Tuesday, July 20, 2004

More Chicago Blogging

A couple of pictures...

From the Hancock building...

and from the El.

I took a lot more, but I mostly took them on film. I want a record that will last at least a generation or so, something I could show my kids, someday. I superstitiously believe film photos are more real, more solid. I even took some of it on that black-and-white film that you develop with color chemicals -- so probably they won't last longer than ordinary color prints, but they look like heirlooms already.

I got other pictures from the top of the John Hancock building, third-tallest in Chicago and 16th-tallest in the world, with the city and the lake and the world at its feet. Pictures of the gleaming, science-fictional Millennium Park, where we watched puppet shows and gospel choirs and Wait Wait, joining half of Chicago in celebrating the big opening day. Pictures from the top of the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, an homage to Ferris's original Chicago Wheel, designed for the 1893 World's Fair. I can imagine that opening day as well.

Pictures of Wrigleyville just prior to a Cubs game, like a Cubby-blue Mardi Gras. Pictures of the river, and the rails, and architectural follies from the 19th century and the 21st, pressed buttress-to-balcony. All the aging futurism, the naked steel and grimy brick and rickety wooden infrastructure that are Chicago's form and function. Pictures of the South Side, as seen from the El, kids playing ball in empty lots, and old men grumbling and smoking on porches.

Pictures of the Museum of Science and Industry, with its Apollo 8 capsule and "fairy castle" consisting of a silent-film actress's collection of doll-house sized ancient artifacts, and its model train set versions of Chicago and Seattle, and its expensive genetics and VR exhibits and Navy flight simulators, and the corroded hands-on chemistry demonstrations that stopped working long ago.

And pictures of Fermilab, a piece of praire with orange and blue warehouses, with 50s prefab houses painted bright colors and mashed together to make offices, next to the relocated farmhouses from all over the site. The whole thing is found-object art and sculptural concrete buildings, scattered incongruously across a piece of grassland where buffalo still graze. And in the tunnels underneath the giant round ridges, brightly painted housings for superconducting magnets, fed by Flash-Gordon machines and controlled from a room walled with computer monitors in yellow frames, displaying oscilloscope traces and rows of numbers. My favorite part was the 12 foot diameter bubble chamber which had recently been retired and dug out of its hole, to serve as a lawn ornament. A giant steel sphere with mysterious instruments bolted to it here and there, and catwalks on top. No doubt the neighbors will think it's a UFO.

What a weekend I've had. But I can't possibly put up all of the pictures, and even if I could, they wouldn't do Chicago justice. She's even more beautiful in person.


Santiago said...

Mary! What do you think of the Hawking black hole news?

Mary said...

Oh, I don't know. From what I can tell, we don't have a new theory. Hawking has just been persuaded that the other line of speculation is more plausible. He's working on the theory -- that will be real news.

I'm not sure what is meant, anyway, by "information is not destroyed." In some sense, we destroy information every time we collapse a wavefunction. It's Newtonian physics, not quantum, that says you ought to be able to reconstruct the history of the universe from what you see now. So I suppose they're talking about information conservation in some other sense, and I'm not sure what the implications are.

The question doesn't really interest me as much as it might, because the "information" that one might get out of a black hole would be of the same form as the "information" one gets, classically, from watching the smoke as a printed page is burned. In principle you could, I guess, read the book by looking at the smoke, and tracing the path of every carbon molecule back to the page. But that doesn't really mean much, in terms of implications for the nature of the universe (unless you consider it as another way of phrasing the determinism question), or practical applications.

I do like that the prize was a baseball encyclopedia.