Charlie Stross: Keynote talk for YAPC::NA 2034
(For those who don’t go and check the context, it’s worth noting that the atomic power is conveyed to the trains electrically, rather than being produced locally. The latter would be silly.)
Engineers have conducted a test-run of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link, days before its public launch.
Officials, reporters and company bosses were on board for the 300 km/h (190mph) train’s maiden voyage, which the government has promised will halve the journey time to under five hours.
China is planning to roll out high-speed lines across the country.
But the project has come under fire for its high cost - the Beijing-Shanghai line cost 215bn yuan ($33bn; £21bn).
And the government has earmarked a further 700bn yuan for the rest of the project, which would see 16,000km of track being laid by 2020.
Police have clashed with demonstrators in the Italian Alps over the construction of a new high-speed rail link with France.
Tunnelling is set to start for a line from Turin to Lyon, which is expected to cut the travel time by nearly half.
Local residents built barricades to prevent heavy machinery from starting work in the picturesque Val di Susa, in northern Italy.
Police used fire hoses and tear gas to disperse them.
San Jose Mercury: Central Valley plan snags on politics
The plan for high-speed rail in California is to start on the Fresno side of the San Joaquin River, between Bakersfield and Chowchilla, and go until the money runs out.
The Central Valley, for many reasons, is a practical place to begin. The land is broad and flat and relatively inexpensive, and the federal government, which is contributing billions of dollars, requires it.
The first section will one day form the spine of a system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, officials say. But there is no money guaranteed to build the rest, and the initial tracks, through towns like Wasco and Madera, are conspicuously far from where most people live.
London’s doing quite well with exhibitions of photography at the moment. For just over a week, the NPG’s collection of Camille Silvy works, Tate Modern’s show on Eadweard Muybridge, and Photographer’s Gallery selection from Sally Mann are all open to the public. I’ve visited all of them in the last couple of weeks, and there are some (perhaps surprising) parallels.
Silvy came to prominence in France in the late 1850s, and spent the 1860s working in a photographic studio. Those portraits make up the bulk of the NPG exhibition, but it was the top and tail that interested me. Before moving to London, he became famous for River Scene.
This used two exposures to avoid an issue common in early (and even modern) photography- the “blowing out” of the sky, which is often far brighter than the land. Another image in the NPG is thought to be composed of four different exposures.
Meanwhile, at the end of his career, he invented a fascinating panoramic camera, not entirely dissimilar to the Lomo Spinner (although far slower) with which he took an image of Paris, included at the end of the exhibition.
While Silvy was in London, Kingston-born Muybridge was using similar tricks to take what are still startlingly good pictures of the Californian landscape, especially around Yosemite and the coast, as well as of the progress of the transcontinental railways; all included in the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s touring exhibition at Tate Britain. In the 1870s he captured panoramas of San Francisco from Nob Hill, appearing (like Silvy’s earlier Parisian image) eerily empty of people, since each portion took roughly half an hour to expose.
It turns out that there may even have been connections between the two. Some of the latter’s prints (including some in the Tate) are signed Helios, and in a post on the wonderfully obsessed Muy Blog, Stephen Herbert notes that there are three “lost years” in Muybridge’s history could have passed in Paris, with him learning some of the same techniques.
Muybridge’s portraiture came in the late 1870s, when he compiled the famous Animal Locomotion collection of pictures of men, women, children and animals in motion, using radically faster cameras. (From memory, the Tate exhibition is annoyingly light on technical details- as it was of Muybridge’s life after completing the series in the 1880s.) The cumbersome collodion plate method was gone.
However, it seems it’s not dead. Sally Mann has been a photographer since the 1970s, yet she uses 150 year old plate photography, and embraces its flaws. The small exhibition in London contains portraits of her children, as well as those of the overgrown, almost tropical, Southern forests and glades. Having said initially that I didn’t like the show, I think those landscapes have grown on me, and while I still don’t really like the large close-up portraits of her family downstairs, I appreciate the time and effort they demand.
In any case, all three exhibitions are worth a look. Mann’s closes this weekend, but is free. Silvy at the NPG is a somewhat reasonable £5, while Muybridge is £10 (but includes admission to an exhibition of drawings by sculptor Rachel Whiteread). Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.