Tag Archives: Quantum computing; BBC; Guardian; Rhod Gilbert; Motherhood; Dilbert; Scott Adams

Say what you mean – mean what you say : just make sure the rest of us can understand it!

The Dilbert cartoon on my tear-off desk calendar for today captures superbly the sense of half-understood confusion that seems to be the dominant feeling in so many of the offices and organisations that I have worked in or otherwise spent time in during my working life


I include it here with full acknowledgement of Scott Adams copyright in the cartoon and with a plug for his website in the hope that he will forgive my infringement of his legal protections! (http://www.dilbert.com/)

The relevance of the cartoon was reinforced for me as I read two articles in today’s news. The first, on the BBC News science pages, relates to a discovery that apparently offers the hope that computers in the future will be even faster and more powerful than they are now, following a breakthrough in what is described as quantum memory (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24934786). The article includes the following sentence that I am copying here unedited and in all its opaque glory :

“However, a number of intriguing challenges still remain. For instance – will it be possible to precisely control the local electron-nuclear interaction to enable initialisation, storage, and readout of the nuclear spin states?”

Now, I appreciate that this is at the cutting edge of research and development in computing and engineering, but surely there’s a way of saying this that makes it understandable to people who don’t spend all day working in computer labs? At the risk of coming across all Rhod Gilbert (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOGxHVVFP-M), I thought a nuclear spin state was what happened when you put the washing machine on the highest setting!

Having just about recovered from this, I then happened upon a rather sour piece in the Guardian by Catherine Deveny, purportedly challenging the stereotyping that comes with descriptions of motherhood as the hardest job in the world, but in fact just leaving the impression that the writer is a bit miffed with just about everybody (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/18/sorry-but-being-a-mother-is-not-the-most-important-job-in-the-world)

The article includes this statement : “It only encourages mothers to stay socially and financially hobbled, it alienates fathers, discourages other significant relationships between children and adults and allows men to continue to enjoy the privileges associated with heteronormative roles in nuclear families (despite men sucked into this having their choices limited as well).”

I hope you can understand my confusion. I think I should feel bad about the fact that I am apparently contributing to the oppression of my wife (and the mother of our children) who (it seems) is being socially and financially ‘kept short’ while I have the privilege of being sucked into working full time. I had thought that this was economic and organisational expediency on our part (I am in a position to earn a decent whack in my job; and Mrs P. assures me that she doesn’t feel oppressed in the slightest with the current arrangement)

Having said that, there is no doubt that even now – with the kids aged 19 and 17 – there are many occasions during a typical week when our domestic arrangements could easily fall into the definition of a nuclear family spin state!