Heaven Help Us

Well it is 6:30pm. It was my plan to take a nap this late afternoon (maybe early evening) but I’m not going to do that anymore. Why? Well turns out I’m appearing in a show this evening. It starts at midnight so I’m a little afraid that I might just sleep all the way through, wake up tomorrow morning and so miss my spot. So while the sleep would do me some good in order to be up so late, and functioning, I think I’ll skip it.

What’s the show? Well it’s a show on stage put on by some of the Upright Citizens Brigade. They asked me to appear as a guest – not as a character, but actually as myself, a scientist. It’ll be in front of a live audience, although they will be taping it later possible broadcast. You know how it goes with me – I especially like an opportunity to put some science out there here it is not expected so this is right up my alley. My understanding is that it’s a comedy [...] Click to continue reading this post

New Tool

magnify_toolActually, this new tool is pretty old school, and I love it! There are times when I want to have a change of venue while doing rather detailed work for The Project… perhaps go sit in a cafe for a change, instead of at the drawing desk. But when not at the drawing desk, I could not use the lovely large illuminated magnifying glass […] Click to continue reading this post


lunch_timeWell, since yesterday was all about eating here in the USA (Thanksgiving, in case you missed that), I thought I’d share a partially inked panel from The Project, of a meal in progress. I got a bit of quiet time to work on it this evening, while listening to Jimi Hendrix and then Freddie Hubbard. They helped a lot. It is at times like this I wonder what insanity has come over me […] Click to continue reading this post

Seminar Done

seminar_over Managed to find a little time over the last few days to lay out, draw, and ink a page in The Project. It has been insanely busy for me, so this is a little bit of a triumph in stealing some time back. It’s actually the same seminar that you saw in earlier posts (here and here). Now it is over. It remains a tradition in our field to give a little round of applause after a talk, which I find rather nice and quaint. It was a pleasure to depict that.

It is a wider view of the room, which meant (aaaargh!) drawing even more faces and bodies than before. Then there’s the challenge of doing them in different states of attention, applauding, with different faces, bodies, states of dress, etc. When I come to paint it I’ll be wanting to pick colors that together communicate the right mood for the panel and for the whole page it is part of, and so forth. It can be daunting to do all those faces, bodies, shirts, feet, and […] Click to continue reading this post

Copenhagen Address

copenhagen_address_aLast night’s event was wonderful. The actors had such passion, and it was all done with great pacing and flow. This was a most marvellous play reading – the cast’s performances felt so fully inhabited by the text of the play that it hardly felt like a reading at all.

They (Nike Doukas as Margrethe Bohr, Arye Gross as Neils Bohr, and Leo Marks as Werner Heisenberg) and director Jack Rowe, should be very proud. They did very little rehearsal for this, which is makes it all the more impressive.

I gave an opening address* (and also introduced the evening**, as usual forgetting to introduce myself…) and the text of my address follows:

Good evening and welcome!

Yesterday, the Nobel Prize in Physics was announced. You might recall that it was for the discovery of the mechanism that gives all elementary particles their masses. A profound mystery about the universe was solved. While that’s a wonderful thing, and many people acknowledge that, many people don’t connect anything about that quest to understand the universe to themselves.

[...] Click to continue reading this post

Copenhagen Tonight

I’ve been thinking about the early 20th Century recently, and the development of quantum mechanics, as a result of re-reading Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen. There’s going to be a staged reading of it tonight at USC, put on by the School of Dramatic Arts, and I’ll be giving an opening address. I sat in a bar late last night over a fine oatmeal stout, thinking a little bit about what I might say in the address, and I expect I’ll put the finishing touches on the brief sketch of ideas while sitting on the subway to work this morning. We shall see. I’ll try to remember to post the text of it here if it turns out to be not entirely dreadful.

I’ve very clear memories of this play, and my first encounter with it. I was lucky to get to go to a special pre-opening performance of it when it debuted in New York (in the year 2000) I and got to meet and talk to Michael Frayn (and if I recall correctly, Claire Tomalin) about the writing of the play at the after-party at Sardi’s – a very interesting conversation it was too. I also (by a happy coincidence) got to sit next to Freeman Dyson during the performance, and was able to glance over occasionally to see the delight on his face at seeing old acquaintances of his brought back to life. (Well, I learned afterwards that this was the reason for the delight…)


(Image from Playbill.com) Click to continue reading this post

Interview about Science and Film

cuatusc_interviewI did an interview last week Tuesday with the channel CU@USC. It is a chat show, and so I did the sitting on the couch thing and so forth. All very amusing…

…And hopefully useful. I am spending many hours each day building awareness for this year’s USC Science Film Competition, an annual project you might remember me starting back in 2011, and stressing over a lot. And then again in 2012. It continues to survive for another year. This is year three, and although it has given me many grey hairs, I fight on, because I think it is of value to get students from all fields, whether scientist or engineer, writer or filmmaker, journalist or artist, to learn to collaborate in the art of telling a story that has science content. (Actually, learning to collaborate to tell a story about any issue of even moderate nuance is an important skill, science or not.) Anyway, the interview material is now up online and so you can have a look here. (The site uses flash, so might not work on some devices.)

I speak about the competition and also my own take on bringing science to film both fact and fiction (which for the latter especially is probably different from many others in that I don’t think it is always productive for a scientist in a film project to be [...] Click to continue reading this post

Completed Seminar

institute_seminar__finished_smallWell, it is still in progress, as you can see from the picture, but my work on rendering it is completed, more or less. (One never stops tinkering at these things, but I’m going to move on.) This is the more refined version of the rough I showed you a couple of posts ago here. This panel is part of the opening splash page for this particular story of the graphic book project and so what you’re actually seeing is one of three tiny inserts on top of a larger establishing-shot kind of splash/bleed page. So the truth is that it’ll be so small on the page that almost nobody is likely to [...] Click to continue reading this post

Seminar in Progress

institute_seminar_smallI recently spent a bit of time (quite a bit of time) carefully reconstructing details of a certain Institute in Europe from memory (I visited some years ago) and some photos in order to set the opening scenes of one of the stories for the book project. (What sort of details? Things like what the layout of the rooms are, the style of the building, the number of radiators along the walls, types of windows and black boards, chairs, and so forth. I’m a tiny bit detail-oriented at times, you may have noticed.) I’ve been laying out the opening splash page and the inset panels have a seminar in progress. This was fun to draw. I started out with this view partially roughly constructed with pencil and then since it was small and fiddly, decided to pop it onto the ipad (legacy model) and finish and refine aspects of the drawing digitally.

I remain in two minds about sketching digitally like this. One the one hand, it does [...] Click to continue reading this post

Tales from the Industry XXXX – Comedy Moments and More

crystal_D_and_cvjWhat happened here? Who is that, and what exactly made her so annoyed? Read on!

There are a number of new things coming out on screens near you (or may have already aired) that might interest you. For fans of the History Channel’s The Universe (thanks so much for all the emails with kind remarks, and so forth, by the way) there’s a new show in the works that’ll mix science and history (and other disciplines) in an interesting way. I’ve no idea when it is set to air though, and frankly I’m very confused as to what is on History and what is on H2, the companion channel, so I’ll just say watch out for that. We shot a lot of material for that earlier this year, and I hope you enjoy the show overall, despite my mumbling mug appearing on your screen a bit!

Apparently the many of the Weather Channel’s science-y segments were shown, in a series called “Deadly Space Weather”, which imagines what would happen on earth if you brought various prevailing conditions on other planets back here. Yeah, I know… but actually it’s a good opportunity to think about science ideas, at least in principle. You’ll recall that I did some demos for that which were rather fun – and hopefully interesting too. I saw a piece of one of them online (10:44 or so), and got rather annoyed at one point. There’s a segment where I demonstrate – with real sulphuric acid – the effect it has on organic compounds, using sugar. It is quite spectacular. And of course quite dangerous, so I’m actually wearing a lab coat (yes, there are occasions where real [...] Click to continue reading this post

Science Slams!

One of the things that came up in conversation in my meeting at the APS on Tuesday was Science Slams. These are a lot of fun, and are growing in popularity and frequency. Maybe you might want to take part in one, or organize one. There’s a lot of great theater to be had, and its fun for wider audience, just as poetry slams when done well can be fun for an audience that might not have chosen to study or listen to poetry. (See earlier posts on the local Dead Poets’ Slam, for example.)

My friend Herbi Dreiner, at the University of Bonn in Germany, (he’s in the photo at the right, used with permission) is one of the most active and experienced people I know of in the area of successfully combining physics, theatre, and (if you like) performance art. If you don’t know about his herbi_dreiner_slamminphysics show, that has even gone on tour internationally, have a look at an article he wrote about it (with links to video and photos) for the journal The Physics Teacher here (arxiv version here).

Herbi’s been getting involved in physics slams too, and he wrote a very nice piece about his own participation in the Guardian. Have a look here. He went into some nice detail about how (with the help of the audience) he illustrated the issues [..] Click to continue reading this post

Science on Screen – Primer

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.

[caption id="attachment_13780" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Hadrian Belove, Shane Carruth and Clifford Johnson at Cinefamily screening of Primer. (Photo: Charles Constantine)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13782" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Hadrian Belove, Shane Carruth and Clifford Johnson at Cinefamily screening of Primer. (Photo: Charles Constantine)[/caption]

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Primer, and More…

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 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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

The Fifth Feeling – All Episodes!

Recall the mock science doc I pointed you to earlier, the Fifth Feeling? Well, all the episodes are now online in HD, on Funny Or Die. You can see the remaining episodes (3, 4, and 5 since I posted) now, or watch them all, since they look great in HD. (Or maybe because you’re simply a huge Ray Wise fan from the good ol’ Twin Peaks days..?) Here’s episode 1 again to get you started if you’ve not seen the setup, and from there you can jump to the others*:

Ok, ok. I can’t resist posting episode 4 as well, because that doorstep conversation cracks me up every time… [...] Click to continue reading this post

100 Registered!

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

USC Science Film Competition – A New Year!

…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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Becoming Engaged…

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Speaking of Time…

Just finished a complete redo of a nine (plus one) panel page of the Arena story that was the prototype outing for the graphic novel project. (See some earlier posts, e.g. here, about this redo process.)

I shudder at the horrible drawings on the page it replaced.

To the left are some parts of the new page… Click for a larger view.

In other news, I met our new Dean (of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences) today, during a short session where a few of us had a conversation with him while someone filmed us. I think it is some film they are doing about the new Dean taking up the reigns, or something similar. He seemed a nice enough fellow, and he seems to be coming with definite ideas for interesting changes… I’m looking forward [...] Click to continue reading this post

Before and After

The last several sessions on The Project have been an exercise in revisiting some older pages. In fact, in the sample you can see to the left the subject is the very first page that I started experimenting with seriously for developing and learning production techniques.

Back then I was doing my inking digitally, and I ended up with work that I did not like the look of. I hate the clean straight lines that resulted. Also it was too slow on the computer to control the brush with the fidelity I wanted…various other things bothered me as well, which I won’t trouble [...] Click to continue reading this post


A process update, since some of you are curious about The Project.

While hiding in the desert on walkabout recently, I finished writing a story I’d been working on (one of a few I worked on), and started thumbnailing parts of it and refining the pagination of it. Thumbnails are just little sketches of how a page might be laid out, maybe focusing on how the eye might move about the page, how the words and pictures might flow, etc. There were some pages I was immediately interested to try out, and so I did larger versions of them in rough here and there (and for some other stories too)…. For one of them, I have a really exciting exchange (about symmetry and beauty) over a notepad, and I sketched over oatmeal one breakfast time a mannequin construction of the layout. (See earlier for introduction to my mannequin friends.)

Well, on Thursday and Friday I finished the rough pencils for the whole page, featuring those two figures, now given flesh and bone. Today I did the main figures for another page, with a variation on that pose of the mannequin drawing from the desert. (Vellum helps here.) I thought I’d share (click for larger view):

They’ll be refined later on, with things like scaling of various bits and pieces fixed [...] Click to continue reading this post

Losing Control

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Reports on the Night

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

CelebritySC is on the Story!

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Crunch Time

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Tense Moments

I’ve tried not to be worrying about it, but nevertheless there was a bit of concern today as I logged into the account and looked to see if any films had arrived. I did this a few times between other things like teaching and working on issues to do with another film project, and each time there was nothing. I was confident that there were some films on their way, since various students from the teams who entered the film competition had emailed me about various clarification issues (duration, what does midnight mean exactly, etc.) and so I know that not all of the 19 teams who submitted their application to enter the competition in October were going to be no-shows… but how many would “not all” end up being? This is the issue you get when you set something up, advertise as much as you can, and then sit back and hope that people come. You never know until they do. The same thing happened with the pre-registration phase. I’d been running around doing as much as I could to build awareness since the end of August, but until the very end I did not know if I would get a single entrant. In the end 19 teams (around 90 students) got involved!

So here I am again. There’s no turning back… the splendid theatre is booked for the showcase, the judges have been selected, the upload space is sitting waiting, the [...] Click to continue reading this post

Happy New Year!

Well everyone, 2011 is drawing to an end, so I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! for 2012. All the very best, and thanks for reading. See you for more next year.

As my New Year’s greeting image, I give you the results of yesterday’s work on The Project. It is the opening panel for the dialogue/story that I started ink work on.

I sat in the sun with ink pens, brush, and ink, and happily brought to life the panel I’d envisioned for some time. I like the results, even though it is not quite [...] Click to continue reading this post

Science Comics and Branded Content

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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

More Mannequins

So, this weekend I am determined to get fully pencilled at least one page of this new story for the graphic novel (the one featuring science as the main character… follow the link for more).

(I had a fantasy that by the end of this weekend the page would be inked and painted as well, but I spent a bit of time on teaching myself a new set of techniques instead, which will feed into much of what is to come… so I am behind.) So I’ve designed the interiors, done all the layouts for this page, and am very happy with it. I have done the first pass at the accurate pencil-work, and there it is on the left. Those mannequins from before are back, now fully worked out in perspective for you. Takes a long time, as I’m rusty, but it’ll gather pace now, as I clothe them in flesh, then cloth (and some leather), and also the space they are in. Compare to the rough layout of this same page from a previous post.

The story? Well, not giving away anything in detail, but the two characters you saw conversing in an earlier story had met before. This is the story in which they meet for [...] Click to continue reading this post

Tales from the Industry XXXVIII – Improvising

For the second half of today I was involved in film-making again, but this time not the usual science documentary material, but something else. What, exactly, I am not at liberty to tell you since I don’t really know, if the truth be told. It is going to be a rather beautiful-looking piece of work, with an interesting narrative arc, and… well that’s all I know. I was cast in it a while back following an interesting story in and of itself. I’d made friends with a really engagingly interesting bartender at a bar downtown that specializes in rum, a while back…(a year? more?) We had a great time chatting about ideas in science, the arts, and beyond, and did that “let’s stay in touch” thing that people do a lot, which may or may not really happen…

Some months later, the same fellow came to see me in my office to tell me about this film he was making, and that he’d like me to come and be in it. At the end of the conversation, somehow I still knew nothing about the film and what I was to be doing in it. I was just going to be in a splendid house somewhere, talking to people, and… [...] Click to continue reading this post

Rough Pages

Well, it’s a time-consuming process (continuing the new work on The Project mentioned in a recent post), especially when you put in more detail than really needed on what is supposed to be a rough layout. Sigh… Anyway, I’m several pages along in layouts for a story I wrote a while back, and I’m flipping ahead from time to time and wondering how long this beast is going to end up being! In any case, it’s a fun topic (or topics) being explored in this one. I’m wondering if I should try to find a way of splitting it into two stories or perhaps [...] Click to continue reading this post

Movie Notes

Going to the movies this weekend? Lots of interesting choices, but perhaps you especially want to see some portrayals of people in academic careers by some of the hot young phenoms. Well, here are two you might not have considered, both films released May 6th.

1. Observe Nathalie Portman as an astrophysicist in Thor. I don’t find this to be too much of a stretch since the actress always seemed to me to radiate an intensity and intelligence that would help make such a role believable, even in films where everything else is rather a disaster as far as believability is concerned. (cough, cough, Star Wars prequels, cough, cough) Well, it turns out that Thor is not the disaster I thought it would be and is rather well put together, all things considered (this is one of several Marvel characters that I was underwhelmed by in the old days). So go for Portman, stay for the hammer, lightning bolts, and other stuff. Turns out the physicist aspect of her performance was not as well studied as her ballet in that other film, but oh well. It was not like it was the central issue of the film. But enjoy all the Einstein-Rosen bridge mentions!

2. Observe Jessica Alba as a mathematics teacher who loves numbers in An Invisible Sign. Now, er, this for me was casting that did not bode well, but to be fair,[...] Click to continue reading this post


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 [...] Click to continue reading this post

Multiple Updates

(Waiting for the kettle to boil…)

It has been a rather hectic week for me here in the city of Angels. It is difficult to pull it all together in my mind and recall all the contributing elements, but they have been varied and more or less interesting and useful activities, ranging from various committees, teaching issues, research issues, event planning, event attending, and of course, the Project.

(Kettle’s boiled. Water poured on tea. Assam/Ceylon blend…)

gerardo_hacer_dogami_1I want to work for a bit before going to bed, although I’ll knock off early (midnight) because I’ve got to get up very early in the morning to get prettied up a bit, walk to catch the bus to campus, and get there by 8:15am or so. This is so I can get to my office and put on a cap, hood and gown and play dress-up (remember last time?) with hundreds of colleagues and so forth. The event? The inauguration of our new University President.

I’ve just returned from a long afternoon and evening in which I appeared in two of the classes of my colleague KC Cole (the science writer) talking about the issue of science, and how I do various aspects of communicating it to the public through various means (writing, film, tv, radio; factual, in fiction/drama, through blogging, in speaking engagements), and the broad issue of writing and journalism in that area. Two groups of extremely engaged and bright students in a row, separated by a quick [...] Click to continue reading this post

But is it Real? (Part Two)

Ah. Well, I was reserving the title of this post for a followup post to an earlier post about physics research. But, the film I went to last night at the wonderful Vista theatre was so engaging, and so excellently done – on the themes of dreams and memory – that I thought I’d use it.

escher_penrose_stairsChristopher Nolan has done it again! Inception (both written and directed by him) is yet another (remember my discussion of the Dark Knight two years back) example that shows that it is possible to make a big budget Summer Blockbuster that does not treat the audience as idiots. It tells you from the opening frames that you’re going to have to pay attention and think during the film, and that interesting ideas and themes are going to be explored, and it certainly lives up to that promise right through to the end. It is thrilling on all sort of levels, and for those who don’t care about ideas, there’s plenty of stuff blowing up and crashing into stuff to keep them happy.

I am going to say absolutely nothing more about it (more or less) since one of the [...] Click to continue reading this post

She Blinded Me With Science…

The funny video below* is good for a bit of nostalgia for the time of the Thomas Dolby song, the song itself, and perhaps for the X-Files TV show (but not for me, I saw only a few episodes). Scully fans will love this, and although I never regularly watched the show, I did appreciate her character. Strong skepticism, insistence on using the scientific method, etc. Excellent. Good character overall, and broke a lot of ground as a female lead with these characteristics too.

chloe_obrian_24Now here’s an idea. Would someone please do such a video for 24′s Chloe O’Brian? (Pictured left.) She’s definitely one of my favourite technical expert engineer/scientist types on a major show, and Mary Lynn Rajskub does an excellent job giving her life, depth and likeability even though she’s fighting against all the geek/nerd stereotype characteristics they’ve endowed her with. In essence, she does it by embracing them. Her attention to detail regularly saves the day (world, city, state, whatever), and the lives of her colleagues, and in the last episode they even had her supposedly determining that light in a video was daylight by [...] Click to continue reading this post