Sunday, February 28, 2010

Birthday Blogging

Reasons Why I Should Write a "Happy Birthday" Blog Entry for Naomi #1: It's Naomi's 22nd Birthday Today

. . . well, not really. Your actual, sixth birthday won't come until 2012, as I revealed two years ago. But we'll celebrate today to keep up appearances.

And celebrate we shall, with the greatest birthday present of them all: Star Trek jokes!

First, a few installments of Gazorra's "TNG edits" series:

Next, a few Star Trek "episodes in brief" from Tranchera, like "TNG edits" only a little less weird. The first is particularly fitting:

Some random trek humor. The first is a birthday message from Picard to Gene Roddenberry:

Incidentally, is it weird that I imagine Dr. Tomoe being played by Geroge Takei?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don't Let the Picture Fool You, This IS a New Post!

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #10 & #11

I've been feeling a little deflated lately. UNBC's Reading Break, which should have been relaxing, instead turned out to be a waste of time. There were things I was supposed to do, things I could have done, which I simply didn't do. I could have marked assignments, or studied for the Japanese midterm I had on the Monday immediately following the break and which I didn't feel terribly prepared for. But no. The only thing I managed to get done was to write a post summarising my physics paper, and judging by the lack of comments, either no-one's read it yet or no-one's really interested.

It's not just reading break, either. You may have heard that I got into a car accident a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that's what threw me off my stride. I know that my once very high marks in Japanese have begun to slide since the accident. Another possibility is that being summarily rejected from JET has had more of an affect on me than I thought. In any event, whatever the cause of this malaise, it's starting to affect my Sailor Moon writing. Despite all my ideas and ambitions and despite all the support I've seen so far, I'm beginning to worry that what I end up producing will be just a pure piece of crap.

The state I'm in is I really need to get myself out of. It's probably been two weeks since my last Sailor Moon post. If you are still checking in, I appreciate it. To show how much I appreciate it, this post contains not one, but two reasons why I, possibly, just maybe, should write the Sailor Moon movie. What's more is that these two reasons are actually pretty strongly linked to each other-- the one doesn't really make full sense without the other. So, from a narrative standpoint, it's good to outline these two reasons simultaneously.

So, without further ado. . .

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #10: Destroying a Better World. . . Through SCIENCE!

Queen Beryl, Metallia, the Shittenou, and the Dark Kingdom are vital elements of the Sailor Moon mythos. After all, it was at their hands that the Moon Kingdom fell-- they are, really, the very reason Sailor Moon and the other senshi came to be in the first place. They were Sailor Moon's very first enemy, the only enemy to appear in every incarnation (Manga, Anime, Stage, and PGSM) of the story, and are to the Sailor Moon franchise what Lex Luthor is to the Superman franchise.

So just imagine if, in the Sailor Moon movie. . . they were no-where to be found.

And imagine moreover that it wasn't just the fans of Sailor Moon counting on these villains being in the movie, but many of the characters themselves. If you've already read the script excerpt I posted, you know that Luna was already told that she was sent into the future to fight the Dark Kingdom. As it turns out, there was one more person who expected things to unfold a certain way. . . but we'll get to that later. For now, though, let's just focus on the villain I've chosen for my movie. . .

Dr. Tomoe.

Why Dr. Tomoe?

One reason is that the Mad Scientist has become a vastly underused cliche in recent years, and when it is used these days it's typically for the purposes of parody (Dr. Insano, etc.). Some might attribute this to the Mad Scientist becoming a discredited trope. I, however, believe that the Mad Scientist has, in fact, surpassed a critical threshold of triteness and, in doing so, has become something totally original and fresh again, kinda like zombies in early 2000's. It only needs one visionary movie to harness its true potential.

Another reason is that Sailor Moon S, the anime series which featured Dr. Tomoe as its villain, is widely considered to be the creative peak of the Sailor Moon anime. Many attribute its artistic success to Dr. Tomoe and his team of evil super-powered lab techs known as the Death-Busters. From that most infallible source, Wikipedia:
Sailor Moon S is considered one of the darkest story lines in the series, partly due to the villains' ultimate goal of destroying, rather than conquering, all life in the world, as well as ethical themes of sacrifice.
Of course, lesbian senshi don't hurt matters any, but still. . .

The third reason: This guy is awesome. Check it out:

Need more proof?

I'm not sure what attracts me more: the dark, foggy underground lab (which, among other things, is a far more tangible hideout than the Dark Kingdom); the string-section accompaniment in the background (my sister, who's studying classical music, would probably know the correct term for what I'm trying to describe); the idea of actually manufacturing monsters (through SCIENCE!) rather than just summoning them; or the man himself, at once hilariously over-the-top and kind of frightening, thanks to a constantly shrouded face that reveals only the unnatural glare of his spectacles and his hideous inhuman grin.

But when it comes right down to it, quite honestly, the main reason for choosing Dr. Tomoe is that I am fucking sick of the Dark Kingdom. I said already that every incarnation has already featured them as villains, and at this point I'm pretty sure that not even a Heath Ledger-as-Joker style re-imagining could make them interesting.

Still, I know that the Dark Kingdom, the lynchpin of Sailor Moon's back story, cannot be simply brushed aside. Their absence has consequences. That's where Reason #11 comes in. . . but first, a little back story. Yes, it does involve more politics, but hopefully the treatment in the film will be subtle enough not to bother most people. For your consideration:

Souichi Tomoe was born in Chiba prefecture in 1920. It is known that during his childhood he showed a remarkable scientific aptitude. Though displaying promise in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and enginieering, among other fields, Tomoe focussed his attention primarily on medicine. He entered Tokyo Imperial University's medical program in 1936, but records on Tomoe's activities are unclear until after the end of World War II. Only two things are known for certain: one was that he lost his right eye during the war, and the other was that he had a family, wife Keiko Tomoe and daughter Hotaru Tomoe, both of whom were dead before war's end. A few rumours have come and gone throughout the years regarding just what Tomoe was doing during the war. Some rumours place him in Shanghai, others in Manchuria, and still others in Germany. Some suggest that his family was killed when a lightning strike cause an explosion in Tomoe's laboratory, while others suggest that a Chinese underground resistance group planted a bomb. The one thing the rumours have in common is a gruesome depiction of Tomoe's medical research.

Despite a (very suspicious) lack of evidence to support the them, the rumours haunted Tomoe long after the war ended. The post-war period found Tomoe at his intellectual peak. He made numerous seminal advances in genetics, and it's believed by some that he might have unravelled the structure of DNA long before Crick and Watson. . . were it not for the fact that he was unable to attend a crucial conference in England; it was hard enough for Japanese citizens to travel abroad at the time, and even harder for suspected, if unproven, war criminals. Thus was set the pattern that would be followed by Tomoe throughout his career. For every genuine success-- whether the establishment of a science-centred academy/think tank, Mugen Gakuen, or yet another in a string of groundbreaking discoveries-- his past always ensured a setback-- the small but vocal groups of protesters that followed him to public events, the perpetual denial of what many thought was a guaranteed Nobel prize.

One would expect bitterness to have worn the man down, yet at 92 years old he looks like man 30 years younger. The resistance Tomoe encountered throughout his life certainly frustrated him, yet it has never really embittered him, not exactly. Maybe a better way of putting it is that, if bitterness does lie within his soul, it is driven by more than mere professional envy. There has always been a zeal to the man, one that cannot be explained by the usual brands of scientific ambition; everyone who knows him senses he is on a mission. Just what that mission is, no-one knows.

No-one, that is, except Tomoe, and even then Tomoe, for all his drive, has sometimes had his doubts. It wasn't just his wife, or his daughter, or his eye, that he lost in that laboratory explosion somewhere in China-- he lost his sense of what the world was. In the aftermath of that explosion Tomoe was visited by. . . something, at once vague and more clear than anything he had ever known. Tomoe might have confused for it for a religious experience, an encounter with God, were it not for certain peculiarties. The thing, which for reasons known only to him he named "the Pharaoh," made fantastic promises-- to give him life, to give back his daughter, to give him knowledge.

And so Tomoe emerged from the flames of his lab, with his burnt, comatose daughter in his arms and, he believed, the eye of the Pharaoh where his own eye used to be. He navigated the tumultuous world of occupied Japan, offering his knowledge to whomever Tomoe felt could help him. He continued his research, making discoveries no-one would have believed possible-- most of which he kept to himself. It was though these freakish discoveries that Tomoe knew his encounter with the Pharaoh was not some near-death delusion. And yet, even as he used his knowledge to create fantastic and fearsome creatures, strange devices, and even a group of attractive humanoid assistants-- all the while keeping his still comatose daughter alive-- he spent the next decades never sure of why the Pharaoh came to him that day. He continuously sensed the Pharaoh's presence, a presense so potent it sometimes drove him mad, and yet he could never seem to fully satisfy the Pharaoh's wishes.

Then, in the early nineties, a new development arose, one which, at last, seemed to point to his ultimate goal. . .

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #11: Codename: Sailor V

It was sometime in 1991 when a thirteen year old schoolgirl named Minako Aino discovered that she's a superhero. With her talking feline mentor Artemis at her side, the police (and eager press) on her tail, and a evil force seemingly all around her, Mianko became the pretty sailor suited soldier of love and justice, Sailor V. Minako didn't pick the name herself-- the press gave her that nickname-- but she liked it. After a few months of fighting crime and subduing evil, buried memories resurfaced in Minako's mind, and her true purpose was revealed. She is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior from a kingdom destroyed by an evil force-- an evil force which, like her, has returned from the dead. Minako also learns that she will soon be joined by other reincarnated warriors, as well as the princess of the ancient kingdom. Together, they will destroy this new evil once and for all. The evil force, known as the Dark Kingdom, did indeed come. . .

. . . but not the other senshi. Minako made a valient and semi-successful effort to hold back the forces of the Dark Kingdom, managing to even defeat one of its generals, Zoicite. But she knew she could not defeat them alone. To make matters worse, another evil force emerged which, like the dark kingdom, was capable creating deadly, monstrous foes but, unlike the Dark Kingdom, possessed a certain scientific and technical sophistication, as well as a sense of pragmatism. Moreover, they seemed to have no interest in human energy (which the Dark Kingdom sought) nor any obvious ambitions of world conquest. In fact, this new unknown enemy seemed utterly at odds with the Dark Kingdom, whom they viewed as a threat.

Indeed, they seemed so threatened by the Dark Kingdom that they ultimately offered to make a deal with Sailor V: they would help her defeat the Dark Kingdom once and for all, if Sailor V agreed not to interfere in their future activities. Sailor V knew it was a Faustian bargain, but she had not yet found the other Senshi, and the Dark Kingdom posed the more immediate threat. She reluctantly accepted, and the Dark Kingdom was defeated once and for all. . .

And so as not to give too much way, I will leave it at that for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Used to Do Something That Was Almost Like A Real Job. . .

Image of Jeremy taken shortly after his thesis defence.

So, it finally happened. My paper, "Quantum tunneling and reflection of a molecule with a single bound state," has been published in Physical Review A. I promised in a previous post that I would write a summary of paper. So, with reading week quickly evaporating away, about eighty physics assignments yet to be marked, and a Japanese midterm on Monday, I thought I should get on that.

The approach I decided to take was a basic parsing/elaboration of the abstract, since that's the only part of the paper available to read on the internet without having to pay a fee. The abstract, by definition, pretty much lays out the content of the paper anyway, so with a bit of explanation you should be able to get the jist of what we, i.e. myself, Danielle Kerbrat, and my supervising prof Dr. Mark Shegelski, discovered and published. I'm going to assume that anyone who reads this has about high-school level science education, which means I'll have a lot of explaining to do.


In this article, we present the results of studies on the quantum mechanical tunneling and reflection of a diatomic, homonuclear molecule with a single bound state incident upon a potential barrier.
Hoo-boy. Where to start?

The "diatmoic, homonuclear molecule" is basically a pair of identical particles that interact with and, loosely speaking, "attach" to one another by means of an attractive force. Usually, the particles in question are atoms. However, our formulation is general enough to be applied to any pair of "attached" particles, such as Cooper pairs and excitons. These examples appear later in the abstract, so I'll explain what they mean later on.

When the atoms are attached to each other, we say that the molecule is in "bound state." When they aren't, we say they're in an "unbound state." To be in a "bound state," the atoms in the molecule must have lower total energy than two free atoms. To understand what that means, imagine a you're in a region that's entirely flat except for a small, bowl-shaped valley. If you're in the valley, you have to expend energy in order to get out of the valley. If you don't have enough energy to climb out of the valley, you're stuck-- "bound" to the valley. Another way of thinking about this is that, if you're standing in the valley, you have less energy than if you're standing in the flat plain. When two atoms are "attached" to each other in a molecule, what's really happening is that the force they exert on one-another creates a sort of potential energy "valley," whereas two free atoms are in a potential energy state more akin to standing in the flat region outside of the valley.

So what does it mean for a molecule to have a "single bound state?" In order to understand the behaviour of small objects, like atoms, molecules, electrons, etc. we had to discover a whole new set of physicals laws, which we call quantum mechanics. The problem with quantum mechanics is, well, it's weird. One of the implications of quantum mechanics is that, if two atoms are bound in a molecule, then they can only occupy certain energy levels-- we say that the energy levels are "quantized," hence "quantum mechanics." Think back to the valley for a minute. You could stand at the very bottom of the valley, or half-way up the valley, or two-thirds of the way up, or one-quarter, or any other place you like. With any given height up the valley, there is a corresponding potential energy level. In other words, the laws of physics do not restrict you to one or another given energy level in the valley. However, if the valley were like a molecule, you could only occupy certain specific energy levels. You could, say, be at the very bottom, or half way up, or two-thirds of the way up, but you could not be at any other altitude. When you're standing at one of the permitted altitudes, you could be said to be in one of the given "bound states" of the valley. Likewise, the atoms in the molecule can only exist in certain bound states. What these states are depends on the kind of molecules we're considering. For our paper, we consider a molecule whose parameters are such that there is only one bound state. If we go back to the example of the valley, that would mean that we can only stand at the very bottom of the valley-- no other altitude is permitted. One more thing that I may as well mention now is that the title of the paper mentions that we're considering a "weakly bound" molecule. This is akin to a very shallow valley. The implications of weak binding will be made more clear later on, so I'll leave it for now.

The other important thing mentioned in the above excerpt is the idea of "quantum tunneling." Purge your mind of the valley, for now I'm going to ask you to imagine you're riding a bike toward a hill. I'm also going to ask you to imagine, for the sake of argument, that once you start climbing the hill you stop pedalling you bike. If you were going fast enough before you started climbing, then you'll have enough kinetic energy to coast over the top of the hill and reach the other side. If not, you'll come to a stop before the crest of the hill and begin rolling back down. This makes sense, so of course quantum mechanics has to find some way screw it up. The way it does this is through the phenomenon of quantum tunneling (since my paper was published in an American journal, I will continue to spell it as "tunneling," and not "tunnelling").

What I'm about to tell you is strange, but since I'll have to discuss it eventually, and since it does have bearing on the explanation of quantum tunneling, I figure I may as well get it out of the way now. Do you remember in science class when you were taught that light behaves as a wave? Do you also remember hearing somewhere or reading somewhere that light is composed of particles called photons? Did you ever step back and wonder why scientists just can't seem to make up their bloody minds on the issue? Is light a wave or a series of particles? It must be one or the other, it can't be both. Well, according to quantum mechanics, light is both a wave and a series of particles. . . and so is everything else! Electrons, protons, atoms, molecules, your computer, you yourself. . . all waves. "But waves of what?," you might ask. Probability. Basically, the wave part of a given object, be it a photon, electron, atom, or molecule, determines the probability of observing that object at a given place (it also gives the probability of the object having a given momentum, but that's a whole other story). I'm oversimplifying a bit, but at any position where there's a crest in the wave, the probability of observing a particle at that position is high; wherever there's a trough, the probability is low.

This complicates the study of physics at the microscopic level quite a bit. Since the days of Newton, physics has always used particles to understand the laws of motion, with the implicit assumption that we can always take a measurement or make an observation and determine where the particle is at any given time. Additionally, if we know exactly where a particle is, what its speed and direction of motion is, and all of the forces acting on it are, it was assumed that the laws of physics could be used to predict its position and velocity at any time, past, present, or future. It was assumed, in other words, that the laws of physics act in a deterministic way. Quantum mechanics, however, says that, if we think in terms of particles, the laws of physics must probabilistic. But this means that we cannot use physical laws to make any solid predictions about the behaviour of a given object, rendering those physical laws next to useless. However, it turns out that if we think instead in terms the probability waves mentioned earlier, we have a lot more luck. Unlike particles, probability waves do behave deterministically. Understanding just how these waves behave allows physicists to make some very interesting, very counter-intuitive predictions.

In the macroscopic world that we all live in, this doesn't really amount to much. Even though there is a probability wave associated with each of us, the probability of any of us being exactly where we are is 100%. At the microscopic level, however, this becomes much more pronounced. One example of how much more pronounced it is quantum tunneling. Recall the proverbial hill I discussed earlier. The microscopic equivalent to the hill is something called a "potential barrier." Imagine some microscopic particle approaching a potential barrier with some given kinetic energy. If it behaved the same way as the bike climbing the hill, then the particle would definitely pass if it had high enough kinetic energy, and would definitely not pass if it didn't. But, you'll recall, nothing is "definite" as far as particles are concerned, and in order to make predictions we have to think in terms of the wave, or "wave function" in physicist parlance, associated with the particle. It turns out that, no matter what the energy of the incoming particle, a chunk of the wave will always manage to travel past the barrier. What this means is that, no matter what the energy of the incoming particle, there is some probability that the particle will be observed on the other side of the barrier. This is like the bicycle appearing on the other side of the hill even though it was only going fast enough to make it half way up-- the only way this could happen is if the bicycle travelled through a tunnel in the hill. Hence, "quantum tunneling." Make no mistake, though, the particle didn't "dig" its way through the potential barrier. Rather, the laws of quantum mechanics allowed the particle to travel through the barrier as though it were not there at all.

If we're only considering a single particle incident upon a given barrier, then it's relatively easy to calculate the wave function and thus find the probability of tunneling. However, when we start to consider more complex objects like, say, a diatomic homonuclear molecule, things get very ugly. Instead of one particle, we now have to consider two, which means we have to consider the object as having size and being spread out in space. Moreover, these two particle are being affected not only by the potential barrier but by the force attracting them to each other. This attractive force creates a "potential well"-- the microscopic equivalent to the metaphorical valley-- which must be taken into account as well. Recall also that the molecule can exist in any one of a number of bound or unbound states. As a result the molecule can undergo changes of state upon interacting with the potential barrier. These factors complicate things so much that the tunneling of molecules wasn't seriously investigated until 1994. Quantum tunneling of single particles, on the other hand, has been investigated since the 1920's.

From the next part of the abstract:

In the first study, we investigate the tunneling of a molecule using a time-dependent formulation. The molecular wave function is modeled as a Gaussian wave packet, and its propagation is calculated numerically using Crank-Nicholson integration.
(Our paper is actually a combination of two different studies. We had initially intended to publish two papers, but due to various circumstances we decided to publish both studies in a single paper.)

In quantum mechanics, you can look at things in either a "time-independent" way or a "time-dependent" way. For the purposes of describing the results in the paper, the difference between the two formulations is as outlined as follows.

In studies of quantum tunneling, we're usually interested in calculating the probability that a given object will be observed ahead of the barrier-- "probability of tunneling"-- or behind the barrier-- "probability of reflection". The time-independent formulation is very useful for calculating these probabilities, but it's not useful for describing what happens to the molecule as it's tunneling through the barrier. In order to study this, the so-called "tunneling dynamics," you need to use a "time-dependent" formulation. The problem is that this is quite a bit harder to do than using a time-independent formulation. For that reason, every study (that we're aware of) in molecular tunneling that came before this paper used a time-independent formulation. In other words, to my and my co-authors' knowledge, this paper is the first to use a time-dependent formulation to investigate the tunneling of molecules, making me and my co-authors the world's foremost experts in time-dependent molecular tunneling!

What's that, Alexandre Bilodeau? You're the first Canadian to win gold at the Winter Olympics on home soil? Big whoop.

Anyway. With a time-dependent formulation, we basically created a computer simulation of the molecule's wave function and calculated how the wave function behaves as it interacts with a potential barrier. That, in a nutshell, is what all that talk about "Gaussian wave packets" and "Crank-Nicholson integration" is referring to. It was a very difficult calculation. Like all previous work done at UNBC on molecular tunneling, we had to use the university's supercomputer in order to run the simulations. So what do we have to show for it?

We found that the molecule could take one of multiple paths once it begins to interact with the barrier. For one, it could reflect. Basically, the molecule hits the barrier, temporarily breaks apart (i.e. transitions to an unbound state), recombines, and bounces back from the barrier. This isn't really a surprising result. But a couple of the other paths it could take are surprising.

From the abstract:

It is found that a molecule may transition between the bound state and an unbound state numerous times during the process of reflection from or transmission past the barrier.
This means that, if the molecule follows a path such that it does tunnel through the barrier, it will break apart and recombine some number of times before it passes the barrier. The reason we think this happens is summarized, in highly simplified fashion, as follows. We chose to use a very thin potential barrier called a delta barrier. In time-independent studies, this barrier provided results that captured many of the features of tunneling when more realistic barriers were used. We think that when the molecule hits the delta barrier, there's a chance that one of the molecules passes the barrier, but the other is reflected by it, and hence the molecule breaks up. However, there is still an attractive force drawing the molecules toward each other, so the atom that passed the barrier may be drawn back toward the atom that remained behind the barrier and eventually recombine with it.

This leads into another surprising result, one that is not considered in time-independent studies:

It is also found that, in addition to reflecting and transmitting, the molecule may also temporarily straddle the potential barrier in an unbound state.
In other words, the molecule, upon contacting the barrier, stays near the barrier for a relatively long time. This is what happens when the scenario described in the last paragraph occurs repeatedly, only without the molecule recombining and entering into a bound state. Straddling, as we called it, does not occur for a molecule in the bound state. In order for a molecule to break up, it needs energy. This energy comes from the initial kinetic energy of the molecule. Straddling occurs when the energy needed to break up the molecule is nearly the same as the kinetic energy of the molecule, so that when the molecule breaks up, the atoms don't have very much kinetic energy left. Again, this is a bit of an oversimplification, but it captures the main physical features of what's going on.

In the second study, we consider the case of a molecule incident in the bound state upon a step potential with energy less than the step. We show that in the limit where the binding energy e0 approaches zero and the step potential V0 goes to infinity, the molecule cannot remain in a bound state if the center of mass gets closer to the step than an arbitrarily large distance x0 which increases as the magnitude of e0 decreases, as V0 increases, or both. We also show that, for e0→0- and V0→∞, if the molecule is incident in the bound state, it is reflected in the bound state with probability equal to unity, when the center of mass reaches the reflection distance x0. We verify that the unbound states exhibit the expected physical behavior. We discuss some surprising results.
The second study, unlike the first, was entirely analytical, i.e. pen and paper mathematics, with no computers needed. What we considered was the case of a molecule that was extremely weakly bound incident upon a "hard wall" potential barrier, that is a potential barrier that was very long and very high. The binding energy is the term e0 referred to above; the term V0 refers to the energy "height" of the potential barrier. We considered this case, initially, as a simple test of our calculations. It turned out that this "simple" case was actually very hard, and yielded very counter intuitive results, as I'll explain below.

Intuitively, what we expected to happen for the weakly bound molecule to come close to the barrier and break up, with the atoms reflected away from the wall. What we found instead is that there is a distance, x0, from the wall within which the molecule cannot remain in the bound state. The distance x0 grows larger the more weakly bound the molecule is. Furthermore, we found that the probability of the molecule being reflected in the bound state approaches 100% in the case of extremely weak binding and extremely large potential barrier height. Taken together, this means that a weakly bound molecule, coming towards the hard wall potential barrier from a very long ways away, comes to a within a distance x0 from the barrier, and is then reflected away from the wall in the bound state. To get a bit of an idea of how weird this is, imagine throwing a brittle champagne at a brick wall. You'd expect it to hit the wall and shatter, with shards of glass boucing back. If the glass behaved like a weakly bound molecule, what would happen instead is that the glass comes within 50 feet of the wall and bounces back, intact. A champagne glass is more than a little bit different from a diatomic, homonuclear molecule, I know, but you get the idea.

Connections between our results and investigations done in cold atoms, excitons, Cooper pairs, and Rydberg atoms are discussed.
Apart from the sheer difficulty of the calculations, another problem with the study of molecular tunneling is in connecting it to real world applications. Direct experimental applications don't yet exist. However, connections can be drawn to many real world systems. Rydberg atoms, for instance, can be modelled pair of weakly bound particles, i.e. a very high energy electon and an atomic nucleus + lower energy electons. Rydberg atoms can also combine to form very weakly bound molecules. Collisions of Rydberg atoms with the surfaces of certain materials has been investigated. This scenario is akin to a weakly bound molecule incident upon a hard wall.

The tunneling of other composite particle objects, like excitons and Cooper pairs, can also be studied and are a subject of research interest. Cooper pairs are basically bound pairs of electrons which exist inside superconductors, and are indeed what make supercondutivity possible. Excitons are weird things that form inside of semiconductors and other materials. Basically, when an electron in such a material becomes excited, i.e. gains energy (by means of a photon collision, for example), it leaves an "electron hole," or absence, in whatever state it used to be it. This "hole," weirdly enough, behaves like another particle, and what's more, it can become bound the excited electron, forming an electon-hole "molecule" known as an exciton.

So, there you have it. I've summarized my crowning acheivement as a physicist, and with that out of the way, I'll get back to work on what really matters-- Sailor Moon: The Movie!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuxedo Begins

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #9: Mamoru Chiba #2

Watch out! It's symbolism!

Man, remember in Sailor Moon when it was revealed that Tuxedo Kamen was actually Mamoru Chiba? Didn't that shit just blow your mind??! I mean, who would have thought that the tall, dark haired, handsome, sharply dressed guy who appears recurrently in the story for no other logical reason than to suggest that he is the tall, dark-haired, handsome, sharply dressed Tuxedo Kamen would turn out to be Tuxedo Kamen?!?!?

Christopher McQuarrie? M. Night Shyamalan?


You just got schooled by Sailor Moon, bitches.

Seriously, was there anyone on Earth who didn't figure that out? Okay, maybe during the show's initial run some of the show's younger viewers may have been genuinely surprised by this revelation, but pretty much everyone else could put it together. This is a problem because the Usagi-Mamoru romance, at least in the first arc of the grander Sailor Moon saga, is built in large part on the mystery of just who Tuxedo Kamen actually is. The answer to this question, "Tuxedo Kamen = Mamoru Chiba," was unfortunately already easily guessed to begin with, and nearly twenty years of hindsight has not improved matters. What redeemed this narrative misstep is that, following this obvious revelation, the story subsequently asked another, deeper question: "If Tuxedo Kamen is Mamoru Chiba, who then is Mamoru Chiba?"

That is the question I would leap straight into, as part #8 may have already indicated. Who is Mamoru Chiba? What is his past like? What could compel him to dress up in a full dress suit and a mask from a costume ball and go out robbing jewellery stores? Moreover, how could a high school student with (ostensibly) no superpowers or specialized skills be able to pull off such a feat without landing in jail?

For your consideration:

Amnesia is a particularly annoying storytelling cliche, not just because it's horribly overused but because the movies that use it often get it completely wrong. Think about the typical amnesia story: man/woman wakes up, doesn't know where he/she is or how he/she got where they are but otherwise have a pretty intact base of knowledge-- language, manners, etc. When asked, they cannot recall their name or other biographical information, but otherwise are perfectly fine -- you wouldn't be able to tell that they had suffered a massive neurological trauma.

Real amnesia, as you might imagine, is both far more interesting and, sometimes, far more terrifying than the movie variety. It can range from temporary, partial amnesia following a concussion (wherein you're conscious but cannot remember things like what year it is, your birthday, your name, etc.) to the loss of procedural memory (some adult lightning strike victims need to re-learn things like arithmetic or reading) to anterograde amnesia-- the inability to form new long-term memories (this was the type of amnesia that afflicted the main protagonist of Memento).

In the case of Mamoru Chiba, it wasn't just that he couldn't his name, where he lived, who his parents were, or how he had escaped the flaming wreckage of a car that had driven off of a cliff-- a car whose driver's dental records matched those of a low-level Yakuza gang member. Mamoru Chiba, believed to be between six and eight years old, couldn't remember how to speak, or eat, or walk, or use the bathroom. His severe brain trauma rendered him an overgrown infant, and every doctor who examined him believed an overgrown infant is what he would remain for the rest of his life.

Even his name, "Mamoru Chiba," was not really his own. This name was bestowed upon him by the young woman who found him the night of the accident. Apart from his clothes, the only item he owned was a star-shaped pocket watch, on whose back face was inscribed a scene of planet Earth and an over-hanging crescent moon. He clenched the watch in his hand as he lay on the ground, thrity feet away from the burning rubble-- or at least so goes the story. Feeling that the boy deserved better than to be given some generic identifier like "Nanashi No Gombe" ("John Doe"), the woman registered him under the name Chiba Mamoru, "The Protector of The Earth." The name, intended as a temporary pun, stuck.

The very same woman who found Mamoru at the crash site-- let's call her "Chiba-san"-- would later officially adopt him, indifferent to both the social stigma associated with adoption in Japan and the strong likelihood that Mamoru would never recover. It was rough going for about the first year or so, and Chiba-san, a fairly wealthy woman, had to hire nurses to help her take care of Mamoru. Chiba-san, an inherently loving woman, would have been just fine with taking care of the severely disabled Mamoru for as long as he lived. . .

But Mamoru recovered, in a startlingly broad and rapid way. It started with the eyes-- he came to recognize Chiba-san, something doctors said would be impossible. With Chiba-san's help, he re-learned how to speak, to feed himself, to walk and later run (in this case overcoming both brain damage and muscular atrophy), to read, write, and count, to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, to converse, to question, and on and on until there was almost no way to tell that he had ever had any brain damage to begin with.

Almost, that is, until you consider Mamoru's emotional issues. Even after his cognitive skills and re-education reached the level where he could return to school with students roughly his age, emotionally he was quite withdrawn. Though moderately well-liked around his school for his intelligence and easy-going nature, he didn't have very many real friends, something he seemed to be perfectly happy about. Occasionally, his usual calm gave way to irrational bursts of anger, but the frequency of these tended to subside with age, even if they not vanish completely. Given that doctors had trouble figuring out how Mamoru could rebuild his brain the way he had, it shouldn't be too surprising that they were not sure whether his emotional problems were psychological in nature-- the result of severe emotional trauma following the accident-- or neurological.

The only person who seemed to have any idea of what Mamoru was going through was Chiba-san. Mamoru did love Chiba-san as his if she were his own mother, which is why, despite his difficulties with expressing his emotions, he was able on a couple of occasions to confide to Chiba-san certain aspects of his inner reality. He said-- though not quite this articulately-- that he sometimes felt as though the identity he had built up since the accident-- his name, his arsenal of re-learned cognitive skills, his laid-back attitude, and even his "dream" of becoming a doctor just like the people who saved him-- was not really him. His entire personality amounted to nothing more than a mask. (Yeah, there I go again. . .) But what lay beneath the mask? The closest Mamoru had to an answer seemed to lie in something that he could not discuss even with Chiba-san-- his dreams.

He could never quite understand why, but Mamoru always felt more real, more human, while dreaming. Whatever it was that made himself "him" was clearest in his strange dreams. There was a bizarre comfort to this; even when he could only remember bits and pieces of whatever he dreamed the night before-- some tall structure, a disembodied female voice, the name "Endymion"-- the feeling of being whole remained with him. He considered, mostly for the sake of approaching the phenomenon rationally, that his dreams might be the lingering result of neurological damage. However, since it wasn't really doing him any harm, whereas telling someone about them would held the possibly, however remote, of being placed in hospital again, he opted to keep the dreams to himself. . . sort of.

Remember in Part #5, when I said that Rei Hino had gotten into a rather detached relationship with a certain boy whose identity I opted to withhold at the time. Well. . . that boy is Mamoru Chiba. There's a precedent to this-- a couple actually. First, Rei and Mamoru did date each other briefly in the anime. As well, in PGSM Mamoru was actually engaged to one Hina Kusaka before ever meeting Usagi. So how does their relationship play out in the movie?

Mamoru and Rei both come from families in the Japanese upper class-- Chiba-san was wealthy, and Rei's father was a politician. It was decided by their parents that the two might make a good couple, though Takashi Hino, who liked liked the cut of Mamoru's jib, was by far a bigger fan of the idea than Chiba-san, who liked seeing Mamoru socialize but misgivings about both the artificiality of the relationship and Takashi Hino himself. Chiba-san's concerns were not eased by the fact that Rei and Mamoru appeared to have no delusions about their relationship-- it was clear that they were both in this mainly to please their parents. Yet there was something deeper that drew them together. Rei, in a way, could relate to Mamoru's feeling of his identity being a mask, though Mamoru's affliction was clearly more extreme than Rei's moderate alienation. Mamoru, on the other hand, was fascinated with Rei's affinity for the religious and supernatural, particularly her interest in interpreting dreams. . .

So they dated, which pretty much meant that they showed up together at certain functions and looked like a good little conservative Japanese couple. Mamoru, meanwhile, continued to make progress in his studies and his overall recovery. He had even found a hobby in geology, studying rocks and jewellery. He added many rocks and jewels to his collection, though his favourites were a set of four stones-- one piece each of Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite-- given to him by Chiba-san as a birthday present. Something about this hobby seemed to stir something inside him, beneath the mask.

By the time the movie begins, though, things are starting to fall apart for Mamoru. Chiba-san is sick. She won't say anything to Mamoru, but he can tell how much weaker she has become. On top of that, the dreams have become far more intense. Once limited to a few vague images and sounds, the dreams are now calling out to Mamoru-- to "Endymion"-- to find. . . something. He thinks it's a jewel, brighter and larger than any he has ever seen, called the Maboroshi no Ginzuishou, or "Illusionary Silver Crystal." That's what he's seen in the dreams, at least. The dreams have told him-- or maybe he always just knew it-- that this crystal has the power to heal. That is, he might be able to save Chiba-san.

But where the hell is he going to find it? It could be buried in the earth or held any number of vaults anywhere on the planet. It may not even exist yet; maybe they're manufacturing it in some hidden materials sciences laboratory. Then again, it could be sitting in some jewellery store waiting for someone to buy it. He wouldn't have had the first clue where to look, if it were not for the dreams. In addition to emploring Mamoru to seek out the crystal, the dreams also seem to be telling him where to look. Still, there's knowing where to look and knowing how to get it, and his dreams seem to be telling that as well. They'll leave little clues-- how he should dress, the code to a door lock, an alternate escape route, where certain people will be at a certain times-- that are so obsure that they're meaning isn't clear until the very moment they're needed, and yet are so vital that they allow Mamoru to break into jewellery stores and successfully evade authorities despite an utter lack of criminal skills or experience. Mamoru can't explain how he's able to see all these things in his dreams, but he feels compelled to follow them-- to save Chiba-san, to save himself. . . to save the world.

And what about the tuxedo? Mamoru won't begin the film as Tuxedo Mask; the "mask and dark clothing" he wears in Part #8 are a ski-mask and a dark shirt and pants. Just how he becomes "Tuxedo Mask" will be told in the film.

Stay tuned for Part #10: The Villain!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Writing Things is Hard

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #8.5: More Re-writes!

Jeremy's Last Entry Gets an. . .

But seriously. . . My apologies for the delay, but it's been kind of a weird week.

If you haven't read Part #8 yet, you should do that before reading this. Like Part #7.5, it refers to things that I would change (or things that just kinda bug me) about a previously posted script excerpt. This won't be quite as organized as #7.5-- it's just a (surely incomplete) list of things that still need to be dealt with, in whatever order I happen to remember them in.

- I'm still not sure I've adequately justified Luna abandoning her search for Jessy and pursuing Mamoru instead. Maybe I need to make it more clear earlier in the film that not just anything sets off the Luna-sense.

- Luna noticing Mamoru climbing out of the building, but not the police officer, seems a little implausible. Any half-decent police officer, even lacking the neccessary backup, would have his eye on any possible escape routes, especially things like fire escapes. Possible ways to adress this:

. . . . Make it more clear that the particular fire escape from which Mamoru escapes is located a fair ways away from the door he entered (it's right near the entrance to the alley, while the door in which he entered is in the middle of the alley)

. . . . Maybe have someone just happen to come out of another exit at the other end of the alley right when Mamoru is climbing out(you've probably noticed that Mamoru has some incredible luck when it comes to these sorts of things).

. . . . Make it more clear that the reason Luna notices Mamoru is because of the Luna-sense (though this is kinda the same as when they're at the metro. . .)

- Speaking of the metro. . . After writing Part #8, I looked up some info on the kind of security the Tokyo metro has, particularly in terms of security cameras. It seems as though there are plenty of cameras at the stations, but not on the trains themselves. I reason I was concerned about this was because if there were cameras on the train, it would make the switcheroo involving "Double" a lot more complicated. So far, it looks like this is okay, but I'll still keep an eye out.

- Another point about the metro, and a nitpicky one at that. When I was writing the scene with Luna and the toddler, I imagined the train car they were in as being almost entirely empty. Yet, when I wrote the scene with Mamoru and "Double", the train was slightly more populated (at least in my mind). Why would the train be virtually abandoned at one point in the evening, and then have more passengers later on? Like I said, a nitpick, and one that can probably be easily fixed. Still, it bugs me. . .

- Is there actually enough room for Luna on the connector hinge? If not, where could she hang on to the train? (yeah, another stupid nitpick. . .)

- Finally, just a way to improve the final scene. The three men therin are already established to be medical students. Maybe make it clear that they're actually interns who work at a hospital (a scary thought, I know) and have them actually within a couple of blocks of the hospital at which they're interning when they meet with Luna. This leads to another joke ("Gee, sirens? Near a hospital? Get outta town!") and also sets up for something that will be important to the overall plot. . .

Till next time. . .
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