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Paul Preuss
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Back to writing novels, plus nonfiction science and other interesting miscellany
Back to writing novels, plus nonfiction science and other interesting miscellany

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A cheer for Michael Barnett, on hand with film editor Walter Murch – one of the best in the business, with the Oscars to prove it, plus a genuine interest in science, literature, and how to tell as story – when “Particle Fever” started its one-week run at the Rafael in San Rafael, CA. (I’d hoped the run would be extended, but no such luck.) Michael, a theoretical physicist, was for a long time head of outreach for the ATLAS experiment, on which the movie centers. As a Berkeley Lab chauvinist, I was delighted that ATLAS (to whom the Lab supplies the largest US contingent of scientists in the over-2,000-member collaboration) was the focus of the story, but I suspect it has more to do with ATLAS’s then-spokesperson (that is, lead scientist), Fabiola Giannotti, and possibly the experiment’s convenience to CERN headquarters and the Geneva airport, as opposed to CMS, which requires a drive of some miles. Barnett handled the technical/philosophical questions with aplomb – questions about high-energy physics are invariably both. I first started following Murch’s film work, oddly enough, when he was editing “American Graffiti,” for which he designed a wonderful soundtrack. The editing was done at Francis Ford Coppola’s original American Zoetrope studio south of Market, and Murch had installed the front end of a car with a car-radio speaker through which he filtered some of Wolfman Jack’s play list. Much of that sound came out of the movie cars that were cruising the streets of San Rafael right in front of the theater where “Particle Fever” was playing, a movie that packed as much fun and excitement as that long-ago teen epic. It's still in the area. http://bit.ly/1ha4PAx
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How does memory warp time? It’s a problem philosophers, psychologists, neurologists – not to mention lawyers – have wrestled with for centuries. It came as a surprise to find that Patrick Leigh Fermor’s extraordinary life may offer a new example of an age-old conundrum. The preamble is at http://bit.ly/1d5NPXc, although my exploration of it will have to wait (not long, I hope).
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I came across the story – almost the legend – of Patrick Leigh Fermor after spending time in a village in Crete that had been destroyed by the Germans, I was persuaded, because of his irresponsible adventures. What a revelation to discover the real Paddy. The transformation began by reading his magical memoir, A Time of Gifts, telling of his walk across Europe from Rotterdam to Constantinople (he would never call it Istanbul) at the age of 18. His charm turned a hard slog into a two-year romance with a vanished world: http://bit.ly/1el2pf4 
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Patrick Leigh Fermor made his name in World War II by kidnapping the German commandant of Crete. He was 28. He died a couple of years ago at age 96, after a lifetime spent romancing beautiful women, smoking up to a hundred cigarettes a day, drinking enough to put any man under the table, and ... what makes him worth knowing about ... writing a dozen incomparable books. I discovered the legend of Paddy late but in the right way, by walking over Psiloritis, Crete’s mythical Mount Ida. 
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Questions about truth in fiction – and “creative” nonfiction, and even in writing that’s supposedly not fiction at all – lead to deeper concerns about what matters in the story you want to tell. It may not be accuracy at all. I have a recent blog post that touches on some of this at http://paulpreuss.com/wormholes-vs-wormholes/. It’s just the beginning. 
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My latest blog post looks at Mario Livio’s “Brilliant Blunders,” which was a fine going-away present from my Berkeley Lab colleagues earlier this year. Livio tackles some infamous goofs by Darwin, Kelvin, Pauling, Hoyle, and Einstein, loosely grouped around the concept of evolution (species, Earth, the universe). Where he comes to grief is with a specious solution to the puzzle of the cosmological constant. See http://bit.ly/GLEcCH
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"Gravity" sails onto my best-movies-ever list not only for the Oscar-earning performance by Sandra Bullock but for seamless effects that seem more documentary than digital. That's because lots of them aren't digital at all. Bill Neil and Jesse James Chisholm clued me into Bot & Dolly, who did a lot of the work and hint at how it was done in this video. 
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The blog is underway, and writing it has opened a view of the world(s) that's new to me. I started from the proposition that it’s impossible to tell a good story without lying. But the late philosopher David Lewis claimed quite seriously that all fictional worlds where “the fiction is told, but as known fact rather than fiction” are not only possible but real. If that reminds you of Hugh Everett III’s many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, you’re not alone. My last two posts touch on these matters: http://bit.ly/18N4xIW, http://bit.ly/1bINvyb.
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Back from glorious days in New York filled with extraordinary experiences at the Met, the Whitney, and the Guggenheim, catching up with friends, and productive business resulting in too much to do in the time available before we're off to LA tomorrow. Back October 1 to start a month with nose to the grindst... uh, the computer screen. This Geometric/Archaic krater in the Met's revamped Greek and Roman galleries pictures a warship and "marines"; it would have held a lot of wine, but was more likely a funerary offering. 
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Inviting you to check out Paul Preuss Fiction & Science at paulpreuss.com, my brand new website sampling fiction in the works, previously published fiction, a smattering of science stories that tickled me, more biographical stuff than you need, and a blog that dives into that old thorn in my side, the relationship (or lack thereof) of my 1993 novel Core to the 2003 movie The Core. The short link is bit.ly/1awGmAi
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