Magic-Angle Graphene Superconductors

A couple weeks ago, there was an exciting discovery in my (former) field of research. It was found that if you take two layers of graphene, and rotate one of the layers by a “magic angle” of 1.1°, then you can create a superconductor.

Some brief background on superconductors. A superconductor is a kind of material that conducts electricity with zero resistance. That means you could transport electrical power without any energy loss. Or you could create so much electrical current that it creates a powerful magnet (used in MRI machines). Superconductors also have special magnetic properties that allow for magnetic levitation (used in maglev trains). But superconductors need to be cooled below a certain temperature to work, otherwise they’re just ordinary materials.

As of 1957, physicists have a working theory of superconductors, but the theory only explains certain varieties of superconductors, called conventional superconductors. Magic-angle graphene is an unconventional superconductor.

So, why would you ever try rotating two layers of graphene? Graphene is simply a layer of carbon atoms that form a hexagonal pattern. If you overlay two hexagonal patterns with a bit of rotation, you create what’s called a Moiré pattern.

Two hexagonal grids, one rotated by 10 degrees, form a moire pattern when overlaid.

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Video game censorship and feminist criticism

Last week, the white house held a meeting to talk about violence in video games, and their potential connection to gun violence. This has many gamers worried that the government will do something to censor video games, or pressure the games industry to self-regulate.  My opinions on the matter: 1) this is an obvious ploy to “address” gun violence without addressing gun violence, 2) I defer to the research that says video games do not cause gun violence, and 3) the second amendment shouldn’t exist. If you disagree with any of these propositions, you are welcome to yell at me in the comments, as one does.

But I’m not really here to talk about gun violence, I’m here to talk about feminism. See, I did a forbidden thing, I read some internet comments. And I found that some people think that Trump’s talk of censoring video games is similar or analogous to feminists/SJWs talking about problematic or sexist aspects of video games. As a feminist/SJW myself, my reaction is, “uh no.”

But it also raises the interesting question, what do I want?

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Any ace panelists?

A few years ago, I organized a panel called Asexual Spectrum Atheists for FTBCon, an online conference. It was great success, and we were praised as “the nightmarish collision of FTB and tumblr!” OrbitCon is the spiritual successor of FtBCon, held on April 13-15. If I organized a similar panel, would anyone be interested in either watching, or being a panelist?

Ideally, the panel would have a variety of viewpoints, including ace/aro atheists/freethinkers who have never been involved in atheist communities, people who used to be involved but left, and people who are involved currently. Probably most of the time spent won’t be about atheism at all.  OrbitCon will provide tools and information if you wish to conceal your identity.

I’m ambivalent about organizing this, because I’ve been doing this for so long and it would be nice to have fresher faces.  Depending on the level of interest we can figure something out.

You may also e-mail me at skepticsplay at gmail dot com.

Link Roundup: March 2018

Is Black Panther Alt-Right? (video) – Apparently several people in the alt-right are arguing that the fictional nation of Wakanda is an alt-right paradise.  Shaun deconstructs this in an entertaining way.  Note: I’ve not watched the movie.

The Ace Flag: A History and Celebration – This is mine, I’m plugging my own article.  It’s a little history of the purple-white-gray-black ace flag.  I was around when it was created.

Lawrence Krauss’s History of Sexual Harassment – Rebecca Watson talks about the Buzzfeed article that revealed Lawrence Krauss’ history of sexual harassment.  My reaction to the Buzzfeed article was, “Didn’t we already know that?”  I had recalled from the distant past that there were accusations, and all the skeptical orgs knew about it too.  But Krauss faced no consequences until recently.  Typical.

What Makes Celeste’s Assist Mode Special (video) – After all that talk about difficult video games, and whether they should include “easy modes”, it seems that some game developers have come up with an effective approach to offer players freedom to play how they want to play, while also maintaining a coherent vision of how the game should be played. The key is to offer options, but to clearly communicate (either explicitly or implicitly) the intended way to play. Also, rather than calling it an “easy mode” it’s best to call it something less judgmental, such as “assist mode”.

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One last conference

This week I will be at the APS March Meeting, the largest physics conference in the world (?).  Although I am no longer working as a physicist, I have a presentation about the work I did just before leaving.

Will I blog about it?  Eh, I didn’t always blog about it in previous years.  But my experience may be a little different this time because I can focus on talks that interest me, instead of the ones that are relevant to my work.  Anyone want to suggest something from among the 800+ sessions?

Origami: Pair of dragons

two dragons, one smaller green one and larger purple one, looking at each other

Dragon by Jo Nakashima

You might have noticed that I have a very strong preference for non-representational origami.  Non-representational origami does not seek to represent any particular object, and only seeks to be itself.  (Arguably many of my models represent mathematical concepts, but I’m declaring that this doesn’t count.)

But I do dabble.  I was part of the origami group at my university, and they would usually fold things like this.  These models represent dragons.  Yes, for some reason I folded two of them.  You can learn how to make these from Jo Nakashima’s website.

I am not particularly skilled at making these, I mean, considering how much origami I do.  The models shown are messy, and I often have trouble interpreting the diagrams.  But I do like these dragons.

Difficulty in Dark Souls 3

Last year when I talked a bit about difficulty in video games, I mentioned the Dark Souls as an exemplar of difficult video game design. More recently, I had opportunity to play Dark Souls 3. I finished it too. So here are my thoughts.

Like other adventure games, Dark Souls 3 is essentially a power fantasy. It gives the player a sense of increasing power over time. It begins by disempowering the player, beating them down over and over. But the player is empowered to eventually succeed. And what makes this experience so effective, is that the success depends almost entirely on the player’s skill and cleverness, instead of their character’s level. After completing the game for the first time, you can start over from the beginning and find it significantly easier.

Something that this game makes me think about, what even is difficulty? Does it mean it’s mentally taxing? Does it mean it’s frustrating? Does it mean very few people can succeed?

In the context of Dark Souls, people seem to think difficulty means “You die a lot,” but I’m not sure this is the right way to think about it. New players die a lot, but instead of thinking of it as failure, you could think of it as a necessary part of the learning process. One of the Dark Souls taglines is “Prepare to die”, which is literally telling players that dying is a necessary part of the game. Dying is even a essential component of the narrative–you’re a cursed undead who comes back to life each time you die. It’s not like other games where if you die, the universe rewinds and the game says “let’s pretend that never happened”.  In other words, dying in Dark Souls is diagetic.

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