Working remotely…

Empty offices seem to be the new norm.

The current situation with #COVID has definitely accelerated a trend that was slowly being embraced. There are some pros and cons.

The chief executive of Barclays, Jes Staley, has suggested that piling 7,000 employees into a tall building “may be a thing of the past”. Large numbers of businesses have reported that productivity has been maintained, or even enhanced, as people work from home. Firms’ accountants will have taken note.

However, the normalisation of remote working will also have an impact on younger workers who, though digitally native, are also more likely to live in cramped circumstances and miss the kind of formative experiences that happen in a physical workplace.

The Quantum Tunnel Website has a new home

As I mentioned in the last post of this blog while still hosted in WordPress.com, the Quantum Tunnel Website has a new home. This time the blog is supported without ads and that is a good thing!

Quantum Tunnel 1 You will find the older posts both in this site as well as in the previous blog, so double the fun! In this new home you will find a few more pages and information not as easily available in the previous one, for example some pages dedicated to Data Science, Science and Technology, Geekiness, Rugby and even the Essential Matlab and Octave book.

You may want to suscribe to continue receiving notifications about the posts and you can get in touch or even ask a question.

Welcome back and keep in touch!

English is a Crazy Language

Original of Richard Lederer, and a good exemplification of the quirks and vagaries of the English language.

Let’s face it — English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese… One blouse, 2 blice?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways?

How can a “slim chance” and a “fat chance” be the same, while a “wise man” and “wise guy” are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while “quite a lot” and “quite a few” are alike? How can the weather be “hot as hell” one day and “cold as hell” another?

Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who are spring chickens or who would actually hurt a fly?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?

Now I know why I flunked my English. It’s not my fault, the silly language doesn’t quite know whether it’s coming or going.

Top 5% Most Viewed in LinkedIn? Mmmm…

A couple of days ago a number of people I know as well as me received an email from LinkedIn congratulating us. Why? Well apparently we had “one of the most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012!” (Their exclamation mark by the way). Others received them with a 1% figure (lucky ones! – my exclamation mark this time).

It surely sounds great and it may make you feel special, right? I mean, top 5%…

Wait, the email also had a button you could click in order to obtain further information: “LinkedIn reached a new milestone: 200 million members”. So, 5% of 200 million is 10 million… In other words, LinkedIn sent the same email to a 9,999,999 other people.

I suppose LinkedIn relies in the idea that members that receive the email will be jumping up and down and not caring about the numbers that much and immediately start face booking, twitting, G+ing and any other -ing they do, and indeed LinkedIn was helpful enough allow people to do so at least via email.

In general the number is still a bit vague, I am not sure if they mean 200 million members that are active, or including those that opened an account and never logged in again, or even those that have more than one account (I know a couple of people that ended up creating new ones by mistake when replying to people inviting them to join using a different email address…). I wish they provided more information about their methods… but still, it may be a very good marketing campaign: LinkedIn members make use of some affective heuristic that helps them decide to share the very good news of being more professionally interesting than previously imagined and decide to become “premium users” to see who has viewed their profile for example.

Or am I just being to cynical about the whole thing? Did you receive one of those emails? What do you think?

LinkedIn 5%

Three little pigs and the big bad wolf

Different stories have different points of view. Nothing new there, but this is brought to discussion in the new advert campaign run by the Guardian newspaper. In the ad, the the 3 little pigs are arrested for boiling up the big bad wolf and cause controversy and the public to explode via media attention and social sharing. Brilliant!

Pina, simply delightful

Pina Bausch

If you are interested in dance and all things dance related, then you might be familiar with Pina’s work. Philipinne Bausch is one of the most influential  choreographers the World has ever seen. Her Tanztheater has become synonym of German expressionist dance.

Bausch passed away in June 2009, at the time when Wim Wenders was about to start filming the great film that opened up earlier this year. Wim Wenders is a very eclectic filmmaker, his creations go from “Wings of Desire” to “Buena Vista Social Club” and “Paris, Texas”, and the addition of “Pina” to this list is just great. The film is shot in 3D, and unlike in a number of so-called blockbusters, it does make absolute sense to use the media in this case. 3D allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the world of the dancers, to see them in their element and perceive things that otherwise they would not be able to experience.

The dirt and brutality of The Rite of Spring and  the hilarity of Kontakthof are brought to life before the eyes of cinema goers in a fresh and new way. For me there were two moments that really took my breath away. One was the performance of Café Müller, a seminal piece that encapsulates Angst, passion, confusion and control. In particular that moment when two of the dancers come to hug each other, while a third one forces them over and over again to take a pose in which he carries her in his arms, a battle that the controlling rational mind can only loose against the visceral one. The second moment was the absolutely phenomenal treat of one of the dancers entering the monorail in Wuppertal and attacks without mercy a white pillow while making hilarious sounds effects as if she were a robot.

The film is definitely a tribute to Pina Bausch and the testimonials that the dancers give (portraits with voiceovers) let you get a glimpse to the everyday work with Pina the choreographer, Pina de human being. “Keep searching” she recommended to one of the dancers, although it was not obvious  to search for what or where… Such is life I suppose.

I could continue trying to explain why I liked this film so much (the music is just great for example), but I would not make it justice. I can only recommend (urge) that you watch it. Pina is just simply delightful.

Pina: 

Café Müller:

Kontakthof:

The Rite of Spring:

Vollmond: 

Related articles

What do we mean by feedback?

It is that time of year when the storm that has been brewing for some time is coming to its peak: students are starting the new academic year and Universities all around the country are preparing to receive them. So, I was not surprised when I received an email reminding us about pastoral care and the newly introduced “student experience” directives. Note: apparently the “academic excellence committee” is out on “student experience” is in.

With that in mind, the National Student Survey (NSS) is a very important piece of the puzzle. The NSS is aimed at students who are about to graduate, “to give your opinions on what you liked about your time at your institution as well as things that you felt could have been improved”, and feedback is among those things evaluated.

Classical ideal feedback model. The feedback i...

According to the email I received “there is some evidence that the term ‘feedback’ means different things to students and to staff”, although there is no  mention as to where the evidence can be found.  I really liked the fact that it is suggested that a better score can be achieved if we explicitly tell the students whenever they are being given feedback.

What is Feedback?

Well, in order to make it clear for the students it is suggested that  we use the word “feedback” whenever commenting on work either verbally or in writing. I think this is a good idea, but I find it a bit too much when we are reminded that this should be done by marking with a red pen and put the word  “feedback” in a prominent position. In that form “there can be no doubt in the student’s mind that the marked work constitutes feedback”.

Result!

I would be curious to hear your thoughts about this: What do you mean by feedback?

Physics horror novel… not quite

Yesterday, I received a tweet from @FQXi in response to the following tweet I posted on January 8th:

“For the first time in the lab after many moons. Strange feeling seeing the signal in the oscilloscope :)”

I have to confess that the comment made by @FQXi me laugh out loud:

“@quantum_tunnel This sounds like it should be the opening of a physics horror novel. ;-)”

It does indeed sounds ominous enough to prepare the reader to enter the obscure depths of an optics lab. Not quite a new Frankenstein monster, but what about the old one with a brand new powerful laser! Then again, maybe not.

Have fun!

J