Archive for the 'science and society' Category
Continue reading ’100th Birthday Fun!’
“Kepler has discovered almost 3,000 planetary candidates, of which about 100 have been confirmed through a variety of techniques, and, statistically, most of the rest are likely to be real planets.
Kepler has not quite found earth like planets in the habitable zone, yet.
It is heartbreakingly close to doing so.”
Sad to see, especially at a time when science is being hurt so badly by continued Continue reading ‘Bad Luck for Kepler’
You might recall that last year I gave a talk at TED Youth, in their second year of short TED talks aimed at younger audiences. You’ll recall (see e.g. here and here) I made a special set of slides for it, composed from hundreds of my drawings to make it all in graphic novel style, and somehow trying to do (in 7 minutes!!) what the TED people wanted. They wanted an explanation of string theory, but when I learned that I was the only person in the event talking about physics, I kind of insisted that (in a year when we’d discovered the Higgs boson especially!) I talk more broadly about the broader quest to understand what the world is made of, leaving a brief mention of string theory at the end as one of the possible next steps being worked on. Well, they’ve now edited it all together and made it into one of the lessons on the TED Ed site, and so you can look at it. Show it to friends, young and old, and remember that it is ok if you don’t get everything that is said… it is meant to invite you to find out more on your own. Also, as you see fit, use the pause button, scroll back, etc… to get the most out of the narrative.
I’m reasonably pleased with the outcome, except for one thing. WHY am I rocking Continue reading ‘TED Youth Talk – Hidden Structures of the Universe’
Got a 30 second elevator pitch about your research? Several of my colleagues over at the USC Keck School of Medicine have. Here are 9 in a playlist: Continue reading ‘USC Keck School Stem Cell Elevator Pitches…’
So were you, back in 2008, among the many wondering what a Quantum of Solace was, and probably coming up blank? Did you eventually give up and put it out of your mind? Well, there’s another quandary at large that might trouble you for a while, and for the same reasons as before. Royal Caribbean International have launched the new name for their new oceanliner(s).
It is… wait for it… “Quantum of the Seas”. (I learned this from an ad break during the Oscars last weekend.) Now, the “of the Seas” bit continues a tradition of names over the Continue reading ‘Another Quantum’
Well, that was a hugely fun evening! The Cinefamily screening of Primer was sold out to a packed and enthusiastic audience. (That alone was worth it…) I met Shane Carruth back stage for a few minutes and immediately was impressed. I like people who take the time to think carefully about what they are going to say before saying it, visibly carefully weighing what was just said in the conversation and then adding to it in an interesting way. He’s one of those people. So I knew that the panel discussion was going to be great.
We started off with an introduction from the executive director of Cinefamily, Hadrian Belove, who introduced us and asked me to say a few words before the film began. I kept it brief, and started by congratulating Cinefamily on doing the Science on Screen series, saying that it is an important thing to do (which it is -it is part of a Sloan funded national program; more here) and then went on to say Continue reading ‘Science on Screen – Primer’
I learned last week that there’s a new regular item in the New York Times’ science section where Jascha Hoffman does a round up of a few notable Science events, books, etc., around the nation. It is noted this week that Cinefamily starts up its new Science on Screen series (funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) starting Wednesday night with the excellent film “Primer”. (Photo is from the website.) If you don’t know it, and if you’re in the area, go and see it! As a bonus, you’ll have the writer/director of the film, Shane Carruth, present for introductions and Q&A. He’ll be accompanied by some scientist dude called Clifford V. Johnson who, according to the website, will Continue reading ‘Primer, and More…’
So one of the things that has been taking up my time is the USC Science Film Competition. Well, last week, an important (slightly nail-biting) deadline passed, and that was the date by which interdisciplinary teams should have formed (finding each other due to the awareness campaign I’ve been running around doing since August – with the help of faculty who kindly spread the word in their classes, the blog I set up, an article by Pam Johnson in the Dornsife News, and ads in the Daily Trojan), come up with a film idea, and registered it.
So the day came, and (of course) within 20 minutes of the appointed cut-off hour Continue reading ’100 Registered!’
…And here we are again! I’m launching the second year of the USC Science Film Competition as of, well, a few seconds ago. Please go to the website to learn more. You’ll find a collection of links at the very end of the main page, along with a slide show, talking a bit about last year’s successful inaugural competition. I’m hoping for a competition at least as exciting and interesting (er, in all the good ways!) as last year.
If at USC, spread the word, please! I especially need faculty to help encourage Continue reading ‘USC Science Film Competition – A New Year!’
Have you heard about the film “Nostalgia for the Light“, by Patricio Guzmán? As you know, one of my main cares in the business of communicating science broadly is having it be mixed up nicely with the rest of the culture (not making it a lecture all the time). This helps reach broader audiences, for a start. In a sense, this looks like a film that is doing that. It seems it was released in 2010, but is appearing on some big screens for the first time this year, in some places. I’ve not seen it, but it is soemthing I intend to see, based on the synopsis alone. I thought I’d mention it to you.
The summary from the Guardian film site says “Drama in which a group of Chilean astronomers’ search for the origins of life is contrasted with local womens’ efforts to find the bodies of loved ones killed by the Pinochet regime.”
There’s a trailer here: Continue reading ‘Nostalgia for the Light’
On Saturday we had another series of celebration events for the 50th Anniversary of the Aspen Center for Physics. It began at 2:00pm with a discussion in Paepke auditorium entitled “The Future of Physics”, and it was introduced by Michael Turner, and moderated by Lisa Randall, with three Nobel Prize winners forming the panel: David Gross, Bob Laughlin, and Adam Riess. (I decided to do a short sketch during some of it, and then quickly splashed on some colour later in the evening*. The result is above. The sketches are meant to give a sense of the stage and people on it, not be representative likenesses, so I refer you to pictures of them for actual portraits…)
There was an excellent turnout, and audience members were treated to a good and wide-ranging discussion. It was a difficult subject to grapple with, and Lisa started out in a good place, by getting each panelist to take turns to describe their way into physics, then around again to talk about the areas they got their Nobel Prizes in. She supplemented their contributions with some of her reflections on her own experiences and points of view, and tried to unpack some of the concepts brought up here and there when she thought it might help the audience.
From there, things became a bit tricky, since there were several directions in which to go and it was not clear what the best structure to follow was, given the time allotted and that they needed to stop and get members of the audience involved. Like I said, it was a difficult assignment for all of them. What emerged was a loosely structured series of interesting reflections from each of them at various points, some healthy disagreements there and here (I think it was good for the public to see that we’re not all cut of the same cloth) – for example between David and Lisa on the meaning of Continue reading ‘The Future of Physics’
Over at HuffPo, my colleague Nick Warner has posted a piece about why we teach algebra to people who supposedly “won’t need it”, and he makes some excellent points. (Recall the silly New York Times piece by Andrew Hacker entitled “Is Algebra Necessary?” that I mentioned a few posts ago.)
I recommend Nick’s piece.
I can’t decide whether to be annoyed or amused by the opinion piece by Andrew Hacker entitled “Is Algebra Necessary?” in the New York Times on Sunday*. Annoyed because it is such an obviously flawed piece of writing, essentially saying that since (in the US) the system is failing to teach lots of people basic mathematics in school, the solution is to stop teaching it rather than figure out what is going wrong with the teaching process, while at the same time very lamely trying to make the case that it has no use anyway. Amused because it’s obviously flawed, and hopefully anyone reading it will laugh – one’s first thought has to be that it is not a serious article, given that it it is published in a respectable newspaper with reasonably educated editors.
But one can’t – shouldn’t – laugh, since there are (sadly) many people (lots of whom Continue reading ‘New York Times Nonsense’
I was very impressed with the presentation Julien Bobroff gave in Monday’s public dialogue here at the Aspen Center for Physics. It was all about Superconductivity, and he and his team have done a tremendous job of putting together lots of materials for exploring this topic. Its a great example of some really careful thinking producing very accessible ways into understanding a remarkable quantum mechanical phenomenon that has quite a bit of striking and direct impact on a number of walks of life. This makes for great material for everyone, whether you are an expert physicist (who might want to show some of this to others), a teacher who wants some good materials to your classes, or simply someone who is not an expert but just find yourself curious about the world.
It turns out that a really great way of passing the time when listening to someone give a talk is to do some sketch practice. [... wait, what? The post title? Oh! No, no, don't be silly. Ok., let me continue ...] If the subject matter is right, it’s a good thing to do while you focus on what’s being said. This last couple of days I’ve been in Aspen, Colorado, and I’m starting out my visit here with a three day conference entitled “Becoming Engaged: Initiatives That Can Change Science Education”. You can see more about it on a dedicated website hosted by ICAM. One of the people behind it is David Pines, and we’ve had many conversations about science outreach and science education over the years, and so he invited me to participate. I’m supposed to be here at Aspen for my visit to the Aspen Center for Physics, and so I’m only partially attending, opting to to listen to some talks, and take part in some discussions… then going back over to the center to hear some LHC and Higgs chatter on the LHC workshop that is starting up this week.
There are a lot of interesting people talking about science education, and science outreach, many describing their various approaches and projects in short talks and presentations. (I will tell you about some of them in future posts.) It is great to meet several people who are passionate about outreach too, and see what others are up to and share ideas… so this is a valuable time. Hopefully, some action ideas will come of this meeting that Continue reading ‘Becoming Engaged…’
This was a fun assignment. I’m giving a talk (“Graphic Adventures in Science Outreach”) on Friday to my colleagues and friends at the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and they asked me to send a graphic to them to use for the poster. So I spent a bit of time digging into my database of drawings for The Project and threw something together pretty quickly. I rather like it. (You will maybe recognize that drawing from an earlier post – I added in an earlier stage, and then a drawing of a hand I’d done for something else…) By the way, it is not an event open to the general public and is by invitation only, so just showing up won’t get you in.
9:30am, my office. Phone rings. I get it on the first ring.
Oh. Is that… Professor… Johnson?
Oh! I was not expecting to… Well I’m watching this program, and had some questions…
Well, when you say…
Well, who am I talking to?
Oh, I’m [name].
Hi… So, when you say millions of years, even billions of years in these programs… do you mean earth years? or, um, do you mean space years?
Oh, that’s a good question. I mean the regular years. Earth years, if you like.
Oh. So these things are really that old.
Oh, yes. They are.
I have one more question.
Of course, please go ahead.
Michio Kaku says that the universe is full of many things and all you have to do is ask for something and you’ll get it. How do you go about doing that?
Uh… Well… I’m not sure I understand what that means…
Well, you know we come from supernovae…. and… we’re from space… and there are maybe lots of gods out there that we can ask for things…Kaku says we can just ask the universe. How does one do that?
Well… I am not sure what he had in mind. It might be…. might be best to ask him…. But maybe what he meant is that the universe is a very big place, with lots of things going on, and maybe he meant that there are all sorts of things you could find out there because it is so big and diverse… But perhaps he did not have in mind that a particular person could go out and get any of those things… but you might want to ask him. I can’t say for sure.
But I can tell you what I think. I think that while the universe is a big and exciting diverse place, it is still the case that a given individual only has limited access to all those things in it. It is a big place, and so you mostly only have access to what you can get to locally. Travelling around it takes a long time…
Oh, I see. Well, thank you.
And… thank you, by the way, for watching the program. I am glad you enjoyed it.
Yes, I love these programs.
I’m glad to hear that. I hope you continue watching and do tell your friends about them too. All the best.
I enjoyed that chat. I love it when people are inspired to step away from their Continue reading ‘Inquiries’
My friend the science writer Casey Rentz wrote a nice piece about the Science Film Competition and showcase last week for Scientific American Blogs. She talks a bit about the issue of science in film, the competition, and points to some other science plus film projects too. See here.
Have you heard about Losing Control? It is a film that’s being released this year with a lot of promise to be unusual, interesting, and sure to tackle an area that you don’t see covered much in the mainstream: the choices facing a young female scientist when it comes to her career and her personal life. I was introduced to Valerie Weiss, the writer/director/producer of the film not long ago in the context of a project I was doing concerning science and film. Valerie is an award-winning filmmaker who has a background as a research scientist, and so is in a great position to tackle such subject matter. I’m looking forward to the film a lot. I want to see more of this sort of thing, as you know from my writing here about science and scientists in the media. This is (I think) Valerie’s first feature film, so let’s hope it does well so that she can be encouraged to do more work on this sort of subject matter.
It’s going to start with limited releases in cities in the US such as New York, Sacramento, Tacoma, Boston, Los Angeles, and Tempe, and go on from there, so try Continue reading ‘Losing Control’
The OPERA experiment has reported that they may have found the source of the timing discrepancy that produced the result that neutrinos moved apparently faster than light. It seems that there was a faulty connection that affected the timing measurements. Here’s a physics world article on the matter, along with a link to a CERN press release. (Note that there are some doubts related more directly to the GPS timing signals they used, which on their own would make for even faster neutrinos, but clearly there’s cause to really doubt their strong claim from back in the Fall and take a step back.)
You’ll recall the huge press storm about it last Fall, accompanied by all the usual hysteria about the establishment (this time, Einstein) being overturned. I blogged about it here, with the noncommittal title “No, Uh-uh, Nope, Nuh-uh”. They’ll be doing more experiments later in the year, as will a number of other groups, in order to solidify the results one way or another. It’s clear that most people have decided the whole business is over, and will turn away from it to other things. Some will be pleased, some annoyed, some confused, and so forth.
My hope is (as I discussed in the article I wrote back then) that this gets as much Continue reading ‘Has the Fat Lady Sung?’
The 2nd Prize and 3rd Prize winners are below! Consider watching them in full HD.
(Sadly, the 1st Prize winner, Time, (by Kevin Le and Edward Saavedra) uses copyrighted music and they are waiting to sort out permission before it can be shown publicly by the USC Science Films competition, so I can’t show it on the sciencefilmsusc YouTube channel (where all the winners are hosted) until then…)
Here are the two films that won honorable mentions in the Science Film Competition. Consider watching them in full HD.
I’ll release the others tomorrow…
Well, it seemed to go well. I rambled too long and unstructuredly in my off-the-cuff speech (and long thank-you list) at the beginning, but nobody seemed to mind so much since the films were the main focus, and people loved the program. I only got two shots of the activities worth sharing since I was occupied with being host and so forth… but there were so many reporters there, and so I expect there’ll be more showing up all over the place. There were about 140 people in attendance, I was told, which is nice to hear.
People seemed to really love the whole idea of the competition and showcase, and really to understand what I am trying to do with this whole program, so that’s heartening. I hope this also translates into lots of interest next year, with even more filmmakers joining in and making films (and faculty being supportive and helping out as matchmakers and so forth).(This is all assuming I find a sponsor to fund the thing.)
Oh! I opened envelopes Oscar-style and gave out the awards. Here are the results:
1st place (and $2500): Time (Kevin Le, Edward Saavedra)
2nd place (and $1500): It’s All in You (Maria Raykova, Andy Su, Jabril Mack, Mara Guevarra, Kayla Carlisle – a freshman team!)
3rd place (and $500): Superluminal Neutrinos in 5 Minutes (Josh Heineman, Nate Fulmer, Michael Powell)
Honourable Mention (and $500): Dance with Newton’s Laws (Linda Jules, Anna Zaferiou)
Honourable Mention (and $500): Yaddda, Yadda, Yada (Kimberly Laux, Simon Wilches Castro, Scott MacDonald, Anna Drubich, Laura Cechanowicz)
(Filmmaker’s roles and the synopses can be found here.)
Then there was a surprise extra prize from Richard Weinberg (Professor in the Division of Animation and Digital Arts). He came up and gave a limited edition print Continue reading ‘Reports on the Night’
So I learned about a blog called CelebritySC recently, when they got in touch to ask me about the science film competition, and whether they could attend the showcase and cover it as press. (They also asked me some background about it, and posted an interview here.)
They’ve been doing update posts on the whole thing in the days leading up to the event, and I just saw that they’re even making guesses about which films will win prizes! From Anya Lehr’s piece, I’d guess she’s been chatting with the filmmakers to Continue reading ‘CelebritySC is on the Story!’
I’m on the bus on the way to campus, it is pouring with rain, the heat is too high on aboard the bus, and I am late. And a bit tired. I was up until 1:00am crunching numbers. The main stage of the judging for the science film competition ended last night and I went into the system to do the data analysis. I’d designed a spreadsheet on which each of the ten judges give a score for each film in eight different categories which I tried to make roughly orthogonal. I set it up so that they could go to an online form (having viewed the films on a private channel on YouTube) and enter the scores, an action which in turn populates the spreadsheet for me. (Google docs rocks!) They could also enter optional comments about each film that could be useful for any discussion that needs to be had. So what I was doing was slicing the database of scores to see if I could get a ranking of the films to take into a face to face meeting with some of my fellow local judges today. Then I wanted to find ways of laying it all out in a way that was easy to read for everyone and in the end this morning I printed out a giant version of the entire spreadsheet on several sheets of 11×17 and glued them together to make a big colour coded foldout for us all to sit around.
The films? I’m delighted with the turnout as it shows the kind of variety of film I’d hoped would be produced. There are eight films, with films that are illustrated explainers on the one hand (with with animation or live action or sometimes both), through drama and narrative, to reflective overviews of a topic on the other, sometimes venturing into art inspired by science ideas.
(Above is a graphic made by Laurie Moore in Dornsife communications from stills of the films.)
This variety makes for a hard task in coming up with the prize winners, since Continue reading ‘Crunch Time’
People often point to certain “science comics” as examples when I explain to them what The Project is about. In turn, I explain that while both things have science in them, and both things use sequential art, they’re not really the same. Not everyone gets it, but that’s ok. (If it helps, ask yourself if you would assume that I was writing a bodice-ripper for Mills and Boon or Harlequin if I said I were writing a novel in which there are elements of love, relationships, romance, etc., in it*.) There’s room for more than the “hey kids! science is awesome!” model, as fine a model as it is.
Since the confusion with that genre is so easily made I confess that I find myself reluctant to discuss it much here, lest I compound the confusion. That might be silly. Anyway, as an exception, I thought I’d point to a little collection of comic covers (and an extract from an interior) that the Washington Post has on its Innovations site as a piece about the movement in the fifties to get kids interested in science, through the big popular culture medium of the time – comics!
I wonder how much it worked, as compared to other efforts at the time. Is it even measurable? (For example, I think that the stuff I do in science outreach helps the cause of strengthening science (and its understanding) in Continue reading ‘Science Comics and Branded Content’
So journalist Pamela Johnson (no relation!) did a nice article last week about the science+film competition I mentioned to you (see also here). It is entitled “It Could Happen One Night”, and you can take a look at it here.
If you’re a student at USC and thinking that you can’t do this because you don’t know about science, or you don’t know about film… don’t give up! You might just need help to figure out how to get in contact with students who also want to get involved in making a film and want to learn more about one side or another (so you’re in the Continue reading ‘Science Film Connections’
The new season of Categorically Not! gatherings started last Sunday night. It went very well. You may recall that it is held at the Santa Monica Art Studios. 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. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones.
This one was about food, and had musings on food and bringing people together at New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe, by the founder Robin Hirsch. He talked about the history of the place, read some extract from his writings about it, and also described the beginnings of the “Entertaining Science” series that got going when K C Cole, Roald Hoffman, and Oliver Sacks did a performance there many years ago. The Categorically Not! series, now five years or so in age, was a spiritual outgrowth of that series, and so it was great to see Robin speak at it. He was very pleasant and interesting to talk to before and after the event too. (I did a quick, rough, sketch during his 20 minute segment – with some tidying up later – and have included it for you to see. Click for slightly larger view.)
Robin was followed by Amy Rowat, of UCLA. Amy gave us a nice overview of what’s going on in her lab. She’s a physicist, and spends a lot of her time looking at food through that lens. The concerns she described were largely ones of structural, Continue reading ‘Categorically Not! – Food’
It was a busy week, but I managed to get a few things done here and there that seem worthwhile, so I count my blessings, as they say. (Or used to say – maybe that’s somehow too loaded a phrase to use now? Not sure.)
To attempt to wind down yesterday after a tightly wound day and found myself walking with large sketchbook in hand in the warm evening sunlight to a studio to Continue reading ‘That Was the Week that Was’
So I’ve been spending a huge amount of time trying to generate awareness among the students and faculty about the newly launched film competition. I don’t know how much traction I’m getting, but we shall see. Lots of poster posting, and giving packets of postcards to colleagues in College departments such as Physics, Chemistry, and the Writing Program, and over in Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, and of course the Cinematic Arts School. I need to figure out a way of getting a foothold over in the various areas of the Keck School of Medicine, on the other campus… It’s open to all students at USC, but I need to make sure I target certain concentrations to maximize chances of getting interested students’ attention.
On Monday I did an interview with a student reporter for the Daily Trojan and that appeared this morning. (Have a read.) I’m a bit embarrassed that they missed out mentioning my colleague and collaborator Anna Krylov, but the main thing is that more people will learn about the initiative though the article. It was fun talking to Jasmine, the reporter. The key thing, for me, is that the collaborative aspect of all of this is forefront, since that’s the most important aspect. As I said in an email to another reporter this morning (which may or may not result in an article, we shall see):
Continue reading ‘Reaching Out’
Ok, so here is the announcement I promised last week. Science Films USC! It is a film-making competition! The first of its kind at USC, I think. Right now, all there is to say is that we welcome teams of USC students from Cinematic Arts, Communications, Science, Engineering, and beyond, to enter the competition. They will present a short film that explains and/or illustrates a scientific concept, principle, or issue, for a wide non-expert audience. The first prize will be $2500. Yes, we are giving a serious prize for what we hope will be a serious competition with some wonderful entries. We’ll have a film festival in January, some prize-giving, and maybe some interesting people connected with the film world at the award ceremony. Of course, we’ll have it early in the award season, in January.
By August 31st, we will announce the details of the eligibility requirements, rules, and opportunities for those who are not well-resourced to get a small grant to help out with developing their film.
Teams, said I? Yes. As you know from many of my posts here and the work I’ve done in the past, I think that the future of better presentations of science in the media and entertainment, etc, is to get communicators and scientists working together and Continue reading ‘Announcing: Science Films USC!’
So, here’s yet another project I’ve been working on. I forgot to tell you about it. After the success of the short films I produced and directed (etc) two Summers ago (remember? Shine a Light and Laser), the next step was to get more people involved in the film-making, to learn more about how it is done, and what is involved, both on the science side and the film-making side. Specifically, I want students from both sides of the divide (science, and film, journalism, communications, etc) to have to work with each other to learn more about communicating science.
So, Anna Krylov (Chemistry dept., and a collaborator on an NSF grant) and I wrote a Continue reading ‘Science Film Logo’
Well, Wednesday was unexpectedly exhausting, but quite a day. I intended to do a step by step report as I went along, but in the end we were too busy for me to do that, so instead I’ll give you a summary from memory. My instructions were to meet at 5:00am (yes, I know, 5:00am!) in the Temecula area with the film crew and a senior representative from the fire department. This meant leaving the night before and staying in a hotel nearby, so that I only had to get up at 4:30am instead of the two hours or more I’d have needed to otherwise. The meet went well (even with the slight confusion over two strip malls on opposite sides of the street both with a Starbucks, the meeting point…) and we set off in two vehicles into the brush.
Our goal was a particular area where we were going to take part in a key operation of the forestry and fire department (and related services the names of which I’ve forgotten) – a controlled or “prescribed” burn. The burn will act as a rather excellent analogue of a much larger issue of scientific interest, the main subject of the episode. I’ll let you actually watch the episode to learn more, so that I don’t spill the beans.
I say take part since we were not only going to film it (in 3D), but I would be – in my role as a sort of host of this segment – interviewing the Battalion Chief (Julie Hutchinson) about the burn, and then helping burn some of it myself! It’s certainly not every day one gets to help burn 100 acres – safely and legally!
It was a huge amount of fun, right from the morning briefing (6:00am), the borrowing of odd bits of safety equipment from various members of the crew so that our crew, and yours truly, were safely kitted out, to being instructed on camera by one of the fire chiefs how to use the drip torch (there’s one on the left) to set little pools of fire in the brush the required distance apart to get the required burn rate…
One very good piece of good news from last month was the announcement that one of the TV series I have done a lot of work for over the last five or so years (gosh, has it been that long?) has been renewed for another season. I’m being deliberately vague here and not naming it since I do not know if it has been officially announced yet. (On the other hand, nobody has told me that it is a secret…) (You can see many of my posts on this sort of thing here.)
It’s great that the parent channel has again continued to invest in science programming, and people seem to like the show a great deal. As I’ve said here in the past, I am very encouraged by the very wide range of types of people who stop me on the street (or bus, subway, bar, cafe, plane – yes, I’ve had show-related encounters in all of these places… people who like science shows are everywhere!) to tell me they like the show, ask questions, or just say thanks for my on-screen explanations and demonstrations. It’s a diverse range of people in terms of careers, race, gender, age, and so forth, which I am very pleased to note, and I do very much hope that TV executives take note of this when making decisions about future programming for their outlets.
It is great to get the chance to contribute a little bit again, even though it takes a bit of time away from other projects (particularly right now, The Project). As far as I know, so far I’ll be in two or three episodes, although there may be more (that’s all Continue reading ‘Tales from the Industry XXXV -Tinkering with the Universe’
The characters in the story (“The Arena”) that I’m currently working on for the graphic novel are firmly mid-conversation here… (See more on The Project here.) Been away from it for some weeks now. Need to re-engage and push this one to the end. For those interested in the process, here’s a series of illustrative clips of: (4) rough pencils and layout (done on a bus ride back from Westside one day), (3) tight pencils (done that second morning of the retreat between breakfast and lunch), (2) inks, (1) inks, flat colours and letters (bubbles present, but letters hidden):
Ah. Should have mentioned this before. Tomorrow I’ll be talking at Revolution Books. No, I won’t be stirring up political buzz or anything like that, rallying the troops, singing the songs and so forth. Sorry to disappoint. I’ll be there doing what I usually do – trying to put a bit of science out there among the rest of the culture where it belongs. I ran into Keith James of Revolution Books in the market one day some time ago and he recognized me from a tv show explaining science – and I was hanging out with a writer friend whose work he was a fan of, and so it was a two-birds-one-stone thing for him, stopping us to say hi. He raised the idea of me coming and explaining Einstein’s Relativity at the bookstore, and I readily agreed. It has been a long time in the making -largely due to me- but we finally settled on a date, and it is tomorrow. I also suggested that I put them in touch with a friend at the Griffith Observatory so that after my Continue reading ‘Revolution!’
This weekend is the JPL Open House! You might recall from my visits there in the past (or, at least, my reports on them – see e.g. here) that it is a fun and informative time. I recommend it. It runs from 9:00am to 5:00pm today and tomorrow, and you can go along to see what’s up with various JPL/NASA missions, hear about future missions, learn the science and technology behind various equipment and the various science goals, and much more.
See the website here for more information.
Here’s a video I made two years ago (including a Mars Rover roving over children!!!):
I hope I can go today, but I’ve got rather a lot on, including trying to find some time Continue reading ‘Go Visit JPL!’
My colleague Chris Gould, who organizes the California State Science Fair (currently on down at the California Science Center!) is also working on the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) this year, to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In addition to more volunteers to help out in a range of capacities, they need more judges for the fair in many categories, so please consider giving of your time to help out. These things can be fun, as you may recall from my posts in previous years on similar fairs (e.g. here). There’s apparently a specific need for more people in aspects of life sciences and environmental sciences, so please pass this message on to people who you think might be suitable and interested.
Here’s an extract from Chris’ recent email about this:
Before 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 Continue reading ‘Tales from the Industry XXXIV – Revisiting an Extra Dimension’
Struggling 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 Continue reading ‘Heroic’