Friday, November 30, 2007

CERN and the beginnings of the Internet

"CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is where it all began in March 1989. A physicist, Tim Berners-Lee, wrote a proposal for information management showing how information could be transferred easily over the Internet by using hypertext, the now familiar point-and-click system of navigating through information. The following year, Robert Cailliau, a systems engineer, joined in and soon became its number one advocate." -

On our trip to CERN we not only toured the large hadron particle collider (in 2008 they will attempt, through colliding protons at high speeds, to reproduce the conditions moments after the big bang), we were also toured around the birthplace of the internet by Robert Cailliau, Berners-Lee's collaborator on the project. He also spoke to us and with us at length. Truly an honor. This is a photo of Cailliau and me, in front of the office where it all began:

At the L4, future geniuses are at work in the Ai program's well-equipped lab (Hi Ashley Wood!)

Thanks to Robert Jamison for the photos.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Weekend in Geneva

One of our organized weekends (actually, 5 days) was a trip to Geneva, which included side trips to CERN, the Niepce House (he invented photography, and the United Nations. I only had my camera with me one one outing so the only photos you'll see are of the Niepce Museum trip. He's the man who in 1822 invented photography and we stood in the actual room and looked onto the landscape of the first known photograph. The house is in a miniscule town called St Loup de Varennes, in the Burgundy region of France. Niepce was an inventor in general, and another one of his inventions was the velocipede, demonstrated below by our own Ryan Wenner:

The house:

The plaque at the end of the lane, facing the train tracks:

Afterward we visited a beautiful Burgundian town, and though this was NOT the focus of the trip, it made good photos. Chalon sur Saone:

At CERN we were blown away by a tour of the massive super colliders, one of which will, in 2008, recreate the conditions a moment after the big bang, by colliding protons at high speeds in a 27 KM ring. More on that in another post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Weekend in Venice

Students and professors get a couple of long weekends free to travel during the program. The first weekend I decided to see the biennale in Venice. This was my second time there and still my breath is taken away by the incredible beauty of the city and all of its surprises. I realize how lucky I am to be able to even contemplate visiting on a regular basis. Anyway, wouldn't you like to see some pictures. My hotel room, though it is not what you'd imagine it to be in a 16th century villa, is clean and quiet (means: simple and looks at another building) (but cheap). But the villa faces a square and the church you see is S. Geremia e Lucia. There was a Mercado in the door to the right on Saturday night, where the ladies of the church had knitted and crocheted items for sale to raise money for missions. So sorry, I didn't find anything I could use, but it was like home:

This is a photo of the canal to the left of the church, and the street that leads further into town:

The neighborhood, near the train station, is called Canareggio. After dinner at a trattoria the second night I happened upon a neighborhood celebration in a square like the one I am staying on. There was a local band playing: about 10 local artists playing brass and percussion, and vocals. Kids piled up on the fountain, men passed the grappa, everyone swayed, danced and clapped... they let me participate and I had a great time. Traveling by myself can be lonely/boring but there's usually something going on if I look long enough.

The Biennale at the Giardini was more interesting than the Arsenale (which gave me a headache; it reminded me of a web site - I could have gotten the same thing on a web site and skipped the long walk) and here are some photos from the American Pavilion. The artist is Felix Gonzalez Torres. People who come to the exhibit are invited to take a poster or a piece of candy to participate in the installation; however mostly what I saw was they rushed in, did not contemplate what was going on, grabbed as many posters as they could, grabbed HANDFULS of candy, and left. Probably I'm being cynical. No doubt. Read about FGT online. Photos:

Gonzalez-Torres' work has been interpreted as being about AIDS (he died of AIDS in the 1996) and the lightbulbs slowly going out have been seen as a metaphor for dying.

My friend Chingiz Babayev of Azerbaijan was in the Biennale this year but his exhibition had closed before I could see it. He sent me this photo. Hi Chingiz! It looks great! This is a very large carpet made out of fruit and vegetables and other things.

I also thought the three video installations in the Central Asian Exhibition were very good.

Meeting up with my friend Jürgen Faust and his wife Tanja were really what made the trip perfect. They drove from Munich across the Alps through a snowstorm to spend Sunday in Venice. While Tanja visited the Biennale Jürgen and I had a chance to catch up.

Here is a final photo, on the way to the train: