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7th Avenue Project: Persi Diaconis, Math, Magic, Deception & Probability

Broadcast on The 7th Avenue Project, July 20, 2014

When he was 14, Persi Diaconis ran away from home to become one of the world’s great magicians. Now he’s a world-class mathematician, and his two professions have more in common than you might think.

Persi and I had a very entertaining conversation about his careers in show biz and academe, covering topics such as:

His friendships with other magicians, including Ricky Jay, Randi and Dai Vernon
Some surprisingly profound mathematical card tricks
Why science needs statisticians
Duping others and being duped himself
Why he’s so secretive
Click the play arrow above to hear the interview, or the download icon on the upper right to get your own mp3.

Persi’s well-known as an inventor of original tricks and sometimes helps other performers come up with new routines. For instance, he had a hand in this classic bit from Steve Martin:

Labor Violations Remain Common in Farm Work


By Adia White | KUSP News

The strawberry harvest last year in Santa Cruz County earned farmers  more than $390 million.  The Department of Labor says somewhere in that pile of money was about a million that one farm didn’t pay its employees. The Department of Labor recently announced it was suing a farm in Watsonville, charging the owner had underpaid and demanded kickbacks from employees. And in the ag industry that story is easy to find. Labor violations in the agricultural sector also include dilapidated housing and workers who simply go unpaid. KUSP’s Adia White reports.

Ocean Waves As You May Never Have Seen Before

A large wave on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, sucks sand off of the seafloor and into the wave itself. This photo is the cover image of Clark Little’s latest coffee table book, Shorebreak. Photo: Clark Little

By Barbara J. King

Clark Little photographs ocean waves.

Many of us do. We may be drawn to waves because they connect us with the moon and the tides, or with the magnificent marine creatures small and large who dwell in our seas, or just because it’s fun to surf and swim and float along the shore. And so we stand at the ocean’s edge, whip out our cellphones or our cameras and tripods, and aim to snap that perfect image.

Clark Little goes about things a little differently. Working on Oahu’s North Shore and focusing on shorebreak waves, he adopts what his website calls “a unique and often dangerous perspective of waves from the inside out.”

What exactly “waves from the inside out” means can be grasped by looking at this write-up of his work by Katie Hosmer on the My Modern Met site.

Even better, don’t miss this 3 1/2 minute video. In it we see Little’s technique in action, plunging right into the waves with his handheld camera. His passion for the ocean and its “heavy, four-lipped monster” is there for all to see.


Little’s photography is art. But it is science, too, I think, in the sense that it invites us to think and learn about the physics of waves.

On this summer’s day, enjoy the sight of Little’s awesome waves!

Note: It’s thanks to my Twitter friend biologist Malcolm Campbell that I learned of Little’s artistry. Malcolm is great fun to follow on Twitter, in part because each week he compiles a digest of online science posts and articles. (My July 6 post for 13.7 about stray dogs in Puerto Rico was a recent “read of the week” pick of his.) Thanks, Malcolm!

Barbara’s most recent book on animals was released in paperback in April. You can keep up with what she is thinki

Why Monterey Isn’t Rationing Water and Santa Cruz Is

SC Water Dept

Before rationing took effect, Santa Cruz checked water use with an aggressive public information campaign. Photo: Wes Sims.

By Wes Sims | KUSP News

Two of the larger districts in the Monterey Bay area rely on rivers for their water. Under rationing, in Santa Cruz, if your family uses fifteen hundred gallons over the limit, Water Director Rosemary Menard says “You’d be looking at about 75 dollars a month in fines.”

Meanwhile, on the Monterey Peninsula, there are no fines. Here’s why there’s rationing in one place and not another.


Independence Day Do’s and Don’ts

The temporary 'entrance' to Twin Lakes Beach, the day before. Photo: Laufer

The temporary ‘entrance’ to Twin Lakes Beach, the day before. Photo: Laufer

Monterey Bay area cities and Counties host numerous Independence Day events and a variety of regulations aimed mostly at fireworks. So here’s a brief digest of things to do and what not to do where. First off fireworks: they cause injuries and fires every year. Kids are proportionally more likely to get hurt. For some alarming quantitative outcomes of previous July 4ths check out this handout from Marina’s Web site.

Getting Around

Santa Cruz County’s Metro bus service will not operate.

Monterey Salinas Transit is operating on a Sunday schedule.


Questlove And The Roots: How A Hip-Hop Band Conquered Late Night

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson serves as drummer, bandleader and producer for The Roots. Photo: Ben Watts/Press Here Publicity

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serves as drummer, bandleader and producer for The Roots. Photo: Ben Watts/Press Here Publicity

By Dave Deggens

The not-so-secret weapon on The Tonight Show is The Roots, a band whose success on the NBC program was so swift it even surprised a few people at NBC. The group’s drummer and leader, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, says music is a crucial part of The Tonight Show, and he spent some time showing NPR TV critic Eric Deggans exactly why.

For the first time, a hip-hop group is the house band for the most influential TV show in late night.

And you can chalk up much of The Roots’ success to the relaxed perfectionism of the band’s leader, Questlove.

When I first meet him, he is lounging on a couch in a mixing room, deep inside The Tonight Show‘s Rockefeller Center studios. Casually dressed in black jeans and black hoodie emblazoned with the words “legendary Roots crew,” Questlove is listening to a recording of the band rehearsing its new single, “Never.”


Interview with Darlene Love – Riding High on ‘Stardom’


Darlene Love. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Hot on the heels of this year’s Academy Award winning documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom”, singer Darlene Love makes her first live performance ever in the Monterey Bay area, Sunday, June 29th at the Golden State Theater in Monterey.  

By Eric Berg | BergAlert

Once a backup singer, then a girl group diva and now a superstar vocalist, Darlene Love is at the top of her 60 year plus career and having the time of her life thanks the success of Oscar winning music documentary,  “20 Feet From Stardom”.

If you’ve seen the film, you know that Love’s career is legendary, If you haven’t watched “20 Feet” do so immediately so I won’t have to repeat the story of the vocalist’s early career singing in obscurity behind many of the music industry’s top ten rock n roll hits of the  ‘60’s and 70’s with low pay and no name recognition until the mid 80’s when she finally got her due and became the star she was supposed to be.


Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Moby

This clip is from the episode of Bullseye, broadcast June 22, 2014.

Moby is one of the most successful electronic musicians in the world. But he didn’t start fiddling with synthesizers and drum machines as a kid — he was studying classical guitar. Then, his world changed with just one song.


John Vasconcellos, Former State Legislator Remembered for Bipartisanship


By J.D. Hillard | KUSP News

Here’s what happens when you tell John Vasconcellos’ former senior consultant, Rich Robinson, you’re doing a short remembrance feature:

“Ha ha ha ha. That’s funny in three minutes or less tell you about John Vasconcellos.”

This story will only start to relate the fascinating and admirable things Vasconcellos’ friends say about him. For 38 years until 2002 he represented much of Santa Clara County and parts of the Monterey Bay area in the state assembly and the California Senate. He was known for liberal positions and for creating relationships that allowed him to turn those positions into policy.


The Poetry Show: Rodger Kamenetz, Guest Poet


08 - rodger-headshot-webPoet and dream worker Rodger Kamenetz joined host Dennis Morton for the Poetry Show on June 8, 2014. Kamenetz was in the middle of a busy few days in Santa Cruz. On Saturday and again earlier on Sunday, he led workshops on Dreams and Poetry. On Tuesday, he’s the featured reader at the regular second-Tuesday event at Bookshop Santa Cruz, sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz. Well-known local poet Stephen Kessler completes the bill for that event.

This was Rodger Kamenetz’s first visit to the poetry show, but he is nationally well-known for his writing, both poetry and non-fiction. His biography informs us that: