Monday, June 8, 2009

Don't call me chicken...

James Dean is an unbelievable actor. Basically his whole career consists of only three movies he acted in just right before his tragic death. Yet still, almost 50 years later people recognize his name and face. He's an icon of the 1950's and in the same line with Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley.

That's simply miraculous, movie history knows no other example of anything like it. I personally consider Jimmy as one of my favorite actors too. Of course he is a sensational talent and maybe it's partly because he really had only three big performances so no one ever saw him actually doing something wrong, choosing a bad role or whatever. I personally think that James Dean would have been nearly as big if "Rebel without a cause" was his only movie.

His devoted, stylish and touching larger-than-life performance as Jim Stark is just startling experience to watch. Legendary "Rebel without a cause" is a timeless drama and in many ways it's far from being old fashioned. It's moving, beautiful and incredibly impressive, the best movie of its decade and one of the best movies ever made.

The planetarium visited by the schoolkids, and the site of the final shootout, is the Griffith Observatory, 2800 East Observatory Road, in Griffith Park.

Another interesting artifact is the Foucault pendulum, which had quite the limelight, being placed right at the entrance of the observatory. The pendulum consists of a heavy metallic bob hanging from a very thin, probably inextensible, wire attached to the center of an octagonal painting on the ceiling. I would think that the length of this wire is about 10 meters. However, the pendulum is driven as opposed to set into free oscillations. The driving force, though a very small one, is a magnetic impulse given at every interval, just enough to cancel any damping effect there might be.

The Foucault's pendulum plays a crucial role in Astronomy and Earth Physics, as a means of proving that the earth is rotating. As it is free to oscillate in any vertical plane (owing to gravity, that is), it can be shown that the plane of oscillation itself slowly precesses about the vertical "line" of equilibrium because of a Coriolis force felt by the bob, owing to the slow rotation of the earth. In 24 hours, it will rotate an angle alpha, related to the sine of the latitude. If the pendulum were oscillating at the equator, this angle alpha would be zero meaning that it does not precess, and at the north and south poles, the angle is 90 degrees. In Los Angeles, based on my calculations, the angle would be about 50 degrees.