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Bill Macfadyen: String Theory Proves Attractive for a UCSB Professor and Noozhawk Readers

This week's Top Five includes a drug blast bust, dispensaries, a home invasion, yet another panga incident, and a tribute to the late Michael Lavenant

By William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher | @noozhawk |

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. UCSB Physicist Receives International Acclaim for His Work in Theoretical Physics

UC Santa Barbara physics professor Joseph Polchinski is so ahead of his time that he’s already been named one of just three recipients of the Milner Foundation’s prestigious 2013 Physics Frontier Prize.

Joseph Polchinski
Joseph Polchinski

As a result of his award, he’s now a nominee for the foundation’s $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize, which will be presented in March at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. Apparently, truly everyone is a winner as Frontier Prize laureates who do not win the Fundamental Physics Prize still receive $300,000 along with an automatic annual renomination for the next five years.

Polchinski, a permanent member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB, is being honored for his contributions to fundamental physics, most notably the discovery of D-branes. According to a UCSB news release, D-branes “have been shown to provide the atomic structure of black holes, predicted long ago by Stephen Hawking, and, as such, are one of the basic building blocks of spacetime.” Of course they are.

“This is a great day for physics at UC Santa Barbara,” said Pierre Wiltzius, the Susan & Bruce Worster Dean of Science at UCSB. “The inaugural list of this prize reads like a Who’s Who in physics. Professor Polchinski’s contributions to string theory are clearly being recognized as groundbreaking.”

From the moment we posted his story, it was being recognized by physics fans from around the world, finishing with several thousand reads Dec. 11.

2. Isla Vista Explosion Traced to Suspected Drug Operation

Partygoers are known for having a blast in Isla Vista, but one resident may have taken it to a new level Dec. 9 when his apartment blew up.

Matthew David Bacon
Matthew David Bacon

According to authorities, Matthew David Bacon, 31, was cooking up hashish oil when the concoction sparked a flash fire that blew out the windows and a sliding door of his duplex in the 6600 block of Trigo Road.

Bacon was arrested by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies on suspicion of arson and conspiracy, treated at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital for minor burns and booked into County Jail with bail set at $250,000.

There were no other injuries in the explosion.

Here’s your sign.

3. Federal Raids Have Snuffed Out Santa Barbara’s Pot Dispensaries

Within months of federal drug raids on a pair of local medical marijuana dispensaries, dispensary operators had gotten the message — loud and clear. Noozhawk’s Giana Magnoli reported Dec. 10 that all of Santa Barbara’s permitted dispensaries are now closed.

Four Santa Barbara dispensaries had obtained operational permits on the condition that they comply with California’s medical marijuana laws. The federal government doesn’t recognize any legal uses of the drug, however, and, in May, Drug Enforcement Administration agents served search warrants at Pacific Coast Collective on Milpas Street, the Miramar Collective in Summerland and an East Haley Street marijuana farm.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles also issued legal complaints for forfeiture against the owners of the three properties, and sent out warning letters to other property owners in Santa Barbara County.

Deputy City Attorney Tava Ostrenger told Giana that all of the city’s permitted dispensaries have since closed and no additional permit requests have been received.

4. Man Arrested After Violent Incident at Goleta Home

Robert Tyson Martin
Robert Tyson Martin

Robert Tyson Martin, 47, of Goleta, was arrested Dec. 11 after he allegedly used a shovel to smash several windows and part of the front door at his wife’s home in the 6200 block of Aberdeen Avenue. Sheriff’s Lt. Butch Arnoldi said Martin also physically assaulted his wife in the incident.

Martin was charged with inflicting injury on a spouse; vandalism of more than $400; obstructing/resisting a police officer; failure to yield; preventing/dissuading a witness; and possession of an illegal weapon.

According to Arnoldi, Martin had been enrolled in a drug-rehabilitation center in Los Angeles area and returned to Goleta by taxi after his wife refused to pick him up.

5. 11 Arrested in Panga Bust Near Gaviota

A little more than a week after U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III was killed in a confrontation with a panga boat skipper at Santa Cruz Island, the Central Coast’s panga-boat epidemic is showing no sign of ebbing.

Sheriff’s Lt. Butch Arnoldi said 11 people were arrested early on the morning of Dec. 12 and more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana were seized near a beached panga boat west of the Gaviota State Park campground near Hollister Ranch.

The Central Coast shoreline is increasingly taking on the appearance of southern Arizona, and it was just a matter of time before Californians became casualties of Mexican drug smugglers and their brazen surf-and-turf operations.

Horne was the first to fall when a panga boat skipper rammed his small craft while trying to avoid capture Nov. 30 in Smugglers Cove. The collision sent Horne and a fellow crewman into the water, where Horne’s head was struck by the panga boat’s propeller. He later died of his wounds as the Coast Guard cutter Halibut rushed him to emergency treatment in Port Hueneme.

Two Mexican nationals — Manuel Beltran-Higuera and Jose Meija-Leyva — were arrested and face charges of killing an officer of the United States while that officer was engaged in his official duties.

                                                                  •        •        •

Michael Lavenant
Michael Lavenant

My friend, Michael Lavenant, was a brilliant employment-law attorney at Landegger | Baron | Lavenant | Ingber in Camarillo, a former board chairman of the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, a loyal husband and a devoted father. He died of a heart attack Dec. 12 at age 42.

I first met Michael a few years ago when we were in Sacramento with the Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties. We bonded through wisecracks and eye rolling as we listened to legislators and Schwarzenegger administration officials go on about all they were doing to strengthen California’s business environment. In most cases, it was a load of bull, as subsequent years of economic catastrophe have amply demonstrated.

Michael was thoughtful, insightful and genuine, and he effortlessly provided shrewd advice on public policy strategy and initiatives. He had an infectious smile, an easy laugh and a quick sense of humor. The cause of his death is cruelly ironic, given that his heart was so big, both with caring and courage.

My prayers and thoughts go out to his wife, Dana, and their three young children, as well as to his legion of friends in the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. It was my privilege to have Michael’s friendship, and I already miss him.

                                                                  •        •        •

Noozhawk Notes

» Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton was interviewed by Santa Barbara Independent columnist Vic Cox for a Dec. 10 article. In another life and at another time, Vic, Tom and I were colleagues at a local daily newspaper in Santa Barbara. Click here to read Vic’s interview.

» Kim Clark, Noozhawk’s vice president of business development, was installed Nov. 12 as a board member of the National Association of Women’s Business Owners-Santa Barbara chapter.

                                                                  •        •        •

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Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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