Day 52: In Which There is More Conference

So the conference is taking place is in the very Modern Architecture building, and for the most part it’s just generally cold concrete at weird angles, except for the mirrored hexagon ceiling and honey comb glass walls.

Sitting on the floor, looking up the lumpy glass walls to the hexagon ceiling. why did they build a building like this

I spent a chunk of time between panels sitting on the floor overthinking this building; each glass chunk is an irregular rhombic dodecahedron (12 mismatching diamonds arranged in a closed solid) which IS the shape the bee hives naturally make, because they pack nicely in 3D space with minimal wall area, and maybe they’re supposed to echo the hexagons on the ceiling? because bees? Rhombic dodecahedrons do have hexagonal cross sections…

And then I had to go to a panel on the eighth floor, and, being on the second floor, I just wandered over the elevator and pressed the ‘up’ key. All my UMass instincts should have woken up when I noticed the elevator only went up to floor 5, but I figured there would be stairs (spoilers: there are no stairs). So I wander around the fifth floor for a while, making a complete circuit before I bump into another kid from my school and go, Hey. This is maybe a stupid question, but can I get to the eighth floor from here? She says, Nope! The first floor and the eighth floor are only connected to each other, and not to the rest of the building, so we have to go down to the first floor (at this point, this bank of elevators had also stopped working, so we took the stairs down), walk to the other side of the building, and take a separate elevator that only goes to the eighth floor. I didn’t dare ask about the sixth or seventh floors. This is why I can’t cope with Modern Architecture. I just want a rational stairwell that connects all the floors! Please!

I also took a chunk of today to wander through the booth section and actually talk to people (which I completely forgot to do yesterday). One group had a wooden puzzle on the table that I beelined towards, picked up, and poked, before actually introducing myself and talking to the guy at the table. He said, If you can solve it, you can keep it. So I starting fiddling with it while asking him about what his group does (gets polar research institutions to talk to each other, mostly) and I solved it! which caused the entire booth to go a little nuts because apparently no one had manged to all day. So I showed them the trick, and they handed me a box. So I won a puzzle today, if nothing else.

The puzzle at hand. Ask silly questions, win silly prizes, I guess?

I also talked to a couple of other people, one whose group is called the Fram, and I said, very excitedly, After Nansen’s Fram? She looked kinda surprised I a) knew who Nansen was and b) cared this much about him and I am once again at a loss how to explain that he was important in my house as a child. I had a strange childhood at least partly because I have strange parents. I bumped into a similar problem talking to a different woman about the eventually opening of the North-West Passage, and she asked me if I was interested in researching it. And, I don’t know, maybe, but most of what I know about the North-West Passage is from staring at wildly inaccurate and hopeful maps of the continental US from the 16 and 1700s, where every new river opened up and turned west to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific. The useless and reckless optimism cracks me up, and that every subsequent map goes, okay, sure the last river didn’t turn out to be the North-West Passage, but what about this one?

I found a couple of harder science panels today too, rather than just a pile of geopolitics, and it’s so nice to be a space I understand further down than international law. There’s a separate thing that gets to me about watching a bunch of social science/law/geopolitics panels back to back, which is actually Everybody talks about the importance of cooperation, and including Native voices and expertise, and considering all stakeholders, and etc etc. It’s not that they’re wrong! All of those things are important! But I can’t tell from where I am if that repetition is because it’s standard practice, or because it’s platitudes. And the contrast about talking wildfire prevention or ice forming mechanisms which is simply a physical process, and it’s very nearly a relief.

There was also a very solid panel about the group that found the wreck of the Endurance (Ernest Shackleton’s ship) earlier this year, and how fancy and high res the satellite images have gotten which allowed them to navigate the ice much more safely. Doing something clever with microwaves and a little bit of other computer trickery, they can get images that are 0.5m to a pixel! That’s so small! They showed some footage off the AUV and the wreck is so beautifully well preserved. That whole talk was very cool, and reminded me of my brief Ernest Shackleton obsession when I was 9ish (it was wedged between the survivalist novels obsession and pirates). You never can tell what nine-year-olds are going to latch onto.

One response to “Day 52: In Which There is More Conference”

  1. Is that the concert hall in Reykjavik?
    That looks like fish scales from the outside. So beautifully iridescent


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