Thursday, November 16, 2006

Paris Hilton, Nintendo Wii and a Tokamak

What could Paris Hilton, Nintendo's new game console and a fusion reactor have in common? Well, they are all in my focus of interest in the past week.

On our way to UCLA with Jessi and Xiaodong

Last Wednesday (that was 10 days ago!) we visited with our plasma class the biggest fusion reactor in the world, the UCLA Tokamak (Tokamak is a type of a fusion machine). Probably the most important application of plasma is fusion, and the guy explaining it was pretty funny about it. He says we walks out of his house every day and looks at the sun of LA and says "How do you do it"? Fusion is simply the process of trying to generate energy in the same way that the sun does, it is exactly the opposite of nuclear fission (were you break an atom apart). In the sun the huge gravity forces the atoms together, while here people try to use huge magnetic fields to confine them.

He said that in the 1950s when fusion was first proposed people said it is a matter of 2-3 years for it to become reality. Then in 5 years they had failed, and they said it may take more like 10 years to achieve. In 15 years they hadn't done it, and they said it may take more like 20 years. And then, 20 years later (which is today) they have failed, and they say they will need more like 50 years to get it. It is not a good growth rate:-)

In front of the UCLA Tokamak:
Still, fusion is really our only hope for our long term energy needs. Oil and carbon will run out in 30-60 years, and then nuclear fission can burn for another 2,000 years. But then Uranium and Plutonium runs out, and we are literally back to the horses, with no energy left to consume.

On the same day it was the half-season finale of Lost. It had me on the edge of my seat for the whole hour; it's just great stuff. Season 3 will continue from February with 16 episodes in a row (they found out viewers were complaining with the reruns). In the meantime, Scott (our undergrad's friend) brought us DVDs of season 2, which we will give to Jessi in exchange with season 1 divx's. That is mainly for Reza in our office to get acquainted with the characters better (by the way, we now print one photo from each episode and put it up on our wall in the office. We will have 24 pictures and a beautiful wallpaper by the end of the year).

On Saturday, me and Dora went to Hollywood. I had read that the premiere of Fountain would take place there. Indeed, we spent about one hour and we got a glimpse of some of the actors, including the leads Hugh Jackman (aka Wolverine) and Rachel Weisz. (thank you 12x zoom of Canon S2!).

The red carpets is not such a big deal after all. There is a red carpet laid down (duh!), it is surrounded by metal bars, and behind the bars there are reporters for interviews and photographers. It takes about 45minutes for the lead actors to walk around everybody, along with some other big or small names of the film industry.

We didn't watch the movie itself (it opens officially next week), however I have very high expectations for it. Aronofsky, the director (π, Requiem for a dream), decided to make a sci-fi movie and battle teh biggest problem of all sci-fi movies: that their special and computer effects get outdated very soon (just look at 2001 or the original Star Wars, or even the Matrix: you can tell they are somewhat old).

So he decided to make a sci-fi movie without a single computer generated effect! For example, the frame on the left looks amazing and in completely naturally made. They used a technique called microlensing that they take pictures of very small drops of water that they have dissolved other substances in there. The results are so amazing that the light-years wide nebula on this picture is actually only a few millimeters size in real life! If you take a look at the trailer you'll think it is impossible to create these images without a computer. And yet...

Let's move on. The Victoria's Secret fashion show was to take place today, for the first time in LA, and specifically at the Kodak Theater (home of the Oscars ceremony too).

We actually went there just to watch a movie (Borat), but since we saw people we decided to stay and take a look. We only watched the last 30 minutes of the arrivals, but during that time we did manage to see and take pictures. The two most notable appearances were Dean Kane (former Superman series lead):

...and, to out big surprise, Paris Hilton:

It was a lot of fun! The list of celebrities I've seen here in LA is growing:

Paris Hlton (@ VS Fashion Show Arrivals)
Dean Kane (@ VS Fashion Show Arrivals)
Rachel Weisz (@ The Chinese Theater Premiere of the Fountain)
Hugh Jackman (@ The Chinese Theater Premiere of the Fountain)
Mathew Perry (@ The Cattle, Sunset blvd)
Jessica Alba (@Taverna Tony, Malibu)
Will Smith (@Jay)
William H. Macy (@Jay)
Charles Barkley (@Jay)
Forrest Whittaker (@Huntigton Park)
Shaquille O'Neal (@AMC Movie Thaters)
Tom Hanks (@Agia Sofia)
Carmen Electra (@Jay)
Ralph Fiennes (@Jay)
Harrison Ford (@Jay)
Tony Shalhoud (MIB, Monk, @LAX)
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, Dogville, @Jay)

When we returned back home, we returned to the everyday world of common mortals. I was struggling with the dishes:

and Andrew was confirming his natural state of being:

And how about Nintendo Wii? The Sony PS3 is debuting in the US tomorrow, and the Nintendo Wii on Monday. The Wii does not have the technical specs of the PS3 or Xbox 360, but it is a pure gaming machine, and it costs half the price of PS3. I wrote about the upcoming battle this year before, but when I ask myself "which console would I buy now?" I tend to go for the Wii. Nintendo has a great tradition in home games, and unlike Sony and Microsoft they are not trying to make a computer but rather make a fun machine to play with. The Wii is tiny, it has a revolutionary gyroscopic motion-detecting controller that changes the way we play games, and it also has the Legend of Zelda! At $299, can it win the next-gen console race? I believe so.