The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Friday, June 27, 2003

The Mystery Spot

Last weekend, Mike and Erica and I went to Santa Cruz's famous "Mystery Spot." I had heard about it on Bay Area Backroads, among other places, and since we were already in Capitola, we figured it would be a fun trip. If you haven't heard of it (or if you've seen the bumper stickers and wondered what it is), it's a tourist attraction in Santa Cruz where (supposedly) "the laws of gravity do not hold."

So, what was it like? Was it worth the $5 entry fee? I'd say so. It was certainly entertaining--mostly because this kooky lady was "tripping out" at everything. ("I can feel the force! It's like an energy!") The brochure was almost as entertaining, too: apparently the strage forces are caused by, among other things, "biocosmic dielectric radiation"! If you want a sense of what you see and do, check out the website My Trip to the Mystery Spot, which spells it out in witty, skeptical detail.

Not long after I got home, I did some web searching to find out what people think of the mystery spot. I was suprised to find that there are a slew of "mystery spots" (or "vortices" or whatever) throughout the country, most of which started in the Great Depression, apparently. Two pages, one by IllusionWorks and another by sandlotscience.com, describe the bulk of the illusions. Some Cal professors have also done research describing exactly how the combination of screwy visual data and being off-balance helps complete the illusion.

(Spoilers to follow...)

So, how does it work? I still haven't figured out exactly how the "people growing taller and shorter" works. Certainly some of it has to do with the visual reference in the background (either the "house" or the fence) but it worked at the bottom of the hill, too--where, as far as I can recall, there weren't any funky visual backgrounds. Also, Mike and I got to be guinea pigs for that "demonstration," and it did indeed seem like our heights were changing. Perhaps the board they have you stand on isn't actually level at the edges? I'm not sure... The websites above go into great detail about how the house itself works...one interesting theory I found on a website had to do with the weighted ball which is "harder to push" in one direction. When I was at the Mystery Spot, I thought it had something to do with the way it's fastened to the ceiling. However, it's much simpler than that: in the "easy to push" direction, one can only push so far before one hits the wall...but in the "hard to push" direction, one can go quite far, thus encountering more resistance.



Saturday, June 14, 2003

Where is the responsiblity?

Prof. Coit "Chip" Blacker gave a very good speech at our commissioning yesterday--edgy enough to be thought-provoking, but patriotic enough to be appropriate. Near the end, he mentioned that our society likes to talk endlessly about our rights, but we rarely dwell on our responsibilities.

It's not just the bats that are corked--we're living in an age of corked news stories, corked earnings reports, corked Olympic bids... I'm not just talking about glee at seeing a celebrity fall from grace--I think there may be a more widespread problem of dishonesty and deception.

"It ain't like it used to be" is a tired refrain, but all this scandal and betrayal of trust makes me wonder whether we really have lost a sense of responsibility that we used to have.



Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Jesse Jackson Hating on Barbershop

I recently saw the film Barbershop, a well-done and entertaining film about a black barbershop in inner-city Chicago. Jesse Jackson, in a media blitz, not only demanded that the producers apologize for certain scenes that make fun of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but also, after they did apologize, insisted that the scenes be deleted from video and DVD versions of the movie.

Rod Dreher points out that there were also digs at Jesse Jackson himself, and that Jackson's behavior is indicative of his intolerance for African-Americans who disagree with him. Moreover, Jackson misses three crucial points: First, all the characters in the barbershop vehemently disagree with the character ("Eddie") who pokes fun at the civil rights leaders. Second, there is some evidence that the criticisms are true. Finally, the theme of the movie is largely about re-capturing the spirit of the older generation--the generation of the civil rights leaders--within the black community. I'm beginning to wonder when the media will stop listening to Jackson's increasingly irrelevant tirades.



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