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Quantum questions

This article provides an explanation I haven’t seen before for the difficult-to-wrap-one’s-head-around concept that in quantum mechanics it’s “observation” that causes the quantum wave form to collapse.

“…if you take a picture of an electron, its probability cloud evaporates and leaves it at one exact place. The light that bounced off the electron to hit your camera forced the electron to appear! The resolution to this troubling idea is that if you leave the light off, no photons hit the electron. The watching camera sees nothing, the electron remains ethereal. The electron will still be forced to resolve in a lit place while watched by a camera with its lens cap on.” (emphasis added)

Or, to put it another way, it’s not “observation” but “interaction” that collapses the wave form. If a particle isn’t interacting with any other particle, it might be anywhere. Only when two particles bounce off each other (or otherwise interact) do their positions and states become clear.

I find this explanation compelling. It makes the whole concept much more comprehensible to me. But it also implies that the whole concept of quantum uncertainty is an entirely theoretical mathematical abstraction, because in reality every particle is interacting with other particles nearly constantly. Even a single hydrogen atom floating in the near-vacuum of interplanetary space is struck by photons from the sun and interacts gravitationally with the planets.

If my understanding is correct, quantum uncertainty never really happens in real life — all particles are in a constant state of waveform collapse. This makes quantum uncertainty as relevant to the real world as those massless, frictionless ropes we use in physics problems. (By which I mean that it is a useful theory with great predictive power, but doesn’t actually describe anything that exists in the real world.)

If you are familiar with quantum theory, does this explanation and its implications match your understanding? If not, can you help me to understand where it differs?

Also, if you are familiar with the history of quantum theory, do you know why the term “observation” was used rather than “interaction”? Because if my understanding of this explanation is correct, the term “interaction” would be a much clearer way of explaining what’s happening (and would have avoided a lot of the meaningless woo-woo that’s attached itself to the term “quantum physics”).

I’m the Westercon Fan Guest of Honor in 2016!

IMG 3972I’m very pleased to announce that I will be the Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 69, to be held in Portland, Oregon on the Fourth of July weekend in 2016. The other GoHs are John Scalzi and Charlie Stross. (The committee assures me that there will be at least one additional GoH who is not a balding white male.)

I’m totally thrilled about this. I’ve never been a GoH before!

In other news, I recently received my 20-year medallion for attending 20 annual gay square dance conventions. (See photo.)

Also, as long as I’m blogging, I urge you to check out the Cosmic Sci-Fi Bundle over at storybundle.com. Pay what you will for a big bundle of science fiction ebooks, and benefit the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund, Jay Lake’s chosen charity. But hurry! This offer ends at midnight EST tonight!

Announcing the release of “Insights from David D. Levine” at lynda.com

When I visited video training company lynda.com in April to record AWK Essential Training, I finished up my work early. As it happens, Lynda has a series of brief “Insights” courses in which professionals in various fields talk about their careers and offer, well, insights, and they asked me to record one of those in the remaining time. That course just launched today, and is now available to all lynda.com members: Insights from David D. Levine, Writer, Designer, and Engineer. If you aren’t a member, you can watch three of the videos in the course for free at http://www.lynda.com/Developer-Documentaries-tutorials/Insights-from-David-D-Levine-Writer-Designer-Engineer/169618-2.html.

InsightsHere’s Lynda’s description of the course: “David D. Levine has worn many hats in his long career: technical writer, interaction designer, software engineer, and award-winning science fiction author. His career path, with its ups, downs, and redirections, mirrors the one many job seekers find themselves on today. Find out how he turned a BA in architecture into a technical writing career, and, a decade later, transformed himself into an interaction designer and, finally, a software engineer. And see how, even after his retirement, he found ways to use his technical background to write science fiction stories. This course breaks down the different stages in David’s career into sections where he answers questions and offers hard-won advice to job hunters. Dive in and get insights from an expert—in more than one industry!”

Topics covered in the course include:

  • How do you think science fiction relates to today’s technology?
  • Has writing science fiction shaped your technical career?
  • Has your technical career shaped your science fiction?
  • What advice can you offer aspiring writers?
  • What are the three top rules for successful user interaction design?
  • If someone wanted to be an interaction designer, what should they do to prepare?
  • What was the upside of being a user interaction designer?
  • What advice can you offer an aspiring interaction designer?
  • What lessons did you learn from being a user interaction designer?
  • Do you have any insights on disruptive technology?
  • Working on supercomputers at Intel, did you give any thought to Moore’s law?
  • What skills or experience were most helpful to you when you started at Intel?
  • What lessons did you learn from being a software engineer?
  • How is technical writing different than writing science fiction?
  • What skills are most valuable to being a technical writer?
  • What lessons did you learn from being a technical writer?

This course is different from the AWK course, which is my voice over a movie of my computer screen; this one is just me, talking to the camera. So if you want to find out what I look and sound like, as well as some of the things I’ve learned in my patchwork career, this is your chance.

News update

Wow, so much good news to share!

  • After many months of searching, I have an agent! I am now represented by Paul Lucas of Janklow & Nesbit Associates.
  • Anthology HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects, including a story by me, is now on sale! Kindle only for now, but will be available from other ebook stores in October. See editor John Joseph Adams’s blog post for more info on the anthology, including some free samples!
  • Anthology Old Mars, including my story “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure,” has won the Locus Award for Best Anthology! “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure” itself came in 17th for Best Novelette, which isn’t too bad.
  • My story “Tk’Tk’Tk” was included in the curriculum of a class at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany that used SF podcasts to teach Business and Economics, along with stories by Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, and Cory Doctorow.
  • I just read the book S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst — or perhaps Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka — and have been burbling at everyone about it. It’s more than a book — it’s an immersive, multimedia meta-book that, to me, combines the best bits of The Crying of Lot 49 and National Lampoon’s 1964 High School Yearbook Parody in a glorious celebration of everything that’s cool about books and literature. You can read a delicious review at tor.com, but I recommend you avoid spoilers and just dive in.

More news to come later this week! But for now, I’m off to the annual gay square dance convention in Salt Lake City. Whee!

Wiscon

I’m at Wiscon, the world’s leading feminist SF convention, in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend. Here’s where you can find me:

  • Friday 4:00–5:15 pm, Michelangelos: A Reading Group is Like a Box of Chocolates with Greg Bechtel, David D. Levine, James P. Roberts, LaShawn M. Wanak. …because you never know what you’ll get. But we do promise interesting readings, and actual chocolate for those who show up.
  • Saturday 1:00–2:15 pm, Assembly: How To Apologize Like A Feminist with Debbie Notkin, Eileen Gunn, David D. Levine, Betsy Lundsten, JP Fairfield. This year a handful of scandals rocked the feminist world. Prominent self-identified feminists were implicated in reproducing the very language and behaviors they were expected to fight against. Many of them apologized, but not all those apologies were satisfying to their fans, colleagues, and offended parties. Meanwhile some not-at-all feminist people stumbled with their own appeasement of fans, losing many in the process. What makes a good apology? How can someone communicate empathy in a way that is both satisfying and redeeming? Is it appropriate to demand apologies for errors that only become clear years later? Should artists be held to the same standards public intellectuals, politicians, and activists are? And is a good apology ever enough?
  • Saturday 7:30–11:00 pm, Capitol/Wisconsin: Tiptree Auction. I will be one of several guest auctioneers attempting to fill the shoes of the great Ellen Klages, who cannot attend. Do feminists have a sense of humor? Come to the Tiptree Auction and find out! You might come away with a first edition signed by LeGuin, a glow-in-the-dark squid, a statue of Space Babe, or a book from Alice Sheldon’s library. You might see Ellen Klages in a chicken suit, selling the shirt off her back, or shaving her head on stage. It’s never the same show twice, and whatever happens, there are always lots of laughs, all for a good cause. Every bit of the money you spend is donated to the James Tiptree, Jr., Award.
  • Sunday 1:00–2:15 pm, Conference 4: SFWA: Is It Relevant? Is It Useful? with Ann Leckie, Wesley Chu, Gary Kloster, David D. Levine, Grá Linnaea. Many accomplished sf/f writers don’t qualify for full membership in SFWA. Other organizations, such as RWA do a lot more for writers at every level. With the latest election, the SFWA Bulletin problems, and the attack on one of our Guests of Honor by one member of SFWA and its results, do we as feminists and writers want to be part of that organization? Can working from within to change it have real results?
  • Sunday 4:00–5:15 pm, Conference 4: The Queer Alphabet with Tanya D., David Edison, David D. Levine, Mo Ranyart, Julia Schroeder. Gay, lesbian and gay, LGB, LGBT, LGBTQIA, QUILTBAG, GSM, GRSM, queer, trans*, etc. Sexual orientation, romantic orientation, sex, gender, gender expression, preferences, kinks, and relationship models. Who gets included or excluded in the various queer alphabet games? What are the most inclusive and comprehensive terms to use? Should every identity related to sexuality, gender, and relationships be lumped together? If not, why not? And who gets to decide?

Announcing the release of “AWK Essential Training” at lynda.com

Last year fellow Portland writer and Analog Mafia member Mark Niemann-Ross asked me to write and record a course for his employer, video training company lynda.com, on the AWK programming language. I recorded it in April, and the finished course, AWK Essential Training, is now available to all lynda.com members. If you aren’t a member, you can watch the first six videos in the course for free at http://www.lynda.com/Linux-tutorials/AWK-Essential-Training/162719-2.html.

Awk2Topics covered in the course include:

  • What is AWK?
  • Writing an AWK program
  • Working with records, fields, patterns, and actions
  • Specifying field and record separators with variables
  • Using built-in and user-defined variables
  • Building control structures
  • Formatting output
  • Manipulating string data with functions
  • Scripting with AWK

“So what is this AWK thing,” you might ask, “and why on Earth should I care about it?” AWK is a tool and programming language for manipulating text files. For example, if you have a file of names and addresses and want to find out how many of them are from each US state, you can do that with just a few lines of AWK code.

AWK is older and more limited than similar but more modern tools like PERL and PYTHON, but its simplicity makes it easier to learn. Also, AWK is preinstalled on most UNIX-based systems, including Linux and Mac OS X, so if you use any of these machines AWK is right there whenever you need it. It’s also available for Windows.

I actually love AWK and use it just about every day, so I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to help people learn about its capabilities. AWK Essential Training went live yesterday and has already been seen by 303 viewers in 47 countries.

My experience with lynda.com so far has been both fun and profitable, and I look forward to recording more courses for them in the future. If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, please contact Mark Niemann-Ross at mnr@lynda.com. He is especially interested in finding authors who are women or people of color. If you have expertise in any technical or business field, have good English writing and speaking skills, and enjoy helping people learn how to do things, I encourage you to give it a try.

“Brave New Sci-Fi” (4 short SF plays) TONIGHT (Thursday 4/24)

Tonight marks the WORLD PREMIERE of the theatrical adaptation of my Hugo-winning short story “Tk’Tk’Tk” and three other short SF plays!


Brave New Sci Fi

Thursday, April 24th, 7:30pm
JACK LONDON BAR

Basement of The Rialto Pool Room
529 SW 4th Ave.

$10.00 cash at the door
($7.00 for students and seniors)
Or just $5.00 when ordered online!
https://www.boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=270485
Online orders end at 4:30 today!

Starring:

Allison Anderson
David Bellis-Squires
Racheal Joy Erickson
Kristen Fleming
Micheal Streeter

Featuring:

WHY I LEFT HARRY’S ALL NIGHT HAMBURGERS by Lawrence Watt-Evans*
“I told you I get some strange customers, boy.”

DEB & JOAN by Isaac Rathbone
“You sounded so… melancholy. That’s very advanced.”

MY HEART IS A QUADRATIC EQUATION by Shane Halbach*
“If you could do that with your tools, why couldn’t you just construct a boyfriend?”

TK’TK’TK by David D. Levine*
“I had spent almost five days on Bug Planet and all I had to show for it so far was one customer.”

* Adapted by Matt Haynes.

Brave New Sci Fi runs 2 hours, including intermission, and is for audiences 21 and over.

Hope to see you there!

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You can hear an interview with director Matt Haynes, and excerpts from “Why I Left Harry’s All Night Hamburgers” and “Tk’Tk’Tk,” on the Geek in the City podcast, issue 254 beginning at 22:35.

SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series: Seattle area 4/29, Portland 4/30

This is just a reminder that the SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series will be holding its next events in two weeks.

On Tuesday, April 29 in the Seattle area, we’ll have local favorites Nancy Kress, Jack Skillingstad, and Leah Cutter plus special bonus reader Daryl Gregory. The University Bookstore will be on hand again selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Wilde Rover Irish Pub & Restaurant, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033

On Wednesday, April 30 in Portland, we’ll have bestselling writer Mike Moscoe, along with Leah Cutter and Ray Vukcevich. Wrigley-Cross Books will be selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Portland, OR 97211

See http://www.sfwa.org/for-readers/sfwa-northwest-reading-series/ for more information on both readings. Tell your friends!

I hope you can join us! It should be a lot of fun.

My Norwescon schedule

Norwescon, Seattle’s biggest SF con, is next weekend! I’ll be there, and here’s my program schedule:

  • Reading: David D. Levine
    Thu, Apr 17, 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM, Cascade 1
    Arabella and the Marsman, a YA Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure. Arabella is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world — born and raised on Mars, she was hauled back home by her mother, where she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and attitudes toward women. When she learns that her evil cousin plans to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she joins the crew of an interplanetary clipper ship in order to beat him to Mars. But pirates, mutiny, and rebellion stand in her way. Will she arrive in time? Rated G
    David D. Levine
  • Behind the Scenes at Kennedy Space Center
    Fri, Apr 18, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM, Cascade 12
    In January, Hugo-winning SF writer David D. Levine was invited to attend the launch of the TDRS-L satellite from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch event included visits to a launch pad under construction, the upper stories of the Vehicle Assembly Building, and the crawler-transporter, which are not open to the public, as well as press conferences with administrators, scientists, and astronauts. He took lots of pictures. Come see his slides and ask questions!
    David D. Levine
  • Giving Good Alien
    Fri, Apr 18, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Cascade 9
    It’s pretty darn hard to write about a life form completely outside of our experience. No matter how good an SF story is, if you come across an alien that’s either `just a guy in a suit’ or too far from our current understanding of the laws of physics, it can throw you out of the story. So what does it take to create a believable alien?
    David D. Levine, Dean Wells, Nancy Kress, Pat MacEwen
  • First Page Idol
    Sat, Apr 19, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Cascade 10
    Feeling brave and bold? Send us your novel’s first page to be read aloud and critiqued by our pros. Email to idol@norwescon.org by Friday!
    Camille Alexa, Cat Rambo, David D. Levine, Kevin Scott, Phoebe Kitanidis
  • The Many Sides of Hard SF
    Sat, Apr 19, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Cascade 10
    While some predicted the decline of hard SF in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s alive and thriving. What makes SF hard SF? Does it have to play 100% by known physical laws, or can it break them in some areas? Are all sciences open to hard SF, or are some a better fit than others? Come and join us for a lively discussion.
    David D. Levine, Elton Elliott, Jason Bourget, Nancy Kress, Russell Ervin
  • Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook, OH MY!
    Sun, Apr 20, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Cascade 3&4
    Where do you get your fandom fixes? Every social media has it’s own culture. What’s different about the various social medias, and how do they interact within themselves and with each other in spreading fandom.
    David D. Levine, Donna Prior, Jen K, Jonny Nero, Sara Twitty