Stephen Hawking to give public talk Tuesday at Caltech

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Famed theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking will be at Caltech on Tuesday for a free public lecture.
From insights into the birth of the cosmos, the death of black holes, and even the future of the human race, Hawking’s contributions to science are innumerable.
His presentation in Beckman Auditorium will be designed for general audiences, providing a rare opportunity to see Hawking in person and to get a glimpse into the workings of a great contemporary mind.
There’s already a steady buzz building around the event, so here’s a helpful reminder: Get there early.
Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Pasadena. Free, no tickets or reservations required. Arrive early to ensure seating. events.caltech.edu
(Getty Images)

Week in science: Oil spill threat spreads | James Cameron helping to bring 3-D to Mars | A monster jellyfish of the deep

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Image: Dr. Erica Miller, left, and Danene Birtell with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research work Friday to help a Northern Gannet bird, normally white when full grown, which is covered in oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at a facility in Fort Jackson, La. (AP Image)

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    The still-spreading Gult Coast oil spill is threatening to become a full-fledged environmental disaster that may eclipse Exxon Valdez in cost and impact. [WaPo]

    • Today, the Obama administration put pressure on BP America to do more to stop the leak and clean up its aftermath. [NYT]
      • Experts and volunteers are scrambling to aid the wildlife affected by the spill. [Discovery News]

        Image: This satellite photo provided by NASA shows the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico as it closes in on the Pass a Loutre area of Plaquemines Parish, La. (NASA photo)

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        Week in science: Hubble telescope celebrates 20 years | Spitzer ‘tastes’ a methane-free planetary puzzler | Adoptive parents bring biases to process

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          The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 20th anniversary. In the spirit of the occasion, the famous telescope has captured this phantasmagorical image deep within the Carina Nebula. Not too shabby for a telescope with two decades under its belt. NASA and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team describe it best: “This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or a Dr. Seuss book, depending on your imagination. The NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, which is even more dramatic than fiction, captures the chaotic activity atop a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.” [NASA and Discovery News]

        Image: Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar of gas and dust within the Carina Nebula, 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. (NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team)

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        Week in science: Donner Party cannibalism in question | JPL satellites eye Iceland volcano chain | Striking images from Saturn


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        >>THINK 
        • A bone to pick: Was the Donner Party’s legendary cannibalism just a myth? A new study of the bones found at the Donner’s campsite in California’s Sierra Nevadas suggests the snowbound pioneers may not have eaten each other after all. [DISCOVERY NEWS]
        Image: James F. Reed and his wife, Margret W. Keyes Reed, seen in this file photo taken in the 1850s, were survivors of the tragic Donner Party. (AP Photo)

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        The week in science: Space station rendezvous, a WISE-eyed beauty and bullets of sound


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        >>THINK 
        • Space shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station early Wednesday, after a rare antenna breakdown that knocked out radar tracking. Today, a pair of astronauts completed a spacewalk to disconnect an old, empty ammonia tank outside the station, and they prepared a new one to replace it. [Star-News]


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        ‘Pasadena Babalon’: The world of Jack Parsons, on stage at Caltech

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        “Pasadena Babalon” lives in the in-between space of things we know and don’t know about John Whiteside Parsons.
        Jack, they called him; He, the young genius of a nascent aerospace industry as it emerged in Southern California, of the founding of Aerojet Corp. and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and of the darkest pursuits of occult ritual and magic.
        The Theater Arts at the California Institute of Technology takes on all these sides of Parsons in its new production, covering a broad swath of territory from his childhood to his death in 1952.
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        That’s genius: By day, Kjerstin Williams is a robotics engineer; By night, she croons a smooth tune in Pasadena-area joints

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        Kjerstin Williams is the second of three geniuses featured in Rose Magazine’s cover story. If you’re not green with envy over her day job — working with robots at Applied Minds — then her night job ought to do the trick: she’s a jazz singer, and a good one, at that.

        With her pixie-blond hair and bubbly personality (we dubbed her a RoboVixen) Williams resides somewhere on the bridge between science and art — a spectrum that’s often at play on the Caltech campus, where science reigns supreme, but a musical subculture has thrived.

        Williams has even performed at Carnegie Hall with the Caltech-Occidental Concert Band.

        She harmonizes regularly around town with The Conspirators, a quartet of Caltech musicians. At top and below is a photo series by Jonathan Prentice of a recent session at the Pasadena Jazz Institute.

        Swing along and read the full story on Williams in Rose Magazine.

        Also check out Williams’ Web site for a performance calendar and to listen to some of her tunes. She’s already rolled out the red carpet for you.

        For a firsthand glimpse into the playful duality of Williams’ life, follow her on Twitter.

        Portrait by Walt Mancini. Performance photos by Jonathan Prentice: Kjerstin Williams and The Conspirators perform at the Pasadena Jazz Institute in July. Laurence Yeung on guitar, Jim Van Deventer on tenor sax, Jimi Hawes on upright bass, Michael Ferrara on drums and special guest Bill Watrous on the trombone.


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        That’s genius: Caltech’s John Dabiri tells us why you should care about a brainless, boneless creature

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        Rose Magazine cover subject John Dabiri is only 29, and he’s already racking up serious accolades, like this one from the White House, for his research on jellyfish. Dabiri isn’t a biologist — he’s an associate professor of aeronautics at Caltech, where he and his team study the movement of jellies for inspiration that has some surprising potential to change the way we live.

        If you think the 650-million-year-old creatures only matter when they’ve got their stinging tentacles wrapped around your leg, Dabiri’s research would solidly suggest otherwise.

        His analysis on the way creatures swim, pump and propel themselves underwater includes human-oriented applications in:

        • Underwater vehicles, particularly military uses
        • Wind energy and how it is harnessed
        • Mass mixing and movement of the oceans, connected to climate change
        • Human heart diagnostics, with potential for treating heart disease

        Visit the Caltech Biological Propulsion Laboratory Web site to see some of the research tools that allow Dabiri and team to study jellyfish, both in the lab and out in the ocean, including a 40-meter tilting water channel (that generates waves) and some really fancy underwater camera and laser systems.

        The animation below, courtesy of Dabiri, shows the movement and forces of water created by a moon jellyfish as it interacts with the ocean around it. (Photo above by Walt Mancini / Staff)

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