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03 September

Today was my second day in my new role of Director of the McGill School of Computer Science (roughly equivalent to "Chairman of the Department"). The school is part of the Faculty of Science, but it has many links to Engineering as well. I also have some plans to increase the visibility of robotics at McGill, and this platform should help.
Trottier Computer Science and Engineering Building

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
03 December

A long time friend of the family, Betty Goodwin, died yesterday just 3 weeks after her husband Martin. She was a very well known Canadian artist and for many years a close friend of my mother. In the 1960's and 1970's they essentially lived in their place in the Laurentians (where she had a studio in the basement) and I remember visiting them many times there.

Particularly bizarre was the fact I was literally talking to my son Nicholas about her and her work when the news of her death came to us. I probably hadn't mentioned her name for a year prior to that.

Her work was a rather unusual bend of conventional objects and semi-abstract material. Back when I knew them better much of it centered on etchings, and she had a lot of traditional but complex-looking apparatus in her studio. It's rather a shock to have somebody die that was a longstanding fixture of your life, even when it is somebody you have not seen recently. It's a sobering moment to reflect on one's own mortality and the transient nature of existence. In this case though, she also leaves a non-transient, substantive and impressive imprint on the Canadian art scene.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
14 March

I was talking to a colleague (Luc) recently and mentioned I had an interest in astronomy which converged to a limited extent to my former interest in photography. In this context, I thought I would share an early attempt at capturing solar flares. There were taken using a small hand-held camera.

These photos don't compare well with the serious pictures from a big telescope, or (of course) from a solar observation satellite like SOHO, but I was pretty happy with them as personal successes. Better yet, I wasn't even blinded in the effort. This was, incidentally, a quiet day on the sun but I took the pictures then because the local viewing conditions were acceptable.

Click on any image to see a bigger version.

Solar Flares

This makes my pictures seem pretty dismal, but here's the latest picture and a link from the EIT (Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope) on the SOHO satellite for reference. SOHO was built by the ESA and is being operated by NASA.

If you want to try this yourself, you can get the latest solar weather report here, but the sun has been very quiet for quite a long time now -- we're in a solar minimum now. The peak in activity is supposed to be in 2011 or 2012 and it is supposed to be strong. There have also been observations of an unprecedented reduction in activity in the Sun's Great Conveyor Belt, which has effects for the next 20 years and is expected to lead to reduced solar activity in solar Cycle 25 in 2022 (and thus increased cosmic ray incursion on earth and in earth orbit -- i.e. better-irradiated astronauts).

References: Predicting The Strength Of Solar Cycle 24 Using A Flux-transport Dynamo-based Tool, Mausumi Dikpati, Giuliana de Toma & Peter A. Gilman, 2006, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L05102, doi:10.1029/2005GL025221

Radiative Processes and Small-scale MHD in the Convection Zone and Photosphere

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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25 March

I snapped this photo on the Moon with Venus beside it on New Year's Day up North on Montreal. This was a pretty cold day and thus the sky was nice and clear, and the near-conjunction of Venus and the Moon this year was striking.

Dudek: Venus and the Moon

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30 March

This short video clip shows a biomorphic display. It's pretty cool.

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03 May

Krys and I just got back from the screening of the This American Life live-to-tape movie cum radio show. This is a filmed representation of a live event that took place a few days ago, and which was broadcast live to a range of movie theaters all over the USA. The radio show (also available as a podcast) in a gem, but it is hard to accurately classify in a few words. My best shot is to call it a weekly collection of touching stories that range from amusing to bittersweet, and which often have an ironic or literary feel.

The Montreal event too place in a cineplex, and one with fairly large screens. The place wasn't sold out, but it was probably over 50% full, which is way more people than were there for any other Sunday-afternoon screening. Amazingly, in the two minutes it took to find a seat Krys spotted two other people we know, suggesting the crowd was biased, somehow, towards whatever circles we move in. There wasn't much live clapping at the end, but there was

some, which is a pretty positive indicator for a subdued Canadian movie crowd.

Paying to see a recording of a radio show being made was definitely on odd experience, and one of the striking things about it is that it brings home the substantial difference between radio and visual media like TV or movies. I'd say it's a worthwhile experience for a fan of the show, and it's probably a good introduction to those who have not listened before, but I don't think I would do this on a regular basis. While it was interesting to see how the show was made, and the personal connection to the authors was stronger when you can see them, a certain personal touch is lost with the additional of the visual component. In some sense, the host Ira Glass or Starlee Kine could be the people that I expected and imagined them to be when I only heard them: now it turns out that they have their own identities and appearance independent of my imagination.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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