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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Refracted Light

The Exploratorium has mounted large prism filters over some of its skylights, and, late in the day, sun shining through those filters creates very large rainbows on the Exploratorium walls. There is something very satisfying about seeing a spectrum four feet wide and one foot tall splashed on a wall. It's nothing like the pipsqueak spectra that anyone can produce using the standard prism sold in most museums stores. When looking at a very large spectrum, one can clearly see all of the colors, and how they fade into each other. Sometimes, scaling something up can have a huge difference.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time Travel and Sabotage

Recently, I have been hearing about a curious physics paper written about the new Large Hadron Collider, a massive particle accelerator located in Switzerland. The authors -- Holger Bech Nielsen, from the Niels Bohr Institute, and Masao Ninomiya, from Japan's Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics -- argue that, as the New York Times' Dennis Overbye puts it, "the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather."

Overbye then writes two of the most astonishing paragraphs I have ever read:

" 'It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,' Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, 'Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.' It is their guess, he went on, 'that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.'

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an 'anti-miracle.' "

When I read those paragraphs, I had to pick my jaw off the floor.

History of Science

I find that I am becoming more and more interested in the history of science. If anyone has any recommendations for interesting books, please let me know. I am especially interested in Robert Hooke, I think.

Taking Photographs in Chinatown

This Saturday, I vow to travel into San Francisco's Chinatown, and take lots of cool photographs. I especially want to photograph the tops of some of the buildings on Stockton -- or is it Grant? -- Street, where colorful flags fly, and roofs often are covered in brilliant tiles. Maybe I will also take a few surreptitious photo's of people walking by, hoping to capture some interesting expressions. I will definitely photograph the colorful produce at the various produce stands. It should be interesting.

Rescuing a Plant

I have finally gotten around to rescuing my jade lily. I have had it since 2002, when I bought it at a local plant store, and it has done very well, steadily outgrowing its pots and sending out white flowers fairly often. For some reason, though, I at some point put it outside, where it began getting a lot of light. I know that this plant thrives in low-light conditions, but it was getting so big, I guess, that I thought it deserved more space. Well, its leaves slowly began to turn lighter and lighter -- bleached by the sun, I thought -- and seemed to be fading. Tonight, I have fixed the situation. I brought the lily into my room, trimmed off all of its brown leaves, and watered it. I put it in a dark corner, hoping that it will return to its former glory. I will keep everyone updated....

Neighborhood Bakery

I just walked past a bagel shop near my apartment, where bakers where beginning to prepare tomorrow's bagel batch. I smelled the dough, and thought that, one day, maybe I will open a bakery. Every street needs its own bakery -- who doesn't like having fresh-baked bread within walking distance? -- and I love the hands-on aspect of the baking business. True, the hours are horrendous, but I can't think of many more pleasant ways to spend a morning.

Roller-Skating Lady on Crissy Field

I love watching the roller-skating lady make her way down Crissy Field. I don't know who she is, but the sight of a woman wearing sunglasses and headphones roller-dancing makes me smile. She seems very happy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Clock Store

This weekend, I visited my cousin's mom and step-dad in Auburn, CA, and, on Sunday, we went to Grass Valley, a small town near Sacramento. I really liked it: it reminded me of a small town in Virginia, near where I am from. I liked that it was a fully functional town -- or at least seemed that way -- and that it had an Art Deco town hall and court house. Cool. Also, we stopped in to a clock shop, owned by a guy who repaired antique clocks. There was something soothing about being in a shop filled with ticking and tocking. And, I like clocks anyway, so I had fun. The glass display counter also had a few old fountain pens, but I resisted. I have quite enough for a while.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Auburn, Ho!

Tomorrow, I drive to Auburn, to visit my cousin's mother and step-father. Hooray! I hope to take some photographs, walk in the woods, and pet a few horses.