Archive for the 'Travel' category

Streets of the optical scientists!

Aug 23 2010 Published by under [PhysicalScience], Optics, Travel

This post is a repost of some proto-blogging I did on my department web page when I was a post-doc in Amsterdam.  The web page is gone, now, so I thought I'd revise the essay significantly for the blog here.

I don't think it is too much of an unfair generalization to say that science and scientists are rather unappreciated in the United States.  Folks are quite happy to reap the benefits of science and technology when it comes to their computers, iPhones, etc., but can be dismissive or indignant to scientists when their results show people truths that they are uncomfortable with, e.g. evolution and global warming.

That's not to say that other countries are necessarily much better, but I do occasionally run across pro-science efforts elsewhere that surprise me.  From 2003-2004, I did my post-doctoral work at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, an experience that I will count as one of the best times of my life.  Amsterdam is just a wonderfully livable, walkable city, and even on my limited salary I was able to enjoy it immensely.  While there, I kept up my figure skating training at the Jaap Eden Ijsbanen, which is located in the neighborhood of Watergraafsmeer outside of the city center.  I would take the bus to the rink from my apartment, and every day would travel down Maxwellstraat and past Lorentzlaan, but it didn't occur to me until near the end of my time in The Netherlands that these streets are named after the physicists James Clerk Maxwell and Hendrik Antoon Lorentz!

In fact, all streets in the neighborhood of Watergraafsmeer are named after famous scientists and mathematicians, which is really a joy for a physicist like me. So after skating at the last day of the season at the Jaap Eden Ijsbanen, I decided to wander the neighborhood and hunt down the streets of those physicists whose work in the optical sciences has been a great influence on my own life's work, combining physics & travel blogging!

I present the streets in no particular order of chronology or significance; rather I present them in the order that I wandered past them. Information about the scientists themselves I gleaned from a variety of sources, including printed biographies, internet sites, and historical articles by my thesis advisor. Pictures of the various scientists were taken from Wikipedia.  So without further ado, let us begin our tour -- feel free to follow along the trail via Google maps...

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Swimming (well, kneeling) with stingrays!

Jun 27 2010 Published by under Animals, Travel

This past week I've been rather quiet about blogging and tweeting because I've been on vacation with the Wife and some of her family in Myrtle Beach, SC. We just returned yesterday and had a quite nice time, though like many vacations I feel perhaps even more exhausted than before we left!

There were many nice aspects to the trip, but for me the highlight was a stop at Ripley's Aquarium.  The aquarium itself it relatively small, and most of the exhibits can be passed through within an hour, even at a leisurely pace.  Nevertheless, they have a few really neat opportunities there, including an extra behind-the-scenes tour one can take that culminates with a hands-on encounter with their resident stingrays!  The Wife and I did the Swim With Stingrays Tour, and included with the event was a nice CD of pictures of our experience.

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A visit to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Jun 16 2010 Published by under Animals, Travel

Over the weekend, the Wife and I visited some of her relatives in Cleveland.  Though it was a very short trip, we managed to take a trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which has a nice collection of exhibits.  We didn't have that much time at the zoo -- we got a late start and had to head right to the airport afterward -- but I nevertheless managed to get some nice pictures of the animals!  Let's take a look...

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A trip to Savannah, Georgia

May 10 2010 Published by under Travel

Last weekend, the wife and I celebrated our first-year wedding anniversary by taking a 3-day trip to Savannah, Georgia.  Savannah is one of those rare American cities that has maintained a significant portion of its historic neighborhood, and this neighborhood is highlighted by a large number of green open squares that were first planned when the city was founded in 1733.

Savannah is a rather hard city to photograph for a novice like myself: buildings are quite close together and there are a large number of very old trees, making it difficult to get nice scenic shots.  These same properties make it a very lovely area to walk and explore, however, and I thought I'd share some of the pictures I did manage to take, including shots of the wonderfully atmospheric Bonaventure Cemetery.

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Visiting San Francisco!

Jan 23 2010 Published by under Personal, Travel

This post chronicles two firsts: my first trip to San Francisco and my first iPhone-written post!

I'm in town to attend Photonics West and meet with colleagues; today the wife and I were wandering around to see the sights.

I'll post some pics and a travelogue, though it may take a couple of days - my $200/night hotel only has wired Internet, which they charge $12/day for. They also provide only a 2 ft Internet cable.

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Oct 16 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, Travel

The scene at San Jose International Airport, 5 am:


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Cotton fields of South Carolina

Sep 19 2009 Published by under Personal, Travel

The weather was iffy this morning, but I went out to the drop zone anyway to see if the weather would be good enough to make a skydive.  It turns out it was; however, none of my usual jump friends apparently felt the same way, so I didn't make a jump!

On the way back, though, I pass through farm country.  The cotton is now in full bloom and pretty much ready to be harvested.  I snapped a few pictures with the new iPhone and stitched together a couple of panoramas, which I post below.

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Biltmore Estate... and Rick Springfield!

Aug 03 2009 Published by under Entertainment, Travel

This weekend, the wife and I took a trip up to Asheville, NC, to see the historic Biltmore Estate... and see a Rick Springfield concert! The trip was an absolute blast, and I thought I'd share some pictures of the Estate grounds, as well as of the concert itself.

Biltmore consists of a massive home of some 250 rooms and grounds of some 8,000 acres , and it is the largest privately-owned residence in the country.  It was built in the 1890s for George Washington Vanderbilt, who had inherited a fortune from his railroad tycoon father and grandfather.  Vanderbilt was a celebrity of his time, and built the home in part to escape from the chaos of New York City and the attention he received there.   Vanderbilt died in 1914, leaving his wife Edith the master of the estate.  In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, daughter Cornelia opened the estate to the public so that the tourist draw could increase the area's local revenue.  The house remains in family hands, and is now a wonderful tourist attraction.

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The National Naval Aviation Museum and a cute optical illusion

May 25 2009 Published by under Optics, Travel

Bleah!  I'm back from my trip to the Flora-bama area, but didn't make any jumps -- we were essentially weathered out Friday and Saturday, and by Sunday I'd had enough.  Most of my jump friends had already bailed, and though the weather looked like it might be better, I missed my wife and couldn't stand to sit around another day without jumping.  If they did jump Sunday, it would be quite ironic, because the complete 10-hour drive once we left the beach was nothing but low clouds and rain.

On Saturday, once it was clear we wouldn't be jumping earlier in the day, we hit the nearby National Naval Aviation Museum.  It was a pretty neat place, and it also contained one interesting (intentional) optical illusion.  Some pictures and description below...

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World air traffic over 24 hours...

Jan 12 2009 Published by under Travel

I've been very busy with work, among other things (Fallout 3) over the past week or so, and haven't had much time or energy to put together a coherent blog post.  In the meantime, I stumbled across this nifty video showing dynamically the flow of air traffic around the world  over a single day.  This certainly gives you a better feeling about why things get screwed up so easily when you travel by plane, doesn't it?

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