all four walls, my impression was, " that it?" However, when I went closer to the panels and inspected them, I could see that there was quite a bit of work in these paintings. They are all black and white with splotches of gray that mark the rather sombre desert sky. The scenes in the various panels form a continuum with a single, thick, black line running across the middle, on which sit these various desert flora. The medium is sumi ink with which I have to admit I have never worked before. In the past I have played around with charcoal, India ink, and graphite. There were also some larger panels at the very entrance of the gallery and I actually found them more to my liking; pieces that I could hang at my place and stare and reminisce day in and day out.

The current exhibit runs till the end of May and I highly recommend going. Who knows, perhaps you may even like a piece and end up owning it!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Necessary Targets

Close your eyes, and imagine for a moment, for just a moment that you are being transported back to 1995 to a Bosnian refugee camp, and when you open your eyes you come face-to-face with the after shocks of a cruel, inhumane, and degrading war.

Last evening I found myself sitting at the Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clarita and being completely blown away by Eve Ensler's (also wrote "Vagina Monologues") play "Necessary Targets" which chronicles the story of two American psychiatrists visiting a Bosnian refugee camp and helping the women deal and come to terms with the cruelty inflicted upon them during the war by Serbian soldiers. Wars are messy, wars degrade and dehumanize and at the end of the day the cost cannot be measured in the number of dollars spent, or the number of armored tanks lost, but the number of lives they destroy, the number of souls they crush and the ripples, albeit invisible to the naked eye, that persist over generations.

Despite the play being produced at a small theater, the production in my estimate is quite wonderful. There are no gaudy sets. There are no special effects. What there is, however, is a series of energetically interwoven performances by some very talented actresses. I was invited to watch this play by my dear friend Lejla Hadzimuratovic who plays the character of Seada (pronounced see-aa-da). I won't give out the entire play here, but I will say that while the content is heavy, there are lighter moments in the play as well. In spite of all the sufferings of these war-torn women, they are able to muster up the courage to laugh, to even sing and dance and in all this try to hold on to reality, to normalcy, to sanity. I think that all the women acted superbly, but Lejla's performance toward the end send goosebumps up my spine and down to my tear ducts. I also loved Christina Rideout's portrayal of Zlata and the character of Azra played by Barbara Huntington.

The other nice thing about going to a small theater is that you actually get to interact with the actors, and the director. The director Ovington Michael Owston told me how he came to pick this play and it was an enjoyable experience talking to him.

The show runs for another weekend (May 1st through May 3rd) and I implore Angelenos to go and watch this play.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Qawwali at Royce Hall

When good music transcends language, cultural and societal barriers, it always amazes me, no matter how many times I witness this phenomenon. Last night was once again one such experience. I was inside Royce Hall on the UCLA campus listening and goose-bumping to Mehr and Sher Ali's ecstatic and devotional Sufi music, better known as Qawwali.

While one cannot put a price tag on excellent virtuoso music, my friend Matt and I, since we are both students, were unwilling to shell out $35.00 for this event, when the actual face value of the tickets was $22.00. So we decided to go to the UCLA campus a bit earlier and purchase the tickets at the box office. UCLA actually accepted our student IDs and gave us an even further discount and we ended up getting our tickets for half the price, center orchestra seats, seven rows from the stage! But since we had arrived on campus an hour early, we decided to wander around. The organizers from the Los Angeles Book Festival were putting up various booths. The numbering on the booths went all the way into the four hundred range! The campus will be very crowded on Saturday and Sunday. And of course parking will be a nightmare as usual.

Ah, but back to the music. There were nine people in the Qawwali troupe sitting cross-legged in two rows on a raised platform which was covered with woolen rugs. One of the Ali brother's was playing the harmonium while the other was leading the "qalaam" or the lyrics. Their sons were sitting and also performing next to them. There were three musicians whose sole job was to clap rhythmically and then there was a tabla maestro. The clappers and the tabla maestro occupied the back row, while all the singers sat in the front. The first half of the show featured poetry from Amir Khusrow who lived in thirteenth century India and combined Persian and Indian music forms into Qawwali. He was a disciple of Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia whose shrine I have often visited in New Delhi. I could understand the lyrics in the first half because it was mostly Urdu, though I wasn't able to understand much in the second half where the emphasis was mostly on Punjabi lyrics. The Ali brothers closed the evening with the two songs that were popularized and brought to the West by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. These were, "Mera Piya Ghar Aya" (My lover came home) and "Dum a dum mast kalandar." The brothers learned Qawwali under Nusrat's father's tutelage. If you really want to hear the uncommercialized version of pure Qawwali, I recommend going to Khwaja Nizaumiddin Aulia's shrine on Thursday and Friday evenings.

Needless to say the audience was on their feet, mesmerized, ecstatic, clapping, jubilant, and gave a standing ovation to the Ali brothers and their troupe. Virtuosity and mastery at this level deserves nothing less.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Black-Hole man dies at 96

It is a sad, sad day for physics. John Archibald Wheeler died today at the age of ninety-six. He coined the term "Black Hole", worked on the Manhattan project and nuclear fission. New York Times has an excellent article on his life.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Very Loopy Categorically Not!

I am excited about this month's installment of Categorically Not brought to Santa Monicans, West Los Anglinos, Brentwoodians, Westwoodians and Californians by K. C. Cole. There will be three talks, and each presenter is going to be talking about loops. Yes, you heard me, loops! Below is the description of the event and I highly encourage folks to come out to the Santa Monica Art Studios a.k.a. "The Hangar" on April 27th at 6:00 pm.
When you come right down to it, just about everything is loopy: planets, proteins or life stories, things have a way of coming around again, always with a slightly different spin. This month’s Categorically Not! was conceived as a tribute to Douglas Hofstadter’s new book, I am a Strange Loop, which uses mathematics, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy to present a highly personal and novel way of posing questions about consciousness. The loopy relationship between Doug, our presenter Dava Sobel and others in the program (we will explain) is one of the special charms of this evening.

Dava Sobel is the author of the best-sellers Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, and also the proud namesake of a non-threatening asteroid, 30935 davasobel." Her most recent book is a poetic guide to everybody's favorite celestial wanderers, The Planets (including our own, of course). Dava will talk about the strange nature of Pluto’s loop, and other objects in it, and how they pushed Pluto out of the loop of the major planets; she'll also tell us a bit about her new Copernicus project, which is “in the loop(s),” so to speak.

Joining Dava is her brother Steve Sobel, professor of Dentistry at USC, sometime stand-up comic, and ace model airplane builder and flyer. Steve’s Control-Line planes are made mostly of balsa wood, have wingspans of 4 to 4 1/2 feet, and fly by dint of their engine-driven propellers at speeds of 60 mph. Steve will bring 2 full size models and one small model to demonstrate the kinds of intricate maneuvers (including loops and variations of loops) he does using only two control lines.

Finally, artist Joanne Julian, a friend of the family, will show and talk about her particular brand of loop—her Zen Circle Series, which was recently on exhibit at Cal State Northridge. Joanne's circles are loops of vibrating energy, based on the Japanese enso—a round or oval figure usually painted with a single brushstroke. Sometimes her loops encompass fish, or flowers, or hanks of hair, veils, curtains, or waves. Other times they stand alone as statements of color and form, closing their own loops with beauty.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ghazal 162

دلِ ناداں تجھے ہوا کیا ہے
اخر اس درد کی دوا کیا ہے

Naïve heart, what has happened to you?

What is the panacea for my pain at last?

ہم ہیں مشتاق اور وہ بیزار
یا الیٰہی یہ ماجرا کیا ہے

I am agog and she is glum.

What is happening? Oh, Lord.

میں بھی منہ میں زبان رکھتا ہوں
کاش پوچھو کہ مدّعا کیا ہے

I too keep a tongue in my mouth.

What is my intent? I wish you’d ask.

جب کہ تجھ بن نہیں کوئی موجود
پھر یہ ہنگامہ اے خدا کیا ہے

Since nothing exists without You,

what is this hulabaloo, oh, Lord.

یہ پری چہرہ لوگ کیسے ہیں
غمزہ و عشوہ و ادا کیا ہے

What is it with these fairy-faced people?

What is all this lust, flirtation, and sidelong glancing?

شکنِ زلفِ انبریں کیوں ہے
نگۂ چشمِ سرمہ سا کیا ہے

Why this coiling amber-scented hair?

What is this dark glance from your antimony eyes?

سبزہ و گل کہاں سے آئے ہیں
ابر کیا چیز ہے ہوا کیا ہے

From whence these blossoms and greenery?

What is wind? What are clouds?

ہم کو ان سے وفا کی ہے امّید
جو نہیں جانتے وفا کیا ہے

I hope she will be faithful.

What is faithfulness? She doesn't know.

اں بھلا کر ترا بھلا ہوگا
اور درویش کی صدا کیا ہے

Yes! Do good, and good will come to you.

What is the dervish's murmur, after all?

جان تم پر نثار کرتا ہوں
میں نہیں جانتا دعا کیا ہے

I offer my life to you.

What is prayer? I don't know.

میں نے مانا کہ کچھ نہیں غالب
مفت ہاتھ آئے تو برا کیا ہے

Ghalib is nothing. I admit that.

What is the harm, if you get him free?

(Translated by Bilal Shaw & Tony Barnstone)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stephen Hawking @ Caltech

I am looking forward to Stephen Hawking's lecture, entitled, "Out of a Black Hole" on April 9th in Beckman Auditorium at the California Institute of Technology. You can find a detailed description here. I still remember holding and reading the first chapter of his "Brief History of Time" back in grade nine in high school. Soon after that I wrote a letter to him and one of his graduate students send me a packet full of his technical papers on wormholes and black hole radiation. I could not understand a single line, but I marveled at the complicated-looking equations. And now I am working in quantum information theory, many, many years later.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Computer Scientist Lost Amidst 7,000 Physicists!

"Transition" (lots of background noise, and a brief moment later), "gap" - well these were just a few words that I heard at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter a couple of nights ago while I was scarfing down some delicious begniets with my friend Mark who happens to be a New Orleans native. Why was I in the French quarter, you ask? I was attending the biggest physics conference organized by the American Physical Society - the 2008 annual March meeting (March 10 - 14).

I arrived in New Orleans with a colleague around eleven on Sunday night and I was lucky to be staying at Mark's parent's home for the duration of the conference. I presented a paper on how to encode a logical qubit into six physical qubits that I recently wrote up with four other colleagues. Mark Wilde presented his latest research on entanglement-assisted convolutional codes, and Martin Varbanov talked about hitting times on graphs with continuous walks. One of my colleagues, Ognyan Oreshkov was supposed to give a talk but he was unable to attend for he is working hard on writing up his dissertation. Fortunately Todd Brun took over and presented Ognyan's results on "Robustness of Operator Quantum Error Correction With Respect to Initialization Errors." The session on quantum error-correction was chaired by Lorenza Viola and I think she did a great job in time-managing the session. Each talk was scheduled for just ten minutes with two minutes of Q & A. Giving a talk in twelve minutes is hard and it is even harder when you have quite a lot to say. At one point during the talk I felt like words from my mouth were coming out faster than bullets from the barrel of a machine gun.

There were many parallel sessions going on throughout the week. The session that I found most interesting was on gravity and quantum information, where John Preskill talked about his new paper with Patrick Hayden on black hole physics and quantum information. Unfortunately due to Mark and Martin's late night partying I was not able to make it to Dave Bacon's talk on
"Quantum Computational Complexity in the Presence of Closed Timelike Curves." I am sure his talk must have been witty, insightful, funny and entertaining in the usual Dave Baconesque spirit. If you are interested, you can find the talk here. The talk IS entitled "crazytalk.ppt", so the reader is forewarned!

I also ran into an old friend, Matt Shaw, with whom I took quantum mechanics a few years ago. For some reason people kept asking whether we were brothers or related somehow. He has blond hair, blue eyes, while I have black hair and brown eyes, so at the end of the conference I was convinced that he and I were related. One of the highlights of the week was listening to Dixie-land jazz in Preservation Hall. The ticket was $10.00, the room very small with wood flooring, the panels to the entrance scratched with paint peeling off, and the air soaking with the "Big n' Easy" New Orleans attitude.

Between the jazz, Cajun food, stimulating talks, and wholesome family atmosphere at Mark's place, this conference was by far one of the best that I have attended in my life.

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Evening with John Lithgow and Carol Muske-Dukes

Last night I was typing up solutions to a recent homework for a discrete mathematics course. It was late, late afternoon, early evening and I was looking forward to spending an evening listening to John Lithgow and Carol Muske-Dukes at USC's Annenberg Center. The discussion between these two lovers of language was aptly titled, "The Theater of Language." John Lithgow was introduced by the dean of USC's theater school as a three time Emmy and a two time Tony winner actor and comedian. More importantly, she told us of his kind, and generous character. He had this air, this presence of a man who has lived and someone with great wisdom, wit and charm. He opened up by describing how he fell in love with a poem he had heard being recited when he was seven years old. He then got up from his chair and went to the podium and recited this poem with the finesse, courage, and mental fortitude of an experienced thespian veteran. Needless to say, the audience was spellbound. The recitation was by heart, and went on for a good ten minutes or so. It is no wonder then that he is a two time Tony winner. He read from his new book, entitled, "The Poet's Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family", which is an anthology of his favorite poems.

Carol Muske-Dukes is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She read some beautiful poems from her book of poems, entitled, "Sparrow". Apparently, Carol's late husband and John Lithgow were extremely close friends. She wrote "Sparrow" as an elegy for her late husband.

John Lithgow read from William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and some other noteworthy contemporary poets.

Seth Lloyd @ USC

I went to an interesting talk on campus today. Seth Lloyd who works in quantum information theory at MIT, spoke about his new paper, entitled, "Quantum Private Queries". Here's the problem description.

Imagine a communication scenario where you are given two parties, namely, Alice and Bob, who are spatially separated, let's say, and share a quantum communication channel. The latter just means that they can send quantum information between each other. Bob has access to a huge database. Alice would like to query Bob's database and retrieve an answer without Bob knowing the answer as well. If he cheats, she will come to know about it. Classically, a naive approach would be for Alice to send for example a million queries to Bob and Bob sends back a million answers from his database. One Alice gets the million answers she can look up the correct one. But you can see how this is inefficient. Quantum mechanically one can do the same in a very efficient manner. They get drastic reductions in communication and computational complexity. Later in the talk, he also touched upon how one can go about building a quantum random access memory (qRAM) device.

If you are interested in reading about the "Quantum Private Query" paper, you can find it on the arxiv here.

His qRAM paper is here.

Seth has also written a book, entitled, " Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos." I had my copy autographed by him, heh heh. He was relating all these crazy stories where he was sitting in a hot tub with Sergey and Larry (Google founders) and talking about the quantum Internet.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Scott Aaronson on the "Limits of Quantum Computers"

I have been reading Scott Aaronson's article on "The Limits of Quantum Computers". He has posted a rough draft of this article on his blog (Shtetl-Optimized) here. This article was originally intended for Scientific American. You can buy an online version at the Scientific American website here.

Jacaranda @ First Presbyterian

Last Saturday (02/16/08), I found myself at the First Presbyterian Church on second street in Santa Monica, listening to some beautiful classical music being performed in an exquisite space. Jacaranda is a music program of the First Presbyterian Church and their program includes both classical and modern music. I was first introduced to this series by my dear friend Sarah Thornblade, and I have been attending this series on and off for three years now.
I am particularly excited about this series right now because they will be performing Olivier Messiaen's important works for the next two years. They will also be performing the works of composers who influenced him. For instance, last Saturday's performance included Isaac Albeniz's "Ferez from Iberia", Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", and Peter Tchaikovsky's "Trio in a minor, opus 50". The first two pieces were in piano and the last one was a trio of piano, cello and the violin. USC's Joel Pargman played the violin, while the piano in the first two pieces was beautifully played by Eduardo Delgado.
The sanctuary within the church has been renovated and looks fresh, clean and very classy. I was a little saddened to see that the old mid-century-modern furnishings were no longer there to greet the audience, but I guess you just have to let go of some things in life. I highly recommend this series if you are a lover of contemporary-classical music.

Friday, January 18, 2008

An Afternoon With Alan Alda and K.C. Cole

As a child, I grew up watching Alan Alda play the quirkly, and eccentric character of Hawkeye Pierce on the hit TV series M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). So I was elated when I read on the USC homepage that he would be chatting with K.C. Cole, who happens to be a science journalist par excellence. I was a bit dismayed when I read that the discussion was scheduled for the afternoon rather than the evening. In any case, Bing Theater was quite full.
Apart from talking about his new book ("Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself"), Alan Alda mentioned his fascination for science and how and why one should try to distill complicated scientific ideas and bring them to the general public. He was insightful, witty, articulate and sharp. Both Alan and K.C. emphasized the importance of the confluence of art, science and society. Alan also related quite a few stories from Richard Feynman's life and his experience creating the play "QED". I had the opportunity to talk to him for a brief moment after his book-signing. It was such a delight to hear him talk about how important it is for scientists to show love and passion when they are explaining their ideas in a talk or otherwise. As I heard him I couldn't help but tell myself that this guy really loves science and has a passion and the curiosity to know and understand it. Never be afraid to ask the simple questions, no matter how stupid you may look in someone's eyes. For you never know what kind of floodgates, answers to such questions might open up for you in your mind.
The discussion was part of USC's Vision and Voices series which is trying to bring the spirit of Arts and Humanities together.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

"The Universe" on the History channel

I happened to catch the show "The Universe" on the History channel during the holiday break. About half way into the show the narrator started talking about cosmic wormholes, white-holes and other exotic astrophysics stuff, when lo and behold I saw the familiar face of Clifford Johnson from the USC physics department. I highly encourage reading Cliff's blog "Asymptotia". I watched two episodes of "The Universe" and they were both tastefully done.

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