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Last Tuesday was a bit unusual. I’ve been chatting for a while with the people making a new BBC/PBS(NOVA) special in celebration of it being 100 years since Einstein’s presentation of the field equations of General Relativity, and that was the day we’d arranged to have an interview of me saying a few ideas to camera, and also doing a demo or two for fun. It was a very tight schedule, and a lot had to be arranged since one of the demos involved me sitting on the back of a flat bed truck at a desk (apparently in an office), looking up and explaining something, only to have the camera reveal the larger context in which the conversation was taking place. Well, the office set and desk were abandoned for various reasons, and then we got held up for almost two hours because the campus safety people turned out to have been confused (?) by the director’s careful notes in advance of the shoot and did not realise that the flatbed truck with me and the furniture and the cameraman would actually be moving. Even though it was intended to move at only a snail’s pace, it violates their safety rules to not have everything strapped down with safety harnesses. It qualifies as a “stunt”, and they were not expecting one. So there was a lot of back and forth over walkie talkies and in person and so forth, and persons with little golf carts coming and going, until some of the crew dashed off to Autozone to buy several cargo straps that, after application, seemed to make everyone happy.
I climbed up and allowed myself to be strapped in too. Before it all got started I asked about how exactly I was to unstrap myself if for some reason the flatbed truck burst into flames or something. Once the releases were moved to within my reach, we were ready to go, and we spent some time doing several takes, driving along a stretch of campus road, waving students on foot and on bikes out of the way as we went, with the help of a police escort. See the photos*.
You know, some years ago I thought it would be great to have a float in the Doo-Dah parade that was a “Science” one, with just scientists doing experiments and so forth on a truck (fitting right in with other awesome things like the Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team, the Claude Raines memorial Invisible Man Drill Team, Billionaires for Bush, the Raelians, and so forth. See here or here for reports from me on those.) Now I think about it, this entire set-up, police and campus safety people included, would have been a perfect entry to the parade! I’d realised my idea without realising it, if you see what I mean.
Anyway, in case you were wondering, I was casually (while tossing an apple up and down) explaining the idea that you can’t tell the difference between me sitting there stationary or moving along at constant speed – the laws of physics are exactly the same.
The main revelation for me? I was surprised at how well I was able to talk while tossing an apple up and catching it repeatedly. Side note: This is not the first time I’ve filmed on the USC campus while holding an apple (including biting into it on camera at the end!) Back then, I was mostly holding it and pointing at it and mumbling about wormholes. See here.
Anyway, the rest of the day went rather well, with some sit-down interviewing, and some shenanigans with an elegant old elevator. I’ll leave you to imagine/guess what we were doing with the latter…
(*Thanks Scott M. for taking some photos with my camera!)