This is a fun poster I saw at the Grove the other day. (Click for a larger view.)
The good fairy (Tinkerbell, apparently) speaks the truth!
It’s nice to see such a campaign, and aimed at the younger set (who in turn might bug their parents into thinking about it too). It is sponsored by the Department of Energy (the same people who sponsor most of my research), and you can look at the website here. Maybe you’ll direct some others to it too! There’s an energy action checklist, and lots of useful tips and guidelines for everyone (young and old) to follow in order Continue reading ‘You Don’t Need Magic To Use Energy Wisely’
This is exciting! Today I decided to explore the new extension of the Gold line for a little while. There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing a prominent public works project of such obvious value to the community finish the construction phase and begin regular service. I was away in Europe at the opening of it in mid-November and so today was my personal little inauguration ceremony. It runs South and then East from downtown’s Union Station to Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. Yes, you can take it all the way from Pasadena to East LA without changing trains (and similarly in the other direction) and so there’s an incentive to explore. (I’m hoping this will motivate some of the people I know in Pasadena who rarely leave it to actually get out and explore Los Angeles for real…)
I wandered the streets a little bit at one or two of the stops and of course I also sat on the trains looking out of the window and at the people around me. As with many Continue reading ‘Gone East, Looking West’
On the day of Obama’s first State of the Union address, after a first year in office that saw spectacular squandering of political capital by him and the Democrats, I found in my mailbox the Feb. 1st New Yorker with a brilliant cover that says it all. It is called “First Anniversary”, and is by Barry Blitt. Click for larger view:
Did you watch Meteorite Men last week? If not, you can probably catch a repeat. It is a new series, airing 9pm ET/PT Wednesday nights, on the Science Channel about two guys who search for meteorites. Check your local listings for times. (Photo cheekily snapped from their site. Copyright aerolite meteorites.)
I learned about it from Bob Melisso, my producer/filmmaker friend (and occasional collaborator: see here, here and here) who made the pilot and is the supervising producer for the series. From the website:
Continue reading ‘Meteorite Men!’
This week’s New Yorker has an article by Dana Goodyear on Neil Gaiman. There’s also an online chat with him and Goodyear and readers here. I like a lot of Gaiman’s writing and am impressed with his imagination. It is interesting to note that such a prolific and influential talent has managed to not become a household name. This might be beginning to change. As a result I myself a bit conflicted, as I often am in this situation when someone like this, whose work I’ve followed for years (or that I’ve simply privately noted is really excellent, early on), is maybe about to break into mainstream recognition. I’m happy for them, want to share them with my friends and the world at large while at the same time being a bit worried about it having Continue reading ‘Gaiman in the New Yorker’
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Do you know who said that? I’ll break the post here to give you a moment to think about it. I’m not going to ask for the answer in the comments since you have Google on your side, but you can, if you like, share in the comments whether you knew or guessed it right before you moved to the rest of the post below to learn the answer. (Image above is an illustration by Walter Crane for ‘Snow White’ (1882).) Continuing…
Continue reading ‘On Art, Fairy Tales, and Creativity’
Somehow I forgot to point this out last Fall. There was an interesting article by Dana Goodyear in the New Yorker on James Cameron, creator of so many giant films you may know of, and of course, of the recent juggernaut Avatar. It is definitely worth a read, as is Goodyear’s related chat online with readers here.
I went to see Avatar in its proper setting (late night showing in the Dome at the Arclight of course) a fortnight ago and can report a few things of interest:
* The cheeky alternate name Smurfohantas (I heard this name on Kermode and Mayo’s BBC Radio 5 show) is not far off the mark if you are in a cynical mood. It’s a very standard story, rather straightforwardly told, but using striking tall blue people. (There is nothing wrong with re-telling stories, by the way, so don’t get me wrong. Arguably, most stories are in large part old stories). I just don’t see this version as particularly well told, just merely functional. There’s a slightly more interesting angle buried under there somewhere about the whole idea of avatars, and maybe even something about disability, and so forth, but only if you really really dig for it.
* It is not a great film, but it is an interesting and entertaining film to watch. I have a soft spot for Cameron’s work since I do like his use of strong female characters in the genre as well as his anti-war, suspicion-of-corporation, and environmental Continue reading ‘Cameron and Avatar’
…more to go. I’ve finished one of the papers I’ve been writing (this one co-authored with my student, Tameem) after delaying on it for months. I’m not sure how things got quite this backed up in terms of things I have to do, but they have. I meant to start on a new, long project last week, and all my efforts these days have been toward clearing away all those things I want to get done and dusted before focusing on that. It is taking time, but gradually the clearing is happening. Two more manuscripts to complete.
This paper reports on the continuation of the work we’ve been doing over the years in understanding the physics of various model systems in an applied magnetic field. This is in the context of holographic models of important strongly coupled phenomena that are of considerable interest in lots of fields of physics (particle physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, atomic physics). (Since I don’t want to explain holography and so forth every time I talk about it, see a post I did about some of that here, and related posts in the list at the bottom of this one, if not sure what I’m talking about.) (Hmmmm, I see from my SPIRES listing that I’ve got seven papers mentioning magnetic field explicitly in the title in the last three years, and three or four more of the rest are occupied in large part with the issue too. No, really, I’m not obsessed.)
The issue here is the study of structures that suggest themselves as earmarks of Fermi surfaces in strongly coupled systems. It has been a goal for a long time in the context of gauge/gravity duals to understand what the signals of a Fermi surface would be. Would it be some geometrical object in the dual gravity theory, perhaps? Access to a computationally tractable description of such an object would be rather Continue reading ‘News From The Front, VIII: One Down…’
Yes, it is an advertisement, but it is such a good one*. Apparently, “There is no candy more magnificent or more powerful.”
12600 calories, apparently. Have a look:
Continue reading ‘Grin and Bear it!’
We’ve been having wonderful storms here the last few days, and it is expected that it will remain like this through Sunday. It has been great. There’s something wonderful to me about torrential rain pouring down outside through the day while I’m inside working, glancing out of the windows from time to time, and making endless cups of tea. In the afternoon there usually is a break in it all. The sky clears a little, maybe the sun even comes out, and I go for a walk in a long coat, with umbrella, to take the air and clear my head. Night falls early, I eventually get home, and the rain begins again sometime later. If not immediately, then sometime during the night I awake to hear it: The lovely rhythm of rain on the roof, the trickle of water in the gutters, the splashing as some accumulation falls from some great height onto the ground somewhere nearby.
I went to a friend’s birthday party last night and… Eric Lewis was there, playing the piano throughout the night! He’s a master in all styles, it seems, including classic and contemporary Jazz, through Happy Birthday to masterful renditions (and deconstructions) of pop, R&B, and soul tunes (there was a lot of spontaneous gathering and singing around the piano). I found some videos on YouTube for you.
Continue reading ‘Eric Lewis’
I’m puzzled. Almost everything I’ve heard from people – even otherwise thought-provoking respected film critics – is that John Hillcoat’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s wonderful novel The Road is really depressing*. I think that the problem might be that there’s a lot of looking at the obvious images on the screen (a defeated, broken, decaying landscape) and rushing to a conclusion because there is the odd perception that the first thing that comes to mind (or the first emotion that is awoken in the viewer) must be the primary content. I find this odd, since there’s so much more there, and it shows up only slightly below the surface.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying that The Road is up there as one of the top three “feel-good movies” of 2009, if that term was ever worth using. Yes. Feel-good. This is a term that is mostly used for some of the (and I am being generous) often Continue reading ‘It’s a Feel-Good Movie!’
The Daily Beast has a good list, with donation links, of many NGOs on the ground in Haiti that you can pick from to help out*. (Map right from Lonely Planet.)
Please go and have a look, and make your choice.
If you’re really too busy, consider the texting options. You send a text message to a number and it results in a donation that is later deducted from your phone bill. A pair of examples:
Text HAITI to 90999 ($10 to Red Cross)
Text YELE to 501501 ($5 to Yéle, Wyclef Jean’s development organization.)
I’ve spoken about Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite writers, here before (Image right by Elena Seibert). See my earlier post, which highlighted an essay of his. Well, I learned from The Writer’s Almanac that it is his birthday today. Since I’ve been thinking a lot about great writing recently, I thought I’d celebrate by noting it here to you on the blog. Do go over there and read a bit about what Garrison Keillor and his writers say about him. Extract:
Continue reading ‘Murakami’s Birthday!’
Yes, still with the morning baking. I feel a bit bad about not getting bagels from Brooklyn Bagels (on Beverly) anymore (after six years of being a regular), but there’s only so much I can eat in baked goods and I seem to be in the mood to do it all myself these days.
Not sure why I’ve never done these before:
Sweet potato biscuits*. Perfect for using up that left over sweet potato, and, like all Continue reading ‘Nine’
I’m taking a short break from it while I wait for my soup – that wonderful soup I made a huge vat of last night, using the essence of the left over carcass of a roast chicken I served on Christmas day combined with various delicious vegetables from the farmer’s market – to heat up for dinner. I need the break, as I’m mentally exhausted. Although I strongly feel like having a nice evening glass of wine, I am forbidding myself from having one since I must stay sharp for much longer this evening, despite my exhaustion. So a bit of blogging about my ongoing task will somehow serve as my relaxation. Oddly enough. Well, let’s see if it does.
I’ve been wandering an incredibly striking landscape, with such remarkable variety, detail, texture and hue. There are features that move me to tears at times, reduce me to fits of uncontrollable laughter at others, but mostly intense reflection throughout. I should be simply enjoying it for its own sake, drinking it in where I want to, letting it simply wash over me at times, while at others, cupping some of it in my hands and looking at it close up, before letting it flow away and moving on. But I do not have that freedom. Instead I have to look at it all with a view to ranking various features over others – putting it all into some sort of order. This is a terrible task to have to do, since so very much of it is simply wonderful in its own right, and there’s hardly any meaning to ranking some parts over the other.
What on earth am I talking about?
Well, as is so often the case with some of the things I get myself involved in, I can’t tell you much detail, since the process itself is ongoing, and rather sensitive. I’d not Continue reading ‘The Read’
So have you been to Griffith Park recently? I went for a short hike there this morning for the first time in a month or so. The first time this year. (I’ve not been hiking much the last month due to several things, including waiting for a full recovery from my mysterious vertigo which still pops up from time to time…)
Well, I had a nice hike, and cleared away some cobwebs in my head, which was nice to do. I’m in the middle of writing two research papers, and reading a great deal of material for a search committee I’m on (meeting imminent) and so a bit of clearance is good.
The thing is this. The park was with teeming with people, of a broader range than is usual for the park, in those numbers. Not sure why, but it was good to see. Is it all those New Year’s resolutions? People resolving to use the city’s wonderful park areas Continue reading ‘Back on the Trail’
Amy Mainzer has shared and discussed the first released picture from the WISE project that was launched (you’ll recall) not so long ago. It looks marvellous. Press release here.
By the way, I hope you’re following Amy’s blog to learn more about the mission now it is in full swing. She’s giving you a window into the science as it breaks and the excitement of doing the science itself, seeing a project come together Continue reading ‘Eye on the Sky’
Yes, I know: (1) Large head doesn’t make one smarter, but it was just so I could use the post title. (Maybe one or two of you see where it comes from…) (2) The final resort of a busy blogger: – cute animal pictures. Well, I already regularly share pictures with you concerning what I had for dinner, so no change there.
This is Yun Zi, (“Son of Cloud” I hear) who arrived in the public eye (at five months Continue reading ‘Smarter than the Average Panda?’
I just thought you’d like to know this. I’m a Specialty Act. Got that?
Last month, just before taping some material for a new TV show (that you can see on a major broadcast network starting in a week or so) I signed some routine documents. One of them involved me ticking a box to specify my official status for Continue reading ‘Tales from the Industry XXX – Specialty Act’
Happy New Year, dear Reader!
Forgive me for starting the year with an article on environmental problems, but it was Isaac Asimov’s birthday (at least the official one) on Saturday (I learned that here), and I found an excellent video of him talking wonderfully about global warming, united world action on such matters, and other issues back in 1988. It is below. I read a ton of Asimov back when I was a teenager. While not the greatest writing in a literary sense, it was full of wonderful ideas and compelling stories, and was quite inspiring for me at the time.
It is a pity that it was yesterday I switched on the little robot I use weekly to help me fight the good fight against dusty floors (see above right; the company that makes them is called iRobot, by the way – hardly any doubt that an Asimov reader was Continue reading ‘Amazing Asimov’