24 December, 2005

Something clever

I recently needed to better understand the concept of electron hole migration. I looked in Wikipedia, which had the sweetest, simplest explanation imaginable.
Hole conduction can be explained by the use of the following analogy. Imagine a row of people seated in an auditorium, where there are no spare chairs. Someone in the middle of the row wants to leave, so they jump over the back of the seat into an empty row, and walk out. The empty row is analogous to the conduction band, and the person walking out is analogous to a free electron.

Now imagine someone else comes along and wants to sit down. The empty row has a poor view; so he does not want to sit there. Instead, a person in the crowded row moves into the empty seat the first person left behind. The empty seat moves one spot closer to the edge and the person waiting to sit down. The next person follows, and the next, et cetera. One could say that the empty seat moves towards the edge of the row. Once the empty seat reaches the edge, the new person can sit down.

In the process everyone in the row has moved along. If those people were negatively charged (like electrons), this movement would constitute conduction. If the seats themselves were positively charged, then only the vacant seat would be positive. This is how hole conduction works.
Hooray for Wikipedia.


That is rather nicely told. The analogy itself is not that original, I think--at least it seems very familiar. (Feynman Lectures? Can't look'em up now.) But it's very concise and well described, which makes me wonder to what extent the hive mind edited and sharpened it stylistically rather than for content.  

Posted by Saheli

Most concise, well-described text on Wikipedia tends to be the product of a single writer. In this case, the writer was Tim Starling. The hive-mind doesn't exist; most piece-meal editing randomly inserts thoughts wherever the editor wants. 

Posted by saurabh

"There is no hive mind." That is so true. I hate this idea of "the wisdom of crowds" and "hive mind" and all. Having worked a lot in political movements, including anarchistic ones like Critical Mass and Direct Action to Stop the War, I know that the supposed "hive mind" is usually a few selfless very smart people who offer input to a scene without requiring that their nametag hang off everything they do. It might look like a hive mind from the outside, but insiders know which members of the hive are doing the bulk of the work, and which are providing some combination of reality checks, manual labor, and the cover of crowd-anonymity.

Thanks for telling me which person wrote that post. I hope I can someday thank him more directly. 

Posted by hedgehog

Boo! I guess I agree that that there is no hive mind in practice--at least, in my own experience--as it's generally understood. But I also think that sometimes the insiderbulkworkers WANT the cover of crowd anonymity, and I tend to respect their (our) desire to maintain that illusion.

But I do like the check the author history feature on wiki and would have checked it had I not been in such a hurry.  

Posted by Saheli

being a reality check-ish person i submit that the "selfless very smart people" are listening intently to other individual voices in the concentric and overlapping groups involved in a particular affinity bunch. i think what we call a labor of love is part of a social process of building better tools, quickly, so that existing blunt-instrument tools (formed in response to mainstream needs) can be replaced without excessive downtime, so to speak.

most people have a hard time relying on untested methods. they won't grab every rope they're handed. mostly this is because for the sake of social integration they don't walk around with a hundred tons of safety equipment on their belts in case they fall. folks who only go on paved roads think folks who jump-and-fall all the time are crazy. also carrying too much of your own equipment slows you down and again you fall out of rhythm with the paved road flow. 

Posted by chromo

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