Friday, January 15, 2010

Google Streetview: Physics Institutes

Google streetview meanwhile covers quite a decent fraction of North America and Europe. Here's some physics institutes that I found captured. Click on the image to go to Google maps and look around.

The Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario:

The Kavli Institute in Santa Barbara (turn around and enjoy the scenery):

The Department of Physics at the University of Arizona:

The Department of Physics at Duke University:

CERN, main entry (thanks to Stefan):

Pupin Physics Laboratories at Columbia University:

Caltech's new Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics:

The physics department at the Technical University Delft, Netherlands (thanks to Arjen):

University of Washington, Seattle, Physics Department (thanks to Evan):

Add your finds in the comments. Show me something I haven't seen before :-)


  1. Oh, coolness, Bee! Thanks!

    You can amend this, right? That is to say, add more?

    What I'd suggest is:

    IAS - Princeton
    Princeton University - Fine Hall (home of "the Tobacco Incident" between Einstein and Bohr)
    Santa Fe Institute
    Niels Bohr IAS
    Zurich Polytechnic
    Cal Tech
    University of Edinburgh
    University of Göttingen

    I'm sure I'm missing many other places. Which ones?

  2. Steven: Please provide a link to Google maps. I really don't have time to look them all up which is why I was hoping for your help! Best,


  3. Is Lee Smolin the kind of to come to the PI by a nice yellow-blue train or by a white Mercedes-Benz?

  4. The train you see in the picture is only there for decorative purposes. Not kidding. It goes once per week for some historical tour at 5 km per hour, typically with lots of doot-doot, chuck,chuck and waving children on it.

    To be fair there's also a train going to Toronto (the train station is some km away though) and they have plans on some more useful public transportation system, but presently the railway situation in Waterloo is pretty bad (from a German perspective).



  5. This one is not for pure physics, rather interdisciplinary, but it's not far away from where I am sitting down now.

  6. Nice !
    Here is the only one i can think of, even if it has not known much physics, seems to be a nice place where to work. The IHES : Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques, kinda like the Institute for Advanced Study. Seven Fields recipient among ten permanent professors...


  7. Well, mine was Jean-Marie Lehn's Institute for Supramolecular Engineering in Strasbourg. There is not much great physicists in it (as far as I know), but there is physics (nanostuffs, and so on...) With the IHES (is that really this sort of worm-eaten hut in the background?) we are far away from the initial subject. Cocorico ! Anyway.

  8. Nice idea to share some physics places.

    Here is the place where Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1896.

    And two personal places:

    Aula and physics department at Technical University Delft, Netherlands.

    Institut d'Optique, Palaiseau, near Paris.

  9. Arjen: Unfortunately, the corresponding street was not named after Becquerel, but after Cuvier... Is that fair do that? I don't think so.

  10. Hello Jérôme,

    Well I think Cuvier had historical precedence over Becquerel. It might also have been called after Pierre Curie, who was born in that street, or after Marie Curie, who had her first lab there.

    By the way, there are other historical physics places in Strasbourg, aren't there? Isn't this building the place where Ferdinand Braun built the first cathode-ray tube?

  11. Arjen: Glad to learn such a thing, thank you. This is the old university. However, this ancient building is no longer used for academic purpose. The campus is now where the Jean-Marie Lehn's ISIS is, I mean, around it. If one can visit where Braun was (at a time when Strasbourg was Strassburg and belonged to Germans), I do not know... It would be worth giving it a try !

  12. University of Washington Department of Physics:

  13. Isaac Newton's historical research facility. It seems like this is where he first had the inspiration about gravity theory.

  14. 112 Mercer St., Princeton, NJ, Einsteins last home (indeed, he passed away there). Princeton-IAS is to the right (West) a mile and South, Princeton University itself is to the left (East) about a mile. Although the house looks small, believe me it goes way back. The current residents do all they can to distract tourists. There is no number on the house, and a small wrought iron gate with "Private Residence" in the ironwork.

  15. Actually, that didn't work. That takes to to Nassau St. in Princeton itself. If you go West from there the road soon forks and the left fork is Mercer St..

    Go to 108 Mercer (left, South). That's actually 112. I'm telling you, the residents REALLY discourage tourists, however, we have Google Maps. Nyah to the nyah.

  16. Hi Bee,

    I just noticed that after looking at all these fine buildings that house the brain trust of modern physics not a single one seems to have a tower let alone one made of ivory . This leaves me as disillusioned as much if | were ever to discover it had rained in Camelot during the day :-)



  17. Hi Phil,

    Speaking about towers, here is the one where Louis de Broglie got acquainted with wave behavior, because he served there as a radiotelegraphy operator. Fortunately, it didn't become his ivory tower.



  18. Hi Arjen,

    That’s interesting as I didn’t know that, although I do know that the military using the Eiffel Tower as a radio tower that saved it from being torn down, since the city planners of the time considered it as a eye sore and a blot on the city of Paris. Goes to show that for many people symmetry is not appreciated as being beautiful. Of course this tower represented the technical breakthrough that would make possible the towers of commerce, which I’m sure will for future generations mark as being a symbol of our times for better or worse. Another interesting thing about the Eiffel Tower is it gave advanced warning of the enemy’s plans to advance on Paris and resultantly had them able to mobilize the army to be able to save the city. This has me to wonder if DeBroglie was there at the time when the transmission was received.



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  20. Hi Bee,

    I am not absolutely sure, if the photo represents the physics institutes too.

    Best Kay

  21. Kay, your Cambridge link was actually showing King's College Chapel (a spectacular gothic chapel).

    Most of the major work from Cambridge comes from the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. It's a wonderful series of "pavilion" buildings. This is where Hawking works, and where Neil Turok used to work.

    Personally, I studied in the concrete monstrosity that is theJames Clerk Maxwell Building in Edinburgh University.

  22. You have too much spare time. This is a bad sign.

  23. I did some 360 deg panoramas from Caltech campus back in 2006:

    You need Apple's Quicktime player to see them, may or may not work since Apple no longer does QTVR development.

    I can have them viewable on the iPhone/iTouch (free PangeaVR app), so you can carry around & show people a 360x180 deg panorama of Physics Institutes.

    Streetview is done with a real-time panorama hardware device from "Immersive Media":

    They just drive it around on all the streets, dump the data-base to Google Maps. Whoala, everyone can see a panorama from where-ever. Ken Turkowski (Computer Graphics pioneer, he & I were classmates as EE undergrads @UIUC, he is Class of '77, I'm Class of '78) is now at Google working on Streetview, after leading the QTVR group @Apple. I met him at SIGGRAPH 2008:

    where I met Louise Riofrio (cosmologist, & Kea's friend). All this multimedia (pictures, videos, Computer Animation) & Immersive Media (360 degree panoramas, etc) is fueled by Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (Computer Graphics/Computer Vision/Robotics/Artificial Intelligence), which was my PhD field of study. The recent 2010 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas:

    is also a manifestation of EE & Computer Science. It is a key factor, for the "Alternative Model" for HEP Funding. I.e., "B. Entertainment" (in addition to "A. Information", Dissemination of Science to the Public). Brian Greene/Columbia is working with Disney Entertainment on multimedia-technologies, G. Lisi has a TV Reality Series. I'm working on a NASA/JPL project for Public Outreach/Education (Mars Science Laboratory, launching in 2011), using iTunes video-podcast (distribution over mobile-media-solutions iPod/iTouch/iPhone).

    The buzz at 2010 CES was 3D HDTV, so this is a great Technology that is looking for a suitable platform for demonstration. I.e., Space, HEP (Physics Institutes, inside of CERN LHC, etc), Outdoors (G. Lisi, Kea, L. Randall are avid sportsman) are example candidates. Automotive is another category, especially given the impending revolution in Electric Vehicles (EV).

    Here are some sample 360x180 panoramas for supercars:

    Note the one with the young girls in the Lotus sportscar. Projecting this to the Public, will help STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Outreach & reach young people, girls, minorities, etc. The "auto" (sportscar) could be the "bridge solution" to esoteric-science (Physics Institutes). 1 father at the 09 LA Auto Show remarked to me at the Porsche booth:

    "my son was asking how were these cars made, they should have a display about Engineering"

    So, Immersive Media can be used for Inspiration, as part of STEM Outreach.

    "Inspiration..before Outreach"
    -- David Levy, amateur-astronomer

  24. Phil: I think de Broglie was in charge of tapping German coded broadcast messages, whether for the technical part or the informational part, from 1913 to 1918, so he certainly was one of the best informed French people during WW1.

    Chimp: when will it be possible to view online events, talks or lectures in 360° full video, being able to look around at the board, the speaker or the audience, whenever we want? Isn't that what Immersive Media achieved in demo already 4 years ago?



  25. Hi Arjen,

    So not only was de Broglie a father of the quantum, yet also a saviour of Paris as the French army was given the guidance of waves to interfere with the enemy’s plan. I wonder if the counter attack had two routes for the army to follow and if either army detected the interference destroyed:-)



  26. Hi Andrew,

    thanks for the correction. I found it under Cambridge UK University.

    Best Kay

  27. Hi Kay, yes, the Chapel is part of King's College which is one of the colleges of Cambridge University. It's undoubtedly the most famous building associated with Cambridge University. It's interior is a bit special.

    I was born in Cambridge and know the area well. People we know who are still there say the town has gone downhill very badly over the last 20 years or so and is now quite rough. Shame.

  28. Andrew, the place you schooled at Edinburgh, while ugly on the outside, looks very functional and conducive to learning (granted, I haven't seen the inside).

    The place where Hawking works and Turok once worked on the other hand, looks horrible (beauty is subjective and I have the right to my opinion so nobody beat up on me thx in advance).

    I mean, c'mon, it looks like a friggin' bunker! Are there something like 7 sublvels with illuminating white walls and a clean-room effect? That's fine then because looks like book covers can be deceiving. But, come ON man. Doesn't that building look like something that looked REALLY good during the bidding process when the bidding architects showed the model and won the job, other than something than looked good upon completion?

  29. Hi Steven. I'm afraid the JCMB in Edinburgh was as soul-destroying on the inside as it looks on the outside. Endless corridors and rooms with small windows. Here's a funny review, and a more flattering photo.

    British universities of the 1960s & 70s are some of the worst examples of concrete brutalism you will find anywhere in the world. The most notorious example is Brunel University which is frequently used as a location in TV and movies whenever the want a frightening futuristic dystopia, including A Clockwork Orange. I see Bee is in Brighton this weekend - I seem to remember that was a pretty ugly group of buildings.

    I see what you mean about the Cambridge building looking like a bunker, but it's not the best photo. I think it's actually very pleasant with big windows and plenty of grass. It's one of these "environmentally friendly" buildings and has won awards. It's got a Wikipedia page, and there's a wonderful article in the Guardian.

    At the end of the day, though, it's the people that count - not the buildings. These buildings are just corridors and rooms.

  30. The Perimeter Institute is IMHO the most creative and striking design (likely newer too), yet I also like those classy old-fashioned buildings. Now, when is one going to be built using the perhaps too-cutting-edge idea of putting it all (except for access/plaza/intro stuff) underground to save heating and cooling costs?

    Heh, my captcha gotcha was "noweigh"!
    I say, weigh!

  31. HI Bee,
    I think the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory has to be added to the list.
    This is the place where Helium was liquified for the first time and where super conductivity was discovered. It also housed H.A. Lorentz. (The one of the transformations) I studied physics there when it still was a laboratory. This is not the case anymore and I still think it is a pitty.

  32. Hi Marco,

    It seems something went wrong with the copy and paste of the link. Here a corrected link for the Kamerlingh Onnes laboratorium. This must have been a familiar place for Einstein, Ehrenfest and Bohr at the start of the 20th century, as Lorentz was quite active in organizing scientific activities.

  33. Hi Arjen,

    Thanks for the correction. Must have been sleepy. You are right about Einstein and Ehrenfest. Ehrenfest was in fact professor in Leiden in those days and organised qolloquia wich are still held in his name.

  34. Germany is still a "white spot" on the Streetview map, so no Physics Institutes in Frankfurt (though here is a post about the old Frankfurt Physics Institute), Berlin or Heidelberg...

    Apropos Strasbourg: Here is the entrance of the "Institut de Recherches Subatomiques", which is involved, among other projects, in the ALICE heavy-ion detector at the LHC. Curiously, the sign at the entrance gate has been partially blurred, perhaps because it sports "physique nucléaire" and other dangerous words...

    Cheers, Stefan

  35. The Niels Bohr Institute:

    (this is operational for only a week or so, just in time for your blog post!)

  36. Chimp: when will it be possible to view online events, talks or lectures in 360° full video, being able to look around at the board, the speaker or the audience, whenever we want? Isn't that what Immersive Media achieved in demo already 4 years ago?

    That Immersive Media had that thing running back in 2005 NAB, they had a guy walking around in a backpack at the conference -- delivering LIVE immersive 360 deg video over WiFi. Their business-model back then was selling the hardware (very expensive). They've since moved a service-oriented model (like the Google contract for Streetview).

    There is Tech for 360 deg panorama movies:



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