Anthony Zee’s Joke(?)

So I’ve been waiting for some time to tell you about this clever joke by eminent physicist Anthony Zee. Well, I think it is a joke, I’ve not checked with him yet: The final production period for The Dialogues was full of headaches, I must say, but there was one thing that made me laugh out loud, for a long time. I heard that Tony had agreed to write a blurb for the back cover of the book, but I did not see it until I was finally sent a digital copy of the back cover, somewhat after everything had (afaik) gone to print. The blurb was simple, and said:

“This is a fantastic book — entertaining, informative, enjoyable, and thought-provoking.”

I thought this was rather nicely done. Simple, to the point, generous…. but, after a while… strangely familiar. I thought about it for a while, walked over to one of my bookcases, and picked up a book. What book? My 2003 copy of the the first edition of “Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell”, by A. (for Anthony) Zee. I turned it over. The first blurb on the back says:

“This is a fantastic book — exciting, amusing, unique, and very valuable.”

The author of that blurb? Clifford V. Johnson.

Brilliantly done.

-cvj
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The Geometry Door

Now that #thedialoguesbook is out is I get even more people telling me how they can’t draw. I don’t believe them. Just as with science (and other subjects), everybody has a doorway in to a subject. It is just a matter of taking time to finding your individual Door. Individual doors is what makes us all wonderfully different. For me it is mostly geometry that is my Door. It gives a powerful way to see things, but isn’t the only way. Moreover, I have to work hard to not be trapped by it sometimes. But it is how I truly see things most often – through geometry. Wonderful geometry everywhere.

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Henry Jenkins Interview!

Just after waking up today I read Henry Jenkins’ introduction to an interview that he did with me, posted on his fascinating blog (Confessions of an ACA-Fan: about culture, media, communication, and more). I was overcome with emotion for a moment there – He is very generous with his remarks about the book! What a great start to the day!

I recommend reading the interview in full. Part one is up now. It is a very in-depth […] Click to continue reading this post

A Sighting!

I went a bit crazy on social media earlier today. I posted this picture and: There’s been a first sighting!! Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgh! It EXISTS! It actually exists! In a bookstore (Cellar Door Books in Riverside)! (But believe it or not a copy has not got to me yet. Long story.) http://thedialoguesbook.com … Click to continue reading this post

Here and There

[caption id="attachment_18854" align="aligncenter" width="499"] Kent Devereaux @NHIAPres took this at Poptech[/caption]

I’ve been a bit pulled hither and thither this last ten days or so. I was preparing and then giving a couple of talks. One was at (En)Lightning Talks LA, and the other was at PopTech (in Camden, Maine). I was therefore a bit absent from here, the blog, but very present on social media at various points (especially at PopTech) so do check out the various social media options in the sidebar.

In both cases, the talks were about my work on my familiar (to many of you) theme: Working to put science back into the general culture where it belongs. The longer talk (at PopTech in Camden Maine) was 15 minutes long or so, and I gave some introduction and motivation to this mission, and then used two examples. The first was my work on science advising for movies and TV, and I gave examples of what I consider good practice in terms of how […] Click to continue reading this post

Unexpected Throwback!

Wow, I’ve really got something good for Throwback Thursday! A large white envelope arrived in my mailbox*, addressed to me in handwriting. My first thought was that it was yet another sheaf of papers with someone’s very earnest “Theory of Everything”, helpfully sent along for me to discover that indeed the science world has “got it totally wrong”: the universe is in fact made of (fill in the blank – let’s say parmesan cheese?) which interacts via (hungry angels tethered together by fondue strands?) and so on and so forth, and all I have to do is “work out the math for me because it is not my strong point” and it’ll all work out… “you’re welcome”.

But no, it was not. I don’t open things like this without caution, for various reasons, and often I throw them away, but there was something strangely familiar about the writing and so I took it away to (maybe) open later.

Then it struck me. It was my handwriting! Huh? How could that be? Was I […] Click to continue reading this post

Viewing the Eclipse

It’s an exciting day today! Please don’t lock your kids away, which seems to be an alarmingly common option (from looking at the news – many schools seem to be opting to do that; I wish they’d use they use some of those locked classrooms as camera obscura). Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn and teach about the wonderful solar system we live in.

Actually, to enjoy the experience, you never have to even look in the direction of the sun if you don’t want to (or if you don’t have the appropriate eclipse glasses)… you can see crescents everywhere during the partial eclipse if you look out for them. You can make a safe viewing device in a minute or two if you take the time.

Here’s an NPR video that summarises the various viewing options: […] Click to continue reading this post

Silicon Valley

I’ll be at Silicon Valley Comic Con this weekend, talking on two panels about science and its intersection with film on the one hand (tonight at 7pm if my flight is not too delayed), and non-fiction comics (see my book to come) on the other (Saturday at 12:30 or so). … Click to continue reading this post

Advising on Genius: Helping Bring a Real Scientist to Screen

Well, I’ve been meaning to tell you about this for some time, but I’ve been distracted by many other things. Last year I had the pleasure of working closely with the writers and producers on the forthcoming series on National Geographic entitled “Genius”. (Promotional photo above borrowed from the show’s website.)The first season, starting on Tuesday, is about Einstein – his life and work. It is a ten episode arc. I’m going to venture that this is a rather new kind of TV show that I really hope does well, because it could open the door to longer more careful treatments of subjects that usually are considered too “difficult” for general audiences, or just get badly handled in the short duration of a two-hour movie.

Since reviews are already coming out, let me urge you to keep an open mind, and bear in mind that the reviewers (at the time of writing) have only seen the two or three episodes that have been sent to them for review. A review based on two or three episodes of a series like this (which is more like a ten hour movie – you know how these newer forms of “long form TV” work) is akin to a review based on watching the first 25-35 minutes of a two hour film. You can get a sense of tone and so forth from such a short sample, but not much can be gleaned about content to come. So remember that when the various opinion pieces appear in the next few weeks.

So… content. That’s what I spent a lot of time helping them with. I do this sort of thing for movies and TV a lot, as you know, but this was a far […] Click to continue reading this post

BBC CrowdScience SXSW Panel!

They recorded one of the panels I was on at SXSW as a 30 minute episode of the BBC World Service programme CrowdScience! The subject was science and the movies, and it was a lot of fun, with some illuminating exchanges, I had some fantastic co-panellists: Dr. Mae Jemison (the astronaut, doctor, and chemical engineer), Professor Polina Anikeeva (she researches in materials science and engineering at MIT), and Rick Loverd (director of the Science and Entertainment Exchange), and we had an excellent host, Marnie Chesterton. It has aired now, but in case you missed it, here is a link to the site where you can listen to our discussion.

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Some Panellists…

SXSW panel groupMy quick trip to South by Southwest was fruitful, and fun. I was in three events. This* was the group for the panel that was hosted by Rick Loverd, who directs the Science and Entertainment Exchange. We had lots of great discussion about Science in Film, TV, and other entertainment media: – Why it is important to make films more engaging with richer storytelling, to help build broader familiarity with science and scientists, and so on. There were insights from both sides of the “aisle”: I spoke about what the kind of work I do in this area, coming from the science side of things and Samantha Corbin-Miller and Stephany Folsom discussed things form their points of view of writers of TV and Film. (I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I’d recently (last Summer) looked at Stephany’s work in detail: She wrote the upcoming movie Thor: Ragnarok, and I had studied and written notes on the screenplay and met with the production team and director to give them some help […] Click to continue reading this post

Upcoming Panels at SXSW

(Image credit: I borrowed this image from the SXSW website.)

It seems that even after finishing the manuscript of the graphic book and turning it in to the publisher*, I can’t get away from panels. It’s a poor pun, to help make an opening line – I actually mean a different sort of panel. I’ll be participating in two (maybe three) of them this Saturday at the South By SouthWest event in Austin, Texas. I’ll give you details below, and if you happen to be around, come and see us! This means that I’ll not get to see any of the actual conference itself since two (maybe three) events is enough to wipe out most of the day, and then I jump on a plane back to LA.

They’re about Science and the media. I’ll be talking about the things I’ve […] Click to continue reading this post