For A Good Time On The ‘Tubes Boing Boing Edition/Self Aggrandizement Alert

Late in getting this note up, but at 5 p.m. EDT this afternoon — less than an hour from now — I’ll be talking with Maggie Koerth-Baker on my monthly gig at Virtually Speaking Science.  That link takes you to the audio stream (and later the podcast, also available on iTunes) and this one will bring you to the spot in Second Life where you can heckle us in the “live”(ish) studio audience.

Maggie, as many of you may know, is the science editor at Boing Boing, and hence the ringleader and major producer of much that is wonderful in web-based science news, analysis and the odd oddity as well. She’s also just started a gig as a monthly technology-and-its-culture columnist for the New York Times Magazine. Her first column picked up on a subject near and dear to this blog’s community — what makes it possible for facts to matter in a political conversation.

We’ll spend part of the hour talking about her next column, on the concept of technological momentum, or why some seemingly great ideas do or don’t make it in the real world.  We may also get to some of the issues in science writing on the web raised by some of the troubling events of the last few months — think Jonah Lehrer, for one example, and the hype that overwhelmed much of the real science in the ENCODE story for another.  But the major topic will be energy, drawing on Maggie’s  wonderful book from earlier this year, Before the Lights Go Out — which is simply the sanest popular work on energy and paths to a non-disastrous future that  I’ve seen in many months of Sundays.

I’ll leave it there to give this post a chance to catch eyeballs before we go live.  Stop by if you’ve inclination and a moment.

Image:  Vincent van Gogh, Vegetable gardens and the Moulin de Blute-Fin on Montmartre, 1887.

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48 replies
  1. 1
    Jim Kakalios says:

    I’ll be in a colloquium during the interview but will check it out later on. Maggie is very smart and has thought very seriously about science communication, as have you. Should make for a very interesting conversation.

  2. 2
    LanceThruster says:

    Is there a Van Gogh with fishing boats on the beach or is that someone else? I have a view of a landlocked rowboat outside my kitchen window from the neighbor across the way, and thought it would go well in the space above the window.

    THX.

  3. 3
    MikeJ says:

    We’ll spend part of the hour talking about her next column, on the concept of technological momentum, or why some seemingly great ideas do or don’t make it in the real world.

    Are you going to be able to tell us why fusion power has been ten years away for the last 60 years?

  4. 4
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    That painting looks like it was done by a 5th grader (what’s with the peach blob of nothing on the left?) yet probably sells for $15 million.

    I’ll never ever understand art prices.

  5. 5
    Tom Levenson says:

    @MikeJ: I believe that it has been 50 years away for the last 60, but maybe I’m just being kind.

  6. 6
    👽 Martin says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: Probably more in a hot art market.

  7. 7
    Roger Moore says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:
    Don’t judge art by the way it looks in a tiny web-sized version. van Gogh’s paintings are amazing in person.

  8. 8

    Any reason you have the SL meeting so early in the day?

    Lots of us work days. (You probably already know this of course).

  9. 9
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Roger Moore: I could have spent weeks in the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

  10. 10
    MikeJ says:

    @Tom Levenson: Twice as many google hits for fusion “ten years away”, but I won’t quibble.

    As always, XKCD leads the way.
    http://xkcd.com/678/

  11. 11
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: .I have only seen a couple of Van Gogh’s works in person, but they blew me away
    I also never got what the deal was with Impressionist art till I saw the great Impressionist masterpieces in person. Forget tiny images on the Web, even reproductions usually don’t do the originals any justice.

  12. 12
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Theo was just about his only contemporary who felt the same way.

  13. 13
    👽 Martin says:

    @MikeJ: 10 years? Shit, boy, it’s 8 minutes away. We just can’t convince anyone to fly up there and grab it.

  14. 14
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: This. It is funny because one can feel so jaded about masterpieces having seen the image in books, etc., but the colors and the depth in the real thing just leap off the wall and drag one in. Oh god, now I am being a pretentious art douche.

  15. 15
    trollhattan says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    What’s that converted to Freidman units?

    These guys do fusion, just for really, really brief periods.

    https://lasers.llnl.gov/

  16. 16
    MikeJ says:

    @👽 Martin: The problem has always been in bottle design.

  17. 17
    vheidi says:

    @LanceThruster: Yes, but sadly this repro is crap
    Lucky enough to have seen it in person, and what everyone else says is true

  18. 18
    trollhattan says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    Finally saw “Midnight in Paris” last weekend and there’s a scene where they’re in a gallery surrounded by enormous Monet murals–something I hadn’t known he’d painted. The effect was pretty magical on my teebee; I can’t begin to envision what it must be like in person.

  19. 19
    LanceThruster says:

    @vheidi:

    Thank you, thank you! That’s the one I was thinking of.

    [engage cat burglar mode and buy tickets for Amsterdam!]

  20. 20
    Seanly says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:

    I’ll quote Vonnegut – Congratulations to you if your 5th grader can produce art like that.

    Oh & I went to read the description of her book & ordered the Kindle version. So let her know she sold one more copy thanks to you.

  21. 21
    Violet says:

    @trollhattan: You must be referring to Monet’s water lillies in L’Orangerie. Absolutely fantastic. When I visited a few years ago, the day was partly cloudy. As the whole thing is lit by skylight with natural light. As clouds would come and go, the entire murals would seem to change as the light changed. A must see if you’re in Paris.

  22. 22
    RP says:

    Boing Boing is run by a bunch of a*******. (Yes, I’m being petty. Whatever.)

  23. 23
    Violet says:

    More on lighting–some of the Musee d’Orsay paintings were on tour several years ago. The exhibit was amazing here in the US, and one in particular was very striking and memorable. Not one that I’d seen before, nor one that was famous, like on posters or whatever.

    A few years later I visited Paris and went to the Musee d’Orsay. I made a point of looking for that painting. It was there, but the lighting was different and in its own home it seemed drab and somewhat unremarkable. The only difference was the lighting.

    So photos of paintings online or in books can’t live up to the real thing. But even the real thing can disappoint if the lighting isn’t right.

  24. 24
    trollhattan says:

    @Violet:
    You completely nailed it [golf clap]. Teh googles led me to the Wiki page which has this note:

    “The Musée de l’Orangerie, specifically the Water Lilies paintings, were featured in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris.”

    Must be breathtaking.

  25. 25
    Violet says:

    @trollhattan: Oh, it is. It’s just spectacular. There are two galleries and both are just amazing. You can get right up next to the murals, although the guards watch closely and no flash photos are allowed (people keep taking them, mostly accidentally I think). You can sit on the seat in the middle of each gallery and just soak them in. Go right up next to them and see the brush strokes. Stand back and marvel at how large and comprehensive they are. And then the light changes, and the colors seem to take on completely new depth.

    Just completely magical and amazing. If you like Monet, it’s his masterpiece and worth the trip.

  26. 26
    MikeJ says:

    @Violet: I saw a Monet show at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum years ago and was blown away. It was a decade before I made it to Paris but I still remember how different the same paintings seemed.

  27. 27
    Yutsano says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: FWIW Van Gogh wasn’t appreciated during his lifetime. He died essentially a poor drunk and not very old.

  28. 28
    GxB says:

    @👽 Martin: Or better yet, find someway, somehow, to collect it and convert it into a common energy form that we might use right here on Earth. Curse my grandiose dreams!

  29. 29
    Roger Moore says:

    One other point is that the “don’t judge it if you haven’t seen it in person” rule is more and more important as the work is more and more abstract. You can make some judgment based on a photograph if a major goal of the painting is to be photorealistic. But it’s much harder to get a painting that’s about the painting technique by looking at a photograph. A Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock has to be experienced in person to make any sense at all.

  30. 30
    Mark S. says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I agree with that. I used to not think much of Impressionism or Modern Art until I saw some of it up close at museums.

    I still don’t think much of portraits of the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury and his dog type paintings that were really popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, though.

  31. 31
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Oh god, now I am being a pretentious art douche.

    But that is the best argument I know in favor of reproductions — they act as ‘place markers’ until/if we can visit the real works in person, or as memory-sparkers afterwards.

    (Although I may have been influenced by a friend who remarked, upon seeing his first Renoir nude in the gloriously oversized pallette, remarked “Well, now Playboy‘s spoilt for me.”)

  32. 32
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Anne Laurie: Actually, the Playboy analogy works. One can get a vague idea from a reproduction, but it doesn’t match the real thing. At all.

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Violet:

    I’m very spoiled because I grew up with the Art Institute of Chicago as my “home” art museum, which IIRC still has the finest collection of French Impressionists outside the Soviet Union. (France comes in further down the list thanks to looting in WWII.) Pointillism sounds silly until you see “Sunday in the Park” and realize how gigantic the original is.

  34. 34
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Oh god, now I am being a pretentious art douche.

    Ahhh. My work here is done.

  35. 35
    Roger Moore says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    My work here is done.

    Not until we’re all saying it.

    Roger “Even More Pretentious Than Tom Levenson Art Douche” Moore

  36. 36
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: My “home” museum as well.

    @Tom Levenson: You can have credit for the art part; the rest is all me.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    What, the Milwaukee Art Museum isn’t good enough for you?

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: Born in the Chicago ‘burbs.

  39. 39
    LanceThruster says:

    Doug Stanhope opined how we don’t need paintings anymore because we have cameras (unless it’s beyond what a photo depicts – like Dali). While I don’t agree entirely with his point (which was for comic effect anyway), Van Gogh’s way of seeing was remarkable and unique. His “Starry Night” alone is proof of that.

  40. 40
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: About that. If you haven’t seen the Sistine Chapel in person, you will never understand the 3-D effect Mike Angelo accomplished. Same with the impressionists, Van Gogh especially. I’m headed back for a major tour if the Euro finally collapses

  41. 41
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Tom,
    Thank you for the heads up. I very much enjoyed the web cast.

  42. 42
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni: The Sistine Chapel was well worth shuffling with the huddled masses to see. My ex and I spent hours in there. Sainte Chapelle in Paris is similar – jaw-droppingly amazing in person.

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @LanceThruster:

    Doug Stanhope opined how we don’t need paintings anymore because we have cameras (unless it’s beyond what a photo depicts – like Dali).

    We don’t need painting as a way of representing literal reality, but that’s never been more than a small fraction of what painting is about. Painting shows what the artist imagines. That can be non-realistic like a surrealist or abstract painting, but it also includes idealized representations of a thing (like the pictures of birds in a field guide) or pictures of things that haven’t been made (like architects’ or engineers’ renderings of a work they’re designing).

  44. 44
    LanceThruster says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I totally agree. To see what he was railing about, check out “Before Turning The Gun on Himself” comedy special.

  45. 45
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni: Seconded. Recommendation: bring the best pair of binoculars you can afford. My now-wife, then-newish girlfriend went to see the then fairly newly cleaned ceiling in the early nineties, and I blew most of my bank account on a set — Leica eight-bys. They made the ceiling come close and live. But you need as good an optic as you can find to get the full effect.

  46. 46
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni: Seconded. Recommendation: bring the best pair of binoculars you can afford. My now-wife, then-newish girlfriend went to see the then fairly newly cleaned ceiling in the early nineties, and I blew most of my bank account on a set — Leica eight-bys. They made the ceiling come close and live. But you need as good an optic as you can find to get the full effect.

  47. 47
    Maude says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    Don’t forget to take a gander at the floor. It is beautiful parquet.

  48. 48
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    A Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock has to be experienced in person to make any sense at all.

    They sure do. I always thought Pollock’s work was ordinary until I saw some in person. Wow.
    Of course most major art is the same. In person is much better.

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