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Ed Catmull/PIXAR at SIGGRAPH '08, future Whitestar owner

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by chimpanzee, Aug 12, 2008.

  1. chimpanzee

    chimpanzee Member

    Dec 8, 2007
    pasadena, ca
    #1 chimpanzee, Aug 12, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
    Just blew in from China last Thu (for 8/1/08 solar eclipse in Inner Mongolia Desert):

    Solar Eclipse Aug 1/2008, China

    Wrapping up uploading, & then preparing for SIGGRAPH '08.

    Ed Catmull/PIXAR (also President of Disney Animation, PIXAR & Disney Animation merged 2.5 yrs ago) gave an EXCELLENT talk about the trials/tribulations of his PIXAR startup.

    Kyte: Embed This TV

    He talked about hiring, based on acquiring Good Ideas VS Good People. He emphasized the latter in his approach. I agree, the same thing was said by military experts in describing "soft issues" (personnel). He said that crises were INEVITABLE, but that handling crisis ("crisis management") was the key.

    "Life is 20% what happens to you, 80% how you respond to it"
    -- a wise man once said

    His career path started @ University of Utah (ARPA funded scientific visualization, which got the whole Computer Graphics revolution started), onto NYIT Computer Graphics Lab (where Dr. Alvy Ray Smith/Stanford PhD was hired..I almost got hired back in '84), then to JPL Computer Graphics Lab (where I ended up in '84 after getting my PhD, Martin ended up at Wyse), then to Lucas Film (where I interviewed in Ed's office by Tom Porter), & finally to PIXAR. Now Disney & PIXAR have merged.

    There was an Ed Catmull autograph session for his book "To Infinity & Beyond: The story of Pixar Animation Studios":

    Kyte Mobile

    I had a chance to talk to Ed a couple of times (got back in line for a 2nd round!!). I pulled out a UIUC Resonance newsletter, which had a covershot of Martin & the Tesla Roadster. I mentioned that Loren Carpenter/PIXAR was in line for a Roadster, & if he was interested. He replied that he currently drives a Prius (! man, everyone is on this Green Tech bandwagon), & wants the Whitestar..not the Roadster! I'm just down the road from Disney Studios (so is Martin, plus he flies out of Burbank..right next to Disney), & I have some projects I'm working on related to Interdisciplinary Science (1 of which is related to Aerospace + Alternative Energy paradigm, ala Aerovironment..where A. Cocconi 1st did his pioneering work with the EV1). I mentioned this to Ed, & I will have some followup with his PIXAR staff.

    I later hooked up (totally by accident!!) with some Disney Animation staff (PhD aka "mad scientist" & an interesting woman). There is some correspondence between Disney Animation & Brian Greene/Columbia (the noted String Theorist of NOVA fame).

    NOVA | The Elegant Universe | PBS

    He is coming over to Disney, & 2 of Disney staff went over to NYC. The field of HEP/High Energy Physics is going through some growing pains, because of Lack of Funding. There was a Fiscal 08 funding crisis (80 million shortfall), where Fermilab & SLAC/Stanford Linear Accelerator were facing significant layoffs. The solution is better Public Outreach (the public absolutely doesn't relate to Particle Physics..theoretical or experimental), which will result in more Public Funding for "blue sky" projects (e.g., particle accelerators). This is where the Tesla Roadster comes in as a "public vehicle". As per the famous Feynman anecodote on "what makes the toy car go" (energy doesn't make it go, it's ENERGY TRANSFER), the Roadster is a REAL-LIFE product which demonstrates energy transfer: Chemical energy (LiIon batteries) into Kinetic energy. BTW, a bit of trivia. Alan Cocconi's parents are CERN particle physicists, he told me after we met at the Rose Bowl while flying electric R/C aircraft.

    So, not only is the Roadster the trigger for public perception of EV (Martin's vision), it is also the trigger for better Science Outreach (& therefore Science Funding). That's why Brian Greene is dabbling with Disney, & why I'm dabbling with iTunes video-podcasting (thru my multimedia project):
    [ there are a couple of Nobel Laureates in the SUSY '06 conference, Burton Richter/SLAC & Frank Wilzcek/MIT. There is David Gross/UCSB at Strings '07 ]

    So, I'm in exploratory mode now. The Caltech/Mechanical Eng Dept is dabbling in Alternative Energy (1 of the profs is on leave to Northrop-Grumman), & DARPA Grand Challenge (autonomous vehicle navigation, desert racing & urban). 1 of my Dad's PhD students is really high up in Northrop-Grumman, I recently got in touch with him for this purpose. Eventually, I need to sit down with Martin, Caltech Mech Eng Dept, UIUC,

    [ I've met the President at this years Rose Bowl & my parents live across from dad being a former prof & Dept head. He attended Martin's recent talk @Loomis Laboratory for Physics ]

    Northrop Grumman, UC San Diego/CALIT2 (Dr. Larry Smarr formerly of UIUC, who founded NCSA, has moved on). Then there is A. Chien/Intel (a summer '81 intern w/Martin at our Robotics/Vision Lab), who is now Director of Research & VP of Corporate Technology. There is an interesting angle, using his interest in "Inference Computing".

    In light of Ed Catmull's enlightened insight about "crisis management" & "people", I believe Martin is in a good position to make a key move in Alternative Energy. It involves an Interdisciplinary Science R&D outfit (that bridges the gap between Academia & Industry), which will better prepare future EV companies for "pushing the Limits of Technology". The whole transmission debacle (which culminated in a WEIRD personnel bloodbath), could have been totally avoided if an R&D program (short/medium/long term) had been setup.

    BTW, Xtrac is heavily involves in US Racing. They worked with 1 of the top Class 1 racers (many tranny failures last year), & this team (who I know well) just got a 1st place at the SCORE '08 San Felipe 250 in an Xtrac tranny. They followed it up with a 3rd place at the Baja 500 in June. Lesson learned: it took Xtrac over a YEAR, to figure it out (empirical trial & error). Unfortunately, that certain XXX (impatient/impulsive) didn't realize it, & decided to eject Martin & others.

    BAD MOVE!!

    They also pissed off UIUC & Caltech universities & alumni. Tesla Motors could have sealed its own fate, it's HARD to find good people. Like I say, Martin could be in an IDEAL position to "snatch Victory from the Hands of Defeat".

    "It ain't over until the Fat Lady sings"

    I see the Fat Lady singing at Tesla Motors, but for the overall EV field..Martin could be laughing all the way to the..
  2. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    #2 malcolm, Aug 12, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
    Very interesting. Thanks chimpanzee.

    I think the Fat Lady is still in her trailer. Tesla have certainly hired some headline names in recent months but how are they being integrated into the business?

    Even big-name soloists must blend and complement the existing orchestra.

    Cool eclipse photos btw :)

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