More adventures in communicating the awesomeness of physics! Yesterday I spent a gruelling seven hours in the sun talking about the development of various ideas in physics over the centuries for a new show (to air next year) on PBS. Interestingly, we did all of this at a spot that, in less dry times, would have been underwater. It was up at lake Piru, which, due to the drought, is far below capacity. You can see this by going to google maps, looking at the representation of its shape on the map, and then clicking the satellite picture overlay to see the much changed (and reduced) shape in recent times.
There’s an impressive dam at one end of the lake/reservoir, and I will admit that I did not resist the temptation to pull over, look at a nice view of it from the road on the way home, and say out loud “daaayuum”. An offering to the god Pun, you see.
Meanwhile, here at the Aviary (as we’re calling the garden because of the ridiculously high level of bird activity there has been in the last few months) there has been some interesting news. Happy news, some would say. This is hard for me since it is all about my arch-nemesis (or one of them) the Mockingbird. Many hours of sleep have been damaged because of them (they do their spectacular vocal antics during both night and day – loudly), and there seems to be more and more of them each year. I’ve been known to go outside (in various stages of undress) in the wee hours of the morning and thrash long sticks at parts of trees to chase persistent offenders away.
Well, we’d noticed that a particular spot in a hedge was being visited regularly some weeks back, and guessed that there might be a nest in there. Then one day last week, two juvenile mockingbirds emerged, practicing their flying! I knew immediately what they were since they have the same markings, but their feathers still have those fluffy/downy clumpiness in places, and of course they were not nearly as acrobatic as their adult counterparts. They hung out on […] Click to continue reading this post →
On Friday the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities went on another field trip. This time we went to the Natural History Museum. (Click the image for a larger panorama from one of the dinosaur halls.) If you’ve not been there for a while, this is not the museum you remember. It has been transformed, under the leadership of Jane Pisano (President and Director of the Museum, who gave us a splendid talk over lunch), adding several new spaces, a special garden, and new foci in its programming (such as special displays and research programs highlighting urban ecosystems – featuring coyotes, rats, squirrels, possums, Cooper’s hawks, doves, skunks, parrots, etc., (basically my back garden on a typical day, as you know from this blog), along with snakes, bedbugs, termites… The Nature all around us in the city of Los Angeles – fascinating actually.)
We had a tour of some of the spaces, breaking up into two groups (there were around 40 of us) and taking turns on two mini-tours (as we did for the Clark Library in December), one looking at the new dinosaur halls, the other the space dedicated to the urban environments I mentioned above. We learned a lot from our guides about what’s going on in the forefront of research in both […] Click to continue reading this post →
The Nobel Prize in Physics this year is to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura, for the blue LED. Seems like a small thing, but it is hugely important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the issue of producing energy efficient light sources for everyday use. We’re all benefitting from this recent discovery (how to actually make them!) already.
See the Nobel Press release here, and Congratulations to the winners!
There is a CicLAvia tomorrow*! I’m out of town right now (see next post) but I hope to make it back in time to enable me to go along at least for a little while. It looks like a fun route (see snap of map to left; click to enlarge), although it will be quite hot, so if you go, take it easy. The website is here, and you can find more information (like the 9-4 time) and so forth.
I’ve a few things to tell you about from events over the last couple of days, and I want to mention some exciting events to come, but right now I must get on my bike again and head off up the hill in the park to the Griffith Observatory for an early morning meeting. As I was up again before the sun, I got to look out the window and see a wonderful – and rapidly changing – unfolding of the day. Thought I’d share it again*. Quite spectacular!
We’ve been having a virtual Summer here, almost consistently through the Winter. Very odd. One of the consequences is pictured. There’s a huge brush fire burning in Glendora right now, over in the foothills of the San Gabriels. I woke up to a lovely sky, and then noticed the strangest looking cloud in one part of it. Then I realised it was not a cloud. So I went on to the roof to capture a bit of the scene for you. I thought it would serve as a contrast to the photo from a few days ago.
Staying on the weather/climate theme a little bit, I should mention that we’ve been having some rather splendid sunrises these last few days. Spectacular colour combinations are run through in a matter of minutes as the sun emerges. I captured this image two days ago, stopping down a bit to get the cloud colours right, silhouetting a palm tree in the foreground to give a bit of context (also cropping some of the bottom off for better balance). Within a few minutes of taking this all the red had gone, pushing rapidly through yellow to white as the bright sun emerged.
I liked the piece on Morning Edition this morning about the experiments people were doing with the extreme cold in parts of the country, including making clouds, and seeing what happens to soap bubbles when they freeze!
The piece is here, and the “storify” box with some photos and videos is here. (The photo to the right -of frozen soap bubbles!- is by Beth Gilmore and I found it there.)
Today’s CicLAVia was, in my opinion, almost perfect. It was always my dream for it (long before it actually got off the ground) to be an event that closed all of Wilshire from Downtown to the beach, to allow the city to celebrate car-free-ness on a regular basis. For me, having Wilshire be the route would make it a core location that meant the city was serious about the event, would mean a lot of participation linking East and West, and perhaps most importantly, would give a lot of room, since Wilshire is a really wide street. Perhaps that it is a long way off to have the whole of Wilshire be used, but they came close to the dream by having a Wilshire one today. The route ran from where Wilshire starts (at Grand) all the way out to LACMA at museum square at Wilshire and Fairfax. I rode it with a friend in the middle of the day and it was a lot of fun. See below for some of the things we did. Also, watch the timelapse video I made (embedded later) which has some fun stills embedded in it as well.
You might recall some of the things that I felt the need to mention concerned me after the last CicLAVia. In that post I was most concerned about the narrowness of the route (they only used half of Venice for much of the way) and the fact that the resulting compressed group of people got even more compressed with the numerous traffic stops that there were. It was unpleasant and possibly dangerous. Well, there was not a hint of that here. They had both sides of Wilshire open, and relatively few traffic stops. This meant a lovely free flow of traffic for people of all speeds, ages, and mode of transport. The other main concern I had was that the event did not leave enough time for people to explore the route, leaving a number of people stranded, which is not good for a lot of people who are infrequent riders – they’ve got to get home cycling in traffic that they might not be ready to do yet. Well, today they extended the time by two hours, making it run from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Brilliant. I suspect that helped also with the potential congestion since people participating get spread out over a longer time.
Overall, I must congratulate the organizers for a nearly perfect event. Now if only we can have Wilshire open all the way to the beach for a CicLAVia, I’d be in heaven.
(Actually, just a few weeks ago I did my own all-Wilshire CicLAVia when I was heading to a couple of events at Westwood and Santa Monica. I started out planning to take my bike on the 720 bus but ended up giving up on the whole thing – there was a dreadful 45 minute hole in the schedule that made me horribly late for the first event and too many pushy people fighting to get on when the bus did show up – so I just cycled the whole way. It was a lot of fun, and helped me let off steam…but I’d love to participate in a whole group of LA residents doing it one day…)
Here’s a timelapse video of the CicLAVia ride from Sunday 21st April. (I’ve done one for each of the past rides as well, so search on “ciclavia” for them if you wish.) My thoughts about the ride were posted back on the day, and there’s lots of discussion at that post on some of the issues I raised, so go and have a look if you like, and feel free to join in. I did the ride on the Brompton, as usual, and this time I was accompanied by my colleague Krzysztof Pilch, who was riding one as well. We even saw a few others on the way, which was nice.
The video is a bit flawed, not the least because at some point the top of my bag started puffing up a bit and blocking part of the view. Also, I’ve not laid on some funky music like the fancy folk do, so it is quite silent. But there it is as a record of most of the 13-15 mile route from Downtown to Venice beach: […] Click to continue reading this post →
Well, I’m exhausted, and so am certainly not going to give you a full report on everything right now. I hope to do another post with my usual time-lapse video of the ride some time later (but soon). They are uploading from my camera right now. All I will give you right now is a shot of the crowds at a typical stop along the route. Also, I will say a few words that will probably get me into trouble.
The bottom line is that I remain a huge supporter of cicLAvia, and the idea that it is planting in everyone’s minds – getting out of your cars and cycling. This is especially important for a city like LA. And it is not just for all the environmental reasons, to do with energy use, air quality, and so forth. I can go on about those but I won’t. See earlier posts for that sort of thing. It is also because many people get to properly see their city in these events, which is really important. You can’t see it from a car – and I don’t just mean all the buildings and wonderful hidden gems I sometimes talk about, but I mean the other people who live in the city with you. That’s a big deal, and an important one for when it comes to how we all work and live together. I’m also very excited that the organizers tried this cross-city route, linking East and West, getting West side based people involved in the fun. And overall I enjoyed today a lot… I love the event and will keep coming and keep supporting it.
Well, it was a lot of fun, once again. There was a huge turn out, and pretty much perfect weather for it (not the extreme heat of a week or two ago, for example). I was not part of a group this time, and so I was able to explore with a fair amount of random abandon this time, starting at MacArthur Park metro stop, heading downtown and then all the way to Exposition Park, where I stopped at USC to print something out at my office (a long report I need to read), then head back up to downtown, through the City Hall (and new Grand Park) area into Chinatown. That got me thinking about baked buns, and so having returned back past City Hall, stopping briefly at Grand Park to look at one of the many places where there were concerts, I made my way to Little Tokyo to this place I like to find red bean buns and had one during a short stop in a square.
It was nice to sit and listen to all the conversations, and look at all the people (in family groups, friend groups, solo, etc) enjoying the city. Just as I was leaving to head to the East LA leg a fellow came over with his two sons (on a bike with a tralier for one of them, if I recall) and asked if I was a scientist. I wondered for a moment what […] Click to continue reading this post →
The new line rocks! I went down there with my Brompton on the earlier side of things, this morning. I took the Red Line and changed seamlessly to the Expo Line at Metro/7th, and it was an excellent ride. I really do think (as I said in the previous post) that this is part of a major transformation for the city. This is a transformation with regards things like energy usage, congestion, community, air quality and all those wonderful things public transport helps with.
Of course, at the outset there is something truly right, to my mind, about being able to easily connect from downtown to Exposition Park and the Science and Natural History Museums, the African American Museum, and of course USC – All major Los Angeles institutions clustered together and now connected back to the newly beating heart of it all. From USC, I can now easily connect to the music center, LA Live, MOCA, any number of my favourite restaurants, bars, cafes, and other places I love downtown, and then float on home on the Red Line, or off to Pasadena or Boyle Heights on the Gold Line. This is so exciting to see come to pass. I’ve been dreaming of trains running along Exposition Boulevard between USC and the Museums and the Rose Garden for many years now, and it is now a reality. Stepping off the train today at the Expo Park/USC stop was just magical.
I recorded some footage of my travels on it today for you and edited it all together into a ten minute film. You can see it in the embed below. Consider it an invitation to […] Click to continue reading this post →
Only ten hours until the Big Transformation! The Expo line will open to the public at 5:00am tomorrow (Saturday). I think that this first major thrust to the West, connecting downtown to USC, Exposition Park and the Museums, and points West to Culver City, should be truly transformational for not just the locations involved, but the city at large.
I hope it will change minds about what is possible for public transport in Los Angeles in a huge way (the old “it doesn’t go anywhere” complaint will be heard a bit less maybe?), and connect and enrich all the neighborhoods involved. (And yes, on the personal side of things I hope it ends up, in combination with the Red Line, being better than just sitting on the bus all the way. We shall see.)
There’ll be a special schedule for this opening weekend, with the line (free to travel on for the two days) stopping at 7:00pm. I was a bit scared by this for a moment, […] Click to continue reading this post →
It was a perfect day for cycling, back on April 15th when the 4th CicLAVia took place. (Sorry it took me a while to report on it.) A lot of people turned out, and it was as good as it has ever been! We set of from the HelMel area again and went to Bolye Heights and back, breaking for an excellent lunch at Guisados again. Just like last time. The photo below featuring the 4th Street bridge over the LA River is my favourite single photo of the event this time:
The Expo line will be opening (after an incredibly long testing phase) on April 28th. I’ll be there, Brompton in hand, to test it out, I think. A couple of articles on it appeared in the LA Weekly and the LA Times.
I’ve been excited about this for a while, not just because there’ll be a station across the street from my office, essentially (and the fact that when phase two is completed in 2015, or thereabouts, I’ll be able to step out of my office and board a train for the beach), but because I […] Click to continue reading this post →
My friend and colleague the author Aimee Bender wrote a piece for AFAR magazine recently about the process of her rediscovering Los Angeles over the years. Seeing it from outside the car, on foot, on a bike, and on the bus. You know, the way you see it a lot here through your Asymptotia-tinged spectacles. It appears in the March/April issue, and you can see it here. (I must say, that British guy she runs into seems like hard work… geez…!)
(Scroll to the end of this post for the funny thing I actually intended to post without my own musings getting in the way…) It has certainly been a huge story, with national and maybe even international attention been given to it. Carmageddon is the name given to the event of the 405 highway being closed for a 10 mile stretch for most of this weekend, for maintenance purposes. People are warning of disaster, complaining, predicting calamities for business, stocking up on food supplies, and so on and so forth. Some people are angry, some are amused, some are confused. For the most part however, people are quietly making sensible plans to adjust their routines or plans to take account of the event. (Er, I’m not sure I’d include flying from Burbank to Long Beach among the sensible plans!*)
I’m sort of struck by the huge impact this is having in people’s minds, and it has raised all sorts of discussions, reflections, and arguments about the reliance on cars that people have, public transport, and so on and so forth. All subjects you’ve maybe read being discussed here over the years. (Search the archives and/or use the search bar to the right.) The clichés about there being “no public transport” in LA is a convenient one for all to use at times (or all the time) when we want to stay in our nice cosy cars and ignore the alternatives and the possibility of making adjustments to include even occasional use of them, but I readily admit that the West side is a lot closer to the standard image of Los Angeles in this regard than points further East (still staying decidedly North-leaning in the discussion of course – the South LA conversation is an interesting one for another time). The density of shops, cafes, and long, desirably walkable stretches with other pedestrians (yes, they do exist in LA) does indeed seem lower over there, and while there is some bus coverage, the lower density makes the flaws of that part of the transport system hurt more, and of course the subway/metro […] Click to continue reading this post →
Did you hear yesterday’s Fresh Air? It was very interesting indeed, being, as it was, about a subject that you probably know interests me a lot – electric cars. The guest was Seth Fletcher, and he was talking about electric cars, hybrids, and so forth. Not focusing on far futuristic matters so much as what is possible now (with all the exciting things going on in the market), and where we might go next in terms of the development of the science and technology needed to continue to change our world by moving away from gasoline as our primary energy source for transport. A lot of his focus in on the development of batteries, and he does a good job of explaining […] Click to continue reading this post →
CicLAvia this weekend was wonderful! Again, just like the inaugural one last year (see my postwith lots of pictures) it felt like it was as perfect an event as can be expected. There were droves of people out again enjoying themselves and connecting, plenty of great food, great weather, and lashings of good will.
I focused on hanging out with some friends, and so took fewer pictures this time, but there are a few. To the left is one of my favourites. It has City Hall nicely fragmented in a reflection in the new LAPD headquarters, with cyclists passing by on the route running along 1st street downtown.
[…] Click to continue reading this post →
Yes, of course they practice. But I’d never noticed that one of the practice points was right there in the middle of it all. I’d just got off the Blue line train, using a different route on my way to USC for a change, and about to jump onto my bike.
Breaking news! On Monday evening, while heading for the bus stop I saw a lovely and welcome glimpse of the future. A train on the new Expo line tracks!!!! They are just testing, but it was exciting nonetheless. It is going to be so exciting and transformative when this line is done, and phase one opens later this year! (November, perhaps?) I’ll be able to use the subway/metro system to get all the way from my neighbourhood (on the red line) to the stop 5 minutes from my building, after one change downtown. I’ll feel a bit of a deserter if I stop using the bus to do the journey (assuming that the schedule is such that it it quicker than the bus!), but I’ve got to support this line too! After all, by 2015 or so, after phase two opens, I’ll be able to take this train from my office all the way to the beach…! […] Click to continue reading this post →
Well, it is not often I get to say this, but Sunday’s CicLAvia event was, for me, completely perfect. It was simply about community, family, and enjoying the streets. It did not have an overtly political or activist vibe to it (as is often the case when you try to do some things a little differently from others in this town, like ride the bus or walk to the grocery store), and I saw a lot more people simply enjoying (and remarking on it out loud) the fact that they were out on the streets of the city than I saw people proclaiming rabid anti-car sentiments, as I’ve seen at bike-centric events before. I think the former feeling will go a lot further in making lasting change than the latter in the long run. There was some political content around, but it was largely confined to the steps of City Hall, where (when I passed) there were endearingly naive chants being led by a bloke with a microphone about “LA saying no to oil!’ and “no to coal!”. Don’t get me wrong – naive is not necessarily used as a derogatory term here. Noble dreams begin with a heavy dose of naivete, I believe. Hope, against the odds, for significant change, and so forth. (I could use the fully decorated version, naïveté, but it looks a bit pretentious to me today…)
So the event was mostly about people getting out there and enjoying the city streets, and sharing their enjoyment by doing it together. I was impressed with the turnout […] Click to continue reading this post →