California, supplier of nearly half of all U.S. fruits, veggies, and nuts, is on track to experience the driest year in the past half millennium. Farms use about 80 percent of the state’s “developed water,” or water that’s moved from its natural source to other areas via pipes and aqueducts.
As the maps above show, much of California’s agriculture is concentrated in the parts of the state that the drought has hit the hardest. For example: Monterey County, which is currently enduring an “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, grew nearly half of America’s lettuce and broccoli in 2012.
When it comes to water use, not all plants are created equal. Here’s how much water some of California’s major crops require:
Jay Lund, a water expert at the University of California-Davis, says that water problems mean that agriculture may soon play a less important role in California’s economy, as the business of growing food moves to the South and the Midwest, where water is less expensive. Production rates for thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton have already diminished significantly in the last few years. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the amount of land irrigated for cotton fell by 46 percent.
In addition to farms, the drought affects municipal water supplies. There is so little water this year that some places are in danger of running out — and the little that is left could soon become undrinkable because of the high concentration of pollutants.
So how are Californians doing on water conservation? Here’s how some cities stack up:
Source: Alex Park and Julia Lurie, It takes how much water to grow an almond?!, grist.org, February 24, 2014, http://grist.org/food/it-takes-how-much-water-to-grow-an-almond/.
Alex Park is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.
Julia Lurie is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.
I love the Oscars. Ever since I was a little boy, I have been committed to watching the Oscars. No answering the telephone, ignore the doorbell. I am focused.
When I saw this infographic on Visual.ly created by Beutler Ink, I was impressed. I looked at each icon and was able to determine about 95% of the Best Picture titles. For those of you who are not so much into the Oscars or movies, the key to the identity of the icons is at the bottom of the infographic.
There are 85 Best Picture winners in all. See how many movies you can recognize from the icon alone.
If you are looking for me Sunday night, I will have my eyes glued to the television.
Believe it or not, this is not the first blog entry I am making regarding Schrödinger’s cat. I blogged about it first in October 2009 on the blog site I do for my friend’s toy store, Toy Anxiety (http://www.toyanxiety.com).
I have been reading the cover story of the February 17, 2014 issue of Time Magazine. The story is about The Infinity Machine, which promises to solve some of humanity’s most complex problems. Financial backers include Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, NASA and the CIA.
The infinity machine, called the D-Wave Two, is a quantum computer that is so powerful, people are still figuring out how best to use it. But, it has the power to solve problems that would take conventional computers (referred to in the article as classical computers) centuries to solve. Some of the fields of study that would benefit from this quantum computer are cryptography, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals to artificial intelligence.
Quantum computing is a marriage of quantum physics and digital computing. At the very basis of understanding quantum physics is the theory of Schrödinger’s cat, a famous thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger.
I encourage you to read the entire article in Time Magazine. For now, though, I will provide an explanation of Schrödinger’s cat. The great visual above, from HowStuffWorks, helps in understanding this theory.
Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment, often described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The thought experiment presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event. In the course of developing this experiment, he coined the term Verschränkung — literally, entanglement.
Origin and motivation
Schrödinger’s thought experiment was intended as a discussion of the EPR article, named after its authors — Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen — in 1935. The EPR article had highlighted the strange nature of quantum superpositions. Broadly stated, a quantum superposition is the combination of all the possible states of a system (for example, the possible positions of a subatomic particle). The Copenhagen interpretation implies that the superposition undergoes collapse into a definite state only at the exact moment of quantum measurement.
Schrödinger and Einstein had exchanged letters about Einstein’s EPR article, in the course of which Einstein had pointed out that the quantum superposition of an unstable keg of gunpowder will, after a while, contain both exploded and unexploded components.
To further illustrate the putative incompleteness of quantum mechanics, Schrödinger applied quantum mechanics to a living entity that may or may not be conscious. In Schrödinger’s original thought experiment, he describes how one could, in principle, transform a superposition inside an atom to a large-scale superposition of a live and dead cat by coupling cat and atom with the help of a “diabolical mechanism”. He proposed a scenario with a cat in a sealed box, wherein the cat’s life or death was dependent on the state of a subatomic particle. According to Schrödinger, the Copenhagen interpretation implies that the cat remains both alive and dead (to the universe outside the box) until the box is opened.
Schrödinger did not wish to promote the idea of dead-and-alive cats as a serious possibility; quite the reverse. The thought experiment serves to illustrate the bizarreness of quantum mechanics and the mathematics necessary to describe quantum states. Intended as a critique of just the Copenhagen interpretation (the prevailing orthodoxy in 1935), the Schrödinger cat thought experiment remains a topical touchstone for all interpretations of quantum mechanics. How each interpretation deals with Schrödinger’s cat is often used as a way of illustrating and comparing each interpretation’s particular features, strengths, and weaknesses.
The thought experiment
One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of the hour, one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges, and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.
It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a “blurred model” for representing reality. In itself, it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.
The above text is a translation of two paragraphs from a much larger original article that appeared in the German magazine Naturwissenschaften (“Natural Sciences”) in 1935.
Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment poses the question, when does a quantum system stop existing as a mixture of states and become one or the other? (More technically, when does the actual quantum state stop being a linear combination of states, each of which resembles different classical states, and instead begins to have a unique classical description?) If the cat survives, it remembers only being alive. But explanations of the EPR experiments that are consistent with standard microscopic quantum mechanics require that macroscopic objects, such as cats and notebooks, do not always have unique classical descriptions. The purpose of the thought experiment is to illustrate this apparent paradox. Our intuition says that no observer can be in a mixture of states; yet the cat, it seems from the thought experiment, can be such a mixture. Is the cat required to be an observer, or does its existence in a single well-defined classical state require another external observer? Each alternative seemed absurd to Albert Einstein, who was impressed by the ability of the thought experiment to highlight these issues. In a letter to Schrödinger dated 1950, he wrote:
You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality, if only one is honest. Most of them simply do not see what sort of risky game they are playing with reality—reality as something independent of what is experimentally established. Their interpretation is, however, refuted most elegantly by your system of radioactive atom + amplifier + charge of gunpowder + cat in a box, in which the psi-function of the system contains both the cat alive and blown to bits. Nobody really doubts that the presence or absence of the cat is something independent of the act of observation.
Note that no charge of gunpowder is mentioned in Schrödinger’s setup, which uses a Geiger counter as an amplifier and hydrocyanic poison instead of gunpowder. The gunpowder had been mentioned in Einstein’s original suggestion to Schrödinger 15 years before, and apparently Einstein had carried it forward to the present discussion.
In the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, a system stops being a superposition of states and becomes either one or the other when an observation takes place. This experiment makes apparent the fact that the nature of measurement, or observation, is not well-defined in this interpretation. Some interpret the experiment to mean that while the box is closed, the system simultaneously exists in a superposition of the states “decayed nucleus/dead cat” and “undecayed nucleus/living cat”, and that only when the box is opened and an observation performed does the wave function collapse into one of the two states. More intuitively, some feel that the “observation” is taken when a particle from the nucleus hits the detector. This line of thinking can be developed into objective collapse theories. In contrast, the many worlds approach denies that collapse ever occurs.
Steven Weinberg said:
All this familiar story is true, but it leaves out an irony. Bohr’s version of quantum mechanics was deeply flawed, but not for the reason Einstein thought. The Copenhagen interpretation describes what happens when an observer makes a measurement, but the observer and the act of measurement are themselves treated classically. This is surely wrong; physicists and their apparatus must be governed by the same quantum mechanical rules that govern everything else in the universe. But these rules are expressed in terms of a wave function (or, more precisely, a state vector) that evolves in a perfectly deterministic way. So where do the probabilistic rules of the Copenhagen interpretation come from?
Considerable progress has been made in recent years toward the resolution of the problem, which I cannot go into here. It is enough to say that neither Bohr nor Einstein had focused on the real problem with quantum mechanics. The Copenhagen rules clearly work, so they have to be accepted. But this leaves the task of explaining them by applying the deterministic equation for the evolution of the wave function, the Schrödinger equation, to observers and their apparatus.
Everett’s many-worlds interpretation & consistent histories
In 1957, Hugh Everett formulated the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which does not single out observation as a special process. In the many-worlds interpretation, both alive and dead states of the cat persist, but are decoherent from each other. In other words, when the box is opened, that part of the universe containing the observer and cat is split into two separate universes: one containing an observer looking at a box with a dead cat, and one containing an observer looking at a box with a live cat.
Since the dead and alive states are decoherent, there is no effective communication or interaction between them. When an observer opens the box, he becomes entangled with the cat, so “observer states” corresponding to the cat’s being alive and dead are formed, and each can have no interaction with the other. The same mechanism of quantum decoherence is also important for the interpretation in terms of consistent histories. Only the “dead cat” or “alive cat” can be a part of a consistent history in this interpretation.
Roger Penrose criticises this:
“I wish to make it clear that, as it stands, this is far from a resolution of the cat paradox. For there is nothing in the formalism of quantum mechanics that demands that a state of consciousness cannot involve the simultaneous perception of a live and a dead cat”,
although the mainstream view (without necessarily endorsing many-worlds) is that decoherence is the mechanism that forbids such simultaneous perception.
A variant of the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment, known as the quantum suicide machine, has been proposed by cosmologist Max Tegmark. It examines the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment from the point of view of the cat, and argues that by using this approach, one may be able to distinguish between the Copenhagen interpretation and many-worlds.
The ensemble interpretation states that superpositions are nothing but subensembles of a larger statistical ensemble. That being the case, the state vector would not apply to individual cat experiments, but only to the statistics of many similarly prepared cat experiments. Proponents of this interpretation state that this makes the Schrödinger’s Cat paradox a trivial nonissue.
This interpretation serves to discard the idea that a single physical system in quantum mechanics has a mathematical description that corresponds to it in any way; the problem should be renamed Schrödinger’s cats.
Objective collapse theories
According to objective collapse theories, superpositions are destroyed spontaneously (irrespective of external observation) when some objective physical threshold (of time, mass, temperature, irreversibility, etc.) is reached. Thus, the cat would be expected to have settled into a definite state long before the box is opened. This could loosely be phrased as “the cat observes itself”, or “the environment observes the cat”.
Objective collapse theories require a modification of standard quantum mechanics to allow superpositions to be destroyed by the process of time evolution.
The experiment is a purely theoretical one, and the machine proposed is not known to have been constructed. Analogous effects, however, have some practical use in quantum computing and quantum cryptography. It is possible to send light that is in a superposition of states down a fiber optic cable. Placing a wiretap in the middle of the cable that intercepts and retransmits the transmission will collapse the wave function (in the Copenhagen interpretation, “perform an observation”) and cause the light to fall into one state or another. By performing statistical tests on the light received at the other end of the cable, one can tell whether it remains in the superposition of states or has already been observed and retransmitted. In principle, this allows the development of communication systems that cannot be tapped without the tap being noticed at the other end. This experiment can be argued to illustrate that “observation” in the Copenhagen interpretation has nothing to do with consciousness (unless some version of panpsychism is true), in that a perfectly unconscious wiretap will cause the statistics at the end of the wire to be different. Such a test would only work if the collapse occurs after (as opposed to before) observation; otherwise, it would appear collapsed whether it had been wiretapped or not.
In quantum computing, the phrase “cat state” often refers to the special entanglement of qubits wherein the qubits are in an equal superposition of all being 0 and all being 1;
i.e., + .
Although discussion of this thought experiment talks about two possible states (cat alive and cat dead), in reality, there would be a huge number of possible states, since the temperature and degree and state of decomposition of the cat would depend on exactly when and how (as well as if) the mechanism was triggered, as well as the state of the cat prior to death.
In another extension, prominent physicists have gone so far as to suggest that astronomers observing dark matter in the universe in 1998 may have “reduced its life expectancy” through a pseudo-Schrödinger’s Cat scenario, although this is a controversial viewpoint.
Another variant on the experiment is Wigner’s friend, in which there are two external observers, the first of whom opens and inspects the box and then communicates his observations to a second observer. The issue here is, does the wave function collapse when the first observer opens the box, or only when the second observer is informed of the first observer’s observations? Another extension is a scenario wherein the inside of the box is videotaped and played to an audience at a later time, or played back to the cat while in the box. If dead, there would be no observer to cause disentanglement; if alive, disentanglement would occur.
 Wikipedia, Schrödinger’s cat.
 Lev Grossman, Quantum Leap, Time Magazine, February 17, 2014.
 Image, Schrödinger’s cat, HowStuffWorks, 2007.
Gartner has just released its 2014 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.
I need a few days to soak this in and better comment on it. But, for now, I thought I would share the Magic Quadrant with you.
You can see the entire report by clicking here.
Gartner describes and defines the market as follows.
The BI and analytics platform market is in the middle of an accelerated transformation from BI systems used primarily for measurement and reporting to those that also support analysis, prediction, forecasting and optimization. Because of the growing importance of advanced analytics for descriptive, prescriptive and predictive modeling, forecasting, simulation and optimization (see “Extend Your Portfolio of Analytics Capabilities”) in the BI and information management applications and infrastructure that companies are building — often with different buyers driving purchasing and different vendors offering solutions — this year Gartner has also published a Magic Quadrant exclusively on predictive and prescriptive analytics platforms (see Note 1). Vendors offering both sets of capabilities are featured in both Magic Quadrants.
The BI platform market is forecast to have grown into a $14.1 billion market in 2013, largely through companies investing in IT-led consolidation projects to standardize on IT-centric BI platforms for large-scale systems-of-record reporting (see “Forecast: Enterprise Software Markets, Worldwide, 2010-2017, 3Q13 Update”). These have tended to be highly governed and centralized, where IT production reports were pushed out to inform a broad array of information consumers and analysts. While analytical capabilities were deployed, such as parameterized reports, online analytical processing (OLAP) and ad hoc query, they were never fully embraced by the majority of business users, managers and analysts, primarily because most considered these too difficult to use for many analytical use cases. As a result, and continuing a five-year trend, these installed platforms are routinely being complemented, and in 2013 were increasingly displaced, in new sales situations by new investments, and requirements were more skewed toward business-user-driven data discovery techniques to make analytics beyond traditional reporting more accessible and pervasive to a broader range of users and use cases.
Also in support of wider adoption, companies and independent software vendors are increasingly embedding both traditional reporting, dashboards and interactive analysis, in addition to more advanced and prescriptive analytics built from statistical functions and algorithms available within the BI platform into business processes or applications. The intent is to expand the use of analytics to a broad range of consumers and nontraditional BI users, increasingly on mobile devices. Moreover, companies are increasingly building analytics applications, leveraging new data types and new types of analysis, such as location intelligence and analytics on multistructured data stored in NoSQL data repositories.
I came across a blog entry written back in September 2013 by Igor Ovsyannykov, who describes himself as a geek, blogger, and designer. Mr. Ovsyannykov discusses how best to design a Hang Tag for a piece of merchandise, in his case, apparel. In the apparel industry, the hang tag designed and used can influence whether a customer will purchase your product or not. If your tag looks cheap, customers may associate your clothing with poor quality. So, how do you design a hang tag that will influence your customer’s purchase decision? Read Igor’s recommendations below to find out how to create the perfect hang tag.
1. Make sure your hang tag reflects the market you want to sell your clothing in
There are a lot of different clothing markets, from kids’ clothing to high-end women’s clothing. If you’re selling clothing for kids, your hang tag should reflect this. Hang tags for children’s clothing should have bright colors and imagery that is attractive to kids.
However, clothing markets for children can have varied segments. If you are selling clothing for very babies and toddlers, your hang tags should be more directed towards parents. If you are selling high-end women’s clothing, your hang tag should look elegant and sophisticated.
Hang tags can enhance how your customer perceives a clothing item. Be aware of your key demographic and try to create your hang tag with this demographic in mind. To get an idea of whether your hang tag will be effective, get a lot of feedback from your friends, family, and colleagues.
2. Include tips on how the clothing item can be worn on the hang tag
The hang tag gives you a chance to tell your customers how your product should be used. You can use the hang tag to convince your customers to buy your product. You can do so by making an argument for the item’s usefulness or attractive design.
If you’re selling athletic or outdoor clothing, your hang tag should tell your customers how your clothing item is useful in that regard. For example, if you’re selling a winter jacket, specify for what kind of weather the jacket is ideal for? Let you customer know; put it on the hang tag. Similarly, if you make surf gear, your hang tags should explain what the item you’re selling is intended for. A lot of clothing is purchased as a gift by customers who know nothing about the clothing’s use. Always keep that at the back of your mind.
3. Add images to your tags
If you add images to your hang tags, you can give your customers a good idea what your product looks like when worn. You can also use images to illustrate other items that a clothing item would look good with. For example, if you’re selling a blouse, you could include an image of a woman wearing the blouse on the hang tag along with a pair of pants that complement the blouse.
Not only do images on hand tags allow you to suggest ways to wear an item to your customer, it can also persuade them to purchase your item. Images on hang tags are particularly influential for customers who are buying items as gifts. If a clothing item is being purchased as a gift, all the customer has to make a decision from is the image on the hang tag. They won’t be trying the item on to help them in their decision-making,
4. Make the name of your clothing line stick out
You want your customers to know who made the clothing item as soon as they look at the hang tag. If the brand name is hard to find, customers may think your clothing is low quality, because high quality clothing often has a very prominent name on the hang tag.
Keep in mind, however, that the name of your clothing line needs to be written to attract your key demographic. If you’re making budget work clothing, you might not want to have your clothing line written on the hang tag in a fancy cursive font. If you’re targeting hip young adults, you might want to write your name in a minimalistic fashion.
If your customers can easily see your clothing line name on the hang tag, they may remember it and purchase your products again in the future.
5. Include contact information on the hang tag
If you include a website or a telephone number, your customers will be able to find your products better. This information also makes you look more professional. It also may bring you additional business. For example, if a customer sees your product in a store but wants the product in a size that the store doesn’t have, they can go to your website to purchase it, and while they are at your website, they may purchase additional items.
Be careful when designing your hang tag. Do not rush the design and creation of your hang tag. Impatience can cost you potential future business. Follow Igor’s recommendations above and try to get as much feedback as possible on your designs. The perfect hang tag can make your clothing sell better and become more successful.
Below are some examples of hang tags that inspired Igor.
The Rare Collection
En Route Packaging
Carroll Shelby Collection
Denver Clothing Company
The Type Hunter Tag Concept by Keith Tatum
Self Promotion by Adriana James
Captainstyle fashion brand identity
Urban Zen – Naturally Haiti Tags
Odin Hang tag
The Printed Palette
Genuine Kids Denim Packaging
True Green by Free People Clothing
Thorn hang tag
Boss Orange Capsule
Trophy Hunting System
Crimson and Blue
Source: Igor Ovsyannykov, Designing a Hang Tag? Words of Advice and Inspiration Before You Start, Inspirationfeed.com, September 09, 2013, http://inspirationfeed.com/inspiration/print-inspiration/designing-a-hang-tag-words-of-advice-and-inspiration-before-you-start/.
There’s only room for one Happiest Place on Earth on this Earth.
The folks at Cheap Flights have cross-examined ticket prices, acreage, and the number of character meet-and-greets to determine which of six Disney parks is the most jolly.
Scroll to the bottom for the big reveal!
Source: Richard S. Chang and Josh Reitz, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ Lyrics as a Flowchart, redbull.com, January 31, 2014, http://www.redbull.com/us/en/music/stories/1331631044382/led-zeppelins-black-dog-lyrics-as-a-flowchart.
So, when I left Detroit Monday evening, they had just reached their fourth snowiest winter of all recorded time. The Detroit Free Press newspaper had even included this infographic to show you snowfall in Detroit and its surrounding areas plus the all-time snowiest winter vertical bar chart.
However, by midnight, an additional 3.5 inches of snow had fallen, with more expected to fall into the night, according to meteorologist Steven Freitag of the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. Monday’s storm pushed the total winter snowfall to 76.4 inches, surpassing the record set in 1981-82 and making this one the third snowiest winter in Detroit on record.
So, this chart is now obsolete, but it gives you a good idea of how much snow the Detroit area has had this year-to-date.
Stay safe, Detroiters. Drive a bit slower and stay inside.