Hi all, and welcome to the return of the undergrad research posts! For those who don’t remember this series: this is where we feature the research that you’re doing. If you’ve missed the previous installments, you can find them under the “Undergraduate Research” category here.
What does this series mean for you? We want to hear from you! Whether you’ve done an REU project, you’re working on your senior thesis, or you’ve recently started a research project in between homework sets — if you’re an undergrad doing research, we’d love to hear about it.
You can share what you’re doing by clicking on the “Your Research” tab above (or by clicking here) and using the form provided to submit a brief (fewer than 200 words) write-up of your work. The target audience is one familiar with astrophysics but not necessarily your specific subfield, so write clearly and try to avoid jargon. Feel free to also include either a visual regarding your research or else a photo of yourself!
We look forward to hearing from you!
Halston Lim and Jason Liang
Halston and Jason did this work jointly at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Neutrinos, fundamental particles of the Standard Model of particle physics, can provide unique information about the internal processes of opaque high-energy astrophysical events. The ability of neutrinos to travel vast distances through matter is a crucial advantage of neutrino astronomy over optical astronomy. We demonstrated how neutrinos can be used to study the properties of failed supernovae (fSN) and black hole-neutron star mergers (BHNSM), thus providing a valuable contribution to neutrino astronomy. fSN neutrino detection would result in the first observation of black hole formation, while neutrinos from BHNSM could be used to determine if BHNSM are progenitors of short-period gamma-ray bursts, some of the most energetic events in the universe. By calculating the observed neutrino signal in various current and proposed detectors, we determined the detectability of fSN and BHNSM and demonstrated how the observed neutrino signal can provide information about the temperature and average energy of the neutrinos at the source. We also showed how these emission characteristics can then provide further information about the production of heavy metals in fSN and BHNSM. Our results confirm that neutrino observations of galactic fSN and BHNSM are feasible and provide fundamental groundwork for future research on fSN and BHNSM.
Andrew is a graduating senior at the University of Minnesota. He worked on this project for his Honors thesis under Dr. Tom Jones and Dr. David Porter, using the resources of the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. Andrew will be entering graduate school this fall at Columbia University, pursuing a doctorate in Astronomy with an intended focus in computational astrophysics.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound objects in the Universe, containing hundreds to thousands of individual galaxies. A majority of the baryonic matter in a cluster is contained within the intracluster medium (ICM): a hot, diffuse plasma that is interspersed throughout the galaxy cluster. The ICM is host to many phenomena, some of which can be used as key diagnostics, such as its often strong X-ray and radio emission. By studying the radio emission, we know that the ICM contains weak, cluster wide magnetic fields, but we do not understand well where they came from, or how they grew to the strength that is observed. One means to study the problem is to simulate the detailed microphysics of the interactions between the magnetic field and the “weather” of the ICM. We study the evolution of a weak, non-uniform magnetic field in a turbulent plasma, focusing on the details as to how turbulence amplifies a magnetic field. We focus primarily on the early evolution, and concern ourselves with how various magnetic field conditions can affect how the magnetic field grows over time, while fixing the nature of the turbulence. This study provides insight which can improve the accuracy of cosmological scale models of galaxy clusters. In addition, we know at some point information of the magnetic field conditions will be erased in the course of the ICM’s evolution. This study serves to help pinpoint exactly when that occurs, and thus if it could be possible to extract that information from potential observations.
Many thanks to Halston, Jason and Andrew, as well as everyone else who has recently submitted contributions! Look for more undergraduate research posts in the future — this series will continue once a month.
Alan Wexelblat comment on the news that Nintendo has claimed "monetization rights" to fan videos on YouTube that feature tips on playing its games. Some of these videos are incredibly popular, and while their use of Nintendo's creations are often fair use, Nintendo gets to use YouTube's monetization system to advertise on all the videos:
The basic idea is that if someone makes a video of themselves playing a Nintendo game and uploads it to YouTube any ads shown with that video will be of Nintendo's choosing and revenue from it will flow to Nintendo. Ads may appear beside the videos or actually be inserted before and after the video when people go to play it.
The problem here is that "Let's Play" style videos are a pervasive form of information and sharing throughout the industry. I did a quick YouTube search for "let's play" for this blog post and got back over 9.1 million hits. People create these videos to show off their skills, to highlight interesting things they've seen such as game "easter eggs", to provide guides or walk-throughs, or just to share a bit of fun with friends. There are a few professional or semi-professional games writers who use this style of video to promote themselves or their channels, but they are a tiny minority of that nine million.
Nintendo has positioned its action as a gentler approach; rather than trying to ban content related to Nintendo games, they just want to make money off it by changing the video that an individual uploaded. Yeah, um, guys that's not a whole lot better. It also comes across as cheap and lazy - rather than creating content for YouTube that fans and players would want to watch, Nintendo is just taking over other peoples' content.
<ahref="http://copyfight.corante.com/archives/2013/05/17/nintendo_decides_it_can_own_fans_youtube_content.php"> Nintendo Decides It Can Own Fans' YouTube Content</a>
You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the article you write.
The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
At all times go after your heart.
Over the years, various people, almost always non-technical, have asked me to recommend the best tablet for their needs. Note: This post talks about real life, not online.
As opposed to online, in real life, people aren’t looking at a Tablet as an extension of their relationship with a favorite company, an extension of a philosophy, an accessory, or a statement of who they are.
They simply want to do X (sometimes X and Y and Z), and they wonder if a Tablet is a good choice.
Here are the two things that really surprised me -
All of this is anecdotal evidence, so take it with a shaker of salt.
The two things that keep striking me are -
Note: This is over a time period of 3 years. The data points have stayed consistent.
Do people not need PCs any more?
Not really. Most people don’t.
This goes against every single assumption I could make about the future of PCs and Tablets. There should be no reason for Tablets to be preferable to a PC. It’s like a Ninja choosing a butter knife instead of a katana.
However, in real life, it seems most people don’t really need a Personal Computer any more. They don’t need a desktop or a laptop. They just need a Consumption & Communication device. Most people aren’t ninjas – they just want to butter their toast.
Tablets are portable, they are focused on consumption, they are dead simple to use. They are cheap.
People never mention that iPad provided 80% of people’s computing needs at 50% of the price of most laptops and PCs. Apple didn’t win with magic fairy dust. It won on value and ease of use. If you think back to when iPad was introduced, everyone assumed it would be $1,000. $499 was a stunning price.
Most importantly, iPad covered 80% of what people wanted a computer for. It was a GREAT personal consumption device.
Whether we admit it or not, the world is moving to a state where we’ve run out of work for people to do. There just isn’t that much time needed to do your core work. 70% to 80% of people’s waking time is, or will soon be, taken up by consumption – news, weather, entertainment, movies, sports, books, communication with friends and family, watching photos, sharing how you feel about the bird fluttering by, sending a photo of your sandwich to the only 2,313 people in the world who care.
Tablets fit in perfectly. Perhaps 50% to 70% of people can survive on Tablets.
If you really think about a future world where robots handle a lot of the work and there are very few ‘critical’ jobs – 75% to 90% of the developed world’s population will simply have to find things to do with their free time. That’ll be humanity’s greatest challenge (it’s only partly sarcasm) – to amuse people who don’t know what to do with their free time.
iPad is perhaps the Best Tablet for nearly everyone who can get by on a Tablet
iPad is unencumbered. It doesn’t try to solve any problem other than provide people a consumption device.
iPad’s competitors keep trying to solve big problems like ‘providing a great keyboard’ and ‘providing content creation and not just consumption’. That’s like a movie theater company trying to educate its audience instead of entertain it.
There are a few things that make iPad the best tablet for nearly anyone who uses a Tablet in the Consumption-Enabler sense-
The last one is interesting. There are so many Android Tablets, and there will be so many Windows 8 Tablets, that sooner or later companies will stumble across the formula. However, it’ll be fortuitous and not the result of a well-planned strategy. On the other hand, a company that goes after Consumption hard could potentially blow up the iPad and iPad Mini.
7″ Tablets were a continuation of the iPad ‘Personal Consumption’ focus, just cheaper
The rise of 7″ Tablets was very interesting.
iPad Mini was necessary due to the low price and high ‘consumption coverage’ of 7″ Tablets. It delivered.
iPad Mini is a distillation of the iPad. It caters to 80% of the Personal Consumption Needs of Consumers for just $329 (65% of the price).
Android Tablets will continue to rise. There are just so many of them that enough of them will hit the sweet point sooner or later – Cover most of the core consumption needs AND do it at a cheap price point.
Microsoft Tablets will rise once they get CHEAPER ones out. There are rumors of $249 and $299 Windows 8 Tablets that have 7″ screens. Those might really hurt iPad Mini if they understand that consumers are looking for consumption enabling and consumption enhancing devices.
iPad and iPad Mini will continue to be the Best Tablet available. Unfortunately, as prices of competing tablets drop, consumers will choose cheaper options.
Why is iPad the Best Tablet available?
Well, firstly, no one else is approaching Tablets the right way -
Apple is the only company that’s focused on the Tablet as a Personal Consumption device. Perhaps Personal Consumption Enhancer is the most accurate term.
iPad and iPad Mini are optimized for consumption -
A succinct way of putting it would be – Nothing comes between you and your enjoyment of free time on an iPad Mini.
Add on to this the additional stuff -
All of this, and numerous other advantages, mean that iPad is the Best Tablet available. If you were to give ANY user 2-3 weeks with all Tablets. If they were free of any allegiances or prejudices (which, admittedly, is very unrealistic), they would choose the iPad 90% or more of the time.
Perhaps the more accurate statement would be – the iPad would meet their needs 90% of the time. It would meet their needs better 90% of the time.
In some cases, it’s absolutely irrefutable evidence – a much-needed app is only available on the iPad. In other cases, it’s harder to explain things – a much easier to use email program. However, that 90% estimate seems correct to me.
iPad is the Best Tablet and its destined to die on its own sword
iPad will die for the same reason that Netbooks were killing Laptops before iPad took over that duty. For the same reason that iPad is eating away at PC Desktop Sales.
People want more for less. Often they are willing to take less for less – especially if they think they are getting more for less.
Apple told users – Why pay $1,000 for that laptop? Here’s an iPad Tablet. For $499 you can do 80% of what you do. Apps are cheap, so all the software is cheap. The software and hardware might not let you do 100% of what a laptop does, but the software and hardware cover 70% to 80% of what a PC does.
It established precedent. It became OK to cut down what you could do with your Personal Computer/Consumption-Enabler.
As long as you got cheaper hardware and much cheaper software in return.
Now, Amazon and Google are telling users – Why pay $499/$329 for that iPad/iPad Mini? For $199 you can do 70% of what you do on an iPad Mini. Apps are free now – you don’t even have to pay. They might not be as pretty or as polished – but they are free.
Google and Amazon are just continuing down the path Apple started users on.
It’s very interesting in a way. Apple talks about not compromising and focusing on quality. However, with the iPad, it created a precedent of compromise – In what users expected their Personal Computer/Consumption-Enabler to do for them.
There was no compromise on build quality. Just a compromise in what the device can do and, most importantly, what the user could do with their device.
A switch from Consumer+Creator to Consumer+Consumer-Extraordinaire.
The net result is that users now expect cheaper and cheaper hardware and cheaper and cheaper software. And they are willing to compromise to get it.
Netbooks were doing exactly this – offering a compromised experience that focused on consumption and came at a very low price. The PC companies handicapped them because the low price killed their profit margins. It was inevitable that something else would finish the job. That’s where iPad came in. With the added bonus that it was a Luxury Product and a Fashion Statement. A prettier Personal Consumption Enhancer. For half the price. Does 80% of what you do with a PC.
The Age of the Personal Consumption-Enabler and the End of It
When Android and Amazon Tablets eat up the iPad, we’ll enter a newer age – The Age of the Personal Consumption-Enhancer & Advertiser. Where users will say – As long as the hardware is really cheap, and the software is really cheap, it’s fine if this device is mostly focused on consumption. It’s fine if it constantly advertises to me and tracks me and keeps trying to predict my behavior and influence it in subtle ways.
The Age of the Personal Consumption-Enhancer & Advertiser – a world of free-everything. Where the only thing that’s paid for is access to the consumer and to the consumer’s behavior.
There might be a 10% to 20% part of the market that looks for a Personal Computer. Perhaps another 10% to 15% of the market that looks for a Personal Consumption-Enabler. However, the majority of the market is going to shift to a Personal Consumption-Enhancer and Advertiser.
The Personal Consumption-Enhancer & Advertiser will eat away at the Personal Consumption-Enabler, just as the Personal Consumption-Enabler is eating away at the Personal Computer.
If Apple hadn’t introduced an iPad Mini, it would have lost a lot of market share to cheap 7″ Tablets. With the iPad Mini it has only bought itself some time. Apple can’t keep matching prices with Amazon and Google and Microsoft indefinitely. As prices go lower, things get very tough for Apple – it either gives up its great margins, or it gives up market share. It might even end up giving up both – because higher price is a core part of its identity and desirability.
Cowley Magazine offers in interview with the Rev. Dr. Carl P. Daw, Jr. focussing on how he translates and paraphrases psalms for hymn texts:
Why do we need new paraphrases of the psalms today?
A great danger with psalm translations – as with anything that we sing or do in church – is the possibility of making one text into an idol, such that it seems it cannot be changed. It has been said about church architecture that anything in the worship space that cannot be changed becomes an idol. This is true also of what we sing in worship. So it’s valuable to have different psalm paraphrases, as well as different tunes to pair with psalm and hymn texts, because these different versions will enable us to notice new things that we might not have seen in the familiar version.
How does chanting the psalms, like we do at the Monastery, add to the experience of the texts?
Chanting the psalms emphasizes the timelessness of them, especially in the space of the Monastery Chapel. There is a kind of sonic memory that is evoked by hearing those sounds in that space, which, to me, communicates a sense of transcendence that doesn’t come by singing ordinary ditties from our culture or reading the texts on their own. Chanting the psalms here opens a door to a memory we didn’t know we had. Among other things, chanting the psalms seems larger than any one person or any one community or any one time, and so it invites us to be part of that timelessness.
And the prayer book translation of the psalms chanted at SSJE is a fine vehicle for this timelessness, because it was created specifically for singing. You can see the difference if you compare it with the RSV or NRSV or NIV or any other recent translation.
Photography is not a Crime shares the story:
New York City police officers arrested a woman who was video recording them from a public sidewalk as they conducted some type of “vehicle safety checkpoint.”
The officers apparently stole a memory card from a camera, which turned out to be the wrong one, allowing us to view the video.
Marina Litvinenko, widow of Alexander Litvinenko (a British citizen who was assassinated in London by two former KGB agents who poisoned him with radioactive polonium) has accused the British government, Secretary of State William Hague, and PM David Cameron of sabotaging the coroner's inquest into her husband's death. Hague and Cameron intervened in the coroner's hearing to seal key evidence that implicated the Russian government in Litvinenko's killing.
Sir Robert Owen, who is leading the inquest and who has seen the material, characterised it as "documents that examined whether UK officials could have done more to prevent his murder." 's widow says that this is part of "a secret political deal with the Kremlin." This comes against a charm offensive by the UK government to increase Russian investment in Britain.
The former Labour government severed all contacts with Russia's FSB spy agency in 2007 after concluding it had played a leading role in Litvinenko's assassination. Putin is the agency's former chief.
Mrs Litvinenko added: "This is a very sad day, a tragedy for British justice which has until now been respected around the world, and a frightening precedent for all of those who have been trying so hard to expose the crimes committed by a conspiracy of organised criminals who operate inside the Kremlin."
In his ruling (pdf), Owen said the inquest scheduled to take place later this year might now result in an "incomplete, misleading and unfair" verdict.
The coroner said he would consider inviting Theresa May, the home secretary, to hold a public inquiry instead. The inquiry could hear the sensitive evidence buried by Hague in secret sessions.
B&N opened up its Nook HD & Nook HD+ Tablets to Google Play Store recently. It also did a massive $50 off and $90 off Sale for Mother’s Day.
This forced Amazon to introduce a temporary $20 discount on the Kindle Fire HD.
Soon after there were reports that B&N was considering selling its Nook unit to Microsoft for $1 billion.
TechCrunch had some additional details and two of these were very interesting (only if true) -
Both of these are very impactful things.
Kindle vs Nook – A Quick look back
Kindle vs Nook has had many twists and turns -
This leaves us in a very interesting position.
When you consider all this context, it’s going to be a bit sad if B&N leaves the Tablet space in April 2014 and the eReader space in early 2015. Kindle vs Nook will just be an old memory.
What happens if B&N leaves the Tablet space?
Not very much for the general Tablet space.
The best-selling Tablets are – Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon. Depending on what month you check, one out of Google or Amazon has the #3 spot. By Google we mean the Asus manufactured Google Nexus 7.
Nook was perhaps 5th or 6th. The 5th or 6th player leaving a space doesn’t do much.
The one place it creates an impact is in the space of ‘Reading Tablets’ – a nebulous space catering to people who primarily want a Tablet for reading.
For readers, it made more sense to get a Tablet from Amazon or B&N. If B&N exits the space, then Amazon becomes the clear and obvious choice. This would mean a clear boost for Amazon and Kindle Fire HD sales. Which in turn would greatly strengthen Amazon’s lead in ebooks.
B&N’s supposed 2014 and 2015 strategy of ending device sales and focusing on Reading Apps runs into a roadblock – Kindle Fire HD does not have a Nook reading App. If most serious readers looking for a Tablet start picking Kindle Fire HD, B&N loses these readers.
Fundamentally, B&N’s strategy is flawed. The 20% of Readers that account for 80% of book sales tend to pick either a dedicated eInk Reader or physical books or a Reading Tablet. By leaving the Reading Tablet space, B&N leaves all these users to Amazon.
These 20% ‘Best’ Customers are the stars of the rest of this post. Their importance grows as we look at Kindle vs Nook in the dedicated eReader Market.
What happens if B&N leaves the eReader Space?
We could partition out serious readers (‘Best’ Customers for Books) as readers who will buy one or more of -
By leaving the Reading Tablet space, B&N would hand over ‘serious readers’ (the ‘Best’ customers) who want a Reading Tablet to Amazon.
If B&N also leaves the dedicated reading device space (eInk based eReaders), then it also hands over the ‘Best’ Customers who want to buy a device optimized for reading to Amazon.
This creates a huge problem.
Somewhere between 25% to 50% of the ‘Best’ Readers switch over to Amazon.
Of course, this doesn’t factor in that Amazon and B&N have a rough 60% and 30% share of the ‘Best’ readers who have already switched over to eReaders and Reading Tablets. Amazon goes from strong to ridiculously strong. B&N goes from decently strong to very weak – Because the 30% share it already has will move to other devices if B&N stops making eReaders and Reading Tablets.
The Concept of the ‘Best’ Readers
In this age of political correctness, where a customer who spends $1 a year wants to be considered equivalent to a customer who spends $1,000 a year, it is perhaps unacceptable to point out that, in any market, 20% of customers are the ‘Best’ customers. The ones who basically keep the market going. It exists for every market -
Whether it meets the political correctness threshold or not, the truth is that the people contributing 80% of the revenues are the ones who are keeping the industry going.
For example: On Pandora, artists get a few pennies per 1,000 songs streamed. A user might listen to Band X 50,000 times and might generate 50 cents for Band X. However, the customer who buys a concert ticket for $50 is 100 times more important. The customer who buys the CD for $10 is 20 times more important.
This is a critical distinction and this also applies to books, whether the Lives in Switzerland, Recycles 5 times a Day, Warrior Chief of Political Correctness likes it or not.
We have the ‘Best’ Readers that are perhaps just 10% to 20% of the customer base – However, these customers generate 60% to 80% of the revenue. They are, in effect, keeping the books industry alive.
There are two distributions that are generally accepted -
In either case, it’s the Good and Best customers that matter. The remaining customers don’t really matter. Of course, woe to anyone who reminds them of it.
It’s a big assumption to make. However, the facts will bear this out. Facts that only Amazon and B&N have. Which makes B&N’s decision to shift to Reading Apps even stranger.
By ending Reading Tablets and eReaders, B&N would lose the Best Customers and the Good Customers
Firstly, it’s pretty safe to say that the Best customers and the Good customers will end up with a reading Tablet and/or a dedicated reading device (if they go with ebooks). If you’re the exception that proves the rule, you’re exactly that – an exception who reads 53 books a year on your Device X which is not focused on or optimized for reading.
If B&N leaves both spaces, then it leaves behind the 20% to 30% of customers that account for 80% to 90% of book sales.
What does that leave? The remaining huge numbers (70% to 80%). Wow – that’s a lot of users. The only problem – they contribute just 10% to 20% of book sales.
Please keep in mind that this is for ebooks. B&N isn’t walking away from the Best Customers and the Good Customers in Physical Books. However, it is making them Amazon customers (via eReaders and Reading Tablets) and making them likelier to shift.
B&N might be walking away from the core audience it needs to survive
If B&N were to analyze all the data it has on reading patterns and purchase patterns, it would find the following -
It might also find that Nook and Nook Tablet owners account for as much as 25% to 35% of paper book sales from B&N stores.
I would be willing to bet serious money that B&N never took the step of analyzing this data, especially the ebook sales & paper book sales inter-relationship. For that matter, it never even properly tried to build a connection between ebook sales and physical book sales.
By walking away from dedicated eReaders and reading tablets (and this is still an IF, based on rumors and hearsay), B&N is giving up the customers that are accounting for 65% or more of its ebook sales and 25% or more of its paper book sales.
Those users aren’t going to switch back to 100% paper books. They are going to switch to other devices that are optimized for ebooks and reading. Those, rather inconveniently, happen to be from Amazon.
If B&N ends the Nook eReader line and the Nook Reading Tablet line, it would be handing over 50% or more of its Best Customers and its Good Customers (for ebook sales) to other companies, mostly Amazon. If B&N tries to replace dedicated Nook eReaders and Nook Reading Tablets with reading apps for iPad and Android devices and Windows 8 devices, it would be switching from the Best Customers and the Good Customers to the ‘Not so Dedicated’ Readers who account for just 10% to 20% of book sales.
It’s the absolute worst strategy decision B&N could make. We wouldn’t see Kindle vs Nook replaced by Kindle vs B&N Reading Apps, we would see it replaced by Kindle vs Kobo and by Kindle vs Don’t Read. There’s no room for B&N in eBooks if it doesn’t have both a reading focused eInk eReader and a reading focused Reading Tablet.