Lasers and Gravitational Waves

Today’s Nobel Prize in physics has an interesting wrinkle to it. I summarised it in the extract above from a certain forthcoming book*. Click for a larger view. Congratulations to the winners Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barish and Kip S Thorne! There are some excellent descriptions (either for layperson level … Click to continue reading this post

Unexpected Throwback!

Wow, I’ve really got something good for Throwback Thursday! A large white envelope arrived in my mailbox*, addressed to me in handwriting. My first thought was that it was yet another sheaf of papers with someone’s very earnest “Theory of Everything”, helpfully sent along for me to discover that indeed the science world has “got it totally wrong”: the universe is in fact made of (fill in the blank – let’s say parmesan cheese?) which interacts via (hungry angels tethered together by fondue strands?) and so on and so forth, and all I have to do is “work out the math for me because it is not my strong point” and it’ll all work out… “you’re welcome”.

But no, it was not. I don’t open things like this without caution, for various reasons, and often I throw them away, but there was something strangely familiar about the writing and so I took it away to (maybe) open later.

Then it struck me. It was my handwriting! Huh? How could that be? Was I […] Click to continue reading this post

It’s Time for the County Fair!

It’s that time of year again. For me, County Fairs have a charmingly old-fashioned quality to them, and I love to visit what might be considered some of the more boring aspects – the various crafts on display (shelves of pots of jam, pies and cakes, and so forth, knitted and crocheted items, and so forth), and the old games (hitting things with hammers, etc.) And of course sampling a tiny bit of the the terrible (but tasty) foods you get to eat!

I have a story (told within another story) in my forthcoming book that takes place at a fair (that illustrates an interesting scientific idea – but not one you’d guess at all, I’ll bet), and two years ago I went location scouting at the LA County Fair to get reference material for some of the various drawings I did for […] Click to continue reading this post

Angel’s Flight Lives!

Today marks the day when, after a long closure, the lovely tiny railway called Angel’s Flight in downtown Los Angeles re-opens. There is a news piece here for example. It was a common feature of what some called the “Asymptotia Tour”, meaning that back in the day, readers of this blog who visited LA and happened to meet me might well be shown this hidden gem of the city. Well, all those years ago (before it closed) I ended up capturing it (or a version of it) on the page as part of the setting for one of my dialogues in my forthcoming book, The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe (MIT Press, 2017). The images above show some fragments of two pages in the book, featuring the railway.

In Spring 2010, I took a sabbatical semester and decided to spend most of it in hiding (in some cities in Europe), telling nobody what […] Click to continue reading this post

Book Notifications!

I wonder if others get notifications from Amazon about my book as often as I do… anyway, please note that it is due to appear (depending upon who you believe) in 6-8 weeks or so, so please consider beating the rush and pre-ordering… also note that the discount for doing so is shrinking a bit as compared to earlier, so move fast! Amazon link here, but your favourite store (local or online) will likely have it at that price too!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

‘Tis the Season…

The fig trees in the garden are in full production mode. (As was my wife on the pancake side of things*.) Made for a delicious combination for family breakfast! There’s something magical about eating figs fresh from the tree that are still warm from the sun.

By the way, there are some major changes coming up for the garden which should allow me to expand some of the variety of things I grow there. I’ll fill you in on this later…

-cvj

*Thanks aef! Click to continue reading this post

Viewing the Eclipse

It’s an exciting day today! Please don’t lock your kids away, which seems to be an alarmingly common option (from looking at the news – many schools seem to be opting to do that; I wish they’d use they use some of those locked classrooms as camera obscura). Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn and teach about the wonderful solar system we live in.

Actually, to enjoy the experience, you never have to even look in the direction of the sun if you don’t want to (or if you don’t have the appropriate eclipse glasses)… you can see crescents everywhere during the partial eclipse if you look out for them. You can make a safe viewing device in a minute or two if you take the time.

Here’s an NPR video that summarises the various viewing options: […] Click to continue reading this post

A Skyline to Come?

I finished that short story project for that anthology I told you about and submitted the final files to the editor on Sunday. Hurrah. It’ll appear next year and I’ll give you a warning about when it is to appear once they announce the book. It was fun to work on this story. The sample above is a couple of process shots of me working (on my iPad) on an imagining of the LA skyline as it might look some decades from now. I’ve added several buildings among the ones that might be familiar. It is for the opening establishing shot of the whole book. There’s one of San Francisco later on, by the way. (I learned more about the SF skyline and the Bay Bridge than I care to admit now…)

I will admit that I went a bit overboard with the art for this project! I intended to do a lot rougher and looser style in both pencil work and colour and of course ended up with far too much obsessing over precision and detail in the end (as you can also see here, here and here). As an interesting technical landmark […] Click to continue reading this post

The Big USC News You Haven’t Heard…

So here’s some big USC news that you’re probably not hearing about elsewhere. I think it’s the best thing that’s happened on campus for a long time, and it’s well worth noting. As of today (4th August, when I wrote this), there’s a Trader Joe’s on campus!

It opened (relatively quietly) today and I stopped by on my way home to pick up a few things – something I’ve fantasized about doing for some time. It’s a simple thing but it’s also a major thing in my opinion. Leaving aside the fact that I can now sometimes get groceries on the way home (with a subway stop just a couple of blocks away) – and also now more easily stock up my office with long workday essentials like Scottish shortbread and sardines in olive oil, there’s another reason this is big news. This part of the city (and points south) simply don’t have as many good options (when it comes to healthy food) as other parts of the city. It is still big news when a grocery store like this opens south the 10 freeway. In fact, away from over on the West side (where the demographic changes significantly), there were *no* Trader Joe’s stores south of the 10 until this one opened today**. (Yes, in 2017 – I can wait while you check your calendar.) I consider this at least as significant (if not more) as the Whole Foods opening in downtown at […] Click to continue reading this post

Future Crowds…

Yeah, I still hate doing crowd scenes. (And the next panel is an even wider shot. Why do I do this to myself?)

Anyway, this is a glimpse of the work I’m doing on the final colour for a short science fiction story I wrote and drew for an anthology collection to appear soon. I mentioned it earlier. (Can’t say more yet because it’s all hush-hush still, involving lots of fancy writers I’ve really no business keeping company with.) I’ve […] Click to continue reading this post