The cover of the June 1st edition of the New Yorker (see right) was done by artist Jorge Columbo on an iPhone, using an application called Brushes. (Story here and here*.) This all smacks of (more) free iPhone advertising, on the surface, but there’s something impressive here.
The New Yorker’s website displays a video of the layering of paint brush strokes that he did, showing the process of constructing the art. I’m impressed. Not by the iPhone aspect of it so much as the painting technique and approach itself, especially in such a small space, and that he did it while standing there looking at the subject for the scene in question. It is fascinating to see his strokes. Have a look:
Continue reading ‘iMpressed’
The next Categorically Not! is this coming Sunday May 31st. 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 above right is from the excellent Categorically Not! – Really? event back in April 2006, described in an earlier post here. It was all about illusion, with examples from the world of optical illusions, and from literature.)
The theme this month is Awesome. Here’s the description from K C Cole:
Continue reading ‘Categorically Not! – Awesome’
Jester at Resonaances reports on a talk by Jörg Wenninger about the progress at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
There’s information about the repairs, more thoughts about the accident last year, and somewhat frightening news about issues of quality control on some of the manufacturing of crucial parts that may haunt the entire project for some time to come.
Continue reading ‘LHC News’
I just learned from Phil’s blog that the Galileoscopes I mentioned to you some months back (remember? International Year of Astronomy? Not just Darwin year?) are ready for shipping. There were issues with production at first, but now they are ready. The key issue right now seems to be that they are in danger of having to stop production of these lovely things if they don’t get lots of orders by May 31st. Ack!
So please please consider sending in a order for one or a few. Imagine what a delightfully unusual gift it would make for someone. Either someone you know, or someone you don’t know like a neighbour, your local school, church (yes!) or community center, or… even that special someone who you’d like to get to know – what an icebreaker, eh? Here’s a picture from the site of what a happy owner’ll have after assembling it:
It is easy to put together, gives a new window onto the world above your head, and Continue reading ‘Go! Now! Get a Galileoscope!’
I’ve just finished two days of staring for long stretches at the computer screen, reviewing all my footage for the films, (see also here) making careful notes about which takes I like, which I don’t, which are salvageable, which are a total mess, suggestions for cut away shots, transitions, other edits, etc, etc, etc… These notes are for my film editor, who will now take the hard drive of all the footage to begin cutting the first rough versions of the films.
It was a time-consuming process, with the additional complication from the fact that the Industry is in some disarray when it comes to high definition (HD) formats. Largely due to the explosion of technology, the move to, and the demand for the format from the consumer TV world, there is no universal standard for how different camera manufacturers (and even the different models of a given manufacturer) save the files they make, and for how to get those files safely and reliably off the camera and on to your computer in a way that allows you to view them. Different flavours of Continue reading ‘Remind Me Not To Do This Again…’
This* is an excellent summary! Resonates with me a lot. Go to PHD Comics to get a close up to read the full thing!
Yesterday saw my annual stint of judging at the California State Science Fair. Somehow it managed to sneak up on me this year, and so I did not get to do what I planned to do, which is encourage one or two scientist/engineer friends of mine in the area to sign up to get involved, since it is such fun and quite rewarding (ahem: Michelle P., Amy M., mark your calendars for next year! I’m going to come a-calling…) See earlier posts (e.g., here, here) for science fair descriptions, and the fair’s own site with lots of photos each year is here.
(Ok, there’s the whole getting up in time to arrive there by 7:00am or so. That bit is less than good, perhaps.) I arrived a bit later than 7:00, due to some breakfast procrastination that I somehow sometimes manage to do even when I wake up with plenty of time (a whole hour this time) to get ready. My plan to simply set out by 6:10am and pleasantly walk/bike and bus down (my usual mode) was thwarted by this and so I had to take a somewhat quicker mode of transport, launching out of the batcave in a hurry at 6:50am! By 7:15am the parents and students in their SUVs and minivans were arriving at the California Science Center in droves, and so this meant that parking was a bit more of a challenge that it would have been 15 minutes earlier. But as you can perhaps see on the right (click for larger view), it all worked out in the end… ( )
Here’s a shot of the annual morning briefing of the volunteer judges (all well fed, Continue reading ‘Fair Play’
So I decided to experiment. Saturday started with me spontaneously mixing some ingredients together. There’s about two tablespoons of shortening, and of butter, and a sprinkling of sea salt. I put in one or two of the cups of flour and hand blended this all together. Then I mixed in a cup or so of the yeast culture that has previously featured in a few blog posts (here, here, and here). I’m sort of following my usual bread recipe that I’ve made in the past several years (with dried yeast as a starter) with a few adjustments here and there, trying to accommodate the different kind of Continue reading ‘Bakin’’
Why is everyone excited about this picture?
Actually, there’s a dot on the bottom left quadrant. What is it? What did the excellent photographer Thierry Legault manage to image?
Well, it’s wonderful:
Continue reading ‘Sun Spotting?’
Tomorrow is the Big Day. For what? The launch of Planck and Herschel – Major new windows on our universe. Keep your fingers crossed for luck!
They’re on the launch pad right now. See here.
So, what are the missions and objectives of these fine spacecraft, I hear you ask.
Well, from the Planck site:
Continue reading ‘The Big Day!’
The (spoof) phone-in “Down The Line” on Radio 4 last week was brilliant! It featured a guest talking about science, with a particular focus on his dislike of string theory, and with the callers (the usual brilliant cross section of UK phone-in archetypes) taking the discussion all over the place: Doctor Who, soccer, “female scientists”, gay daleks, and so on and so forth.
My favourite question: “Why do they have to keep mucking about with the Continue reading ‘Down The Line on Strings’
The space shuttle mission launching today (around 2:00pm ET) has a very special task. It is going to take some astronauts up to do some crucial repairs (see story here) on the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the last such mission (Hubble will be retired into the Pacific eventually) and has been long awaited. Please keep your fingers crossed for a successful mission to keep such an important scientific instrument working for another five (or so) years to teach us more about the universe. (Go to the Hubble site here.)
NPR had a rather good piece about the special tools that were designed to allow these repairs to be carried out. The point is that the astronauts are not just swapping out parts or modules that were designed to be swapped out (like you do a light bulb, a shower head, or a shaving foil), but they have to go in and take out things deeper Continue reading ‘The Right Tools for the Job’
It is Mother’s Day in the USA (a few weeks after the UK one – this means I send two sets of greetings to my mother each year). This year, rather than a rose, I’m going to put up a member of the gladiolus family, since one of mine put on a stunning display two days ago and deserves to be shared.
I almost forgot to carry out my plan to do this post, as I’ve been shooting Continue reading ‘Glad it is Mother’s Day’
So, apparently there is physics in the upcoming huge film Angels and Demons (and presumably the book). Lots of it. I did not know that until recently. So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I got a message from a producer (Natalie Artin of Prometheus Pictures) of a documentary about it, asking if I’d like to contribute, talking about aspects of the physics.
They wanted me to talk about anti-matter. This is as a result of finding a blog post of mine over on Correlations, entitled “Not Science Fiction”, which starts:
Anti-matter. Seeing the previous word, you immediately glance back at the title, right? Strangely, it has been 80 years since the discovery of anti-matter, and we use it routinely in our technology. Nevertheless, anti-matter is still thought of as something from science fiction (and mostly bad science fiction at that).
It all goes back to one of my favourite theoretical physicists, Paul Dirac, and you might like how he found it (roughly). He essentially did it by [...]
I agreed to talk, if I could focus on one of the main issues of my post: That anti-matter is not weird stuff of science fiction, but actual routine science…. so routine that it is used commonly in medical diagnosis, for example. The “P” in PET scans stands for “positron”. The positron is the anti-electron. (The “E” does not Continue reading ‘Tales From The Industry XXVIII – Angels, Demons, and Antimatter’
[Update: It is Sunday night, not tonight. See upcoming post.] If you’re a fan of the Da Vinci Code and interested in the new film Angels and Demons (or even if you’re not), do check back here tomorrow (Friday) for some news of something on TV tomorrow night about it. Apparently there is actual physics playing a role in the film/book. (I play a small role in this film about the movie, which will be aired tomorrow.) But I am way too tired now to blog it (and the shooting thereof), and so will do so tomorrow. So check back.
Remember a couple of weeks ago I was mentioning an outbreak of schoolboy(-like) giggles from my physics 408b class due (it turns out, if you did the homework on the equation) to some audience-perceived off-colour hidden joke in some of the material I was presenting? (I’m still a bit embarrassed since I had no intention of making the joke they saw.) Well, just a couple of days later, I was witness to it again, but this time it was in a lecture by someone else, and the audience was mostly professors, and it was one of my esteemed colleagues who couldn’t help himself and broke out giggling. Well, actually, there was a short loud guffaw which burst out. So you see, even the fine upstanding citizens can submit to juvenile giggles.
Let me tell the story. We had the eminent evolutionary biologist Patricia Gowaty (UCLA) give an excellent talk entitled “Darwin and Gender”, as part of the College Continue reading ‘Professors Do It Too’
There’s something quite marvellous about trains. You can sit and think, work, or play while it slowly extracts you from your city and gently inserts you into another. There’s no mess and fuss to do with cars and so forth, and the scenery is almost always interesting, whether it be the backs of people’s houses, where you can see washing lines, pools, gardens, gym equipment, horses and llamas (no I am not joking), or those businesses and infrastructure that we don’t often keep on the high street – any number of strip clubs, storage for trains and school buses, lumber yards, power stations, public storage units, yards with endless amounts of rusted metal – or farmland growing crops (sometimes in interesting geometrical arrangements), ocean, boats, piers, oil refineries, and of course surf and beaches. (I’ve some video clips of some of this. Perhaps I’ll edit it all together into a video for you later.)
You can look up from your thoughts, work, or leisure from time to time and gaze out over any of this for a while, drinking in the scenery at will. I find that people on the train are very friendly -almost ridiculously so- almost as though either the train attracts a certain type of person who is conducive to this type of mood, or there is something Continue reading ‘Locomotion’
I had a lot of fun at this year’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) open house. I’m happy to report that there were, once again, lots of people wandering around looking at the displays and demonstrations, asking questions, hanging out, and so forth, and an impressive turnout of JPL staff answering questions and being very enthusiastic about the science (something which is easy to do because it’s such an excellent topic!). I’ve made a video for you that is coming up at the end of this post. (Click on stills for larger views.)
There was the usual huge emphasis on planetary exploration with rovers and robots and so forth – this seems to capture the imagination of everyone, so why not? – but I was more than a little surprised to find virtually no showing for the Planck mission. There was one poster somewhere, but no booth, no model, no description of the truly amazing science that it will do in unlocking more about the origins of the entire Continue reading ‘Yesterday at JPL’
Of all of the videos I’ve seen of people visiting the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), this one is the funniest by very far… yes… it’s John Oliver again:
Embed died, so link here.
The probability discussion is just priceless…
Continue reading ‘John Oliver at the LHC’
Last month’s First Friday was just great! I think I finally understand where LA goes on a Friday night. The Natural History Museum was full of people wandering around looking at the exhibits, going on the tours and listening to the talks (all were at capacity!) and just hanging out listening to the musicians or the DJs. Reminds me a lot of that Josh Ritter event I went to a while back, but so much more extensive, since Continue reading ‘Fun at the Museum Tonight!’
It is that time of year again. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is having an open house this weekend, 2-3 May 2009! This is excellent news, as I’ve been very impressed with the open house in past years, and I am pleased that it has continued. There’s a real dedication to doing it well, with lots of volunteers giving of their time to make it a really high quality event. I recommend it. Their event page is here. You might find my description of one of the visits I did useful as a guide to what to expect. It is here.
Maybe see you there….