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Archive for December, 2008

A Ball Drop, One Night Early

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I don’t do the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, and as long as I’ve lived in New York I never have. I do however work very near where the ball does drop, and in fact can see it from my office. Last night I saw some rehearsal drops, and decided to meander down to Times Square before heading home. I shot this video. Tonight, given the weather, I think the picture on television will look rather different.


Times Square, Night Before New Year’s Eve from Arik Hesseldahl on Vimeo.

Written by ahess247

December 31st, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Some Things From The Vault

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One of the reasons I switched to WordPress was for its ability to easily create static, non-blog pages within the context of a blog-like site. My one unending project has been to collect as much of my published work in one place as as I can, if nothing else so that I have a place where I can find each story. After publishing for the better part of two decades, the job of finding and organizing everything, then building a Web page to house it all, is rather large.

This weekend I built two pages comprised of old stuff. The first will be interesting really only to those who care about the long slow demise of the newspaper industry and its various early flirtations with the Web. During 1997 and 1998, my first job out of grad school was at New Century Networks, a joint venture of nine newspaper companies to combine forces and content on the Web. The company briefly produced a site called NewsWorks that is barely remembered except for its unspectacular shuttering in the cold March of 98. On my last day in the office I salvaged the files of a few packages I had worked on to a Zip disk and have since preserved them in their original format. You can see the results, along with my own reflections on the experience here.

The second page I produced is basically a republishing of my old 1990 Bungee Jumping story written in my last term as a community college student. The realization that I wrote it 18 years ago gave me a bit of a shiver.

I did go on to Bungee jump a few more times. There was one more trip to Blue River Dam in the fall of 1991, and another to a privately owned bridge in 1992, where myself and a friend had organized a film crew to shoot some footage of the group of University of Oregon students we took with us. One of my great regrets in life is that I lost my copy of that tape. If you were on that trip and have a copy, please contact me, because I am desperate to transfer it to DVD and from there to the Web. I jumped one more time in Las Vegas in 2002. It wasn’t quite as fun as jumping in the great outdoors. I had a tape made of that jump but lost it as well.

Written by ahess247

December 7th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

A Night Spent Learning About Black Holes

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A few months ago I was in Waterloo, Canada. Anyone who knows anything about me and knows anything about Waterloo can probably guess I was there to visit Research In Motion, the company behind the iconic Blackberry. It was an interesting visit, and an interesting town. One of RIM’s founders, Mike Lazaridis, with whom I met, poured some of his personal fortune into launching The Perimeter Institute For Theoretical Physics, which I also visited. It’s a place where some of the world’s smartest people gather to try to decode what are literally the very secrets of the universe.

The day of my visit happened to coincide with a public lecture by Brian Greene, a professor of mathematics and physics at Columbia University. He’s the author of “The Elegant Universe” which was adapted into a PBS TV series of the same name. I was invited to attend the lecture and since I had nothing else to do other than return to my hotel room, I accepted. I was warned however to arrive early as seats would fill up soon.

The lecture was given not at the Perimeter Institute itself, but rather at a local high school auditorium. I arrived, was surprised at the turnout. It seemed the entire town had turned up on a beautiful late summer evening to sit in a stuffy un-air conditioned auditorium to hear a physics lecture. I wondered how often this sort of thing happens in the U.S. It was indeed, standing room only.

I hadn’t thought much about the lecture since then. It was certainly fascinating. Greene spoke about, and focused mostly on the finer points of black holes. He relied for some of the lecture on material from his latest book, “Icarus At The Edge Of Time” to illustrate complicated points. I had mostly forgotten about it, until I read the news that Stephen Hawking is The Perimeter Institute’s new distinguished research chair, which means he’ll be visiting Waterloo a few times a year beginning in the summer of 2009, and hopefully giving some public lectures, for which, I’m sure the entire city of Waterloo will turn out.

What I had also forgotten since that night was the fact that I had recorded the lecture. Today I ran across the file by chance, and thought I’d share the audio here. It’s about 68 minutes long (I didn’t edit out the introductions) but you can now hear Brian Greene’s lecture on black holes too. It is, I think, worth the time, even if you have absolutely no interest in theoretical physics.

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Written by ahess247

December 6th, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Travels,Work