For my October 2012 diary, go here.

Diary - November 2012

John Baez

November 1, 2012

Here is a photo of Manhattan taken by Iwan Baan on the night of Wednesday October 31, after it was hit by Hurricane Sandy. It appeared on the cover of New York magazine.

November 17, 2012

Avant-garde artist Johnson Chang has outdone himself. He's recreated an entire traditional Chinese village, Jinze, using ancient building methods! "I want to see the revival of Chinese material culture. Four thousand years of tradition need to be kept alive. ... no other country has tried to cut off its history more radically."

November 24, 2012

There's no place like... Tiandechung. It's an imitation of Paris: a gated community in China, built in 2007 by Zhejiang Guangsha Co. Ltd.. It has room for 100,000 people, but at last report only 2,000 people lived there, and many of the Parisian-style apartments are occupied by migrant workers who are building the place.

One hour's drive away there's an imitation of London! See more pictures here:

November 25, 2012

On 3 September 2004, a 23-year-old woman was hit by a 'bolt from he he blue' while climbing on a ridge in the Alps. Her partner said the sky was clear and sunny — when suddenly he heard cracking thunder and was thrown to the ground by a massive shockwave! The woman was also thrown down. She lost consciousness for a few seconds and was confused afterwards. She had no vision, and was dazzled by a bright light. She was rescued by air, hospitalized and, because of extreme agitation, was sent into a drug-induced coma for 3 days.

After being weaned from a respirator, she was initially alert. But she complained of blurred vision, and saw golden flashes throughout her whole visual field. She couldn't read, but she could recognize familiar faces.

That evening, things got weirder. She started seeing unknown people, animals and objects acting in different scenes, as if in a movie. None of the persons or scenes was familiar to her, and she became very frightened by their occurrence.

For example, an old lady was sitting on a ribbed radiator, who then became thinner and thinner, finally vanishing through the slots of the radiator. Later, on her left side a cowboy riding on a horse came from the distance. As he approached her, he tried to shoot her, making her feel defenseless because she couldn't move or shout for help.

In another scene, two male doctors, one fair and one dark haired, and a woman, all with strange metal glasses and unnatural brownish-red faces, were tanning in front of a sunbed, then having sexual intercourse and afterwards trying to draw blood from her.

She couldn't tell if these scenes were real or unreal. She didn't report them at the time for fear that she might be considered insane. She insisted on being transferred to her hometown hospital.

In 10 days she had almost completely recovered, with just a single persistent spot in her visual field. She felt good.

But 20 weeks after the accident, she reported feeling mournful and unenergetic. For a month, she'd been having frequent nightmares that included strange flashbacks — pardon the pun — exactly replicating the visual hallucinations and paranoid delusions she originally had!

She had trouble sleeping due to these nightmares. She was treated with 20 milligrams of paroxetine and referred to a specialist in trauma therapy. Her nightmares vanished after 2 weeks. During the next few months, she experienced several depressive episodes and considered suicide... but eventually she completely recovered.

She experienced those hallucinations just once more, the night after her grandmother's house caught on fire. But for long after the initial lightning strike, she remembered the different scenes very well and was able to describe every detail.

It's interesting how something crude like a lightning bolt can do such complex and specific things. This tale is summarized from:

November 30, 2012

Astronomers recently found some incredibly old planets: 12.8 billion years old! That's amazing, because the Universe is just 13.5 billion years old... so back when these planets and the star they orbit were formed, there wasn't much except hydrogen and helium: not many heavier elements had formed yet! By comparison, our solar system is 4.5 billion years old.

This star is called HIP 11952. It's in our galaxy just 375 light years away, and it's only half as massive as our Sun (hence its long life). Its two Jupiter-sized planets have orbital periods of 290 days and 7 days. For more see this nice article:

and the original paper:

The picture is by Timotheos Samartzidis.

For my December 2012 diary, go here.

NEW YORK - Following Hurricane Sandy's destructive tear through the Northeast this week, the nation's 300 million citizens looked upon the trail of devastation and fully realized, for the first time, that this is just going to be something that happens from now on.

Gradually comprehending that this sort of thing is now just a fact of life, citizens all across America stared blankly at images of destroyed homes, major cities paralyzed by flooding, and ravaged communities covered in debris, and finally acknowledged that this, apparently, is now a regular part of the human experience.

"Oh, I see — this is just going to be how it is from here on out," said New York City resident Brian Marcello, coming to terms with the fact that an immense storm that cripples mass transit systems and knocks out power for millions in the nation's largest metropolitan area can no longer be regarded as an isolated, freak incident, and will henceforth be just a normal thing that happens. "Hugely destructive weather events are going to keep happening, and they are going to get worse and worse, and living through them is something that will be a part of all our lives from now on, whether we like it or not."

"I get it now," Marcello added. - The Onion

© 2012 John Baez