Shining Light on Antimatter – Episode 57


Today on Citizens of Tech, Rogue One spoilers all the way down! Nothing but spoilers. Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers…

Just kidding!

Flow Machines Project – making creation easier through deep learning.

    • “The key idea of the Flow Machines project is to relate the notion of creativity to the notion of “style”.”
    • “The Flow Machines project takes a computer science perspective on style: how can a machine understand style and turn it into a computational object? An object that users can manipulate to create new objects with their own constraints.”
    • “Technically we have made substantial progress in developing efficient Markov Constraints algorithms that can apply many types of constraints to arbitrary Markov models.”
      • Tricky, because music is tricky. How to place constraints using a Markov model that results in something listenable or fitting within a particular length of time?
    • “Conceptually we are starting to build authoring tools in musical composition and text writing that enable people to generate content by manipulating the style of an existing author, possibly themselves.”
      • You want to create a song in the style of a preferred composer.
      • You start with a framework. Some notes and a rhythm that feels right to you.
      • You ask the system to fill in the blanks.
      • You listen to the result.
      • If you like it, great. If not, have the system try again.
    • “This fascinating and challenging project is just starting and our ambition is high: Invent the next generation of authoring tools that will help people manipulate the styles of their preferred authors, in music and text. These applications should be fun to use, should create Flow states, should push users to experiment with new ideas, and eventually create their own style. Stay tuned.”
    • “We developed a model of polyphonic music generation, which learns to compose chorales in the style of Bach.”
      • “This model is capable of producing convincing chorales, even if it is trained with no other data that the 400 chorale sheets by Bach.”
      • “A key feature is that we are able to constrain the generated chorales in many ways: we can for instance impose the melody, the bass, the rhythm but also the cadences (when the musical phrases end).”
      • “With this, we can for instance reharmonize in the style of Bach chorales well-known melodies.”

Shining Light on Antimatter.

  • How much do you know about antimatter?
  • Antimatter is essentially “opposite matter”
  • The theory has long been that for every bit of matter there is a corresponding opposite.
    • For example: electrons (negative charge, miniscule mass) have Positrons (equal positive charge, same miniscule mass)
    • This works for full atoms as well, so Hydrogen is made up of a Proton and an Electron; whereas antihydrogen is made up of an antiproton and and a positron.
    • When antimatter and matter meet they cancel out and generate light
  • This all sounds really cool – but it’s ridiculously unlikely to be able to study this in nature because the antimatter is outnumbered by matter in our universe.
  • Come to think of it why is antimatter outnumbered by matter in our universe…?
  • The current model of the Big Bang indicates that an equal amount of particles and antiparticles should have been generated, so how is there anything… wouldn’t it all have just cancelled out?
  • Theoretical Physicist Jeffrey Hangst from CERN said “Something happened, some small asymmetry that led some of the matter to survive, and we simply have no good idea that explains that right now,”
  • But that ignorance could be about to disappear. (Knowledge is the anti-ignorance)
  • The team working on this at CERN has been developing the technology to create meaningful numbers of Antihydrogen atoms for 20 years.
  • They’ve come up with a way to create 25,000 antihydrogen atoms every 15 minutes and they can trap 14 of them long enough to fire a laser at one and observe what happens.
    • Previous methods only allowed trapping 1.2 antihydrogen atoms every 15 minutes
  • So what’s the big deal here?
    • The team has conclusively determined that exciting the positrons in antihydrogen emits the exact same light signature as when the electrons in regular hydrogen atoms change from a higher level of “excitement” to a lower state.
    • This confirms that antihydrogen is the exact mirror of regular hydrogen and behaves exactly how theorized.
    • Tim Tharp at CERN said “It’s long been thought that antimatter is an exact reflection of matter, and we are gathering evidence to show that is indeed true,”
    • This is a step toward confirming that Special Relativity does, indeed hold up to the deepest scrutiny.
  • This is a stepping stone on the way to determining what that small asymmetry was that prevented the Universe from simply have self annihilated shortly after its beginning.
  • For a little perspective: It’s been 111 years since Einstein proposed the theory of Special Relativity which was several years before General Relativity. The fact that we are still finding new confirmations of his brilliant theories is simply staggering.

A bit about Ceres.

  • We’re constantly on the lookout for planets that might have harbored life.
  • Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
    • “Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Its diameter is approximately 945 kilometers (587 miles), making it the largest of the minor planets within the orbit of Neptune. The 33rd-largest known body in the Solar System, it is the only dwarf planet within the orbit of Neptune. Composed of rock and ice, Ceres is estimated to comprise approximately one third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt.”
  • It’s a “dwarf planet.”
  • The Dawn spacecraft has been surveying Ceres in great detail since 2015.
    • “Since Dawn reached it in early 2015, the spacecraft has returned 54,000 images, 16 million visible spectra, and 21 million infrared spectra. It mapped out the dwarf planet’s gravity field in great deal. Additionally, Dawn carries a detector to study the collision of neutrons with the surface of Ceres.”
  • One of the things discovered is hydrogen.
    • “Based upon the energy of gamma rays produced by such collisions, the spacecraft can detect various elements at the surface and to a depth of about one meter. In the last two years Dawn has found a lot of hydrogen.”
  • It appears that much of this surface hydrogen can be explained by water ice. Why? There’s more at the poles, and less at the equator. The poles stay a bit colder because of their angle to the sun, and some of the polar crater basins are in permanent shadow.
    • “Ice can persist in such craters on an airless world over billions of years because temperatures are very cold, about 110 Kelvin. Dawn also found ice at the edge of a shadowed crater in the bright, small Oxo crater near Ceres’ north pole. Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator of the Dawn mission, said this unstable ice was likely recently exposed by a landslide in the crater wall.”
  • Scientists believe there was an interior ocean at one time.
    • “Dawn scientists said all of the new evidence points convincingly toward the existence of an interior ocean in the dwarf planet’s distant past.”
  • It’s possible some remnant of ocean remains inside.
    • “Today, some liquid water likely remains inside, although it is very briny, Raymond said, with a much lower freezing point than less salty water. It’s likely this briny water is a source of material for Ahuna Mons, the tallest mountain on Ceres at 4km high and a suspected cryovolcano.”

Spun silk is stronger with graphene.

  • Feed silkworms graphene and carbon-nanotubes (made from graphene).
  • The silk produced is about 50% stronger than regular silk.
  • How do you get a silkworm to eat graphene? You spray their food with a liquid containing 0.2% graphene or carbon nanotubes by weight.
  • The subtext is that the silk conducts electricity, so there’s a use-case for conductive fabrics. But wait…the conductivity test was done after heating the super silk to over 1,000C, nearly 2,000F.
  • So…is that useful? Unsure. Maybe if the heated super silk is woven into a cloth with other fibers?
  • And hey…who are we kidding anyway? As Reddit put it, “Graphene does everything except leave the lab.”

Solar is a big deal. (Even if we talk about it too much.)

  • 2016 in the US: Solar represented 9.5 GW of Industrial and another 4.5 GW of distributed
  • Solar represented 31% of new power generation
  • In 2010 the US had 2GW of solar generation
  • At the end of 2016 we have 39 GW – a 19-fold increase in 6 years
  • 30 year service life with minimal maintenance (yay solid state electronics!) and no fuel to buy, ship, handle, burn, have I ever mentioned I love solar power?



  • Evernote is using machine learning to mine notes so you can have a better experience.
  • The latest privacy issue cropped up where Evernote employees could read your notes to make sure the ML algorithm was working properly.
  • Not new. Evernote has said employees can read your notes under certain circumstances anyway.
  • Evernote backed off, and now you have to opt-in.
  • But who cares? DIAF.
  • Let’s be clear…any service that’s free is mining your data, and probably reserves the right to use your images, etc.
  • But still, Evernote. Geez. The stuff I put in there is important.


  • “California wants the company to stop testing its self-driving vehicles without the state’s permission.”
  • “The company lost $800 million in Q3 2016 on revenues of $1.7 billion.”
  • “That number doesn’t include anything the company lost in China, a market in which Uber has been spending heavily of late”
  • “Set to lose more than $3 billion this year.”
  • “2016’s losses may well wipe out almost all of the gigantic cash injection Uber received from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund back in June.”
  • “The company settled a lawsuit with drivers from Massachusetts and California”
  • “Settled a second lawsuit from customers alleging sexual assault by their drivers”
  • “Settled a third lawsuit over misleading claims about background checks for drivers”
  • “Lost a legal battle in the UK to prevent its drivers from being classified as employees”
  • “Got fined by the French courts for operating an illegal taxi service”
  • “Told California where it could stick its self-driving permits”
  • “It even hired people to pretend to be journalists to aid another lawsuit.”
  • “Uber faces ever more competition, not only from Lyft but also GM’s Maven.”
  • So…what do they spend their money on?
    • Marketing. There’s lots of competition, especially when considering global markets. The barrier to admission isn’t overly high to get into this market.
    • Competing on price / racing to the bottom.
    • Hard to attract customers and drivers. Not getting enough customers, and not paying enough to drivers yet. So they market heavily to get the riders, so that they can pay the drivers better and keep them happy. Hard to win.

Today I Learned

Songslapping. “The act of singing a part of a song in order to get it stuck in the head of the recipient of the slap.”


No, but seriously. We’re going to see Rogue One.

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