Daily Archive: January 30, 2018

Jan

30

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Tag yourself, we’re the ‘Yes, this is data’

Bwog Science was active yesterday – while new writer Riya covered a film about autism, EIC Betsy Ladyzhets went to a visiting Yale professor’s talk on quantum computing. She has little knowledge of both quantum physics and computing, but was still inspired by Prof. Steven Girvin’s self-described miraculous solution to the problem of quantum computing error.

Quantum physics (i.e. the physics of atoms and subatomic particles) is full of paradoxes. Perhaps the most famous of these is Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment devised by Erwin Schrödinger in response to the concept of quantum superpositions. According to this principle, a quantum system such as a photon can exist in multiple states of energy at the same time – until it is observed by the outside world, when it will collapse into one of the possible superimposed states.

Schrödinger demonstrated why he found this principle ridiculous by constructing a feline analogy: imagine a cat is placed in a sealed chamber, along with a measurement device containing a small amount of a radioactive substance and a relay system linking this device to a vial of poisonous acid. An atom of this radioactive substance might decay, which would cause the relay system to shatter the vial, poisoning the cat. But with equal probability, the atom might not decay, in which case the vial would remain intact and the cat would remain alive. However, because the whole thing is inside a sealed container, nobody could know if the cat is dead or alive until they opened the box. In this analogy, the cat is a photon, technically existing in both dead and living states (0 and 1 states) until someone checks on it.

Steven Girvin a professor and vice provost at Yale who studies the quantum mechanics of large collections of atoms, started his talk on quantum computing yesterday by calling attention to paradoxes like that of Schrödinger’s cat. “Is quantum information carried by waves or by particles?” he asked. The audience (of, I gathered, almost entirely physics students), chucked as he announced the answer: “Yes.” Quantum mechanics has come a long way since Schrödinger metaphorically killed (and didn’t kill) a cat, but it hasn’t gotten any less difficult to wrap one’s head around.

What does any of this have to do with computers?

Jan

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Directed by a Columbia alum!

The Heyman Center for the Humanities is hosting “Explorations in the Medical Humanities,” a series of talks, films, and events that strive to bridge medicine and the humanities. Yesterday, Bwog sent writer Riya Mirchandaney to “Swim Team,” a film about an award-winning swim team consisting of boys on the autism spectrum. Here’s her review of the film.

As someone who loves the humanities, it’s obvious that the science event I’d chose to attend would be a film screening. If I learned anything from watching “The Great Sperm Race” in junior year biology, it’s that movies are a fantastic vessel for disseminating (ha, ha) scientific information in a thoughtful and accessible way. Who wants to listen to a dreary lecture when they could learn just as much from sleekly-edited video montages and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s sultry voice?

But “Swim Team,” the award-winning first feature-length documentary by Columbia alum Lara Stolman, strangely lacking in lab coats and medical terminology, was a science documentary of a completely different breed. It was shown as part of the Medical Humanities series sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities.

The film begins with an extended underwater shot. A boy swimming. The swim captain encouraging his teammates. The coaches—the mother and father of one of the swimmers—introduce the scene: this is a special olympics team, and all of the boys are on the autism spectrum. They are the New Jersey Hammerheads.

As defined by the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, autism spectrum disorder is characterized by deficits in social communication and interaction, as well as by restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior, often accompanied by intellectual and language impairment. In New Jersey, with the highest rate in the country, 1 out of every 26 boys is diagnosed with autism.

Click here to learn more about the film and about the medical humanities

Jan

30

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Early this afternoon, Columbia University shared news of its decision refusing to engage in bargaining with Columbia graduate student unions. In a response to UAW’s request to bargain, Columbia announced that it would instead take the issue of the status of graduate students to a federal appellate court, maintaining that the graduate student-faculty relationship differed from that of employer-employee.

Graduate students finally received the right to unionize in August 2016 after two years of struggle, which oversaw a denied petition and an election. In December of the same year, Graduate Workers of Columbia University-UAW voted to unionize by a nearly 1000-point margin, a move publicly supported by SGA and, later, CCSC.

Columbia’s response to UAW was reported to the Columbia community in a statement from Provost John Coatsworth, included below for your convenience.

Update 11:50 pm: The Graduate Workers of Columbia University-UAW released a statement condemning the University’s choice to decline to bargain with them, a choice they claim is illegal. The statement also accuses the University of failing to respect their “democratic mandate” and taking away their rights to collective bargaining. There will be a demonstration Thursday, February 1 at noon on Low Steps to protest Columbia’s “delay tactics.” The full text of the statement is included after the jump.

Full statement below the jump

Jan

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On January 30th, 2006, Bwog was born as the online baby of the Blue and White. Now, we are in our 12th year of reporting all Columbia student news, whether fit to print or otherwise. We all know the tweens can be a rough year, going through puberty and starting middle school and whatnot. So we’d like to thank our readers for their continued support of our dear publication. You’ve left us so many lovely comments, such as this charmer from last year’s birthday post:

Or this instant icon:

We love and appreciate the Columbia community, and we’re so glad you love us right back! Happy birthday to us!

Jan

30

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Sometimes, Barnard’s Student Government Association gets things done in a way that we can all be proud of. Last night’s Rep Council meeting was not one of those times. This week, our Reps heard a presentation on the Board of Trustees and finally selected a new Representative for Academic Affairs. It was kind of frustrating, and boring enough that I tried to take up creative writing in the margins of my notebook. Lucky for you, I soon remembered that I’m not good at creative writing, and have decided to stick with vaguely disgruntled reporting. So read on to find out what happened and wonder with me why we even do this at all.

We all learned how to do this, correct?

But first, before the meeting even started, an interruption. Press was told that this was “Barnard College business” and not “SGA business,” and anyway, it was for a surprise. It is not an interesting surprise, reader, so I won’t ruin it. But it was a waste of our collective time, and caused the meeting to start a good fifteen minutes late. I’ll just say this, SGA: finger-guns are never a good idea. Following the delay, President Angela Beam reminded everyone to be “mindful” when making announcements, because we were running late. I did not find them to be particularly mindful.

The main focus of the evening was a presentation by Jessica Reich and Tamar Dayanim, the student Representatives to the Board of Trustees, about what that board does and what part they serve in it. Jess and Tamar explained how the Board focuses on big-picture items, and has a good number of secret meetings. The trustees have a diversity of experience and knowledge, which they employ to oversee the goings-on of the administration and faculty. The student representatives make two presentations a year to update the board on what’s happening in the student body, and are also available to answer questions when relevant. A fine explanation, but I feel like we also could have managed without it.

Fumbled election procedures and more…

Jan

30

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Courtesy of Caroline’s Instagram.

Following the tragic death of Barnard senior Caroline Montgomery over winter break, her family has decided to host a memorial gathering this evening at the school. According to Dean Avis Hinkson, “The program will feature several speakers and an opportunity to share memories of Caroline”.

The service will take place in the James Room, on the fourth floor of Barnard Hall, from 6-7 pm.

 

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Jan

30

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What’s Happening In The World: In absolutely terrifying medical news, a man in India died after being sucked into an MRI machine then inhaling lethal liquid oxygen from a cylinder he was carrying. The worst part? The man, Rajesh Maru, wasn’t even having an MRI when it happened. The magnetic forces pulled him in while he was in the room. (Fox)

Why does this keep happening?

What’s Happening In The US: Those of you who are paranoid about technology and tracking are now justified. It was discovered that the popular fitness app Strava’s “heat map”, which posts the locations of its active users, may reveal the location of U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more dangerously, the routes between them. (Washington Post)

What’s Happening In NYC: Faced with massive transportation costs of over $300 million a year, the city is considering charging its residents for garbage pickup. Supporters say the plan would also encourage recycling and benefit the environment, but its detractors say that New Yorkers pay enough taxes as it is. (CBS Local)

What’s Happening At Columbia: Tonight from 6-7 in Low Library, Room 207, the Earth Institute is hosting an event entitled “Sustainability Measurement in China: Fostering a Race to the Top”. With China’s fast growing economy, sustainability is now becoming a greater concern. According to the description, “panelists will discuss how such systems can complement policymaking in China’s local administrative system, the balance between the state and the private sector as well as sustainable development in China more broadly.”

Overseen: A pair of underwear hanging out in the Barnard Quad. I really hope the free laundry at Columbia is the reason for this.

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