Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happiness and the Search

Check out continuing coverage about "happiness" in Scientific American. This is by Marina Krakovsky.

An experimental psychologist investigating the possibility of lasting happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky understands far better than most of us the folly of pinning our hopes on a new car--or on any good fortune that comes our way. We tend to adapt, quickly returning to our usual level of happiness.

The classic example of such "hedonic adaptation" comes from a 1970s study of lottery winners, who a year after their windfall ended up no happier than nonwinners. Hedonic adaptation helps to explain why even changes in major life circumstances--such as income, marriage, physical health and where we live--do so little to boost our overall happiness. Not only that, but studies of twins and adoptees have shown that about 50 percent of each person's happiness is determined from birth.

This "genetic set point" alone makes the happiness glass look half empty, because any upward swing in happiness seems doomed to fall back to near your baseline.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Graffiti's beauty - flickr gives us a look

A day for WendSight to look at graffiti on flickr. Thank you Brian from The Curse of Brian.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Spooky quantum link - photons fly far

The reach of the spooky quantum link called entanglement keeps getting longer. A team has transmitted entangled photons some 144 kilometers (89 miles), reports Scientific American.

The distance achieved is 10 times farther than entangled photons have ever flown through the air. When two photons or other particles are in this state, what happens to one determines the fate of the other, no matter how far apart they are. Physicist Anton Zeilinger compares the phenomenon with throwing a pair of dice that land on matching numbers every time.

Using a laser, the researchers created entangled pairs of photons on La Palma and fired one member of each pair to a European Space Agency (ESA) telescope on Tenerife, which had to make rapid, small adjustments to receive the photons, Zeilinger says. In another presentation, physicist Richard Hughes of Los Alamos National Laboratory described recent experiments in which his group fired a series of nonentangled photons 185 kilometers down a conventional optical fiber.

In both cases, researchers demonstrated that they could transmit randomly oriented, or polarized, photons, which are suitable for sending messages that cannot be intercepted without garbling the information. Called quantum keys, such transmissions could allow users to scramble messages in a way that is potentially unbreakable.