nice cold beerTime 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: […] Click to continue reading this post

Late Night Drinking

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.

foggy los angeles

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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Stuff to do with your hands while driving

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):

[…] Click to continue reading this post

Laugh While Seeing

vista theater on sunset boulevardYes, 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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Will Explain Physics For Food…?

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. […] Click to continue reading this post

Little Bang

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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Bubbles Galore!

sterling_johnson_bubblesThere 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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Metro Ads

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):

metro ad in la metro ad in la metro ad in la

The style reminds me of the HSBC ads that you see in the UK, again comparing two […] Click to continue reading this post

Tales From The Industry XXIII – Big Bang Theory

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:

still from the show big bang theory

As a result of a phone call that came through while I was hosting Rene yesterday, it […] Click to continue reading this post

Answers to the Questions

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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Images From Afar

extrasolarplanet orbiting starThis 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 […] Click to continue reading this post