Sky Blue Sky
Staycation takes to the sky, NASA’s gift for your next dinner party, how legends spend the summer, and what 15,000 optical fibers have to do with high fashion.
By Maria Popova
Summer has come and gone, and Americans are already filling their scrapbooks with photos from their 2008 staycation — you know, the stay-put vacation alternative enforced by those notorious gas prices. And while some have tried to make lemonade with it all by re-discovering and re-appreciating their home states (one has to wonder what a two-week appreciation of, say, Wisconsin entails), others have gone the other way: thinking up fun, creative stuff that can be done just as well in Manhattan as it could in the Maldives.
Case in point: Flickrer hb19’s sky play photo set, using nothing but the sky and a simple object to create clever scenes that take us back to those magical childhood days when clouds were dragons and unicorns and exotic fishes.
Proof for our conviction that there’s little better than the combination of free time, a camera, and human imagination.
Before you get too enchanted with the heavenly magic of the skies, let us be the kid who told you there was no Santa Claus: NASA has finally discovered what causes the wonder that is the aurora borealis.
A year and a half after the start of the THEMIS mission (that’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms… what, it’s the government, they’re no catchphrase pros), a fleet of five satellites probing Earth’s magnetic field, scientists have pinned down the reason why the Northern Lights dance their magic dance: magnetic reconnection, a sudden burst of substorms, brightenings and rapid movements that occur when stressed magnetic field lines suddenly “snap” to a different shape, much like snapping open an overstretched rubber band.
This phenomenon, it turns out, is common throughout the universe and in our particular case happens about a third of the way to the moon.
So think of us next time you share this at a dinner party to boost your smart-cool factor, will ya?
That fascination with the summer sky seems like something Flickr amateurs share with the photographic legends of our time.
This summer, legendary duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott shot legendary model Giselle Bündchen for W Magazine‘s “Kiss The Sky” editorial, styled by the legendary Alex White. (See? We mean business with all that legends stuff.)
Besides the oddly brave use of seemingly safe color, we’re mesmerized by the enchanted play with light.
Stuff of legends, indeed.
Keeping with the theme of clouds, fashion and scientific geekiness, there’s a different kind of cloud extracting oohs and ahhs from its observers: the smart kids at MIT have built the Fiber Optic Cloud, a mind-blowing sculpture made of 15,000 optical fibers, each individually addressable and responsive to human interaction through hundreds of sensors.
The 13-foot cloud, constructed of carbon glass, contains over 40 miles of fiber optics and expresses context awareness — which means that when admirers interact with it through touch, it reflects emotion and behavior through sound and lightness-darkness signaling.
The cloud lives in Florence and launched as an ongoing project to rethink the fashion trade show concept on an interactive, sensory level.
We just hope it’s not nearly as moody as the divas of haute couture.
Published September 9, 2008