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Showing posts from February, 2014

San Francisco's Wonderful California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences really is one of the wonders of California. 
Located in San Francisco's beautiful Golden Gate Park, just across from the Japanese Tea Garden, the Academy's building alone is worth the visit. 

Designed by Renzo Piano, the Academy's stunning $500 million ecologically sustainable structure, with its multi-domed "living roof," is both highly distinctive and, hopefully, earthquake-proof - the Academy having suffered two major losses of structures and parts of its collection, in the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and in 1989's Loma Prieta earthquake, after which the Piano building was commissioned. 

The Academy's attractions include the hugely popular (be prepared to wait in line) 90-foot-domed Rainforest Exhibit, which includes a beautifully presented view of the Amazonian flooded forest, as well as butterflies flying freely inside; and the Morrison Planetarium, which features the largest all-digital planetarium dome in the…

Ivanpah - The World's Largest Solar Power Plant - Online Today In The Mojave Desert

The future - at least, one potential solution to our energy and climate problems - is here now. 
As reported by Gizmodo, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System - the world's largest solar plant, comprising 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors and 450-foot centralized solar power towers powering turbines with steam - started generating electricity today in the Mojave Desert on the California-Nevada border. 

Dedicated today by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and jointly owned by US-based NRG Energy, US-Israeli BrightSource Energy and Google (which put up $168 million to help build it), Ivanpah is the world's biggest solar power plant. 

The remarkable photographs tell some of the story, but essentially - according to the official news release - Ivanpah (located on the site of a silver mining ghost town from the mid-1880s) is capable of generating sufficient electricity to power 140,000 California homes with clean energy, and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year -…

The Crimson Wing - A Wonderful Film About Flamingos

A week or so back, our five year old daughter and I were searching through Netflix for a nature documentary to watch when we chanced upon The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos. 
We started watching and were quickly entranced not just by the flamingos themselves, but by the extraordinary nature of the cinematography and the astonishingly vivid colors of these curious pink birds (scientists still do not know for sure why they often stand on one leg: perhaps to conserve heat in cold water, although they do it in warm water, too) set against the deep pure blues of the water and sky of Tanzania's Lake Natron.

When the film ended - after a beautiful and moving time spent getting to know these birds' lives, much as you do in the widely acclaimed, Oscar-nominated French documentary Winged Migration (a must-see, as is The Crimson Wing) - I noticed that one of the producers was an old friend, Paul Webster, with whom I worked on The War Zone and many other projects. 
I emailed Paul, to…

The California Drought

These NASA photos from space of snow - or the lack of it - in the Sierras, comparing January 2013 and January 2014, are one of the most dramatic images of the California drought that I've seen. 
Read more about the drought at The National Journal.