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Friday, March 20, 2009

New Purpose

Today we depart Caltech's Henry M. Robinson Laboratory of Astrophysics, just as the astrophysicists themselves are in the process of doing. A new group of scientists will soon be moving in.

Pictured here is another of the building's fanciful light fixtures. This one, in the vestibule, is made to represent an armillary sphere. It follows the fashion of the library's fixtures, with signs of the Zodiac whirling around an inner sun.

Upon renovation, the building will become the Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science. Their website says the Center was founded "to address the complex issue of global climate change from a wide range of disciplines." To do so, they will draw upon the Caltech faculty.

Yesterday's great minds housed themselves in the Robinson Lab while applying their excellent brains to the science of astrophysics. I think it's appropriate to repurpose this building (it will of course be LEED certified) for use by Caltech's current and future great minds while applying their excellent brains to the environmental problems we face. Who better to tackle this monumental, planet-wide dilemma than Caltech, where science reigns over ideology?

It is befitting that the "sun" inside this armillary sphere is a CFL bulb.

13 comments:

altadenahiker said...

Great tour. Thank you.

Katie said...

Interesting to see a light fixture with zodiac symbols on it at a scientific institution like Caltech. I guess even techies and scientists want to know what the stars have to tell them on a personal level. Beautiful fixture; thanks for the link to explain armillary spheres as I had no clue what that meant.

Margaret said...

I had the exact same response as Katie. It's interesting.

cieldequimper said...

Interesting and beautiful.

Petrea said...

It has been my pleasure, Hiker.

Katie and Margaret: perhaps, but my guess is that the Zodiac symbols are more a nod to the origins of the science. Those origins may seem quaint, but they're the profound beginnings of what got us here. Even Isaac Newton thought of himself as an alchemist and would be surprised to know we think of him mainly as the co-inventor of calculus and discoverer of the laws of motion.

Thanks, CQ.

J+P said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J+P said...

The romance and peril in this subject can hardly be overstated. How long have we looked to the stars for guidance? How many “systems” of prognostication have been forgotten in our yearning for some reply from the outer deeps? Our Creator seems to have fled; could He have left behind a clue in his haste?

Beyond our silvery envelope of air, there’s only the great silence … yet on we trudge. Loren Iseley calls it our “immense journey”—a modest term, when you consider that we came from the oceans, which cradled the primordial self-replicating chemicals …

The millennia we've spent staring heavenward, like Moonwatcher, have brought us to this moment, only to discover that—like children—we’ve projected our own minds onto the sky: the star have no meaning; only motion.

“However vast the darkness, we must make our own light.” —S.Kubrick

Shell Sherree said...

What are you trying to do to me, Petrea??? I'm laden with unrequited lamp love. Your stories about these places have been truly enlightening. {Thank you so much for visiting me, btw!}

{J+P, for some reason you've inspired me to read Le Petit Prince again.}

Petrea said...

I like this quote John found for me:

Data is not information.
Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not understanding.
Understanding is not wisdom.

—Cliff Stoll & Gary Schubert

Daisy said...

It's so interesting to see a historic fixture sporting a very modern CFL light bulb. I guess it's shedding a new light on an old building. Here's to a more sustainable future!

J+P said...

Oh, hell, just add Wisdom is not data & be done with it. It's like a barber pole.

Kris said...

That's pretty cool.

Ms M said...

I love that light fixture -- and thank you for the link about armillary spheres. So interesting!

Also enjoyed reading J+P's entry. A scientific philosopher...