Of old buildings and new visions

I was reading in yesterday’s NY Times about the controversy surrounding plans to renovate, and substantially change the façade of 2 Columbus Circle, a building by Edward Durell Stone. The City Review has a scathing article about the new plans. You can see some of the renderings of the new plans by Brad Cloepfil. Wikipedia has a nice long article about the building. My opinion is that the building should be preserved in photographs, and the new design be allowed to go through. It is just not a good building to inhabit: there are no windows!

All this talk of preservation mentioned the loss of the old Penn Station. So, I had to look for pictures of the old Penn Station, a beautiful grand building that was torn down in 1963 and not replaced. Penn Station is now just a basement.

Old Penn Station concourse

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Katrina’s effect on LIGO

I’d been wondering what was going on at LIGO Livingston since it’s right outside Baton Rouge, and would be affected by Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Katrina (storm science, multimedia). In Google Maps, you can see the interferometer just north of the marker for Livingston. Anyway, there had been no word at all via email from anyone at the lab. I tried to connect to the lab website (linked above), but it was down and still is, as of this writing. Finally, the lab director sent email to all members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration that the lab is closed, and off-limits, and its power cut due to Katrina.

I was just mentioning this lack of contact to Phil Torrone on IRC, and he mentioned that Brian Greene told him in an interview that physicists (and I would say scientists, in general) don’t do very much informal online communication, like IM, IRC, or blogs. That’s changing, though. Which would be a good thing, in my opinion. I’m very accustomed to having a rather constant “feed” of informal information, and feel very out of touch when I don’t get any contact.

Listening to New wave jacket by Polysics

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Go, Brazil!

Brazil has decided to turn down a US offer of $40 million for AIDS programs because the money comes with a stupid ideological string: the aid is contingent upon Brazil condemning prostitution. So, Brazil decided to go with their empirically proven program of handing out condoms to prostitutes, and give up the $40 million. All I can say is, “Bravo!”

Experts here and abroad say the disagreement over how to deal with prostitution is symptomatic of a larger conflict between Brazil and the United States over AIDS policy. Brazil, which spends more than $400 million annually on what is regarded as the most successful AIDS program in the developing world, is taking a pragmatic approach in combating the global epidemic, the experts say, while the United States, increasingly, is not.

“It’s not as if you’re choosing between two neutral policy programs,” said Chris Beyrer of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Brazil has good data to show that their approach works, and to ask them to change that, even if they get the additional money, to one for which there is no evidence, just because of moral squeamishness in the United States, is an extraordinary position to take.”

“Obviously abstinence is the safest way to avoid AIDS,” Dr. [Pedro] Chequer [, director of the Brazilian government's AIDS program,] said. “But it’s not viable in an operational sense unless you are proposing that mankind be castrated or genetically altered, and then you would end up with something that is not human but something else altogether.”

“If we increasingly focus the prevention of AIDS along these lines, we are generating carnage, a slaughter,” he said. “It's not a realistic vision, and the epidemic is going to grow larger and larger.”

Listening to Chillout Session Ibiza

London bombing

London’s been hit by a set of four bombs, though these are much smaller than the ones from two weeks ago. Authorities report one casualty, and no fatalities. The BBC has live continuing video and audio coverage.

OK. Allow me to gripe a bit about the blogosphere. In particular, the “alpha blogs” like BoingBoing. Here is their post about the bombings. Note, that they link to Flickr, Wikinews, the Guardian News Blog, and the London Metblog. No mention whatsoever of one of the leading news producers, viz. the BBC, which has live audio, video, as well as eyewitness images and reports, which, despite the similarities to blogging, is not called that. If you compare the Flickr, Wikinews, Guardian News Blog, and London Metblog coverage, you will find vastly less organized information about ongoing developments. At least the London Metblog links to the Beeb, the Guardian News Blog, and ITN News. I don’t dispute the interest value of the popular blogs, but I do think that they could at least link to arguably the best news coverage.

In other news, China floats the yuan.

Listening to Krazeee from the album “Krazeee” by Sylvie Marks & Hal9000

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Ah, crap

What a way for London to wake up after the good news about winning the bid to host the Olympics in 2012.

Several people have been injured after explosions on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London.

A police spokesman said there were “quite a large number of casualties” at Aldgate Tube Station.

And Scotland Yard confirmed one of several reports of explosions on buses in the city - in Tavistock Place - but said the cause was not yet known.

Sky News has more. Google’s aggregation.

Listening to But One Day from the album “But One Day” by Ute Lemper