So what was I supposed to do, exactly?

So today, five minutes before the end of my class, someone came in and sat down. This is fine. My first thought was they they were early for the next class, or perhaps were curious about my class and decided to sit in at the end, or… fine. I finished up the lecture (on supersymmetry and world-volume actions and D-branes, including various tips for how to count and organize supercharges when you’ve got extended supersymmetries…. fun stuff) and left the classroom. I went to the nearby men’s room and washed the chalk off my hands, and so forth, and re-emerged. There were ten or so minutes left before the colloquium of Nobel Prize winner Anthony Leggett was to begin, and I had just enough time to go and get some coffee to help me off the low I was going through (presumably due to tiredness and eight-hour jetlag – I landed back in LA just about 24 hours ago).

Emerging from the men’s room, the same guy who had arrived at my class was standing waiting for me and walked up and said, “I sent you that email, remember?”. I replied “Which one?” He’d not told me his name or anything, so I had nothing to go on here. He seemed very put out that I did not know what he was talking about and said “The one a couple of weeks ago.”

“Who are you?” […] Click to continue reading this post

Tales from the Industry XXXIV – Revisiting an Extra Dimension

20110221-153433.jpgBefore jumping on to a plane last week, I went to meet some filmmakers to do a quick shoot we’d arranged. They are making a series of shorts for TV and myself and one of my co-contributors/presenters from The Universe, Laura Danly (from the Griffith Observatory) are doing some on-camera bits for them. (There may be others involved too, I don’t know.)

I mention this since there are two bits of novelty, I think. The first is that it is interesting that the company that commissioned these pieces are looking for shorts (4 minutes or so, apparently), and will be interspersing them with their programming in some way that will be somewhat unusual for current TV formats in the USA. I always welcome opportunities to help put some fun bits of science out there for the public, and in short bites mixed up with other things is just great!

The second novelty is that they are in 3D. You’ll recall, perhaps, that last year I contributed to a special show that was commissioned in 3D as part of the drive […] Click to continue reading this post

Song for My Father

dadI always think of my father when I hear “Song for My Father”, by Horace Silver. One of my favourites from the Blue Note classic days. Do enjoy it, if you click (below right) to listen.
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It’s not long after 3:00am, and not too long since my brother called me to let me know my father died a couple of hours or so ago. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, […] Click to continue reading this post


character_a_inkedStruggling for a post title, I went for a slight critique of the work I did on the character you’ve seen earlier*. She’s been grabbed from a panel showing her looking for a seat in a cafe where a conversation (about a physics issue) is to continue.

It is a large panel showing the layout of the cafe with all the people sitting and reading and talking and so forth, and she’s one of several small figures in it, so it is probably not that big a deal that she has somewhat heroic proportions here as compared to her more ordinary proportions in other panels.

Heroic here refers to the various choices of proportions you can give to figures, usually based on how many heads tall they are. You might have heard of people talking about how many heads tall a figure should be.

Well, there really is no “should be”, and different practitioners use different […] Click to continue reading this post

Bad Project


I’m guessing that a lot of you (especially those doing graduate work in Biology Labs) will just love this video, because you can relate to it. It’s about that frustrating feeling that (for one reason or another, or several) you’re stuck doing the endless project from hell… We’ve all been there. Oh, and it is done in the style of a Lady Gaga video I am told (not having ever seen or heard a Lady Gaga video, as far as I am aware, I can’t attest to this). Video after the fold:
[…] Click to continue reading this post

Robot Realities

Not long ago, I noticed that the cleaning robot was ill. It would start its cleaning cycle, run very fast for some seconds, and then make one of its warning noises and stop. This was a few days before my guests were due to arrive for the holidays, and I’d planned a big session of extra attentive house preparation, involving me putting up curtain rails for some new drapes in the living room, installing various shiny fittings in a spare bathroom, and a few other things like that, while the plucky little robot would run around all the floors and give them a good clean. So I had a dilemma – spend time trying to get it well, or use that time to do the floors myself? A bit of googling revealed that the warning noise was signalling something about a sensor possibly going bad. Did I want to spend the time heading to Fry’s electronics to see they had the sensors? Then digging around inside replacing them, with all the soldering, etc., that would entail? Fun, but time-consuming. After a day or two, I decided to do an investigative poke around the interior of the patient, just in case it might just be a matter of clearing or re-seating the sensor array…You never know.


The innards are delightfully put together! The iRobot people deserve some congratulations for good design. It took little time to take the thing apart, and it is very modular inside, with various components popping out quite nicely. It had a lot of dust in several places, notably. I got out my can of compressed air to blow dust out from various tight corners, and put it all back together after a short while. I got it started again and it seemed to run normally, until I noticed that it was missing a key […] Click to continue reading this post

Odd Ball

So it was an odd day yesterday. On the one hand, after getting up at 6:00am without prompting, deciding to start the work day, then procrastinating for a chunk of time – including admiring Venus (have you seen it/her recently? beautiful!) – it turned out to be a reasonably productive day. I tried to devote it entirely to The Project, since I’ve been quite busy with Professoring the last couple of weeks and so had not done much. The plan was to ink a page that had been sitting there waiting to be inked for a while, and to continue re-inking one of the pages I did over the Summer. Well, I succeeded in the former, and have punted some of the latter to today. I hope. I pleased with the finished inking which includes a little drawing of the wonderful Planck satellite, which will be mentioned as part of a conversation. (By the way, Planck’s preliminary findings were in the news recently. Worth a look.) I even got some of the colour work started on that successful page toward the end of the day, but lost what I did on that due to a strange computer problem (sometimes the Adobe software decides that there’s just too much going on and declares it does not have enough memory to proceed… then you’re stuck not being able to render, or even save….). I only lost an hour’s work of fairly straightforward painting – I am in the habit of saving relatively regularly.

So what’s the “odd” bit in the title? Well, all through the day I was bothered by something, and it is even more bothersome this morning. My right eyeball hurts. A lot. And I don’t know why. And in a universe that I am quite sure loves playing ironic […] Click to continue reading this post

To Explore Strange New Worlds…

So you’ve probably heard the news, but just in case I thought I’d mention it here. The Kepler observatory, up there in orbit keeping an eye on things for us, has found a bumper crop of planets orbiting a sun-like star a mere 2000 or so light years away. It is amazing what you can see if you look closely. Every now and again the star’s brightness dips ever so slightly, and that tells you something has passed in front of it – another planet. Or in this case, once you’ve analyzed the pattern of dips, as the team of astronomers did, six planets!

These are not earths, although the headlines all over the news sure try to grab you in […] Click to continue reading this post