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WHAT I'M DOING NOW

6/12/09 ... A film crew for the History Channel program, "The Universe," came up to Santa Cruz to interview me for an episode that will appear next fall. It turned out to be quite an adventure, because it was extremely windy! The wind blew their reflector (a piece of white foam that is supposed to reflect light onto my face, softening the shadows) right into the nearby estuary. (We were filming at Natural Bridges State Beach.) Fortunately, they had a backup, and my wife, Kay (who had come along to watch the interview) was recruited to hold onto it. Here she is, showing what exactly a "grip" does! Meanwhile, I'm pontificating about something or other.

Also, I had prepared a demonstration of axial precession, using a gyroscope. We recorded two takes successfully, but on the third take I accidentally let go of the string. When I looked down, the string was nowhere to be found ... the wind had already blown it away! So much for the gyroscope demo. (No great loss... If you REALLY want to see a cool gyroscope, take a look here.)

We also had to interrupt filming a couple of times to let people walk by. And then there was the park ranger who said that the film crew had to move their vehicles because they hadn't gotten a permit. Actually, the film crew had gotten permission to film anywhere they wanted in the park -- but no one ever mentioned to them that they couldn't park anywhere they wanted.

In spite of all the mishaps, it was fun, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes out of the interview. Of course, I fully realize that they will probably only show a few seconds on TV, out of a three-hour interview ... I just hope they pick some good clips.

11/15/08 ... I presented "Moon and a Mocha III" at the Capitola Book Cafe. Once again the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club provided telescopes. Some clueless customer at the drug store next door saw one of the telescope stands with a wire coming out of it, thought it was a bomb, and called the police department! By the time the police arrived, the telescope was set up, and Bill Seiler, whose scope it was, invited the policeman to look through it to confirm that it was not a bomb. Also, I invited Tony Colaprete of NASA Ames Space Center, the Principal Investigator behind the LCROSS moon mission, to talk about his work on NASA's first mission to the Moon in more than a decade.

2/20/08 ... The Capitola Book Cafe hosted my second "Moon and a Mocha" event on the night of the lunar eclipse. (Last total lunar eclipse until 2010!) I told some of the lore and science of eclipses, while in the sky behind me the Earth's shadow blocked out the Moon. Even though it was a cloudy night, the clouds were thin enough that we could actually see the eclipse, even during totality. Unfortunately, we could not see Saturn because of the clouds. It would have been the only chance this millennium to see Saturn and an eclipsed Moon side by side.

1/7-10/08 ... I went to the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego. One highlight was an exceedingly cool animated film of "Flatland," produced by Seth Caplan, directed by Jeffrey Travis and Dano Johnson, and starring Martin Sheen as Arthur Square. I have written an article about this movie for The Alcalde, the alumni magazine of the University of Texas. (Caplan, Travis, and Johnson all went to school there.) Also premiering at the meetings were two films by director George Csicsery: "Hard Problems," a documentary about the U.S. team at the 2006 International Math Olympiad, and "Julia Robinson and Hilbert's Tenth Problem," a documentary about the first woman president of the American Mathematical Society.

11/26/07 ... The Capitola Book Cafe hosted "Moon and a Mocha," a community science event. I showed clips from the episode of "The Universe" that I appeared in, and talked about some of the science that didn't get in the show. As it turned out, the audience was much more interested in hearing me talk about the Moon than watching the DVD! After the talk was done, some members of the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club set up telescopes and we looked at the gibbous Moon and Mars, which was extremely close to the Moon that night.

 
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