Journal | December 2018

Ahhhhh! Summer in Australia. Why did I not know about you sooner?

Eureka!

I’ve been working on a card game on and off for the past few months. Partly as an experiment and partly out of laziness, I decided to “give it away for free”. In practice, this was more work than I expected. For one, I had to learn a little bit about copyright. Long story short, it is released under the license CC-BY4.0, which means—loosely speaking—you can do anything you want with it provided you cite your sources.

One of the big cons of this approach is that you have to find your own way to print your own cards, which is either cheaply done on a desktop printer (lame!) or expensively done on high quality cardstock (ugh!). I’m not sure a way around this.

You can find the instructions for printing and playing the game here.

Reading!

Children’s Literature Recommendations

Pig the Grub by Aaron Blabey

Fun. But would you expect anything less with a Pig book? All the kids love a good Pig story.

Ada Lace Sees Red by Emily Calandrelli and Renaee Kurilla

This is the second book in the Ada Lace series and I think this one is even better than the first! There are lots of relatable elements to this story. But the science—oh, the science—for me made it all the better!

Adult Literature September Reads

Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie

OK, full disclosure. I made a huge mistake in buying the audiobook for this one. There is just too many references to figures to follow along. I made it through alright by slowing it down and already having some experience with causal networks, but I can’t really recommend, or not recommend, this one. Some of the historical anecdotes were interesting, but it was at times hard to read (errr… listen) to the author’s self-pity about not being more recognised.

Through Two Doors at Once: The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality by Anil Ananthaswamy

Hands down the best popular account of quantum physics. This tells in beautiful detail the key issues surrounding the controversies of quantum physics. The way the author does this all from the lense of a single experiment is inspiring.

Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child by James Breakwell

Comedy mixed with unintentional parenting wisdom. The jokes and style get a bit repetitive, but overall I enjoyed the laughs.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Finally got around to reading this highly recommended book. Wish I had read it sooner. Every positive thing written about this book is probably true.

Currently reading: Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths by Eddie Woo

Writing!

Today is the day for ABCs of Engineering with Dr Sarah Kaiser. Check out my #12DaysOfEngineering over on Twitter.

While you are at it, pick up a copy of Blockchain for Babies with Marco Tomamichel.

The final cover for Cat in the Box (1 June 2019) is here. I’ve seen the internal illustrations and they are great as well! Looking forward to see this one hit the shelves next year! If you can’t quite read the book blurb, it says: Schrodinger’s famous paradox reimagined for the modern world, with more talking animals and fewer dead cats.

Arithmetic! (academic news)

Big news for the Ferrie group! Dr Clara Javaherian and Dr Shibdas Roy have joined as postdoctoral researchers. They will both be working on the AUSMURI project, which is about machine learning and quantum control. Stay tuned to hear about some exciting new science this year!

Events!

  • Vacation!

Up next!

Both Blockchain for Babies and ABCs of Engineering are released on 1 Jan 2019! But, seeing as it is still peak summer in Australian, we’ll still be at the beach 😁

Journal | September 2018

It was a busy month of extra-curriculars, making the most of our last weeks in Canada before returning to greet the Aussie summer.

Eureka!

The big aha! moment was finally understanding the pleas to remove “for babies” from the titles of the Baby University books. On 17 September I visited two elementary schools in the suburbs of Chicago: Rollins Elementary School and May Watts Elementary.

I had a great time at both, but I knew I had to carefully navigate “for babies”. So, I did read the title and immediately asked, “are there any babies here?” “No!” was the expected and resounding answer. I think I won them over with that. But when the cover image popped up on screen I still heard a few “hey! It says for babies” from the audience. The school avoided the “for babies” problem by selling my two picture books, Goodnight Lab and Scientist, Scientist, Who do you See?.

I can sympathize with teachers and librarians when they tell me about the difficulty in reading the “for babies” books. I am also honored that my baby books want a wider audience! In the meantime, while we figure out a solution to the “for babies” problem in the classroom, I think I’ll stick to reading the picture books at schools.

Reading!

Children’s Literature Recommendations

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Know Exactly What You Are by Julia Kregenow and Carmen Saldaña

Filled with rhyming facts about stars that can be sung to the cadence of the classic nursery rhyme. Easy to read and look at for all ages.

How Did I Get Here? by Philip Bunting

Adorable illustrations accompany the history of the universe from the Big Bang, through conception (yep), until now. Easy for the the kids to listen to and point at.

Adult Literature September Reads

Humility Is the New Smart by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig

I found this difficult to read because it is heavy on repeating buzzwords and technobabble. There are some great nuggets of wisdom in here which are drawn from well-laid-out examples of people and companies that have put humility ahead of arbitrary measures of merit.

How not to be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg

This book is about math applied to real life. Some of the explanations are abstract and others follow closely with recent, and mostly quirky, stories. I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I suspect that the author demands a little too much from the casual reader.

Currently reading: Scale by Geoffrey West

Writing!

We are in the final editorial stages of ABC’s of Engineering, Robotics for Babies, and Neural Networks for Babies, all co-authored by my friend Sarah Kaiser. Look for these in January of 2019. They are going to be awesome. Conversations about them included the sentence, “I hate to have to tell you this… but we can’t rickroll babies.”

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One of the questions I get most is are you working on any books for older kids? Yes, yes I am. But at the moment it is too early to give anything away. Stay tuned!

I completed a few more early manuscripts in the Red Kangaroo Physics series. Next year, they will begin to be translated (or untranslated 😄) and available in English. If this is news to you, this is a series of picture books each of which discusses a topic in physics. The story follows a dialogue between me and a curious Red Kangaroo. The first 15 are available now in Chinese.

Arithmetic! (academic news)

Both my students recently submitted their first papers and presented them at an international conference this month. Congrats to Maria and Akram!

I finally got the advertisements up for two postdoctoral positions which are funded by a $3 million grant from the Australian government. This is a collaboration with Gerardo Paz Silva, Howard Wiseman, and Andrea Morello that I am keen to get going.

Mostly an exercise in catharsis, I am reminding myself to say no to every invitation to chair, organise, or join a committee. My future self won’t heed this warning—so here’s hoping it is another thing that gets easier and less time consuming with practice.

Events!

Lots of great opportunities this past month. I met many great people and learned a lot!

  • I gave a public lecture at the Institute for Quantum Computing on 13 September call Big Ideas for Little Minds. I won’t say too much about it as it will be posted online soon. I also gave the same talk at Google on 19 September, which will also appear on Talks at Google.

  • I finally met (in person) Cara Florance my co-author of ABC’s of Biology, Organic Chemistry for Babies, and Evolution for Babies! We did a joint event at the MIT Coop bookstore. How did it go? Well, Cara built a DIY cloud chamber and had a Geiger counter—’nuff said. I also met an MIT professor that bought a copy of Statistical Physics for Babies for every student in his class 😳!
  • I joined Nikola Tesla for some reading, banter, and science demonstrations at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. This was the first time I read 8 Little Planets and was really pleased with the response from both the children and parents! The science centre itself was awesome and I even got a private showing of musical Tesla coils!

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Just hanging out in a Faraday cage ⚡⚡⚡

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  • I got to visit Sourcebooks headquarters in Chicago. It was great to meet all the people behind the scenes that make the children’s books possible. Everyone I met was so passionate about making books, especially the amazing Dominique Raccah!
  • Check out a quick discussion about Baby University on Global TV’s The Morning Show. It’s a great opportunity to reach a large television audience. Too bad the time is so short and the questions so quick!
  • I did some reading and activities at the Oxford County Library in Ingersoll on 6 September. It was amazing to see how close members of a small community are with their library. The librarians even knew the interests of the children! Very eye opening as this has not been my experience in Sydney.

Up next!

October is going to be another busy month. We need to get settled back into Sydney and I don’t even want to think about the backlog of administration I have been ignoring at the uni. But I am also really excited for Quantum Gates, Jumps, and Machines and of course the release of 8 Little Planets!

Foray into multidisciplinary research

Nearly two years later, it is finally published: Explaining quantum correlations through evolution of causal models.

This was a truly multidisciplinary effort. What we achieved was to combine ideas from causal modeling and machine learning into a new algorithm to analyze real experimental data from experiments on quantum correlations. The team consisted of researchers from 4 different universities and several distinct disciplines.

Interestingly, no one researcher on the project had expertise in all of these areas. Moreover, within each discipline, everything from the way research is conducted to how it is disseminated is different. Couple that to the fact that many of us were senior researchers with other demands on our time and you get a 2 year long project!

Anyway, it is done and I’d gladly do it again with this bunch of talent scientists!