While You’re Waiting for the LHC to Come Back Online

Do not give up hope, my dears. The wonderful folks at BoingBoing.net have posted links to some new “big science porn” to entertain us, and it’s fun!

Once you are in the site, you can just click all over the place and get a nice little taste of virtual reality photography at its finest.


Large, Luscious QTVR Panoramas of Compact Muon Solenoid

Still from QTVR of Large Hadron Collider, photog: Pete McCready

Posted by Xeni Jardin, February 27, 2009 9:58 AM : I’ve featured interactive QuickTime VR panoramas from photographer Peter McCready previously on Boing Boing, and it looks like he has some lovely new work up. QTVRs aren’t good for everything, but they’re great for “big science” sites like the ones at CERN, featured here — places best appreciated with all directions visible. Pete sends these links and says,

Whilst we ‘Big Science Porn’ (thank you for the term!) aficionados eagerly await the relaunch of the Large Hadron Collider this September, thought I’d share a few new Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment VR panoramas with you that were taken days before ‘first beam’ last year from numerous locations within Underground Experimental Cavern UXC55.

Here are the panoramas: (one, two, three, four, five, six) and there’s another up from the CMS Centre (where data quality monitoring, detector calibration, data analysis and computing operations take place).

Previously on BB:
Excellent new CERN Hadron collider QTVR
CERN photos in Nat’l. Geo: The God Particle

Get a Grip

We have a wonderful collection of left-behind golf clubs here at the Slice of Heaven 24-hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. Seriously, they are all sizes, shapes, lengths, and shafts. Sometimes they are bent beyond recognition, but more often they are just abandoned. Actually, that only seems fair, once you take into consideration how often clubs – especially putters – desert their owners.putter

Even my hero, Camilo “Spiderman” Villegas, was recently abandoned by his putter, as the picture here depicts. Very clearly, the putter has taken off in search of its own fortune, with no thought at all about the outcome for poor  Camilo. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Geoff Ogilvy had a hot putter that stayed with him, right to the astounding end.

Putters, more than any other clubs, tend to operate independently of their owners, and as soon as we are able to open our putting green, I imagine our “lost and found” bin will be overflowing with runaway putters.

Until then, we’ll work with what we have. The Morning Guy has recently added re-gripping to his list of useful talents. Now that football season is over, he has a little more time on his hands, and I think he kind of likes the smell of the adhesive. Of course, his Stepford Girlfriend will say she likes it, just as long as she thinks he really does like it.

Re-gripping is quiet work, which The Morning Guy enjoys, and I absolutely love seeing the old clubs come sparkling to life once again. So much of golf is truly organic and tactile, it truly isn’t very hard at all to believe that putters can, in fact, fly away, and no one really knows where they go, or why.

We’ll make a deal with you, too: If you think your putter is about to go on the lam, snatch it up and bring it on in here. We’ll be happy to make a trade with you, and we’ll throw in a free piece of Key Lime Pie, too. This week, by the way, we’re trying out the variation with meringue and a pastry crust. I think you’ll like it.

Come on by and let me know.

Steampunk Cafe

Sue Ten will be going on vacation soon, and that means I will be responsible for keeping the potato batteries in her bedroom running so her husband Logan’s semi-comatose brain will get just the right dose to keep his heart beating and his mind tracking The Weather Channel and CNN.

Outside of that, Logan is pretty much an “easy keeper,” which is what my ex-husband Patrick-the-Liar used to call me, endearingly, of course, and I wasn’t even in a semi-coma, although after a few years with Patrick, it was increasingly hard to tell. I suspect that I sleepwalked through much of that part of my life without even knowing it.

Now, I just go with the flow of rampant insomnia, and don’t worry about it. It’s easy enough to leave my turquoise conch cottage and head up the lane to the pie shop where I can hit a few golf balls, have a plate of pie, check the post-it notes covering my computer, read a little poetry, and try not to let it all mesh together too much.

Now, I suppose I could ask your second-cousin Darnell to help out with Logan, but I need him at the Pie Shop to help me with some re-decorating. After looking more and more at that fabulous golf periscope, I’ve been thinking that maybe the Pie Shop needs more of a steampunk flair.

If you don’t know what steampunk is, just let your thoughts drift to an illustrated copy of any Jules Verne book, or just picture Captain Nemo at home in the salon of the Nautilus. It’s the future, visiting us from the past, with all the elegance it can muster.

Take, for example, this picture of a steampunk computer. I want it:


Computer from Steampunkworkshop.com

Now imagine a steampunk jukebox, coffee maker, kitchen, cash register, radio, golf-ball washer, neon lights, soda machine, dishwasher, lawn mower, golf cart, and more.

I’ve never thought of myself as a luddite, but maybe that tendency has always been lurking there. I remember watching TV with the twins when they were in junior high, and we’d often see a public service announcement aimed at kids and asking, “What can you do to change the world?”

Chandler and Rose would say in unison, “We’d go to central control and smash all the machines!” Yes, that would certainly change the world, but where would they get such an idea?

No, I’m not really against technology. In fact, after a week of living out on the other side of the edge of the ’Glades, I have new appreciation for all magic in the air that keeps me in constant touch with you, and really, I don’t know what I would do without you right over there, telling me what I need to do to keep on keeping on. I appreciate it, and I thank you in my heart every day.

Then again, I do think technology could be ever so much more elegant than it is most of the time, so I am pledging to do what I can to re-create The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range as a steampunk Mecca.

At least, that’s my idea today, but if I ever get a good night’s sleep in, who knows what I may think up next? Maybe a steampunk potato battery? I’m sure Logan won’t mind if I do a little experimenting on his power supply while Sue is on the road, at least not as long as his Social Security checks keep rolling in.

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Breaking News from the Past

I am trying, but seriously, I just cannot find anything wrong with this idea.

If we had a periscope like this at the Pie Shop, maybe it would keep people from climbing up on the roof all the time to convince themselves that that they’d hit better, farther, or longer than they really did.

I’d like a sideways one, too, so we could keep better track of what’s going on over there in the Swing Barn parking lot, without having to leave the comfort of our non-stop game of Liar’s Scrabble. 

I suppose a Swing-Barn Cam would work just as well, but my clientele does reek a bit of ludditism and steampunkery.

Tall Periscope Aids Golfers (Dec, 1933)
Source: Modern Mechanix
Issue: Dec, 1933

Tall Periscope Aids Golfers

A NOVEL “skyscraper” periscope shows golfers the blind fairway at the third hole at the Aberoovey golf course in Wales.

The unusual periscope is 30 feet tall. At the third hole of the course the fairway rises so abruptly from the driving tee that golfers can not see the green even though the hole is only 165 yards long.

By peering through the periscope, waiting golfers can see in what direction to drive and also note when the putting green is clear.

The periscope is a hollow wood tube fastened to a pole. The top of the instrument is covered with a gabled roof to protect it from rain.

The Nano Song

Oh, my dears, I did so much miss all of you while I was out there on the other side of the ‘Glades. I also missed my computer, my laptop, my netbook, and my iPod — all of which keep me up to date with the wonderful world of science and technology. Today, though, my heart sings like a lark as I listen to The Nano Song and grow ever hopeful that a true space elevator is in our future because that will truly make it so much easier for me to be the first person to take an apple pie to the moon. Yes!


A Sundial for Little Peach

A Sundial for Little Peach

In a house full of clocks
she lives on sundial time.
I know that well, and so,
alone on a beach with
sunlight to spare, I gather shells
and make for Peach a
sundial clock that she
will never see but always
understand as the passage
of the sun through the
beach’s decay reminds us
daily that shells are not stone
and even the most
vibrant coral fades from living
being to silent debris
just as we move in our own orbits
a degree at a time.

The Gimme

I was born knowing how to make pie, but golf is always brand new to me. Learning to bake pie is a sweet succession of improvements: lighter, flakier, zingier; but golf still surprises me. Both are nice ways to spend time; one is a steady and comfortable satisfaction, while the other is an unexpected burst of delight.

The latest burst has been my discovery of the golfing term “gimme.” I tell you, it just cracks me up. I first read about it in my copy of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, in which he advises parents against giving their golfing children gimmes. “Hole every putt,” said Penick, “no gimmes.” Tough love or real world? Maybe both.

I like it. Keep playing until you see that ball drop into the hole. Make no assumptions about what that little sucker is going to do on its own.

I read some time ago about a championship bowler who was asked in an interview: “What was bowling like for you as a kid? How did it feel back then when you missed the pins?” The golfer replied, “I never missed the pins. I don’t know what that feels like.”

Now, come on. All kids miss the pins. Gutter balls are a sad but true part of kiddie golf. As the interview went on, though, the bowler explained that his father owned the bowling alley, back in the days of pin boys. The pin boys were instructed to set up the pins just a few feet from the foul line. As the boy grew older and played better, the pin boys set the pins farther and farther down the alley–but not unless they knew he could hit them.

In some ways that’s a gimme, too, but I see it more like making sure the ball always goes in the hole. I wish I had learned to bowl that way, under the guidance of someone who truly wanted me to know success.

Of course, the next question is, if I had had that experience, “Would I still be me?”

Sometimes people ask me for pie recipes. Then, after they read the recipe, they follow-up with suggestions and recommendations for changing the recipe. I usually say, “That’s fine. Do what you want, but don’t call it my recipe anymore.”

In truth, I feel the same way about making changes in me. I can change. Sure, I know I can. Probably. I might even learn to be more like the Stepford Girlfriend, become more of a perky chameleon, but I have to wonder what I might lose along the way. Would I still be me?

Then again, who else would I be? I suppose I’m committed to the concept of holing every putt, but damn I do like that gimme idea. Life could be so easy, if I could just change my definition of me.

You may wonder why I’m so philosophical right now. Don’t worry. It will pass. I’m going offline for a week or so while I explore the world on the other side of my edge of the Everglades. No phones, no Fry-O-Laters. I’m leaving Prentiss the Pie Apprentice in charge, and I’ll took forward to talking to you when I get back.

Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder

The warmer weather here in SoFLA and the full moon have certainly combined to bring out the people. Just a week ago, the silence was fairly staggering, but tonight we’ve had a full house most of the night, and not much sign of a slow-down yet. I’m sitting outside the pie shop, just watching the balls arc up into the air, and listening to the washer spit out bucket after bucket after bucket. Life is good.

For some reason, while I was practicing my swing earlier, I kept hearing Frank Zappa’s song, Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s just a Zappa carryover from a conversation with a friend who shared the news that he wished he’d been named Moon Unit. Knowing his father, though, I’m a little surprised that he wasn’t named Moon Unit.

After that song faded away, it was replaced by Bonnie Raitt’s You gotta know how, which is always a good soundtrack for homemade video greeting cards. At least I think so. I’ll have to add both of those to the pie shop juke box. We haven’t had any new tunes for a while, and we are over due.

Funny, but with such a crowd out tonight, I found that I talked less, concentrated more, and let quite a few thoughts roll around my head. Sue Ten has been away for a while, but called in on video to let me know she’s alive and well. She always asks what great Zen thoughts I’m having, and I often think I should be writing them down on my hand so I don’t forget when she asks. Yes, I do have great thoughts, but then I get hungry, and a large chocolate shake usually chases them away.

Tonight, though, I made a serious effort to try to hold on to a few, and I was doing pretty well until your second-cousin Darnell came by and distracted me completely with the news that he had just finished reading A Beautiful Mind, the biography of mathematician John Nash.

“It was much more interesting then the movie,” he said. “In the movie, I got the idea that John Nash was a pretty smart guy, and he saw things that weren’t there, but who doesn’t do that?” I waited for more. “In the book though, I really couldn’t understand what he was doing most of the time, so I figure he has to be a whole lot smarter than anyone I know, even you.” Again I waited.

Darnell went on. “Another thing that I didn’t get from the movie was how sad it was for him not to be crazy any more, how sad it must have been for him to give up all the magical stuff that was going on when he was nuts. I don’t know. I just think it must have been sad, just like the way Boyd acts when he’s sober.”

Darnell, of course, was referring to my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, and I’ll say Darnell made a good point there. I, personally, got so I couldn’t stand Pretty Boy’s alcoholic flights of fancy, but he certainly was never alone when he was drunk. He always had his selfs (himselfs?) to talk to, and he was certainly a legend in his own mind.

With John Nash, and Pretty Boyd, too, the difference between perceived reality and “normal” reality seems fairly clear to observers, but who are we kidding? Most of us are on the inside looking out, deciding how we want to present ourselves to the world, but a few of us have that decision already made for us in advance.

Me, I live in a world of pie and insomnia where clowns drop by to play golf, your second-cousin Darnell lives with a goat, and my best friend keeps her semi-comatose husband alive by hooking him up to potato-powered batteries. I’m certainly not in any position to argue about reality with anyone.

Sometimes, too, I think maybe there’s an alternative universe in which The Morning Guy has come to his senses and is not vacationing in Key West with his Stepford Girlfriend. Yes, I’m sure there’s a place where he and I are living happily ever after. But if that’s true, there’s probably also an alternate universe in which he’s carried off by a pack of Fem-Bots, and I never see him again.

That makes me sad, too, and what can I do but . . . go cry on somebody else’s shoulder?

Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/zappa shoulder

I Dream of Nikola Tesla

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success. …” (Nikola Tesla, 1856 – 1943)

This is big news, folks! Nikola Tesla’s concept of broadcast power is upon us. An MIT assistant professor, Marin Soljacic (pronounced SOLE-ya-cheech) who is also a 2008 MacArthur genius-grant winner, is already powering up electronic devices by sending electrons through the air. W00t! I am some happy about this. I first heard about Tesla and broadcast power 40 years ago. Yes, I’ve been a Tesla fan for almost as long as I’ve been a Brian Wilson fan, and — hey! — I only had to wait 35 years to hear Brian play “Smile” in concert. And now, here comes Marin Soljacic from Croatia, my dream country, to make Tesla’s dream come true.

So it’s cause for celebration. Let’s imagine a world without power cords. A life with free-range computers. Coke machines that work even out in the middle of a field. Cell phones that don’t need to be recharged. Electric coffee pots out on the beach for that early morning buzz. Need some electricity? Scoop it up from the air.

I love it, I do. Possibilities are endless. And, no, I don’t want to hear the down side. Let me glow on this one for a bit, please.

Wireless Electricity Is Here (Seriously)

By: Paul HochmanWed Jan 14, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Wireless ElectricityPhotograph by Phillip Toledano

EnlargeRyan TsengRyan Tseng, CEO of WiPower, says his system is cheaper and better than rival eCoupled’s. | Photograph by Phillip Toledano
EnlargeWireless ElectricityRyan Tseng holds his wirelessly lit lightbulb 3 inches above its power source. | Photograph by Phillip Toledano

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I’m standing next to a Croatian-born American genius in a half-empty office in Watertown, Massachusetts, and I’m about to be fried to a crisp. Or I’m about to witness the greatest advance in electrical science in a hundred years. Maybe both.

Either way, all I can think of is my electrician, Billy Sullivan. Sullivan has 11 tattoos and a voice marinated in Jack Daniels. During my recent home renovation, he roared at me when I got too close to his open electrical panel: “I’m the Juice Man!” he shouted. “Stay the hell away from my juice!”

He was right. Only gods mess with electrons. Only a fool would shoot them into the air. And yet, I’m in a conference room with a scientist who is going to let 120 volts fly out of the wall, on purpose.

“Don’t worry,” says the MIT assistant professor and a 2008 MacArthur genius-grant winner, Marin Soljacic (pronounced SOLE-ya-cheech), who designed the box he’s about to turn on. “You will be okay.”

We both shift our gaze to an unplugged Toshiba television set sitting 5 feet away on a folding table. He’s got to be kidding: There is no power cord attached to it. It’s off. Dark. Silent. “You ready?” he asks.

If Soljacic is correct — if his free-range electrons can power up this untethered TV from across a room — he will have performed a feat of physics so subtle and so profound it could change the world. It could also make him a billionaire. I hold my breath and cover my crotch. Soljacic flips the switch.

Soljacic isn’t the first man to try to power distant electronic devices by sending electrons through the air. He isn’t even the first man from the Balkans to try. Most agree that Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, who went on to father many of the inventions that define the modern electronic era, was the first to let electrons off their leash, in 1890.

Tesla based his wireless electricity idea on a concept known as electromagnetic induction, which was discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831 and holds that electric current flowing through one wire can induce current to flow in another wire, nearby. To illustrate that principle, Tesla built two huge “World Power” towers that would broadcast current into the American air, to be received remotely by electrical devices around the globe.

Few believed it could work. And to be fair to the doubters, it didn’t, exactly. When Tesla first switched on his 200-foot-tall, 1,000,000-volt Colorado Springs tower, 130-foot-long bolts of electricity shot out of it, sparks leaped up at the toes of passersby, and the grass around the lab glowed blue. It was too much, too soon.

But strap on your rubber boots; Tesla’s dream has come true. After more than 100 years of dashed hopes, several companies are coming to market with technologies that can safely transmit power through the air — a breakthrough that portends the literal and figurative untethering of our electronic age. Until this development, after all, the phrase “mobile electronics” has been a lie: How portable is your laptop if it has to feed every four hours, like an embryo, through a cord? How mobile is your phone if it shuts down after too long away from a plug? And how flexible is your business if your production area can’t shift because you can’t move the ceiling lights?

The world is about to be cured of its attachment disorder.

When Clowns Play Golf

I always enjoy myself when my friend The Clown stops by to hit a few balls. For one thing, she doesn’t speak, at least not in words, and that’s refreshing after a day of pie shop chatter. For another thing, she is cheerful, but not unbearably cheerful, like The Morning Guy’s Stepford Girlfriend. No, The Clown has a confident glow about her, a delight in every little thing she encounters, whether it’s an imaginary dog or a bucket of confetti.

The other night, The Clown came by with a golf cart full of her friends. I’ve known for some time that one of her primary interests in golf has been to drive the cart, but I don’t for the life of me know where she got one, or how she was able to fit so many other clowns into it. Apparently, clowns do believe in safety in numbers.

I could hear them coming down the road, from the direction of Pancho Villas, the radio tuned into the all-clown station: “Kathy’s Clown,” “Bozo Theme Song,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Bandy the Rodeo Clown,” and other big-top hits.

I’ve got to say, once the clowns arrived at the driving range, pretty much every one else suddenly looked very well dressed, no matter what bizarre get up they might have been wearing. Knickers, berets, argyle sweaters and matching socks? All those items seemed so conservative compared to polka-dot pantaloons and gigantic bow ties.

And by the same token, some of the super-sized drivers that I’ve see out here seemed tiny when placed next to the clubs that the clowns trotted out.

I noticed, too, that the clowns seemed to have more trouble with lost balls than most golfers do. I found this especially strange here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, where it doesn’t really matter where any one ball goes. Joe Sparkle Jr. will find it eventually when he makes his painfully slow sweep of the range with the E-Z cart picker.

The clowns also tended to scrutinize each ball very closely — sometime with magnifying glasses or randomly assembled jurors — before they’d place it on the tee, with great exaggerated gestures. Sometimes they just juggled the balls and never hit any at all. Sometimes they hit joke balls that performed odd tricks such as boomeranging back toward the pie shop. I was not especially fond of that one.

I read recently about “Divot the Clown” who performs at golf events. I’m sure my clowns would never do that. I could tell that they hated to mix business and pleasure. They worked hard at being clowns, and for them, golf was sheer pleasure, especially since they could play just outside of a pie shop. Think about it. Clowns and pie? Yes, I do keep a lot of whipped cream on hand, just for them.

You, on the other hand, may want to come by some other night if you see the clown-car golf cart parked out front.

Intergalactic Sports

Intergalactic Golf

Sorry to be so tardy in getting this news to you, but the possibility of more of us playing golf in space may be a reality before we know it. Former NFL linebacker Ken Harvey is already hard at work training future space tourists to get in shape to have serious fun in zero gravity.

By the way, it’s not too late to contribute to my own zero-gravity fund so I can be the first person to eat pie in space. I’m still only about $5,000 short of what I need for my practice run.

Harvey, though, may be on to something by taking his “space sportilization” program to Abu Dhabi where people may well have a tad more disposable income than they do right now in SoFLA.

What’s really amazing to me, though, is that Harvey manages to make this concept seem downright boring:

I’m pretty sure that almost any two people at The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range could show more enthusiam for playing any sport in space than those two guys.

Ah, well. And we wonder why American kids are falling short in science?