Time for a cold beer. It’s only 5:30pm, I know, but there are extenuating circumstances. The first is that there’s a sudden heatwave. It is above ninety degrees outside. Will be doing this pattern for the whole week. Huh. The second is that I just cycled my bike really hard in that heat, coming back from an afternoon sitting in the Casbah writing a progress report on the year’s research. Happily there’s a lot to include, but it is still quite the task pulling it together, especially when it is so hot. For me, when it is very warm, concentration problems circle around trying to not falling asleep.
The third reason is that I’m clearly going a bit nuts, with several, uh, senior moments descending on me recently. I need to take a nice break and unwind before typing in all these scribbled note. Here are three of the senior moments, so you know what I mean:
Continue reading ‘Disentanglement’
Apparently it snows on Mars. No, really! Another finding from the amazing Phoenix craft. More here. A snippet:
Continue reading ‘A Snowball’s Chance…’
Seth Zenz at LHC Blogs pointed to the video of a talk by Lyn Evans (the LHC project leader) about the LHC, with lots of details about the damage and repairs process, and where the schedule is now. Seth also wrote a transcript of lots of it, which you can find here. It looks to me to be very informative indeed.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, before sunrise, I could hear a dripping noise – or rather lots of dripping noises – from outside. It was familiar, as I’ve been hearing it from time to time over the last four or five weeks. It is one of the very lovely features of the the climate here at this time of year. After a hot sunny daytime, late at night (or early in the morning) a mist or fog rolls in all the way from the ocean twelve or more miles away. It is the result of marine layer, a term that is often -although not really accurately- used for the fog itself.
The fog condenses on everything, and while not being actual rain (we haven’t had any in the main part of the Los Angeles basin in a long while), results in a great deal of moisture on the ground and the trees and bushes, keeping lots of vegetation green through this otherwise dry period of the year. That’s the dripping I could hear. This is presumably how this wonderful natural desert sustained a variety of flora and fauna long before the city, with its Continue reading ‘Late Night Drinking’
Aha… now text messaging while driving is going to be illegal in California. (See e.g., here.) Very good. (Wait, not even at traffic light stops…? How are you supposed to constantly update people on how late you are?) I have not seen much in the way of enforcement for the mobile phone law from earlier in the year, have you? I wonder how much change has come about… other than more and more people wandering around on foot with shiny blinking earpieces looking like extras from a bad SF TV show… Concerned cyclists would like to know…
Well, here’s a little fun video to remind you of many of the fun things for you to do (that are not banned explicitly) now that you’ve got all that free time for your hands (sorry about annoying commercial at beginning):
Continue reading ‘Stuff to do with your hands while driving’
From Janet Raloff’s post at Science News, I learned a bit about the sixty one Nobel Laureates signing the open letter to everyone about Obama’s science policy. I quote (see her post for more):
Continue reading ‘Scientists on Presidential Choices’
Yes, that’s indeed why it is called Sunset Boulevard. Beautiful, isn’t it? And I wonder whether this is why the Vista Theatre is called the Vista. I saw this lovely warm evening light as I came around the corner on Tuesday, on my way to meet a friend to see a movie I’ve been waiting for for some time now – Burn After Reading. It’s a Coen Brothers movie, and for me, it is an event when one of theirs comes out.
As has been the case a number of times in the past, when people hear I am interested in seeing a Coen film, they tell me things like “oh, the reviews weren’t good”, or “it hasn’t been doing so well”, or “the reviews are mixed”. My response is to thank them but politely ignore them. Especially for films I’ve made up my mind to see, I ignore all reviews.
In fact, as a rule, I read film reviews only after seeing the film, and then mostly Continue reading ‘Laugh While Seeing’
It’s been super-busy here in my universe, coupled with turmoil of various sorts. This has kept me away from doing some of the sorts of posts I’ve wanted to do. I hope to tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to when I get a chance. I managed to squeeze in some time for a movie last night, and I’ll do a post on that shortly, since I thought it was wonderful. In the meantime, I thought that while I do a quick breakfast before diving into the day, I’d mention the following.
Alternative Title: A Physics Blind Date
A couple of weeks ago, I got an email out of the blue from a lawyer from out of town. He explained a bit about the type of law work he does, and then went on to say that this was nothing to do with what he was emailing me about. He was emailing me about physics. Turns out that in their spare time, he and his law partner spend time discussing and arguing about physics concepts such as General and Special Relativity, and Cosmology. They’d got to a point where they were confused about various details. The popular level books that they were reading did not really do it for them in terms of getting them past certain concepts and they thought that they’d just contact a physicist and ask.
Hence the email. He wondered if I’d be able to take some time to answer questions. He was terribly apologetic for bothering me, and knew that I might decline since I’m probably very busy.
Well, my response you can guess. Continue reading ‘Will Explain Physics For Food…?’
Well, they aired it. Gosh. It’s a pared-down version of what we shot (there were three questions for The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons in all… one asking him to explain the Big Bang Theory, the entropy one you see in the clip, and finally “Newton Vs Einstein – Who’s funnier?”), but amazingly they actually aired it on Monday in the Continue reading ‘Little Bang’
There were three excellent presentations under the theme Bubbles at the most recent Categorically Not! at the Santa Monica Art Studios. See here. The final one was a visual treat which got everyone on their feet applauding at the end. It was Sterling Johnson, lawyer by day, bubble superhero by night, showing us some of his superpowers. I captured some clips of it, and edited them together for you. (Sorry about my laughing into the microphone at one point. I couldn’t help it.)
My two favourite moments are at 5:28 when he does his “Invisible Bubble Trick” -it is Continue reading ‘Bubbles Galore!’
I’m enjoying the new metro ads that are up all over the city. Are you? They are going for the more direct and immediately pragmatic point in an effort to encourage people to leave their cars behind. (You’ve read my thoughts about that before.) Here are a few I spotted over the last few days (click for larger view):
The style reminds me of the HSBC ads that you see in the UK, again comparing two Continue reading ‘Metro Ads’
Thursday is my first day I can take a breath this week. The last few have been crazy and so I’ve not found time to edit that bubble video I promised, but it is coming. I hope I can get to it tomorrow.
Today is still full of stuff here and there, including a referee report, another report, some administrative things for my class, and then another attempt to think through a thorny puzzle on a research project. The class admin should have been done last night since Thursday and Friday are supposed to be free of undergraduate teaching issues, according to my agreement with myself. However, we had a seminar visitor – Rene Meyer – and so after my class ended at 7:00pm, instead of doing the administration I went to get a bus to downtown to meet with him and my student Arnab for dinner, at the excellent Blossom, one of my favourites down there. There was a bit of walking around to show them some of downtown’s lovely hidden treasures in the form of so many elegant buildings that are ignored by most. (Yes, people, there are restaurants and cafes and things open downtown at night. And of course bars. Go see.)
Now on to the other thing:
As a result of a phone call that came through while I was hosting Rene yesterday, it Continue reading ‘Tales From The Industry XXIII – Big Bang Theory’
Huh. Well, it seems that both presidential campaigns have finally got around to answering the questions about science and science policy that the ScienceDebate2008 team prepared a while back. (The team’s banner line on all this is “Who will be the best President for America in a science-dominated world?”. Who indeed. (In case you’re wondering, the “best” was in place when there were several more contenders.)) I hope it is more than just hot air and empty promises. Right now, it’s Continue reading ‘Answers to the Questions’
This is quite remarkable. There’s actually been an image (see left) taken of a planet orbiting another star. There are hundreds of known extrasolar planets in orbit around other stars (see lots of earlier posts), and evidence for them has been indirect, since they are too tiny and too dim (having no light of their own) to image directly. You can learn of their existence by their effects on their parent star, and/or on the light it casts. (The image left is courtesy of the Gemini Observatory. The University of Toronto scientists used the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and its adaptive optics technology to make the image.)
But this is different, and a bit of a milestone. These astronomers released an actual Continue reading ‘Images From Afar’
Sterling Johnson during his marvellous presentation last night in Categorically Not!: Bubbles at the Santa Monica Art Studios.
I won’t have time today to blog about yesterday’s events (nor the several fun activities Continue reading ‘Bubble Magic!’
The next Categorically Not! is on Sunday September 14th. It’s the start of the new season! The Categorically Not! series of events that are held at the Santa Monica Art Studios, (with occasional exceptions). It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. I strongly encourage you to come to them if you’re in the area. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones. See also the links at the end of the post for some announcements and descriptions (and even video) of previous events. (Image on left is of artist and musician Libby Lavella, in her presentation about ambiguity in art and music during the June 8th 2008 event.)
The theme this month is Bubbles. Here’s the description from K C Cole:
Continue reading ‘Categorically Not! – Bubbles’
Aha! Regular commenter Yvette Cendes (over at The Chocolate Fish) has thrown down the gauntlet! She thinks that we can come up with more, and better, poetry about the LHC. The successful LHC song of Kate McAlpine (deserving of thunderous applause for raising awareness) should clearly be considered just the beginning. So she starts off the challenge to you all with some work of her own, which I shamelessly reproduce below. (Go over to her blog to submit your new writing – or do it both here and there. Up to you.) (My money’s on our regular commenter Elliot producing a marvellous LHC haiku or something like that.)
Yvette calls it an LHC Poetry Slam. Hmmm. I submit that it should be an LHC Poetry Event, or LHC Poetry Collision, or…. anyway, here’s her poem, and wow – true to form, it is good!
Continue reading ‘Yvette on LHC Poetry’
Via the excellent new blog by two (so far) of our regular commenters, “Shores of the Dirac Sea”, (check it out!), I noticed that Brian Greene has an op-ed in the New York Times today.
For those of you who want a short version of some of the things that are hoped for from the large hadron collider (LHC), Brian’s piece is the article you might want to start with!
Just the other day, while coordinating some work being done on my house, I was thinking that it is time I learned Spanish. Most of the people working in the construction industry here in Los Angeles have Spanish as their first language, and besides the usefulness it would give in communicating difficult ideas about a piece of work to be carried out, I really don’t like the feeling that I’m disconnected from them. I’d like to be able at least to, in Spanish, offer a cup of coffee, or a glass of iced water, and have a little small talk – treat them like fellow human beings as opposed to “the help” as is done so much in this city, to my disgust. I interact a lot with the Spanish-speaking parts of the city through my use of public transport, places I go to grab tasty food from time to time, and so on, but there is still a sense that there is an entire alternative Los Angeles out there that I am only barely touching upon by not knowing the language.
Then yesterday this whole Spanish language issue came up again in a big way. There was a phone call to the department from Univision, the Spanish-language TV network. Probably most of you are wondering what that is. You know those several channels that you never watch and when you flick by them, all clustered together, they’re always speaking Spanish and discussing issues or people that you seldom (if ever) have heard of? Yes. This is one of those channels. There’s a huge part of America (and elsewhere) that tune to those channels primarily.
Well, the people at Univision had heard about the excitement about the Large Hadron Collider (see, e.g. last post) and wanted to do a piece on it, and have someone in the studio to talk about it live on their breakfast show. They were looking for a Continue reading ‘Tales From The Industry XXII – Live LHC Chats’
Well, it seems that the largest and most complicated experiment in the history of humankind is…. working so far. They circulated the first beams at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) earlier today! Even Google is excited. Check out their front page:
Fun live blogging reports from the scene of events over at Resonaances, US/LHC Blogs (several posts), and Superweak, for example. I got the ATLAS readout/image below from the latter. (Presumably this is the shower of particles produced when they did the “dumping” described in Resonaances? Or just stuff produced by the edges of the beam as it passes through?) Press release from CERN here.
Update: NPR’s Morning Edition had a nice report this morning in the form of a chat between Rene Montagne and reporter David Kestenbaum. Fun to hear the audio clip of the control room. Link here.
Oh, right. The silliness. Click on that useful site I mentioned earlier to see if the earth Continue reading ‘It Works!!!’
Well, back to teaching issues. Textbooks. I know the following is illegal, but I will admit to being hopeful that this will supply a much needed kick in the rear end for the “textbook industry”. (The very term makes me a bit ill sometimes.) In teaching the big courses at freshman or sophomore level to classes that have a couple of hundred students (broken into sections – we don’t like super huge classes here at USC) enrolled, it is hard not to notice that there’s something slightly insidious about aspects of the textbook game. Despite the fact that we are teaching subjects (Newtonian physics, thermodynamics and a brief bit of “modern physics” that is mostly from no later than 1905) at levels that have not significantly changed for over a century (in some parts, several centuries), the Industry (shall we call it “Big Textbook”?) keeps finding new excuses to come up with new editions. These editions get more and more expensive, and heavier and heavier to carry around. I don’t know why this is necessary, except to force new students to buy the books all over again.
Additionally, the new hook is to combine the book with an access code for further Continue reading ‘One in the eye for Big Textbook?’
Ah. I see that it’s been three days since my last confession. Gosh.
Well, it’s been a quiet weekend here in, er, my part of the universe. Good time for reflection and rest. I had a couple of posts I was going to do but in the end decided to break the pattern and change up my Saturday and Sunday, and the “change up” did not include the blog. So sorry about that.
I’m taking a break between an interesting meeting (that I will tell you about) and my office hour. The sun’s shining outside and it is not oppressively hot, surprisingly, so I’ll keep this short and poke my head out there again before my Physics 151 visitors arrive.
Some of the things on my mind:
Continue reading ‘Thoughts During Break Time’
Sorry. Didn’t mean to cry wolf, but I always think of that great (as in camp and amusing) ending scene when I think of The Fly. The movie, anyway. (That’s in the original 1958 movie version – clip at bottom of this post.) Now there’s an opera! I am not joking. David Cronenberg has teamed with composer Howard Shore to create an opera. (You know the work of both of them rather well, actually, from film work together, and separately – Shore did the wonderful music for films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Cronenberg the film director needs no introduction.) I love the play on Da Vinci’s iconic drawing for the production’s publicity and so forth. See above right.
The artists are of the opinion (and I agree, in principle) that the themes visited in the story are powerful and resonant enough for an opera. Science, science ethics, new technology, fear of same, mercy killing… and presumably devotion to a cause, Continue reading ‘Help Me! Heeelp Meee!’
When I look at this, it sort of scares me a touch. Just a touch. There’s a memory of the arms – flesh and blood ones – inside them, and there goes a shiver down my spine. But it’s all fine, really. There’s nothing sinister going on, and no horrible subtext lurking at all. What I was doing with my Labo
ur Day holiday was all perfectly innocent. Nobody’s arms – not mine or anyone else’s – were or will be hurt! (I’m rather pleased with the title of the post, I have to say.)
What was I doing?
Continue reading ‘A Farewell To Arms’
So now it’s made it to NPR!*
Kate McAlpine’s (who has occasionally commented here) song about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on YouTube has been pointed at by a huge number of blogs and other sites over the months. Now it’s even got a mention on NPR’s Morning Edition! Link to Continue reading ‘LHC Song Growing in Listenership’