I’m going to another interesting College Commons event today. It’s an away mission. We’re off on a specially arranged tour of the La Brea Tar Pits! This is part of the 1859 celebration series, and of course Darwin is the focus here to some extent. We’re going to be taken around the famous Pit 91. I shall try to take some pictures and report later. The image on the left is a painting of the saber toothed cat, by John C. Dawson. (It is in the LA Natural History Museum.) (By the way – yes, the “Los Angeles 20059 B.C.” on Continue reading ‘Pit Stop’
Monthly Archive for March, 2009
It is just me, or… (#n in a series…)
For those of you who know and enjoy marmite (i.e., you’re in the UK or are probably from the UK), I have an important and most urgent question:
So, lovely idea to use the floor in this way, but what’s wrong with the picture?
I spotted it while going past (downstairs in Doheny library last Tuesday), and could not let it go. In the end I had to go and figure out who was in charge of the exhibition and politely point out that there was a mistake. Apparently, people have been using it to play games and it might be that it is players who leave it improperly set up. My goodness.
Anyway, they said I should feel free to change it back to the right configuration. So I did. Some days later I went by and it was wrong again. I changed it back. Now I am thinking that I simply should not pass by that part of the building anymore to preserve my sanity…
It might seem a little nuts, but this is one of the campus flagship buildings that people visiting USC come through, looking at the building itself, and the exhibits down in the parts where this chess set is. Looks bad if we don’t know how to set up a chess set, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t know, maybe that’s silly… Also, I realized a bit later that maybe I am nuts, because… this has happened before.
I was in a Pottery Barn, maybe about two years ago, browsing through some of the Continue reading ‘Chess Tic?’
At 8:30pm tonight, your local time, earth hour begins. Have you decided? What are you going to do?!
This is just great. I don’t know what it is good for, except amusement and nostalgia, but that’s a good portion of the balance sheet of the good things in life, so that’s good enough for me. It is a periodic table of elements that you can click on to find a selection of early comic book references to it. It is by some of my old neighbours – members of the Chemistry department at the University of Kentucky (F. James Holler and John P. Selegue) – and I’ve no idea how old this project is (1996, perhaps?), but it’s new to me. Click on the table to go to their site:
Well, the transformation continues apace. As of last year, North of the USC campus now has the wonderful Bacaro, and as of three weeks ago, we now have The Lab on the Eastern edge of campus. It’s a gastropub (it is quite charming to hear that quaint term from early 90s London being bandied about as new and hip over here out West now), done up with the feeling of a laboratory of sorts. I think it works rather well, and I entirely approve of the science theme.
The good news is that it actually does seem to be trying to do food somewhat a cut above the sort you get at your generic college campus dive. It succeeds with plenty of room to spare. I can see it as another place where both students and faculty can feel at home and find something on the menu that they like. There’s a surprisingly good selection of beers (no Duvel, Hoegaarden or Leffe, but I did spot a Chimay, so they pass) and several wines (did not explore the list on this first visit).
My risotto was pleasantly fresh tasting, with ingredients (including several different Continue reading ‘Back to the Lab’
The things one has to deal with before breakfast. Seems that Danica McKellar got married. As a result, my 2007 post about her mathematics book was getting heavy traffic loads from search engines, resulting in the whole site being slowed down, and being occasionally unavailable. Sorry if you were affected. Anyway, after a while of messing around, I seem to have stemmed the flow of traffic. And so I’ve lost an hour on the start of my day. Sigh…
An excellent interview, coming in at slightly over 18 minutes. Well worth your time. Shirley Tilghman talks about science and the humanities, funding for them, their role Continue reading ‘Shirley Tilghman on Charlie Rose’
Given all the gardening I’ve been doing over the last week or so (there’s some seed-sowing action going on to the right – more later), it may be fitting to go and sit and participate in the event coming up today. It is another of the College Commons events I’ve been mentioning here.
It’ll be a round table discussion and workshop to kick off a series, and here’s the summary:
“The Spiritual Life of Plants” series, arranged by Natania Meeker and Antónia Szabari of French and comparative literature, aims to reunite urgent contemporary conversations around ecology and the built environment with an early modern past — a past in which plants existed both at the limits of being and at the frontier of new forms of knowledge. What might these animated plants have to tell us about the ways in which humans experience, regulate, and are transformed by the non-human beings that surround them? How can we carry these conversations forward into the present and the future?
Today’s round table: Continue reading ‘The Spiritual Life of Plants’
Well, some of the best writing on television (irrespective of genre) came to an end recently, and since I raved about it back at its height some time ago (and maybe even encouraged some of you to watch it) I feel I ought to comment a little, now that the series – Battlestar Galactica – has ended. If you’ve not seen the finale (or even several of the episodes leading up to it), please do not read any further if you don’t want to know plot details.
Last week, John Stewart and John Oliver were hilarious about the Bush administration’s War on Science, and the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to undo some of the damage done. The rest of the content aside, John Oliver’s terrible Bush impression is worth seeing.
Hmmm. With all of the current bandying about of “Billions” and “Trillions” in the news (at least over here in the USA – referring to dollars, and economic stimulus packages and so forth), every single day, “One Million” sounds decidedly underwhelming doesn’t it? Perhaps I should instead write . Does that help?
Why am I focusing on this number? Well, while I’ve been in hermit mode the last week (uh… yes, that’s where I was and I’ve got the beard to prove it – was resetting my head over Spring break – more later) the sitemeter counter continued ticking away and sometime today passed the One Millionth Visitor To Asymptotia mark! So we have a landmark of sorts. One worth noting. So…
I’d planned to note carefully that visitor’s data (you can tell roughly what part of the Continue reading ‘One Million!’
Maybe useful in case I get stuck in my research…
Reminds me of Continue reading ‘High Street Help?’
Pi Minute is also sometimes celebrated on March 14 at 1:59 p.m. If [Pi] is truncated to seven decimal places, it becomes 3.1415926, making March 14 at 1:59:26 p.m., Pi Second (or sometimes March 14, 1592 at 6:53:58 a.m.).
The first Pi Day celebration was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, and then consuming fruit pies; the museum has since added pizza pies to its Pi Day menu. The founder of Pi Day was Larry Shaw, a now retired physicist at the Exploratorium who still helps out with the celebrations.
This year it is officially National Pi day too, according to the U.S. Congress!
Be sure to do some pi-ous things, ok? (Making pies, walking in circles at 1:59 pm (at Continue reading ‘Pi Day!’
Over on Bad Astronomy, Phil has a nice article entitled “Ten Things You Don’t Know About Pluto”. It is nicely illustrated, and indeed, some of those things he mentions might be new to you. Go and have a look and see.
(And don’t forget it is International Year of Astronomy, celebrating -for example- Galileo’s use of the telescope.)
Wow. This is a dream cast, a dream production, and a dream interview. You’ve got Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the leads, for a start. Two of my favourite actors on stage or screen. But they are joined by another favourite of mine, the amazing Simon Callow! The quartet is rounded out by Ronald Pickup (who I don’t know as well, but is no slouch himself). They’re doing Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”, and it is going to tour at various theatres in the UK before ending up in London. That would be quite marvellous to see, I think.
Anyway, why am I telling you this? Other than just to enthuse about having those Continue reading ‘Waiting for Godot’
Well, the last couple of days events were tiring, but good overall. The Hawking event was a bit like a rock concert. I made a video of some of the long line for you, and also take you into Bovard Auditorium with me to see the rather nicely packed crowd (well the downstairs part) of about 1200 excited audience members. At the end of the video are a few stills, showing Dean Howard Gillman during his welcoming remarks to the College Commons event, Nick Warner introducing Stephen Hawking, the man himself, and some of the high school students and the undergraduate student, who won the prize to get to ask Stephen questions. (The high school students had all asked similar questions, and so were all asked up to ask one question.)
Here’s the video:
Gosh, time flies!
I almost did not get to announce this before it was upon us. Tomorrow and the day after combine into a notable event in the College Commons series here at USC. Some of us have been working on this for quite a while. On Tuesday we have Stephen Hawking giving a big public lecture entitled “Out of a Black Hole”. Here’s the announcement. Note that general tickets for seats in Bovard Auditorium all went within hours of us releasing the tickets several weeks ago, but there is room in the two spill rooms that we have set up where there will be screens relaying the talk. Make a bit of an event of it and go with friends! [Update: I forgot to mention that we had a competition in local high schools and also at USC where the prize was to ask Stephen Hawking a question. People submitted questions over the last few weeks and we selected some of the best. There will be three undergraduates and three high school students coming up from the audience (we've a lot of high school students visiting us for the talk) to ask him a question each at the end. Should be fun.]
The day after, there will be a related event. Some of us from the physics department Continue reading ‘Hawking Talking, and More’
I presume you’ve heard the news by now, concerning stem cell research in the USA. If not, listen to and read some of the NPR reporting on it here (by Julie Rovner Continue reading ‘The Great News Of The Day’
Well, strangely, I was able to walk right into the Vista (one of my favourite movie palaces) and go to my favourite seat on Friday evening to see Watchmen, without even waiting in line. So I’m able to report on this rather sooner than I thought. (Or at least I was, but Friday night saw me busy, and Saturday night I was all prepared to do so after my long hike in the San Gabriels, but I feel asleep on the sofa still in my hiking gear and did not wake up until 6:00am.) So here we are. I’m happy to report that the owner or manager guy at the Vista, who wears a costume whenever a film of this genre shows, did not disappoint. There he is on the right in his Rorschach outfit. (Click for larger view.) Quite splendid.
This film is, on the surface, partly about my people (My people? Take your pick about what you think I mean here: (a) Physicists? (b) Superheroes? (c) Physicists who like to wear capes? (d) Physicists who like to go around in the nude and are sometimes blue?) and so of course I had to go along and see and report, but more urgently I have to report because I am quite sure that most film reviewers will not be able to see past the capes and tights. Having seen a few reviews since I’ve gone, I’m not wrong so far. I get to use the above title for the post, as I did last year for The Dark Knight, because the capes and tights are a red herring.
I’ll fold the rest of this away for those who don’t want to read about the film before seeing it first, so click to read on if on the front page or on a feed.
One of the star items that I brought out during a small food and wine gathering at Continue reading ‘Going, Going, Gone’
This post would be better suited to three weeks from now, but the subject item is so very good, so here goes…
Astronomers Declare February No Longer a Month
Emboldened by their success in declaring Pluto not a planet, the International Astronomical Union determined this week by a close vote that February is too short to be considered a true month. It has, however, been granted the newly created status of “dwarf month.” It shares this dubious distinction with several other calendar time spans, including Labor Day Weekend, Christmas Vacation, and the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did.
“It only seems fair,” said IAU President Ron Eckers. “February reaches a peak Continue reading ‘February for the Chop?’
I learned* that the Kepler craft (NASA artist sketch on right – this is the device that will look for “other earths” – see below) is all go to try for launch later today! Extract from an announcement that went around:
On 6 March (EST, 7 March in UTC) there are two opportunities for a launch into the Earth trailing orbit. The first window is at 6 March, 10:49:57 p.m. EST (UTC: 7 March, 03:49:57) and the second window is at 11:17:44 p.m. EST (UTC: 7 March, 04:17:44). If Kepler is not launched tonight there is a another possibility at approximately the same time tomorrow night.
Countdown will begin 3 hours before launch and Kepler separation into Earth trailing solar orbit will take place 3709 sec into flight. First contact after separation is expected 4640 sec into flight.
I noticed that Amy Mainzer is over at the Kennedy Space Center to see the launch. She begins to talk about it here on her (excellent) blog. You might want to check back there in case she does a nice report on it. Check out Phil’s Bad Astronomy blog for more on this too. He says he’ll be tweeting and all. (Yes. Tweeting. There, I have used that word in its recent new context/meaning in a sentence for the first time. I feel a bit silly.)
What is this all about? It is very exciting. Here are some sources of information for Continue reading ‘Kepler Ready!’
It always surprises me how delightful the strong scent from these blossoms can be. Continue reading ‘Orange’
Well, today (depending upon how you count*) is a big day. Major day. Are you as excited and worried as I am?
One of the things I am most appallingly tardy about is filing expense claims. I’m really bad about this. Not just in terms of the amount of time it takes me to get to it, but in the actual amounts that need to be claimed. People who are smart about this take less time to file their largest expenses… it is usually the opposite with me. I know people who are essentially doing their expenses as the trip they are on proceeds, and by time they’ve landed back at their home city they are putting the completed forms and bundled receipts into the mail (internal or external) with one hand while still holding their luggage in the other. I on the other hand, find myself forgetting to do it again and again, losing track of what I actually spent and can claim back, and so on and so forth as the trip fades from memory. Yes, I have forgotten to claim for entire trips, in the past, remembering years later that I was supposed to (happily that has not happened too many times). I’m not sure why this is, but it is partly as a result of the immediate re-immersion back into local life after the trip. The trip is done and now I’m back to the everyday routine. Figuring out the expenses becomes a sort of distraction from moving forward. Or it just keeps slipping my mind.
It’s pretty stupid of me, and I acknowledge it every time, but I still end up doing it. Sometimes at great cost. Right now, I have four big trips I have not claimed my Continue reading ‘Expensive’
Oh, yes, the midterm. Well, apparently the students don’t hate me as a result of it. (Actually I have not seen any of them since before the midterm (I was away during the actual midterm itself), so I’m not entirely sure about that…)
I stayed up until 2:00am or so on Wednesday writing and typesetting the thing, and in the end I think I set a relatively straightforward exam. Furthermore, after I finished writing it, I realized that a good chunk of the computation I’d prepared for them had already been done in a previous midterm. I’d completely forgotten. You can see a (bit blurry, sorry – in a cafe trying not too look too conspicuous taking photos) snap of my notebook with the computations that I did in preparation for the midterm in the little photo to the right.