In the emptiness of Wyoming, big structures along the interstate are rare. When the temperatures are ultracold and the factory is emitting tons of vapor, that brings up a new level of interest.
Along Interstate 80, stretches of winter Wyoming are wide and barren like I wouldn’t have believed.
In a few stretches, mountains or wind farms crop up in the distance.
But it’s perhaps this image of an orange house, like something from a mid-twentieth-century landscape painting, that best captures the experience.
The American West appears in the hills beyond Malibu, California: Small communities connected by winding roads in the shadow of Castro Crest. Visiting Balmoral Farm nearby, I compared (in my mind) with Scotland’s Balmoral Castle and was struck by the degree to which America (mostly) has titanic landscapes in place of castles. What is the attraction to tall formations of stone, and does that change when they’re human-made?
(Side note: I like that this looks like a picture from the past, but I love even more than the effect is ruined by a house with solar panels on its roof. Can you find it? Click through to the Flickr page for the 57 MP original panorama.)
Much of the Bay Area, packed densely with people, perforates with light-emitting devices after sunset. When a volume avoids that, there’s a story and an active effort by conservationists behind it. At either extreme of this picture, Albany and Marin fall clearly into light-emitting category. In between, however, are special spaces: the Albany Bulb in the foreground and the Brooks Island Regional Preserve (the titular island).
“All things are transient,” said my scientific collaborator, with just a hint of irony. From up in the hills at Berkeley Lab, where we study the way that light and matter interact, he meant it in three senses:
- We use “transient absorption spectroscopy” to study the changes in a material after it is exposed to light. The new states we create are transient.
- The gentle blue-hour conditions of this picture are transient; the light was completely different ten minutes later.
- Berkeley Lab sits atop the Hayward Fault; a large earthquake could topple the lab at any time.
In the face of all of that transience… Might as well go for a drive.