Many Delights on Arizona Road Trip for UCSB Lab

By Robert Bernstein

Our UCSB META Lab run by Jonathan Schooler attended The Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson recently. We decided to make it into a big road trip.

Here are all my photo and video galleries!

First stop was Palm Springs where we took the Aerial Tram


Here is my Palm Springs Gallery!

Near Palm Springs we saw lots of windmills

Here is my Windmills Gallery

The next day we headed to Joshua Tree National Park. Which is most famous for the Joshua Trees, of course

But there are many other interesting plants, including cacti

Some cacti in bloom

But there are also spectacular rock formations and rock climbers on them

Including this child!

And these sorority sisters forming their sorority letters

They were near Skull Rock

There were also some non-humans

Here is the rest of my Joshua Tree Gallery

We headed on to Phoenix which is a bit like Los Angeles with its sprawling land use. At the suggestion of the hotel receptionist, we went over to the Entertainment District. It is something in between a traditional downtown and a mall.

Here is my Phoenix Entertainment District Gallery

Then we were off to our main destination: Tucson. The Saguaro National Park is the highlight of Tucson for me. Plenty of statuesque Saguaro Cacti each with their own personalities. And other cacti.

Plus ancient petroglyphs like these

Here is the Saguaro Gallery

But our main reason to be in Tucson was The Science of Consciousness conference which is held in Tucson every even numbered year. Since 1994. My first year was 1996.

We had stars like Noam Chomsky who I highly respect

Also conference founders Stuart Hameroff

And David Chalmers who coined the phrase “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”

Famed mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose expounded on his somewhat unconventional theories of quantum gravity in living systems. Using old-fashioned overhead transparencies!

Deepak Chopra is also famed, but I am not so impressed with him. Mostly he seems good at marketing the ideas of others while marketing himself.

He makes fun of Western “reductionists”. But he does not seem to see the irony of his own reduction of everything to “consciousness”. Without really explaining how that works for physics or for consciousness.

Another star was Sophia the Robot who was eerily real at facial expressions. As for her understanding me, not so much.

Anirban Bandyopadhyay asked if the brain is a “Time Crystal”. He is valued by the conference organizers, but most in attendance find his talks impenetrable. He did invite me to come to Japan and visit his physics lab which I may do.

Anil Seth is a well-respected star in the area of consciousness research and even has his own TED talk on the subject

Paul Werbos claims to have developed the basis for what we now call Deep Learning back in the 70s with his theory of “back propagation”. He seems to think we need to move to something new to achieve real understanding and consciousness.

He is not the only one to make such claims about his role in Deep Learning and its limitations. This MIT Technology Review article reports on Artificial Intelligence pioneer Geoffrey Hinton who makes the exact same claim: He helped invent Deep Learning/back propagation. And it is a dead end that we are ever more getting stuck with:

Here is the rest of my The Science of Consciousness Stars Gallery

We are not all as famous as those stars. Yet. Here are some of us from the UCSB META Lab of Jonathan Schooler posing with Stuart Hameroff. L-R Ben Baird (now at the University of Wisconsin), Tam Hunt (now evacuated from his lava-threatened home in Hawaii), Stuart Hameroff, lab director and our mentor Jonathan Schooler, Madeleine Elspeth Gross and me:

Here is my UCSB People Gallery

It wasn’t all work at the conference, as Cirque Roots provided some cosmic entertainment

This video is a good sample

Here is the rest of my Cirque Roots Gallery

After the conference we headed north to Sedona, famed for its sculpted orange rock formations

And its art galleries. Here we had lunch with a bit of both

Here is my Sedona Gallery

Then we were on to the Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona. I had been in this area about 25 years ago, but got there too late and it was closed for the day! Its discovery was very controversial as it was unthinkable at the time that something from space could make such a formation on Earth.

Fortunately, in the dry climate of Arizona it has remained relatively pristine in form.

A video re-creates how it would have been to witness the impact

The museum shows other examples of meteor craters on earth. And other near-space objects that someday might hit the Earth

Here is my Meteor Crater Gallery

It was dinner time when we got to Flagstaff and we had a nice stroll around downtown on our way to eat

Arizona is an “open carry” state.

Meaning that each business has to explicitly post a sign like this if it does not want gun slingers inside

The next day we were headed to the Grand Canyon West Rim. That area is out of the way for most people, but it is famed for the Native American Skywalk. But first we encountered a wonderful surprise: More Joshua Trees than we saw at Joshua Tree!

Here is my Grand Canyon West Rim Joshua Tree Gallery

The famed Skywalk is certainly unique. A glass bridge hanging over the edge of the Grand Canyon West Rim.
We encountered very few people on the long drive out there:

But it seems it is a popular destination for Las Vegas visitors who are brought in by aircraft and by bus. Here is what you get: A unique view. And professional photos only. You are not allowed to bring any sort of camera out there. Not even the ones built into your shoes or other odd devices like telephones.

Here is the rest of that professional photo gallery.

Honestly, I think a helicopter flight is a better deal for the money. But I am glad to have gotten out there. It was a new part of the Grand Canyon for me. And it supports the local Native American Hualapai tribe.


There were spectacular views at Eagle Point

And at another stop nearby called Guano Point. Really.

It almost looks real

Here is my West Rim Grand Canyon Gallery

There was much more to see along the way. But I will end with our visit to Mount Wilson, high in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest. Not a lot of people up there. Hard to believe it is so close to Glendale and the rest of busy Los Angeles!

Most famously, Mt Wilson is home to the 100 inch Hale Telescope which we got to see up close!

This is the telescope used to make many revolutionary discoveries, thanks to the vision of George Ellery Hale:

Notably, Edwin Hubble’s discovery that those fuzzy nebulae in the dark night sky are entire galaxies separate from our own! Our universe vastly expanded as our own Milky Way was discovered to be just one of many billions! And that the mocked theory of the “Big Bang” was a real thing!

The Museum shows many of these discoveries and many of the great minds who came to work and to visit. This photos shows Einstein with Hubble and others.

Here is the rest of my Mt Wilson Gallery!

Hope you enjoyed tagging along on our Tucson Road Trip!


Written by sbrobert

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