Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

I got back into Detroit last night after a long flight from Charles de Gaulle, after spending a week and a half traveling from Amsterdam to Antwerp to Paris. Hopefully you all enjoyed the chemistry-related blogging of Wired blogger Aaron Rowe in my absence, looks like he’s kept things busy here (thanks Aaron!).

There were a few things going on in Paris while I was there: one– the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia have just divorced. In fact, his wife was on the cover of Elle magazine this month with the headline “Divorcee!” across it. An interesting fact that in France, Cecilia couldn’t have divorced *him* due to presidential immunity.


A second huge thing going on in Paris was a transportation strike that shut down all the trains and metros for a few days. The worst days were last Thursday and Friday, and things were pretty much back to normal by this Tuesday, but navigating the metro is tricky enough when things are working well. A friend I met in Paris, Laurent Penet, mentioned that these strikes are scheduled annually. When I asked what would happened if there wasn’t anything to complain about during a scheduled strike, he laughed and said, “We can usually find *something.*” The strike made French people more apt to drive rather than take the metro, and the resulting traffic jams would have made LA blush.

i-5b5f208ef9da17b50779024534e8b25f-paris bikes.jpg
The third interesting thing was a new public biking system that was recently launched this summer, called Velib. These bikes can be checked out all over the city (about 1500 stations and 20,000 bikes) using a credit card, and returned to whatever station is close to your destination. The first 30 minutes are free and most short trips around Paris are shorter than that. The current mayor hopes the bikes will reduce traffic and promote green modes of transportation.

“It’s faster than the bus or metro, it’s good exercise, and it’s almost free,” said Vianney Paquet, 19, who is studying law in Lyon. Paquet said that he uses the rental bikes four or five times a day and pays 10 euros (about $13) a year, half for an annual membership fee and half for rental credit that he never actually spends because his rides typically last just a few minutes.

Anyway, good to be back. The talk I gave in Antwerp went great and I had some amazing food and wine in Europe (my parents are driving through the Loire valley as we speak…lucky.) Regular old science blogging to resume shortly, stay tuned!


  1. #1 J-Dog
    October 25, 2007

    Bon Jour!

  2. #2 Dan
    October 25, 2007

    Welcome back. Sorry about the mess, but we had a few parties when you were out.

  3. #3 The Flying Trilobite
    October 25, 2007

    Sounds like an interesting trip. That bike system is a lot bigger than the BikeShare we have here in HogTown (Toronto).

    Aaron’s posts have been fascinating. Excellent sub for Retrospectacle class!

  4. #4 Jeremy Goico
    October 25, 2007

    That is one of the coolest ideas ever for the biking system, just brilliant, i love it.


  5. #5 Travis
    October 26, 2007

    Here in Gent, Belgium there are thousands of, shall we say “public” bikes. It really is a good idea. The idea is that they are rented, but really people just use them free and openly.

    However, I don’t believe at all the metro in Paris isn’t faster. I travel on it regularly and it is a rather easy metro to use.

  6. #6 Laurent
    October 26, 2007

    Well, strikes are not necessarily scheduled annually… But October is usually the month demonstrations start (not necessarily transportation ones by the way): an hypothesis is that it’s the average time lapse people have to overcome the benefits of their holidays (mostly occuring in summertime).

    You just escaped before another demonstration by people from air planes companies. Airlines are troubled right now.

    Things are probably going to be worst over time this year, since the gov is completely high and doesn’t seem to care much about what people think. Seems like fall and wintertime will be interesting times in here…

  7. #7 Rev. Dr. Incitatus
    October 26, 2007

    Those lousy frogs. It was their plan all along. Naturally, England would have whipped the Springboks all over the pitch if it hadn’t been for those pesky strikes putting our lads off their stride. Ye gads. They’re either burning our sheep or spoiling our rugby. So much for the Union.

  8. #8 Mihai
    October 26, 2007


    The gvt is not exactly high and people actually were against the strikes and support Sarkozy(The Economist quotes a poll putting 56% of french against the strikes). I’ll not get into the politics but I think the gvt is doing the right thing here.

    Shelley, I’m sure that there were other pleasant “sights” in Paris beside the strikes and Velib, it’s a magnificent city. Ah, Sacre Coeur…

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