Sunday, June 22, 2008

The BNL of the Future

I totally missed this, but the marketing for the upcoming Pixar film Wall-E has a fake website for a company called "Buy-N-Large", whose acryonym is kind of familiar to me:
I wonder if anyone at the lab is going to make the connection? Of course, this new BNL has to compete with Banco Nazionale del Lavoro in Italy, and Bare Naked Ladies, and, um, B&L Associates. But the movie seems to suggest that BnL will be all right, especially from the perspective of the far future.

Needless to say, that despite a major work trip coming up the next day, my wife and I will be lining up to catch Wall-E when it opens this week. The NYTimes article yesterday (today?) made sure that resistance would be futile, at least for us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Physics and Politics

From 0 to 3 in 15 years is pretty good: “'If we continue to reproduce in this manner,' Mr. Foster began, and Mr. Ehlers finished the thought, 'the entire Congress would consist of physicists!'"

I actually spent time on Capitol Hill when I was in college, working for a Congressman. Fascinating time, but that was a major inflection point in my life story, when I decided to do science instead -- hoping to avoid some of the messiness of politics in my real life. Of course, do science for a few years and the messiness of it comes roaring back at you: so I really respect these guys trying to roll up their sleeves and interject fact-based reasoning into the policy-making process.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Four Phases of PHOBOS

Of course I'm still catching up with last week, partly due to distractions this week, and partly since it took a few days for the organizers to post all of the talks from the RHIC Users Meeting. One talk which was particularly significant to me was "The Four Phases of PHOBOS" by Wit Busza from MIT, who has been spokesman of the PHOBOS experiment at RHIC since its inception in the early 1990s. He was even spokesman before PHOBOS was even a proposal, back when it was a conceptual design called "MARS", shown here to the right, which eventually became the PHOBOS experiment (side note: while MARS was actually an acronym, PHOBOS never was, even if it was presented like one). And he was there all the way through it's first incarnation as a working experiment, even in pieces (see left), through its "golden age" from 2000-2005 as a working active experiment (below), and even now as the collaboration is still analyzing the data and writing papers despite the experiment being completely disassembled.

In fact, it was also notable that last week was when PHOBOS was finally taken from BNL and brought to MIT by van (see loading photos below), where various sections will be shipped to the participating institutions -- the physics equivalent of a hunting trophy. Of course this is kind of like a hunter mounting a gun on the wall instead of the deer. Too bad you can't put a "perfect fluid" (or whatever) on the wall -- since, although small, we were an active participant in that hunt since the very beginning.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley, RIP.  I saw him in 2004 (where the Times photo was probably taken), at a monstrous garage rock festival on Randall's Island, impressive as ever, with a guitar I could scarcely imagine without seeing it myself, with so many knobs, sliders, levers, and controls.  Too bad no-one ever figured out how to patent a beat back in the 1950's -- he'd have died a rich, rich man.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Gospel According to Oliver

It was hard to know what exactly to expect from this event, where Oliver Sacks was guest speaker at the Abyssinian Baptist Church up on 138th Street in Harlem as part of the World Science Festival. But pairing a short, but substantial talk by Sacks about "Music and the Brain", with a full-on gospel concert by the Abyssinian Gospel Choir, and introductions by Calvin O Butts III, an impressive speaker in his own right, made for a stellar evening. Brian Greene even gave a star turn doing his best impression of a Baptist preacher, and then took off for his Guggenheim gig downtown (anyone see that?). Even better, I had a Quantum Diarist sighting -- that's Stephon Alexander standing in the front with Jim Gates (who also was part of the Gugg event), as they were acknowledged by Butts during his introduction.

UPDATE: The TED blog has asked if they could use my photo for their report on the same event.