February 11

Wow – an historic first in physics today. Gravitational waves have been detected directly for the first time ever. The LIGO gravitational wave observatory had a press release today, February 11, to announce this discovery. You will read about it in the morning papers tomorrow. If you live in the Chicago area, come to the University of Chicago to hear the Physics Department colloquium at 4pm today in the lecture hall KPTC 106, at 5720 S. Ellis Ave., in the building on the southwest corner  of Ellis and 57th Street.

Today, February 11, has been designated International Darwin Day. It’s the birthday of Charles Darwin, the evolutionary biologist, who was born on February 11 1809. In addition to celebrating Darwin’s contributions to science, Darwin Day provides a special day for the consideration of science, and the promotion of the advancement of science. On a personal level, it provides a day to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual courage, a scientific approach to thinking, encouragement of curiosity, and the search for truth. And by the way, on next Thursday, February 18, from 2 to 3:30 pm, there is a scheduled presentation on the voyage of the Beagle, Darwin’s great voyage, with Tim Andrews at Renaissance Court at the Chicago Cultural Center.


Earlier this week while I was at the Chicago Cultural Center I went to see the visiting exhibit “The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen”. If you are in the vicinity of Chicago, by all means come by and don’t miss it.  Theo Jansen has built these wholly distinct “Strandbeests+ – or beach creatures, which, as the exhibit says, blur the lines of art, engineering, science, and performance. These are kinetic objects that move, some on articulated legs. Some are larger than human size. Although they are referred to as sculptures, they are built mostly out of plastic rods that look from a distance like poles of cane. I attended a live demonstration of one of the Strandbeests walking along on its multiple and  multiply articulated legs. I expect to return to see this exhibit a number of times while it is in Chicago, until May 1.

This evening Leo and I will be at our Thursday evening “Cafe Society” dinner and discussion group. So called because it started out a number of years ago as one of the local Cafe Society discussion groups organized under the auspices of the Illinois Humanities Council  , and has continued ever since. Join us any Thursday evening at 6pm at Valois Restaurant on 53rdStreet in Hyde Park for food and conversation.

Tomorrow, February 12, there is scheduled  to be a first meeting of Pope Francis with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, in Havana. This will be a truly historic event, as a meeting of the Pope, who heads the western Catholic Church, with the head of the Russian Orthodox church or with the heads of other Eastern orthodox churches, has not taken place in over 1000 years.

Also, tomorrow is  Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but since I will be going out to Argonne National Laboratory to attend the physics colloquium and have lunch with colleagues, I’m going to be thinking a bit about Abraham Lincoln today. Mostly seriously, but not all. For instance, if you thought Lincoln was all about law and politics, take a look at this quotation from Abraham Lincoln: “Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”






Published by

Caroline Herzenberg

I'm an old grad from the University of Chicago. Born in New Jersey in 1932 (Wow! That long ago!), grew up in Oklahoma, undergraduate at MIT, University of Chicago PhD physics 1958. Various academic and research positions. I've been retired from Argonne National Laboratory for over a decade now. I haven't been engaged in any recent professional work in physics, but have been exploring other interests during retirement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *