Gheorghe Curelet-Balan Blog

Thursday, October 27, 2005

EinsteinFest reverberations.

EinsteinFest is over. I will talk some other time about its grand finale weekend, day, lecture and banter. In the meantime, as the time goes by, I still feel its reverberations. For example, I remember that one day I've seen Einstein paying a visit to the event organized in his honor. He told me that he was participating at the opening event of the other "fest" (Octoberfest) that opened during EinsteinFest. More exactly he was racing in the Great Barrel Race event. Unfortunately I was unable to take his barrel rolling picture since I was busy trying to learn how to fly. I don't know though if he had tickets for the EinsteinFest events :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

EinsteinFest and AS TIME GOES BY.

If you are wondering how EinsteinFest is connected with the well known song "As time goes by" from the classic movie Casablanca, continue reading.

Tonight's movie on VisionTV, reminded me of Clifford Will's amazing EinsteinFest lecture. It is during his lecture when besides learning why Einstein was right in his theories, the audience was surprised to find out that the song written by Herman Hupfeld mentions the fourth dimension and Einstein.

I hope that EinsteinFest lectures will be available online so that you can also see Clifford's lecture when he sings As time goes by.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Physica Phantastica wizards in the PI's atrium.

Because of the chilly weather the Physica Phantastica buskers moved their tricks in the atrium. What tricks they performed? Check them out below.

The magic spinning wheel that doesn't flip if it is hanged by one side.

A volunteer busker tries to understand why it is hard to steer a bicycle at high speed.

Now it's time for the electricity lesson.

It looks like electricity generation is an interesting and fun experiment.

even for the youngest folks.

Others, in the meantime have hard time to figure out a black box with weird pulling strings.

Other physics tricks in the Physica Phantastica tent.

Phones that generate weird Star Trek sounds

While learning about special relativity watch out for the air blowing pail :)

Here it is a partial solution to the wind bags puzzle.

The chain reaction is ready to start. You don't want to be around these things when they go off. The result of the "reaction" could be seen on this link.

OK...everything at this table is in the reversed world :) If you want to come back to the normal world remove the glasses.

It is hard to empty a glass of water in the upside down world.

This things are hairy, don't touch them.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Flying wasn't a plane but a glider and it wasn't real but half real, a simulator. You lay on the board and use 2 flight controls. One for up/down and another to go left/right by sliding your body. It is quite easy till you get a hang of it. The picture in my previous post was taken after an add of the Wright Experience project that reconstructed the Wright Brothers 1903 flyer.

You can see a 1/4 size prototype of the glider exposed in the PI's atrium.

Wright Brothers started first by controling a kite then a glider.

This is your "control board" and how others are seeing you.

and this is the scenery that the pilot sees. It is strange that the elevator is in front of you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Pilot for a minute.

I learned at EinsteinFest how to fly the Wright Brothers plane, that was mentioned in the Explorers Banter post. Watch for my next posts for a description of the adventure. Note: that's not me flying in the picture :)

EinsteinFest visitors.

These guys are always in trouble...last time they came late and now they don't have tickets to visit the EinsteinFest exhibition :)

Sorry, no tickets no time travel! Finally they decided to settle for just a glimpse at Max Planck.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Explorers Banter.

When I saw the Inventors, Inventions, Conquerors and Conquests – The ingredients for success Bistro Banter listed in the EinsteinFest program I was intrigued by the original combination of participants that were lined up for debate. Representing totally different types of explorers the banter debaters looked ambitious to me in their goal to draw a common ground for the ingredients for success.

I've seen in the morning of that day the exciting story of the explorers quest for Poles nicely narrated by James Delgado. He gave few hints for success during his presentation. I had the feeling that he must know more on what makes an explorer successful. Howard Burton, represented of course the explorers that use theoretical means to investigate the fascinating frontiers of the physical world. Robert Friedel explores the past of technological innovators, so he must know what it takes for an technology explorer to be successful. Mike Lazaridis is not only a technology innovator but also an outstanding entrepreneur, that created the most successful Canadian startup company.

Well, with such a lineup there was definitely something to learn. So, right after the wireless lecture I’ve secured a seat in the Black Hole bistro and ordered a beer to get into the banter mood :) I like banters since I have the opportunity to know people the way they are. Moreover it is a joy to see how the debaters are dealing with a light tease. Here are the most important ideas that I've learned.

As a host of the banter, Howard opened the debate saying that he thinks that a successful explorer is a visionary that strongly believes in his dreams. He mentioned Einstein's confidence in his theory of General Relativity. In 1919 Einstein reached its celebrity status when Arthur Eddington confirmed the General Relativity theory by measuring the light bending near the sun during a solar eclipse. When one of his students asked what if there had been no confirmation to his prediction, Einstein replied: "Then I would have been sorry for the dear Lord - the theory is correct". Howard also mentioned imagination as another important ingredient for success. He exemplified this idea with Einstein’s confession that imagination had a bigger contribution in his discoveries, than knowledge.

In this context Howard asked James about what ingredients are needed for an explorer to be successful. Using the lessons learned from his studies and experience, James considered that besides being a visionary, an explorer has to do his homework. Learn from others mistakes, be non-prejudicial, open-minded and a team player. He contrasted Amundsen successes with the failures of Franklin. Failures were caused by prejudice, arrogance, individualism and lack in adaptability to the new discovered lands. Amundsen learned from the life style (food, close, etc.) of inhabitants of the places he visited. He learned from others mistakes by using smaller boats instead of big ones. Also, during his explorations he adapted continuously to the new situations.

Howard then asked Mike's opinion. First of all Mike defined what a visionary is. Humans are capable of a special type of curiosity that involves imagination and abstract thinking separating us from the animals. Visionaries question the status quo, they don't take anything for granted, they fight complacency and are driven by an unsatiable curiosity. This reminded me of a famous Einstein quote, that I learned at EinsteinFest, about his passionate curiosity.

Mike then stated that vision has no value without the courage and determination to follow your dream. Too much faith though could be dangerous if you are not clever. He contrasted the failures of all the attempts in building flying machines with the Wright Brothers success. What made Wright Brothers attempt a success is their out-of-the-box approach in problem solving. Their success was due to the clever approach they took in building the plane. Rather than experimenting with all kind of silly suicidal attempts that others followed, they were the first that understood that in order to fly you first have to control the plane. So they focused their effort into designing and experimenting a way to control the plane at very low altitude (few feet from the ground). This is just one of the instances when I learned at EinsteinFest how ideas are colliding with each other and how the good ones win.

Besides some friendly teasing specific to a banter, all of the debaters agreed in the end about the following ingredients for success: non-complacency, curiosity, imagination, vision, courage, self-confidence, determination, out-of-the-box flexible and non-prejudicial thinking, adaptability, planning, team playing and learning from past mistakes.

That, I might say, was quite a delightful intellectual journey.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

EinsteinFest = IdeasFest

EinsteinFest is about ideas, how they come to life, how they collide with one another and why the good ones win. This is what I've learned during Robert Friedel and Mike Lazaridis' illuminating lecture From Marconi to Lazaridis - The Age of Wireless Communication on Sunday October 9th. True to his historian expertise, Robert gave a historical background on wireless communications starting from the telegraph invention going through telephone invention, Hertz and Marconi's experiments and Maxwell's equations. Then the early beginings of wireless mobile communications were presented. This actually has setup the stage for the next speaker.

Mike is quite a charismatic speaker that is able to transpose in no time an entire audience into his world. The first idea that impressed me in his lecture was that the humanity remembers ideas rather than real things. It is not hard to notice that EinsteinFest is a celebration of ideas in the context of Einstein life.

Then, the process of how a technology shift happens was presented. The observed errors of the current technologies are proved as omissions by the advancements in the measurement tools. More precise tools are challenging past technologies and open research fields for basic science that finally yields to a technology shift. And the new technology follows the same cycle. A strong believer in the importance of basic science research, Mike exemplified his theory with the prediction power that theoretical results of Maxwell equations, Einstein's famous equation, Antimatter theory and the mathematics of complex numbers had.

Now it was time for the pragmatic Mike the innovator to speak. The use of basic science in the daily research activities of the company that he founded was exemplified with RIM's efforts to improve BlackBerry's battery life.

At the end, during the questions time Mike shared with the audience his vision for the next technology shift. The flow of ideas didn't stop here though. They continued during the quite intriguing Bistro Banter debate about which I'll talk another time.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Touring EinsteinFest.

The 1905 pole shows in a friendly way Einstein's 1905 scientific contributions.

After admiring the beauty on the right you continue the tour by following Einstein on the bike (background left).

On the left wall these displays are showing snapshots of Einstein and its times. The center top displays show Thomas Edison and its electric light bulbs.

The exhibition tour continue with the movies history.

If you want to learn about the beginings of radio communications these shelves are for you.

Now it's time to go into another "time tunnel" to continue the 1905 tour.

If you get tired you could stop for few minutes and watch a short movie about Einstein.

Einstein's life could also be discovered from his letters.

You can then stop to listen to Einstein's Historic Recordings between 1930-1947.

Then we learn details about Einstein's 1905 papers.

and about Perimeter Institute research activities.

Now it's learning time. First, the Brownian Motion is demonstrated.

Then, Einstein's photoelectric effect.

A bunch of balls make people wondering what are they for. It is time for the Einstein's General Relativity and spacetime lesson.

It looks like the spacetime subject is so interesting that it catches lot of attention from all generations.

The last stop is Physica Phantastica outdoor tent that is the place for kids to have fun with physics. It is full of physics puzzles that could be challenging even for the rest of us. It is the place...

where you learn how to keep things spinning

or how to do magnetic fishing

or how to blow a wind bag

Or learn about Einstein life.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The atrium time tunnel.

After entering the PI's atrium, Einstein guides you to the 1905 year.

Each pole's side has pictures or memorable notes about events in Einstein life or its times before and after 1905 year.

The 2 grey outer sides of each pole represent an year after 1905...

...while the 2 black inner sides represent an year before 1905.

As you follow along the poles...

You reach in the center, annus mirabilis, the 1905 year.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Time tunnels.

I was wrong...there are more than one, time tunnels at the Perimeter Institute (PI). I'll start with the one I like the most. The below picture was taken yesterday at the PI Black Hole Bistro. The blackboard artistic drawing is quite inspirational in my opinion. Besides Einstein's passion for the violin it suggests among other things how his genius scientific creativity influenced the society. EinsteinFest started on Friday evening with a tribute to Einstein the man and its times. Unfortunately I couldn't enjoy the sound of a 1715 Stradivarius magically mastered by the renowned violinist James Ehnes.

The second time tunnel was quite a surprise. You dive into it right from the entrance of PI's atrium (right side's middle). The tunnel is puzzling since few are figuring out what it is at first glimpse. The tunnel is made of a number of 4 sided poles. What's with these poles that make people staring at them is the subject of my next post.