Coral Forest

crochet_forest_7Given that you read here at this blog, you may well like to keep your boundaries between art and science nicely blurred, in which case you might like to learn more about the coral reef forests made of crochet spearheaded by Margaret and Christine Wertheim. The pieces mix crochet (a hand-craft I know and love well from my childhood – I got to explore my love for symmetry, patterns, and problem-solving by making doilies) with mathematics – hyperbolic geometry in particular – as well as biology (mimicking and celebrating the forms of corals – and drawing attention to their destruction in the wild). You can read much more about the projects here. I’ve mentioned the work here before on the blog, but the other day I went along to see a new set […] Click to continue reading this post

Carmageddon Reaction

Atlantic Station on Gold Line East LA Branch(Scroll to the end of this post for the funny thing I actually intended to post without my own musings getting in the way…) It has certainly been a huge story, with national and maybe even international attention been given to it. Carmageddon is the name given to the event of the 405 highway being closed for a 10 mile stretch for most of this weekend, for maintenance purposes. People are warning of disaster, complaining, predicting calamities for business, stocking up on food supplies, and so on and so forth. Some people are angry, some are amused, some are confused. For the most part however, people are quietly making sensible plans to adjust their routines or plans to take account of the event. (Er, I’m not sure I’d include flying from Burbank to Long Beach among the sensible plans!*)

I’m sort of struck by the huge impact this is having in people’s minds, and it has raised all sorts of discussions, reflections, and arguments about the reliance on cars that people have, public transport, and so on and so forth. All subjects you’ve maybe read being discussed here over the years. (Search the archives and/or use the search bar to the right.) The clichés about there being “no public transport” in LA is a convenient one for all to use at times (or all the time) when we want to stay in our nice cosy cars and ignore the alternatives and the possibility of making adjustments to include even occasional use of them, but I readily admit that the West side is a lot closer to the standard image of Los Angeles in this regard than points further East (still staying decidedly North-leaning in the discussion of course – the South LA conversation is an interesting one for another time). The density of shops, cafes, and long, desirably walkable stretches with other pedestrians (yes, they do exist in LA) does indeed seem lower over there, and while there is some bus coverage, the lower density makes the flaws of that part of the transport system hurt more, and of course the subway/metro […] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAvia Report

ciclavia2010_4Well, it is not often I get to say this, but Sunday’s CicLAvia event was, for me, completely perfect. It was simply about community, family, and enjoying the streets. It did not have an overtly political or activist vibe to it (as is often the case when you try to do some things a little differently from others in this town, like ride the bus or walk to the grocery store), and I saw a lot more people simply enjoying (and remarking on it out loud) the fact that they were out on the streets of the city than I saw people proclaiming rabid anti-car sentiments, as I’ve seen at bike-centric events before. I think the former feeling will go a lot further in making lasting change than the latter in the long run. There was some political content around, but it was largely confined to the steps of City Hall, where (when I passed) there were endearingly naive chants being led by a bloke with a microphone about “LA saying no to oil!’ and “no to coal!”. Don’t get me wrong – naive is not necessarily used as a derogatory term here. Noble dreams begin with a heavy dose of naivete, I believe. Hope, against the odds, for significant change, and so forth. (I could use the fully decorated version, naïveté, but it looks a bit pretentious to me today…)

So the event was mostly about people getting out there and enjoying the city streets, and sharing their enjoyment by doing it together. I was impressed with the turnout […] Click to continue reading this post

Off to CicLAvia…

Getting ready to disappear off to explore. the route. Should be fun, although it is a tad too hot a day for it to be perfect for cycling and wandering long in the sun. On the other hand, that will bring a lot of people out to enjoy their Sunday outdoors, I hope, walking, cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, running, etc. […] Click to continue reading this post

Street Invasion!

cyclovia_morelia_3On Sunday in Morelia, Mexico, I was walking along the main street near my hotel and it seemed that something unusual was going on. The street was empty of cars, and some sort of event was going on. I saw a few cyclists here and there in the distance, but not the sort that look all hardcore and determined to go fast and determinedly on their way, but instead the more leisurely stop-and-smell-the-flowers sort. I wondered almost immediately if I had run into a local ciclovía, and a few minutes later, a sign confirmed this. Wonderful!

I’ve been waiting for such a thing to come to LA for a while now, since I heard of it last year when I part (and presented) in a public discussion downtown at the Artwalk about bike issues in the city, and had heard that it was becoming more widespread (it started in South America – Colombia) but it was an unexpected treat to find one right outside my hotel room! Here are three more picture. Click for larger view.

cyclovia_morelia_1 cyclovia_morelia_2 cyclovia_morelia_4

It was great to see lots of people out and about just using the streets with no cars […] Click to continue reading this post

Not Entirely Alone, II

It has been a pleasure to see the large number of bikes in use in London, and particularly pleasing that it is a wide range of types of people using them as well. bikes_londonThere are many things about London that make it feel even more comfortable to me than ever (high prices of everything not being one of them) and the heavy bike use has to be one of them. Things in that department continue to improve over in my home city of Los Angeles, although I think it’ll still be a bit of time before you get bunches of cyclists routinely clustered at the lights waiting for the green, as in the photo on the right.

brompton_londonAlso great to see, sending a shiver of pleasure down my spine each time I’ll admit, has been the huge number of Bromptons in use in London. (See photo left.) I know it is true statistically that they are among the most popular single type of bike here (of any type, folding or non-folding) but it is still great that there are so very many sightings of them as you walk along the street especially at peak times. That’s something that really still has not taken off in LA. I’ve seen fewer than a handful of Bromptons in almost seven years on the streets here, relatively few folding bikes in total, and maybe only twice have I seen someone else using them in combination with the subway (and I remain the only person I’ve ever seen bringing them on to the bus). It […] Click to continue reading this post

You Don’t Need Magic To Use Energy Wisely

energy_posterThis is a fun poster I saw at the Grove the other day. (Click for a larger view.)

The good fairy (Tinkerbell, apparently) speaks the truth!

It’s nice to see such a campaign, and aimed at the younger set (who in turn might bug their parents into thinking about it too). It is sponsored by the Department of Energy (the same people who sponsor most of my research), and you can look at the website here. Maybe you’ll direct some others to it too! There’s an energy action checklist, and lots of useful tips and guidelines for everyone (young and old) to follow in order […] Click to continue reading this post

Amazing Asimov

Happy New Year, dear Reader!

my_robotForgive me for starting the year with an article on environmental problems, but it was Isaac Asimov’s birthday (at least the official one) on Saturday (I learned that here), and I found an excellent video of him talking wonderfully about global warming, united world action on such matters, and other issues back in 1988. It is below. I read a ton of Asimov back when I was a teenager. While not the greatest writing in a literary sense, it was full of wonderful ideas and compelling stories, and was quite inspiring for me at the time.

It is a pity that it was yesterday I switched on the little robot I use weekly to help me fight the good fight against dusty floors (see above right; the company that makes them is called iRobot, by the way – hardly any doubt that an Asimov reader was […] Click to continue reading this post

On Science and Politics

No doubt you’ve been aware of the recent debate that has been raging about whether or not the scientific case for climate change has been exaggerated by various scientists, in the light of the content of a long series of emails. It’s all over the news, and so I am sure I don’t need to point to all the news stories, commentaries, and – sad to say – convenient distractions that have been constructed on the basis of them by the climate change deniers, especially those with vested interest in the status quo. (Follow the climategate tag at The Intersection for some of the links, and a sampling of the discussions, and do look at the Nature editorial for example.) This matter, and the debates it has reignited, is of course a major issue in view of the upcoming work to be done by the leaders of the world’s major economies in Copenhagen later this month.

A key point here is to realize that when science intersects with politics – especially the kind of rabid, personal, dirty politics that surrounds the climate change issue – the grey areas that are already present in honest science can get further muddied by the fact that scientists are human beings who don’t always act perfectly in all situations, and whose actions (well emails suggesting certain actions) can also be subject to question (especially when we don’t have all the facts concerning context, etc, on several of the emails which seem very ambiguous to me).

There are two things to keep in mind. The first is that there is a global community of scientists at work here, with so many different approaches, motivations, contexts, data sets, and so forth that have been brought to bear on the matter of climate science. To think that a series of emails from some small subset of them (that may or may not suggest that data have been presented unevenly, for whatever reasons) can undermine a huge body of work and conclusions from an entire worldwide scientific community is to seriously misunderstand what science is about, and how it works. jenga_gameIt is not a tall, tottering late-stage game of jenga, where there’s a danger that at any moment one of the little wooden sticks will wobble and bring the whole game crashing to the ground. Instead, it is a highly interwoven collection of findings, ideas, analysis, and conclusions that are supported by a wide variety of pieces of evidence, all arriving at the same striking picture – Our world is changing fast and our actions are highly relevant to these changes both past, present and future. Instead of a jenga construction, think more of a woven tapestry. Pulling out a few threads changes it a little bit, but it does not make the whole thing unravel and destroy the picture. Or, if you like, think of a pyramid structure, like the lovely Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán in Mexico (image borrowed from here). […] Click to continue reading this post

Bcycle

bcycleHey! B all you can B and look at the Bcycle site and then go to the bit that says “I want it more” and add your city and zip and click that box that says tell your mayor.

This is *exactly* what I was wishing for a couple of years ago in an earlier post or two*. (See here and here.) Also fits nicely with a more limited plan a friend is working on that I’m hoping to help push forward… Will tell you more when I get permission to do so.

This is Excellent!!!! Let’s join in to […] Click to continue reading this post

They Couldn’t Car Less

As you know (maybe), for environmental (both local and global) and other reasons I’m not a fan of routine unnecessary car trips, and so I walk, bike, and use public transport a lot. My car is mostly only used on the weekend. This sort of declaration usually results in blank stares, subsequent treatment as a leper (or worse, in many LA circles, – poor!!), serious inquiries as to whether I was convicted of DUI, comments that this is impossible in LA, admissions from locals who’ve lived here for umpteen years that they’d no idea that there was a subway (that has changed slightly in the lastmelba_thorn_by_diane_meyer few years… now at least they know, but typically they’ve no idea where the stops are), and so on and so forth. I will admit to getting annoyed when I see announcements for events and locations that go to lots of trouble to give driving and parking instructions and never mention the subway stop or bus lines that might work for some as well. (Right: Artist Melba Thorn, photo by Diane Meyer for an exhibition on the issue, to be discussed below. Ironically, (at the time of writing) the exhibiting gallery also only gives driving and parking directions on their site. Isn’t that rich?)

Anyway…. you know all this from reading the blog. Check the archives for posts and discussions on a variety of aspects. Here’s part of the executive summary of my main point, and then information about a new exhibit follows after: […] Click to continue reading this post

New Year Gear

One of the things I seem to do each year is replace my tyres (tires? always confused about the spelling there…) on the Brompton for another year of cycling around the city (often in combination with public transport).new_shoes_for_brompton_2 The beginning of the academic year seems to be about when I do it, which feels right somehow. It reminds me of my youth, when the night before the school academic year started there’d be frantic sewing of new school uniforms, or adjustment of old ones, to be worn the next day. I remember that always being a last minute thing, […] Click to continue reading this post