Some Observations at Griffith Observatory

So I must apologize. I went to the preview of the Griffith Observatory so long ago now and did promise to blog about it with more than just one nice picture, but it did not happen. Partly because I had to go back across the Atlantic to do some work, and then got ill over the weekend I was planning to do it, and then…

Griffith Observatory

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts. First note that my two week delay means that this is no longer a scoop, since even the LA Times had a spread on the whole thing on Thursday. A rather nice one as well. I urge you to consult it for a lovely pull-out graphic of the whole site. There is also a special website with picture tours, nifty 360 degree interactive shots of the spaces, and other information. The Griffith opened yesterday.

What they’ve done over the last four or five years is simply shut down the entire building and rethink and redo a great deal of it. How to preserve the lovely 70 year old landmark, while making it even better? Simple question – simple answer: Get $93 million for your project (I find this number, the earth-sun distance in miles, suspicious), and then go underneath the existing building and hollow out about the same amount of space that is has, but underground. Fill it with lots of goodies. And I mean lots and lots. What goodies? We’ll see. […] Click to continue reading this post

Government Gets Stern

Well, as you can tell by looking in the “environment” category here, I’m likely to be pleased to hear about the Stern report, released yesterday (Guardian article and links to report here) and also pleased to hear that the UK government is taking the report seriously…. more or less.

I’d have a lot more to say, but I’ve said so much about this already, and I’m not really up to a long post on this right now. But I could not let this excellent (and hopefully landmark) event go unmarked. The point, as has been said before:- Nobody is going to get going on this because it is “the right thing to do”, since it is difficult for individuals and businesses to act in a way that makes things less than convenient for yourself for a cause that seems so abstract. Pure market forces will not do it either. We need actual leadership from the scientists -which has more or less happened for a while now- and action and structure put in place by the people who will really get things going: economists and then governments (because they follow the money).

Well, Stern is a major figure in the “economists” group, and so this is good news. I must admit though that it really did make me cringe every time I heard the announcers on BBC Radio 4, while trying to emphasise how significant the report’s findings were, saying things like […] Click to continue reading this post

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