A Street Scene Materializing

Well, I finished all the line art on that SF short story I was asked to write and draw. And the good news is that the editor of the anthology it will be part of is extremely pleased with the story. So that’s good news since I put a lot of work into it and it would be hard to change anything significant at this stage! So all I have to do is paint the 20 pages, which should be fun. The line art is in a pencil style, and so I might do some colour that is in a loose style to match. In any case, below is a video capture (2 mins long) of the complete process of me drawing a panel for part of a page of the story (unpainted panel is at top of this post). I did this on the plane back from Europe a short while ago. It’s an […] Click to continue reading this post

Cover Fun!

Thanks for all the great compliments that many of you have been sending me about the cover of the book. The final version of the cover is essentially the one you’ve seen before (it is on the MIT Press website here, and you can currently pre-order at amazon and other booksellers the world over – for example here), but the blue is a bit lighter (some people at the publisher were concerned that the figures were a little too subtle and wanted them much brighter, I did not want them to light so that they’d get lost in the lettering…so we compromised). Click the image to see a sightly larger version.

For those of you who want a deeper dive into the background of all this, I thought I’d share the sketches I made back in early April when they asked me to design the cover. (Click for larger view.)

It is always good to explore options, and also to give design options when asked to design something… I was secretly hoping they’d choose my favourite […] Click to continue reading this post

LIGO Does it Again!

I just got off the phone with an LA Times reporter about this new result (announced today in PRL and by LIGO directly), trying to get across some of the enthusiasm about this shared by a wide community of physicists and astronomers, and the reasons why. Here’s a nice New York Times article about the discovery, by Dennis Overbye. The graphic to the right is from the LIGO press release.

(Incidentally, according to Physics Today it is Kip Thorne’s birthday today. What an excellent birthday present for him!)

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Character Design on iPad…

Here’s a video glimpse (less than 1 min. long) of my working through designing the main character for the upcoming graphic short story I’m doing for an anthology to be published next year. (See here for more.) There’s a clickable still on the right. I had started sketching her out on the subway a few days ago, and then finished some of the groundwork today on the bus, taking a snap at the end. From there I pulled it into ProCreate on the iPad pro, and then drew and painted more refined lines and strokes using an apple pencil. Faces are funny things… it isn’t really until the final tweaks at the end that I was happy with the drawing. I was ready to abandon the whole thing all along, having decided that it was a failed drawing. So you never know. Always good to persist until the end… wherever that is. Last note: This drawing style is more detailed than I hope to use in the story. I will work out simpler versions of her for the story… I hope. Video below.
[…] Click to continue reading this post

Writing Hat!

Well, yesterday evening and today I’ve got an entirely different hat – SF short story writer! First let me apologize for faking it to all my friends reading who are proper short story writers with membership cards and so on. Let me go on to explain:

I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you the full details yet, but the current editor of an annual science fiction anthology got in touch back in February and told me about an idea they wanted to try out. They normally have their usual batch of excellent science fiction stories (from various writers) in the book, ending with a survey of some visual material such as classic SF covers, etc…. but this year they decided to do something different. Instead of the visual survey thing, why not have one of the stories be visual? In other words, a graphic novella (I suppose that’s what you’d call it).

After giving them several opportunities to correct their obvious error, which went a bit like this: […] Click to continue reading this post

Bolt those Engines Down…

I’ve a train to catch and so I did not have time to think of a better title. Sorry. Anyway, for those of you who follow the more technical side of what I do, above is a screen shot to the abstract of a paper to appear tomorrow/today on the arXiv. I’ll try to find some time to say more about it, but I can’t promise anything since I’ve got to finish writing another paper today (on the train ride), and then turn myself away from all this for a little while to work on some other things. The abstract should be […] Click to continue reading this post

Almost Within Grasp!

I just noticed! The book is now in MIT Press’ Fall 2017 catalog, and so you can see the cover and read the blurb they wrote about it! See the full thing here (a pdf; on page 9). Alternatively, here is the online page for it. (I can also reveal what I could not say before: Frank Wilczek kindly agreed to write a foreword for it.)

This. is. so. exciting.

I don’t know about how you pre-order yet, but when I do I’ll let you know.
Update: I also noticed that you can pre-order at a special price on Amazon! The link is here. (Pre-orders are helpful, so don’t be shy… 🙂 )

-cvj
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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

Quick Oceanside Art…

So an unexpected but very welcome message from my publisher a while back was a query to see if I’d be interested in doing the cover for my forthcoming book. Of course, the answer was a very definite yes! (I knew that publishers often want to control that aspect of a book themselves, and while some time ago I made a deliberately vague suggestion about what I thought the cover might be like, I was careful not to try to insert myself into that aspect of production, so this was a genuine surprise.) I’m focusing on physics research during this part of my sabbatical, so this would have to be primarily an “after hours” sort of operation, but should not take long since I had a clear idea of what to do. I worked up two or three versions of an idea and sent it along to see that they liked where I was going and once they picked one (happily, the one I liked most) I set it aside as a thing to work on once I got finished with a paper (see last post) and the (prep for as well as the actual) trip East to give a physics colloquium (see the post I never got around to doing about that trip).

Then I had terrible delays on the way back that cost me the better part of an extra day getting back. So I worked up some of the nearly final art and layout […] Click to continue reading this post

News from the Front, XIII: Holographic Heat Engines for Fun and Profit

I put a set of new results out on to the arxiv recently. They were fun to work out. They represent some of my continued fascination with holographic heat engines, those things I came up with back in 2014 that I think I’ve written about here before (here and here). For various reasons (that I’ve explained in various papers) I like to think of them as an answer waiting for the right question, and I’ve been refining my understanding of them in various projects, trying to get clues to what the question or questions might be.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I seem to have got into the habit of using 21st Century techniques to tackle problems of a 19th Century flavour! The title of the paper is “Approaching the Carnot limit at finite power: An exact solution”. As you may know, the Carnot engine, whose efficiency is the best a heat engine can do (for specified temperatures of exchange with the hot and cold reservoirs), is itself not a useful practical engine. It is a perfectly reversible engine and as such takes infinite time to run a cycle. A zero power engine is not much practical use. So you might wonder how close a real engine can come to the Carnot efficiency… the answer should be that it can come arbitrarily close, but most engines don’t, and so people who care about this sort of thing spend a lot of time thinking about how to design special engines that can come close. And there are various arguments you can make for how to do it in various special systems and so forth. It’s all very interesting and there’s been some important work done.

What I realized recently is that my old friends the holographic heat engines are a very good tool for tackling this problem. Part of the reason is that the underlying working substance that I’ve been using is a black hole (or, if you prefer, is defined by a black hole), and such things are often captured as exact […] 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