MEANING OF THE BIG LIGHTS: The debut of the world's largest light sculpture on the Bay Bridge on Tuesday inspired many onlookers to ponder what familiar images they saw in the ever-changing light patterns.

The creator, New York sculptor Leo Villareal, called his Baylights project a "digital campfire" with 25,000 LED lights firing, dimming and shimmering away under control of an elaborate software program.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who has distinctive facial hair, joked the light waves reminded of him of a mustache.

Lisie Thayer, a senior at Miramonte High School in Orinda, said the light patterns reminded her of a sun rolling across a sky, or bars on a music score. Some of Thayer's friends who accompanied her to the soggy opening night saw water waves or raindrops.

Other viewers said they saw whales, fish or wisps of fog.

Villareal said he expects and hopes interpretations of his art will be personal. After all, he noted, it's a work of abstract art.

But the artist's sentiment didn't stop one opening night onlooker from suggesting that the light sculpture should take on little hometown spirit and spell out a big "San Francisco Giants."

That seems like a big foul ball to The Eye, though we hope the defending World Series champions will play like artists of hitting and pitching at their stadium a little way down the San Francisco waterfront.

Beer-inspired Nobel Prize?: Legend has it that the seminal achievement of the late Donald Glaser, a former professor at UC Berkeley, was inspired by a bottle of beer.


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Glaser, who died Feb. 28 in his Berkeley home, was the architect of the bubble chamber particle detector, for which he won the 1960 Nobel Prize for physics. As for the story that has him conceptualizing his invention while studying the bubbles in a bottle of brew?

"It's totally wrong," he said in an oral history recorded in 2003-04 and archived at the Bancroft Library on the UC Berkeley campus. "The story is perverted by journalists. There's even a ballad written by some famous pop music star. I can't remember who wrote it, but it's something like, '100 million men or more have stared into their beer before, but none before Don Glaser saw,' and so on. I don't remember the rest of it."

Nonetheless, the owner of the Pretzel Bell tavern in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the alleged epiphany took place, saw fit to hang Glaser's photo in his establishment.

"I was the only nonfootball player on their walls," Glaser said.

LAST CALL FOR Richmond hangout: The venerable Hacienda restaurant, a mainstay at Macdonald and San Pablo avenues in Richmond for more than half a century, is being torn down.

The Mexican restaurant, known by generations for the fountain in its lobby and a design that included no windows, had actually closed a few years ago and is now being razed in preparation for the opening of a Grocery Outlet at a former Lucky/Albertsons store on the same property. The restaurant's tall, distinctive sign was well-known to motorists traveling along Interstate 80.

The late couple that founded and ran the Hacienda left a greater legacy to the West County community in the form of a bequest of $1 million made in their estate last year to Contra Costa College in San Pablo.

Antonio Carrico, a native of Portugal and veteran of World War II, was 91 when he died in Walnut Creek in June. Trinidad Carrico died in 2009. The couple owned the restaurant for 56 years.

MISS RICHMOND MAKES THE ROUNDS: Richmond has no shortage of engaged community members and activists, but The Eye has taken notice of one particularly energetic mover and shaker.

Alexis Pickins, also known as Miss Richmond during her competition for Miss California 2013, has been seemingly everywhere of late, including council meetings, public events and special appearances at local schools to spread her message of local pride and youth empowerment.

In late February, Pickins, 22, paid a visit to the Richmond Police Activities League board meeting luncheon recognizing high-achieving local kids.

As an RPAL scholarship recipient for her studies at UC Berkeley, Pickins spoke to a roomful of kids and the board about the value of higher education.

Days later, she spoke to a Richmond High School assembly -- Pickins graduated with honors from Richmond High in 2008 -- to extol the virtues of studying hard and high achievement.

"I spoke about taking advantage of the resources our city offers and inspiring the students to make their dreams a reality," Pickins wrote in a Facebook message to The Eye.

Pickins competed in Miss Black California Dec. 28 to 30 and Miss California on Jan. 12 and 13. She has also been recognized with a civic award by the City Council. Pickins is a trailblazer -- after exhaustive research, The Eye has concluded that Pickins is the first young woman to represent Richmond in these pageants.

Staff writers Denis Cuff, Gary Peterson, Chris Treadway and Robert Rogers contributed to this column.