Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I'm now registered for the OU summer school "Quantum mechanics: experiments, applications and simulations" at Sussex University this summer. Mindful of my experiences at the "Electromagnetism: experiments, applications and simulations" summer school last year, when I did no special preparation and was consequently all-at-sea in the Q&A sessions, I have determined to be better prepared this year.

Accordingly I have ordered the book "Quantum Mechanics" by Albert Messiah as a supplement to the course - hopefully it should arrive tomorrow. It looks quite a tome, but was recommended by the OU course team and seems a weighty, thorough and authoritative 1,152-paged textbook to reinforce the conceptual impetus of the excellent OU units.

This morning, I was finishing up chapter 6, where I learned about the momentum amplitude A(k) as the Fourier transform of the initial wave function Ψ(x,0).

This afternoon, we got out for a walk around Quarley, Grately and Georgia Down. Following last night's heavy rain, the public footpaths were sodden-to-impassable. Taking a small short cut down a private road (private even for walkers?) we were stopped by a lady in her passing estate car and told in polite terms to 'get off her land'. Perhaps she finds walkers transiting her farm an endless irritation? Anyway, we said we were lost, which was somewhat true.

I have just finished reading Iain M. Bank's short story collection "The State of the Art". This pretty much completes my collection of Banks' SF works. "The State of the Art" consists of stories mostly written at the end of the 1980s, when we were still in Margaret Thatcher and Cold War territory. It seems rather quaint now reading his fears about nuclear armageddon, although his other concerns: famine, genocide, tyranny, stupidity, trash-culture are of course as fresh as ever.

Many of the stories are a judgement of the human race (from the viewpoint of The Culture). Banks is a good enough writer to lift his familiar critique above the soppy hand-wringing which was so tedious in the hands of people like the late Harold Pinter, Ken Loach et al.

I wonder, however, whether an older and wiser Banks, who has surely by now studied some economics and evolutionary psychology, might have rebooted his morality filters past their first Trotskyist incarnation? Please!