Monthly Archives: April 2012

Surprise! University Of Florida Announces Plan To Save Computer Science Department

A few days ago, UF announced it planned to kill its Computer Science department. Given the essential role of computers today, I took that to be a sort of Washington Monument Ploy — an attempt to show the legislature and the governor how bad the cuts to the state university system are biting — and I didn’t even bother blogging about it. Sure enough, University Of Florida Announces Plan To Save Computer Science Department.

What a surprise.

I do have to say, though, that the Florida legislature’s slash and burn approach to state education, while a disaster from almost every rational point of view (investment in human capital, civics, state prestige, to name only a few), likely will benefit the University of Miami. We are a private institution, and we’ll benefit as first new hires gravitate here, then as students do (when the tuition gap shrinks), and finally as existing faculty become increasingly easy to lure away to places where they do not count the pencils.

In the eyes of those who hate an effective public sector that’s probably a feature, not a bug, but I don’t think it is any cause for celebration.

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US ID Card Policy: Not Very Coherent

From Eye On Miami, a real and true story. Forgive me for quoting in full, but it’s too delicious:

After a number of automatic renewals of my drivers license, The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles sent me a notice, requiring me to present in person three categories of proof of identity for a new license. Mine is set to expire in one month. I though this was a little excessive, but hey: you can’t be too careful these days, not after 9/11. So I signed up online for an appointment– so far, so good. I collected various proof of identity (a passport, bank statements, tax bills, health insurance card) and appeared at the duly appointed time and day having braved nearly an hour of traffic.

At the door, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles refused to accept documentation I provided to renew my license because I did not have my social security card. A passport, bank statements, health care card, tax bills were insufficient proof of identity according to the three categories, nor living in the same house for twenty five years. The DMV sent me to the Social Security Administration for a replacement of my social security card so I could prove identity to renew my drivers license.

There, for proof of identification Social Security accepted my … drivers license.

Posted in ID Cards and Identification | 2 Comments

Rubio for President?

Mitt Romney having pretty much clinched the GOP Presidential nomination, the press coverage follows its usual quadrennial arc and now turns to who Romney might pick as his running mate. This focus is a symptom of the press’s relative allergy to substance — it’s just the latest horse race. served up largely because the primaries now lack drama. Not only is the coverage of the who’s in, who’s out, who’s traveling with the Candidate, variety, but the focus is all on ‘what the candidate brings to the ticket’ in terms of electability.

And that undoubtedly reflects the questions being debated in Romney HQ, since Job #1 is to get elected.

But as voters and citizens (and as the press) that really isn’t the question we should care about, or certainly not the one we should care most about. What we ought to care about is whether the prospective Veep is qualified to be President.

I wasn’t the greatest fan of then-candidate Obama’s choice of Joe Biden, and I don’t think (and didn’t think) that Biden would be a wonderful President, or even a good one, but I was satisfied that he had the basic knowledge and temperament (if perhaps not the ideal communication skills) to do the job if tragedy struck. In no way whatsoever did I have that feeling about Sarah Palin then (or now).

We should not set the bar so low: the realities of modern life mean that there is a real danger that a President may die in office, even early in the term, and the Veep has to be ready to step in. That calls for someone who doesn’t just seem like they might grow into a Presidential candidate in eight or ten years, but someone who — even if not willing or able to do well in a primary — is capable now of doing the job.

Marco Rubio, UM JD ’96, has qualities that attract (some) people: real political talent that has taken him far and quickly, a good speaker, a pleasant demeanor, a rare minority Senator in a party with a poor recent history with minorities, and — if you happen to agree with them — mostly orthodox GOP views on most issues but with the ability to charm the Tea Party without actually drinking quite as much Tea as some other GOP Senators. He’s no fool (except maybe for palling around with corrupt David Rivera), and he’s ambitious. But what he doesn’t have is much national experience or much on his c.v. that suggests any particular thoughtfulness. And for me, at least, it is very hard to imagine he has yet accumulated the experience and knowledge that would make him someone you could comfortably imagine suddenly becoming President any time soon.

Then again, Candidate Obama did not have that much national experience when he ran for President. (And, you might say, look how that worked out. Not optimally, that’s for sure.) But he did have a few things suggesting gravitas that Rubio cannot match. For example, Obama taught at Chicago and it seems was taken seriously by the law faculty there. Much more importantly (to me), he’d written two serious books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, books (especially the first one) that revealed something about his character and vision. And according to at least one person I know who was involved in the editing process, he wrote them himself. And while Rubio speaks well, Obama speaks (or at least, spoke) better and deeper. Indeed, Obama’s lack of experience was part of the argument for why the relatively centrist Biden was a good fit (we know now that in addition Obama himself was much more centrist than people who were not closely following his campaign may have grasped). Mitt Romney of course has no national experience at all other than running for President; his government experience is at the state-level — but it is managerial/executive experience and that historically has often served future Presidents well. (But see Jimmy Carter.)

Do the people pushing Rubio as Veep ever worry about this stuff? One sees no sign of it. They should: not just because it is good politics (although it might be), but because it is what is good for the country. Rubio is no Agnew or Quayle or Palin, but he’s no Obama or JFK either, nor even a Gore or Mondale (or Cheney, but that’s good). What grounds are there to think Rubio has what it takes?

Posted in 2012 Election | 2 Comments

Great Writeup of We Robot 2012

Wendy Grossman, A really fancy hammer with a gun, captures a lot of what was good about our conference.

I understand NPR will be doing a story, but we don’t know if/when it will run.

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First Robocall of the 2012 Political Season

Just got my first robocall of this political season. Joe Martinez’s voice, with decent sound quality, but still sounded a bit muddy.

Seems he wants me to know he’s running for Mayor of Miami-Dade County, that he’s against bureaucrats (is that the worst he can say about the incumbent?), against spending tax dollars and, most important, I should vote for him not because I believe in him, but because he believes in me.

B- at best, and only because the sound was fairly good. Then again, the ad may fairly reflect Martinez’s vacuous platform.

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami | Comments Off on First Robocall of the 2012 Political Season

Causality Is Just a Point of View

Quantum decision affects results of measurements taken earlier in time:

Due to the 104-meter fiber-optic cable, Victor’s measurements occurred at least 14 billionths of a second after those of Alice and Bob, precluding the idea that the setting of the BiSA caused the polarization results to change. While comparatively few photons made it all the way through every step of the experiment, this is due to the difficulty of measurements with so few photons, rather than a problem with the results. 

Ma et al. found to a high degree of confidence that when Victor selected entanglement, Alice and Bob found correlated photon polarizations. This didn’t happen when Victor left the photons alone.

Suffice it to say that facile explanations about information passing between Alice’s and Bob’s photons lead to violations of causality, since Alice and Bob perform their polarization measurement before Victor makes his choice about whether to entangle his photons or not. (Similarly, if you think that all the photons come from a single laser source, they must be correlated from the start, and you must answer how they “know” what Victor is going to do before he does it.) 

The picture certainly looks like future events influence the past, a view any right-minded physicist would reject. …

Nevertheless, this experiment provides a realization of one of the fundamental paradoxes of quantum mechanics: that measurements taken at different points in space and time appear to affect each other, even though there is no mechanism that allows information to travel between them.

My brain hurts.

(Note that Alice, Bob, and Victor are not actual people but mechanisms.)

Posted in Science/Medicine | 3 Comments