Monday, November 21, 2005

Quantum Clarification from a Pro, and a Visit from a Visionary....

Hej all - a quick follow up on my earlier post regarding quantum physics. My dear friend Louisa Gilder is busy battling through the last rounds of editing her book on the subject and offered the following clarification on my amateurish attempt to broach the subject:

ON THE DUALITY OF LIGHT: It is true that matter + antimatter can cancel out and produce photons (gamma rays)... but since photons themselves have no mass (only energy), and are not conserved (in a single ray of light the number of photons is always changing), they don't seem to really count as "matter." But light certainly has a dual nature in that it sometimes acts like a particle and sometimes acts like a wave.

As for her book – it looks like we may have to wait a bit, but I’m sure it will be well worth it…

maybe fall 2006. i hope. the title is "the age of entanglement", and it's a (non-technical) history of quantum mechanical entanglement -- which may have already come up in your classes; at any rate, it's closely related to some of the things you talked about on your quantum physics blog entry -- it's when two particles act as if they are intimately connected even when they are infinitely separated. discovered by einstein and schroedinger and ignored by almost all physicists for fifty years.

In a way it’s hard to imagine that this ground breaking science has been ignored for so long, but on the other hand it can be very scary to start to think about how our most basic assumptions about how our universe operates can be turned upside down. I can't wait to read the book!!

In related news, we just had an unbelievable day of lectures from Göran Carstedt – former President of Volvo France, Volvo Sweden, IKEA North America, and currently sitting on a number of boards, and working closely with Peter Senge at the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) out of MIT. He was fresh off a trip from China where things are really starting to happen – while deeply entwined in the global economy, and a huge lynch pin for the system, with it’s ~9.5% GDP growth, huge market and labor pool – the government and people of China seem to be very aware of their influence and capacity to really push sustainable development and a brighter future. We saw the article on what McDonough is working on there, and according to Carstedt there is plenty of awareness about the need to develop a circular economy. A lot of hope rests there.

His lectures were full of great stories about the power of shared vision, meaningful, purposeful and learningful work, and the need to really embrace a new way of thinking. As Louisa alluded to – these ideas have been around for 50 years now, and ignored too long – but everyone who comes to talk to us has commented on how things have really started to tip over just the last couple of years. And these are people who have been engaged in this stuff for decades. Exciting times lie ahead.

Göran brought up a rather famous quote that we’ve looked at a lot here, and is worth another mention:

I think that there are good reasons to suggest that the modern age, the industrial era has ended. Today many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something is crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself while something else still indistinct, is arising from the rubble

- Vaclav Havel, Philadelphia 1994.

(former President of the Czech Republic)

Another topic we touched on today that got me thinking was about how the first Industrial Revolution did not start on a set date. There was no plan, no headquarters, no tracking its progress. It was thousands of small events, growing, evolving and taking shape. It was about people with vision creating the future. It was also quite unsettling for many – it required transformational change. I remember studying American History stories about farmers in the west violently protesting the railroads – these strange machines entering and drastically altering their lives. The shift to a sustainable future will likely be greater. Exciting times indeed.

It’s going to be quite a rush into the holiday break with projects starting to pile up, but so much exciting material to share – I’ll try to keep getting it out. Hope all is well with you all. Stay going…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Georges, thanks for the entry!

Much is made about the exploding rate of vehicle ownership in China, but few realize that such growth has happened even though decent auto financing doesn't really exist in China. 80% of all Chinese buy their new cars with cash.

Imagine what new car sales would be like in the US without financing. Now imagine what will happen when China's auto financing industry becomes completely modernized within the next year. With that in mind, it's heartening to see that they are looking hard at sustainability - and not a moment too soon.

Jack Rosebro

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