Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Bring back the funk

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

He’s small, genius, and a lover of spandex and heels. It’s Prince!

We saw the 2nd concert at the ACC last night and it was fabulous. No openers, just Prince, the backup singers, a drummer, a keyboardist and a bassist (who also came out to do some singing), and his guitar (that he insisted on introducing to us when it was brought on the stage).

Prince with sparkles

Stage is former known as, sparkles falling from the rafters

And you know what? At the age of 54, the man still has the pipes, the moves and the musicianship. It was a totally FUN kind of vibe–he seemed really relaxed and he was very engaged with the audience. Came out swinging with “Purple Rain” right off the top, which got notoriously reticent Toronto butts out of the seats and then kept it going from there.

He played a lot of the hits, and in Princely fashion, reminded us several times that he had a lot of them (174 I think he said :)

The backup singers did a stellar gospel version of “Arms of an Angel” by Sara McLachlan while he was offstage, presumably for a costume change, of which he had many. We wondered if they picked this song for the Canadian tour, and maybe did another one in the States.

There were some amazing guitar solos and drum solos in the middle of songs, and he kind of medleyed up some groups of songs in some really cool arrangements. Also, we got the Prince version of  ”Nothing Compares 2 U”–very gospel funk and very good. He was definitely in a funky mood, in fact–his cover of “Play That Funky Music” was an audience favourite, as was the funk beat in “Controversy”.

However, for MY money, the absolute BESTEST part of the show was the second encore: “When Doves Cry” on the piano, basically him playing and the audience singing the whole song, and then “Kiss” which is my favourite of all Prince songs. He teased us with the riff a few times and I was a little worried that we were only going to get that, but nah, he made my dream come true.

Check this one off the bucket list. If you get a chance, go see him. Definitely a great show.


Particle Spacetime

Friday, November 4th, 2011

PI lectures are back! This month’s presenter was Fay Dowker, a student of Stephen Hawking and she is pursuing studies in the idea that spacetime is fundamentally discrete, and that we can understand key functions through causal set theory.

Dowker is a very good lecturer – she built in repeated arguments that all led to the punchline – black holes are hot!

Causal set theory is within the field of quantam gravity. The premise is that within space time there are causal relationships between “particles” if you like. But Dowker started with the First Law of Thermodynamics and led us through some nice matching to get us to see that work Hawking did regarding black holes is basically the same damn thing. Black hole thermodynamics, natch.

Since physicists are all happy about unities, this is a neat turn of mathematics that allows us to see how black holes can have a temperature. Though “hot” actually means just a smidge above absolute zero. Think how particles are spontaneously formed and annihilate each other constantly in what we think of in “empty” space, only on the edge of a black hole, it’s possible that one particle of the pair escapes and the other is captured – essentially giving net new heat to the black hole.

What’s neat is that when I got home after the lecture, Brian Greene’s new Nova series was on, and it happens to have a pretty fantastic special effects budget. Lo and behold, he was standing in empty space with particle pairs zooming all around him, just like Dowker was describing.