Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

30 APRIL, 2012

Between Page and Screen: A Digital Pop-Up Book about Love

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What an alphabetical romance has to do with the poetics of geometry and the heart of storytelling.

Pop-up books, with their architectural whimsy and transfixing tactility, are on the bleeding front lines of the analog-to-digital shift as we contemplate the tradeoffs of what is lost as we gain the convenience and mutability of digital text. But this needn’t be the case. From poet-developer duo Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse, and Siglio Press, comes Between Page and Screen — a remarkable “digital pop-up book” that tells the love story of the letters P and S through minimalist, wordless black-and-white geometric patterns that spring to life and summon the text when looked at through a webcam. You suddenly see yourself projected on the screen, holding in your hands the paper pages from which the living language of digital text unfolds into the story. And what a story it is — full of wordplay and innuendo, the narrative flows with equal parts humor and poetic sophistication as words morph into one another with your every movement, a visceral metaphor for the longing of the two alphabetical lovers.

At once contrasting and complementing the augmented reality technology is an exquisite original book, letterpress-printed and hand-bound on fine press paper. What emerges is a beautiful meditation on where the heart of a book really resides — in the medium, be that page or screen, or in the reader’s experience and imagination.

It might be tempting to dismiss augmented reality as a gimmick — because anyone who’s been living on this side of the digital divide has seen her share of gimmicky AR — but in Between Page and Screen, it becomes a poetic device, seeking to reignite in us grown-ups that giddy excitement we once felt as we opened our very first childhood pop-up book. On a deeper level, it’s a meditation on duality — page and screen, object and subject, materiality and ephemerality, the stern, black-and-white rigidity of the geometric shapes and the soft fluidity of love.

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25 APRIL, 2012

The Sky Is Calling Us: A Cinematic Love Letter to Space Exploration

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“…if we ignore the calls of the sky, who then will draw the maps of the universe?”

Our voyage into space, propelled by equal parts curiosity and awe, is among humanity’s bravest quests and most rewarding leaps of the imagination. Carl Sagan knew it. Neil deGrasse Tyson knows it. We believe it. And yet the future of space exploration is more precarious than ever. From University of Oregon copywriter Nickolaus Sugai and interaction designer Lauren Geschke comes this poignant, poetic piece of video poetry, a kind of love letter to NASA posing a difficult question that we as a culture and a society must answer.

…because if we ignore the calls of the sky, who then will draw the maps of the universe?

Visit theskyiscalling.us to tell Congress you want more of your taxpayer money diverted to space exploration. For a deeper look at the politics of the issue and just what’s at stake, see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles.

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24 APRIL, 2012

Happy Birthday, Hubble: Celebrating More than Two Decades of Stunning Space Images

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From black holes to star births, or what decades of cosmic awe have to do with the future of space exploration.

It’s a bittersweet time for space exploration. On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery. Discovery recently rolled into its “new home” — a polite way to say it’s become space taxidermy — but Hubble’s legacy endures, having engendered some of the most spectacular space images humanity has ever glimpsed, and there’s hardly a better way to celebrate it than with National Geographic’s Hubble: Imaging Space and Time, the most glorious collection of space images since Michael Benson’s Far Out. With more than 120 breathtaking photographs that take us to the very edge of known space, contextualized in the Hubble’s history, the lavish tome looks back on two decades of the telescope’s service in orbit and sets the stage for its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled launched in 2013.

From black holes to star births to giant galaxies cannibalizing smaller ones, the images capture the thriving ecosystem of the cosmos, with all its magnificent nebulae, dazzling stars, and majestic planets.

Here are some of my favorite Hubble gems of all time.

The Cat's Eye Nebula, one of the first planetary nebulae discovered, also has one of the most complex forms known to this kind of nebula. Eleven rings, or shells, of gas make up the Cat's Eye.

The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant, all that remains of a tremendous stellar explosion. Observers in China and Japan recorded the supernova nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1054.

Taken within minutes of Mars' closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, on Aug. 27, 2003, this image captures the red planet some 34,647,420 miles from Earth.

A mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.

A ribbon of gas, a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago, floats in our galaxy. The supernova that created it was probably the brightest star ever seen by humans.

Saturn's dynamic auroras

Section of M51 with Progenitor Star

Saturn's rings in ultraviolet light

The Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Star birth in Galaxy M83

New red spot appears on Jupiter

Hubble/Subaru Composite image of star-forming region S106

Face-on Spiral Galaxy NGC 3982

The Egg Nebula

Saturn with rings tilted towards the Earth

At a time when the future of space exploration is hanging by a thread, Hubble: Imaging Space and Time is a magnificent living manifesto for just what’s at stake.

Images courtesy of NASA

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