I decided to wander downtown in search of the remnants of the Occupy LA march that started this morning at 4th and Figueroa. It was the two-month-iversary today and so there were special actions to mark the day. I got off the Dash F bus (took it up from the USC campus) and wandered up Fig, finding no clues. I wandered around for a bit more, but then I noticed the real clues were in the sky above. It’s something I’ve used before to figure out where the activity of interest is – look into the sky and watch the pattern of helicopters. There’ll be two types… The still ones up high are going to be TV, monitoring at a certain fixed distance… then there’ll be a lower one circling and moving around more. That’ll be the police, and at the center of that circle is what you are looking for. It was over the very center of the newer part of downtown, so I figured the movement was occupying right in the financial centre, and I was correct. Just North of Hope and 4th, or thereabouts, at the Alexander Calder sculpture (right where the opening pages of one of my stories for the graphic novel takes place, in fact (see here), so I know the area well from my location scouting)…

Anyway, both the protesters and the police were out in strength… a lot of police, in fact. Also lots of on-lookers, unsure of where and how close to stand. I stood back for a while as well, and then realized that there was no real issue with getting close and listening to what people were saying. So I did, and took some pictures for you: […] Click to continue reading this post

Hoping for a Triumph of Substance over Style

…perhaps I am naive. Going to follow (listening online I imagine) the UK’s first ever prime ministerial televised debate. I’m very concerned that it is going to make the UK electorate focus even more on nice suits and good hair and less on knowledge and ideas, following the lead of other countries. But I am hoping. I’m holding out some faith in my countrymen…

Are you going to watch/listen?

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Amazing Asimov

Happy New Year, dear Reader!

my_robotForgive 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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Physics Nobel for String Theory Instead?

So I don’t usually talk too much about raw politics here, but when the news broke early this morning about the Peace Prize for Barack Obama, I was sure it was a joke. (Or perhaps I was mishearing given that it was almost 2:00am and I was just coming home from a long night downtown which finished with several hours at the Edison bar.) When I woke up five hours later and heard that he’d accepted, I was a bit sad. I think it is simply a mistake, and a distraction. You give the prize to someone for having done stuff. Plain and simple. He has not really left the starting gate yet. (And frankly, on almost all counts – not just peace – he seems to be still at the starting gate trying to find his way out of that little box.) But it is nine months into his presidency, so good or great things can happen yet. But they have not yet. So this prize looks like a lazy political slap in the slap in the face of the Bush administration, a cheap political statement that backfires and cheapens the prize. Obama would have had a huge amount of respect from me if he’d at least tried to respectfully decline.

So stepping away from direct politics I was trying to think what might be a fun and instructive thing to think about this. How about alternative prizes for this week’s categories? Prizes to work (or authors of the work) that while extremely promising, […] Click to continue reading this post

Categorically Not! – The Worlds We Make Up

kc_frankThe next Categorically Not! is this coming Sunday September 13th. The Categorically Not! series of events that are held at the Santa Monica Art Studios, (with occasional exceptions). It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. I strongly encourage you to come to them if you’re in the area. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones. See also the links at the end of the post for some announcements and descriptions (and even video) of previous events. (Image above right is from the inside of the jacket of KC Cole’s book on Frank Oppenheimer, who will be celebrated in this month’s Cat Not! as you’ll read below. I talked a bit about the book here.)

The theme this month is The Worlds We Make Up. Here’s the description from K. C. Cole:

[…] Click to continue reading this post

Summer Reading: Sheril on Science Friday

unscientific_america_book-coverI don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Sheril Kirshenbaum and Chris Mooney have written a book, “Unscientific America” with an excellent discussion about science literacy. You know from reading here that this is a favourite issue of mine (look under categories such as science and society), and by far the primary reason I blog, and do the various other activities I mention such as appearing on TV and radio shows, consulting for film, theatre, TV, etc, contribute to popular level articles, making films, and other things. It is vitally important, if we are a truly democratic society, for all to participate in the conversations we have about science – whether it be about issues to do with medicine, lifestyle, environment, energy, or just for its own sake: it is part of our culture. Sadly, science (and scientists) is still on the margins of the national conversation – people are afraid of it, giggle about how bad they were at it at school and then decouple from the conversation, mostly only pay attention to bleak or incorrect pictures of it in the media and entertainment (or for political gain), and so on and so forth.

What Sheril and Chris are doing in the book is examining the extent to which this […] Click to continue reading this post

Two Johns on the War

Last week, John Stewart and John Oliver were hilarious about the Bush administration’s War on Science, and the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to undo some of the damage done. The rest of the content aside, John Oliver’s terrible Bush impression is worth seeing.

Enjoy: […] Click to continue reading this post