More Scenes From the Storm in a Teacup, V

At the (K)ITP the other day there was a journalist-led discussion/presentation on the largely-media-driven “controversy” about string theory. You know my opinion on this -it’s a largely made up story based on two inaccurate chariacatures (in book form) of research in the field- told by the same journalists and editors who some time earlier brought you the glossy stories about string theory that played up the excitement and promise, and played down the often-said but often-ignored cautionary remarks. The irony of all of this seems to have been lost on most. (I’m not saying that string theorists are entirely blameless in this, but I’ve seen how hard it is to get a balanced remark -about the basic process of seeing a complex scientific program through to its end- survive next to a glossy one-liner).

The point is that the story being told now in the press is simply the one that journalists and editors want to tell now – a David vs Goliath story. It has little or nothing to do with what is actually going on in the science research. The journalist -George Johnson- does a good job of pointing out supporting evidence for this by going through a number of stories from a decade ago and looking at their structure. […] Click to continue reading this post

A Positive Sign

I’m always pleased to see this sign. It is at Heathrow, on the walk down the perpetually dingily lit underground corridors connecting the terminals, the tube, the extortion Heathrow express, and the parking lots.

For a start, I generally like the idea that the ground floor of a building (the one you walk onto off the street) is the “zeroth” floor. (I mean no disrespect to this splendid country I live in, that has largely chosen otherwise, although every now and again in older buildings you see it.) So it is just great to see […] Click to continue reading this post

The Lives Of The Stars

Well, I’m back from the visit to the preview of the Griffith Observatory that I mentioned to you I was going to. It was a rather good visit. They organised it well, and -boy!- have they done a great job on the restorations! I’ll try and assemble the several pictures that I took into some sort of narrative for you, and report soon. While you wait, here’s one of my favourites:


This is particularly poignant, in my opinion. The children are looking at the lovely […]
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Brown and Nerdy

Well, here’s an amusing response to Weird Al Yankovic’s video* (see my earlier post on the issues I had with it). He makes his point with charming clumsiness, but… he makes the point.

Still here:


…and YouTube links here, and here. (Watch them in order for maximum hilarity.)

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Strings on Sunset

So I heard something on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip just now. (This is the new show written by Aaron Sorkin that I instinctively started to watch a couple of weeks ago because I like his writing, and it is actually a drama about the process of writing, so what’s not to like? -Ok, I’m a bit bothered by the overall annoyingness of the lead actress’ performance, but I imagine she’ll get better.)

I caught a line that went something like “we’re not looking for a girl with a phd in… string theory or anything, ok? There’ll be at least half a dozen women there who’ve […] Click to continue reading this post

The Yankovic Singularity

So I actually had no idea that Weird Al Yankovic was still doing his, er, particular brand of music. (Singular, one might say.) I actually thought it stopped a long while ago, not long after the Thriller parodies. Well, not long ago he did a video/song called “White and Nerdy”. I looked at it, and so can you, on Myspace video (wow, I had no idea they had a video service). Here is the link.


Among the things featured in the video’s visuals are Schrodinger’s equation, Stephen Hawking’s BHOT, M C Escher (It’s a rap video, so…) Here are some stills (click for larger):


I laughed, I’ll admit. I find his fresh-faced and cheerful style quite funny at times. But then I got thinking. I can’t decide whether I should be depressed at the potency of the stereotypes he is playing with, or just carry on giggling. For example, why did the guys who were representing the complete opposite of being nerdy (and into science, reading, and the like) have to be cast as black? Worse than that (or at least equally as […] Click to continue reading this post

Griffith Announces Opening

Yesterday, I forgot to point you to the press release from the observatory itself. There, you will find more information about the opening, on November 3rd, and about how to actually get there. They are forbidding access to the parking lot, and so you either take a shuttle bus, or you walk or cycle. It is depressing to me that people are already complaining about having to walk up a small hill from the picnic sites below (people who walk up are generically referred to as “hikers”, in the press release, which would give someone the impression that you need special equipment or something just to walk up the hill. Sigh.).

Anyway, some chatter from the press release. Let’s start out with 4th District Councilmember, Tom LaBonge, a veritable Paul Dirac of understatement and wall-flower-hood: […] Click to continue reading this post

Observing the Observatory

Well, here’s a bit of news. For one reason or another, I have been invited to a preview, later this month, of the soon-to-be-reopened Griffith Observatory, and so will get to see it before it opens to the very general public. (Library photos, by E. C. Krupp, by the way.) I will try my best to bring you a full report on the splendiforous contents… assuming they […] Click to continue reading this post

Looking for a SEA Change?

I’ve previously mentioned examples of the manipulation or suppression of scientific information by organisations such as the Bush Administration. See for example a recent post on hurricanes and global warming. Various scientists have made it their business to speak out against these types of wrongs, either as individuals in the line of fire, as individuals noticing it in the news and blogging about it to as many as care to read, and as part of organisations here and abroad.

Well I’d like to point out a new organisation I heard about* called “Scientists and Engineers for America”, and I am pleased to share with you that their website says:
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Acting Up At Griffith Observatory

As mentioned before, I am really excited about the re-opening of the Griffith Park Observatory. See this earlier post. [Update: See post about my viisit here.] [Further Update: After reading the rest of the post, be sure to read the comments (starting here) for some commentary on the planetarium show … Click to continue reading this post

The War Continues

This is the Bush Administration’s war on science, I mean. There’s lots we don’t hear about, I’m sure, but there has been a new discussion ignited by an article in Nature yesterday. I found this article on Associated Press by Randolph E. Schmidt. Seems that there was a report being prepared at NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospherica Administration) about hurricanes:
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