Capturing History with Technology of the Future.

21 01 2009

One thing that I admire about Obama is his embrace of science and technology.  In my opinion, the Internet has been the most socially equalizing developments in the history of Mankind.  It is refreshing to hear him talk about a return to science and engineering.  From his campaign to his inauguration, he has used technology to it’s greatest potential.  Despite watching the inauguration and thoroughly enjoying it, I feel ill-equipped to describe that which has been seen by most anyone who would be reading this.  Instead I share  a new tool that illustrates how technology can make history come alive.  My Grandfather Moment displayed in 3D.

If you’ve been watching CNN, you may have heard talk about Microsoft Photosynth.  CNN encouraged people at the event to take pictures of  “the Moment” from wherever they were of the scene.  Photosynth, using nothing but a bunch of random pictures of the event, creates a 3D collage that allows visitors to view the area in a kind of 3d panorama.  The software literally looks at each picture and figures out the common elements, and builds a 3D spatial map of it.  CNN has created a set of “photosynths” of today’s historic event.

In order to view the images, you need to install Microsoft Silverlight.   It’s worth the short time it takes to install and will not cause your computer to burst into flames.   As you surf the photosynth, more pictures are incorporated as they are downloaded, creating a more detailed 3D model.  Click on this link to view “The Moment” Barack Obama was sworm in at President.

http://photosynth.net/embed.aspx?cid=c28cbbae-5986-4ae1-baa3-e219bf1906a7

Remember. All of this was created using hundreds of photos taken by different people, with different cameras. It baffles me how the program is able to build such an impressive 3D collage out of 2D pictures, seemingly knowing what position, angle and perspective each shot is at. This is possibly the only truly geek-worthy piece of software Microsoft has ever created.

What’s equally amazing is that the software for creating photosynths is freely available.  I downlaoded the software and selected a bunch of pictures I took.   For best results,  a large number of photos (50-75) is recommended.    Lucky for me,  I recently went to St. Kitts and took tons of photos.  I selected 39 photos that I had  taken from Timothy Hill, looking out to the Southeast Peninsula.   I was awe struck when i saw the final result.

http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=c20c1719-9aad-4c78-bb23-b96f87f2f73e#

Try it yourself.  Microsoft’s www.photosynth.net site gives you free space to showcase your own photosynths.  You can browse creations of pther people as well.  I’ll definitely be experimenting with this in the future.





We have Fallen off the Horizon.

5 11 2008

Imagine if you will, the people of Spain as they watched the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria depart from their docks and head off into the abyss. Imagine the debates about what would happen when he got to the end of the ocean.  Imagine how curious minds looked out to sea and watched three ships fall off the horizon.

Fast-forward to this day.  A day much like that day in Spain, where we watched The United States of America do what was once the stuff of drunken bar jokes and “what if” conjecture.  Those that shrugged off the idea of a black predisent never thought it could happen so quickly.  America, with it’s history of enduring racism has voted for Barack Obama.  Just when I thought America had had sold it’s soul to the devil, it has showed remakable faith.

Imagine if you will, in Spain, the moments after the last ship slipped into oblivion.  Imagine the naysayers and the hopefuls standing at the docks looking out at nothing but blue on blue wondering. . .what now?

Imagine Christopher Columbus, on his ship, looking back, watching the old world disappear. Imagine the moments after the last glimpse of the world he knew, disappeared behind blue on blue.

It took only 40 years from the time when black people were allowed to vote, till white, black, asian, indian, and arab alike, have voted for a black man to lead America.I have seen America change. I saw the America of Clinton. A happy America, a prosperous America. And I have watched it turn into a vampire. Sucking the black blood of other countries under Bush. A Tragic character in this most epic story.

The people have spoken. Finally, I have seen Democracy work the way I had been told it should. The People have laid out a carpet of blue on blue. The Presidency and the Senate like sky and ocean. And here we are, watching the old, familiar world disappear beyond history’s horizon.

Imagine if you will, the men on those Spanish ships, having been led to this moment, as they look out to the unknown, realising that they had not slipped off the Earth, but were still on it. Realising that they had thought so much about “what if”, that upon reaching this moment they must ask, “what now?”

We are those men. We never thought it would happen. We remained skeptical of the possibility despite ernest hope that we were wrong. Could a Black man really become President? We have crossed over into a new world. The entire planet is resonating with the significance of this time. A new time. A time when conventional wisdom no longer works. Where experience means stagnation, and innovation must come from the young. We have thought so much about reaching this point in history, that upon reaching it, we must ask, “What now?” as we look out to a future unknown.

We didn’t expect someone like Barack Obama to come along. What could have made this possible? I now know that there is at least one thing that means more to Americans than race. It’s money. As the American economy suffers, People have realised that A war hero and a hockey mom won’t cut it.

The youth, having been marginalised by politics, have experienced a quickening. Alive and sentient, they have not waited to inherit the future. But have risen and taken the world owed to them by their parents, now. The old way just won’t work anymore.

This election was less about race, and more about Age vs Youth and the nature of wisdom. Is the old man, armed with history and experience wiser than the young, intuitive and creative? As we look out at the blue sky on blue sea we need a leader that has shown the intelligence to take us through these unchartered waters. Not the man who is an expert on Spain.

We have fallen off the Horizon. Welcome to a new era. Where a black man is now the most powerful man in the world and the people look to a future, blue on blue, asking themselves, what now?”





To Catch a Hummingbird

3 11 2008



Hummingbird

Originally uploaded by TheSexyGeek

About two years ago I bought myself a nice little camera. A Kodak EasyShare with a 10x optical zoom. I began experimenting with photography and found myself going out on the weekends just to find shots. The hobby would be short lived. Alas, my camera was stolen and I had to say goodbye to photography for a while. I decided that my next camera would be a better one. After waiting and saving, It has finally arrived. The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS.

This weekend I happened to catch an overflowing gully. I have now learned to take my camera with me everywhere. Today, as I pulled into the parking lot at work, I saw this hummingbird.

I wasted about 2.73 seconds admiring it, then suddenly realised that I HAVE A CAMERA!!! I was hoping that I could catch him before he flew away, which could be ANY SECOND! It was darting all over the place. I took 7 whole seconds fumbling (with great care!) to take the camera out of the bag. PRESS “ON!” . . . Another 1.4 seconds for the camera to be ready to shoot (yeah, I read the specs :) and Voila!

As soon as I took the shot and looked up from the camera, it was gone. My luckiest shot ever. Please enjoy and comment.

I have created an account on Flickr. It’s a wonderful site for organizing and sharing pictures. Click on the photo to visit my Flickr page.





Rain in Kingston

2 11 2008

When one mentions Jamaica, it immediately invokes images of pristine beaches and perpetual sun.  But there is a reason why this is called “Land of Wood and Water.”  The island is covered in rain forests with good reason.  It’s been rainy all week, but yesterday we had a downpour that lasted almost two days.

While driving, I came across a big gully in Kingston.  Luckily I had my brand new camera with me.  Here are a few shots, plus my first YouTube video.





A Grandfather Moment

28 10 2008

As a child, I grew up with a vague but respectful sense of history.  I found the subject boring in school, mainly because I hated memorizing names and dates.  But I liked the stories.  The events.  I would imagine what it was like to have lived in the time of the Vietnam War, or in the time of Martin Luther King.

I remember hearing my mother recall the time when Man had landed on the Moon.  During that time, she would look at the moon, amazed by the reality that there were actual people on it.  I have read diaries written by my father in Jamaica 1969.  The Civil Rights Act had been signed just a year ago in the USA.  I read personal stories that brought home the significance of that moment in history.   I felt a strange type of envy, wishing I could have a moment like that of my own.  A Grandfather Moment.

9/11 was my first of these moments for me.  The shock of it all put me in a fit of depression.  But the time we are in now may eclipse everything else. I can already imagine telling my future grandchildren about a history making figure called Barack Obama.  Never before have I felt like I am witnessing a paradigm shift in the making.

It’s not just Barack Obama and his potential to be the first black president of the USA.  It’s the fact that all of this is happening in a time of war.  In a time when “money” is evaporating into thin air.  The ‘new’ great depression may be upon us.  It’s the grandmother of grandfather moments.  To watch the news is to watch a most alarming spectacle: The presidential race.  Never before have I seen a more unifying candidate or a more divisive candidate.  Never before have I seen such petty debate amidst such grave circumstances.  Never before have I seen common sense battle rhetoric so keenly.  The Tiger Woods of politics has arrived.

This is MY Grandfather moment, and it’s all happening now!.  Regardless of the result of this election, there is no doubt in my mind that the world will not be the same in the days to come.  What will today’s history reveal next?  Stay tuned.





Glass Bead Network

4 04 2008

It’s not that often that an online game intrigues me this much. My web host e-mailed me to tell me, among other things, that one of their employees had a pet project called The Glass Bead Network. What I found was a really interesting, fun and rewarding game.

It is a social game. Players join or create a game and play against other people online. Players are given glass beads that contain different objects, things, concepts. Beads like. . .”Austria”, “Spiders”, “War and Peace”, “Pumpkin”, “The Taj Mahal” are given to you and you must place them on a grid.

The goal is to get rid of your beads by linking them in some meaningful way. This is the fun part. The game allows you to link directly to a Wikipedia article, search Google for information about it or look at linkages that other people have made in other games. You might link “Pumpkin” and “Spider” by saying. . .”Both Pumpkins and Spiders are associated with Halloween”. Your link must be approved by the other players before it is permanent. Players can discuss the play and allow the player to defend his play. It really is fun to play. And by doing all this searching on the web, I have learned a great deal about Don Quixote, The Black Sea and The 3 Stooges, among other things.

Your linkages can be rated by the other players for creativity. Winning isn’t the only way. Being witty and creative and playing with other witty and creative people is what will increase your ranking.

I think it should be promoted heavily in schools. Tournaments can be set up to pit teams against each other. The kids would learn a great deal just by searching and finding relationships between all the topics they will encounter.

I encourage everyone to try it. And spread the word.

http://glassbead.net/

Click on Frequently Asked Questions and take some time to absorb the concept. Then try playing. (note: You have to register on the site to play.)

read more | digg story





The Art of Numbers

8 02 2008

Allow me to geek-out for a bit.

Science and Art have always shared intimate space within my brain. Although I wasn’t particularly fond of doing mathematics, I found the subject worthy of interest. (That is until I hit ‘Calculus II’ in college. ouch!) I had always liked physics because it was mathematics that had a point. I liked the idea of being able to use abstract logic to predict the behavior of the real world. Physics is my favorite science because it seeks to understand the fundamental fabric of reality. But while physics explores the patterns of the universe, mathematics delves much deeper.

1+1=2 is where it all starts and somehow, from there, we’re now plotting the trajectory of planets. Much of mathematics seems to exist for it’s own sake. How does the proof that there are an infinite number of prime numbers affect my life? Well, every time you go to a “secure” website, prime numbers are keeping your credit card numbers out of sight.

There is an interesting branch of mathematics called fractal geometry. The basic premise is that very simple formulas, when repeated over and over, produce infinitely complex shapes. The most famous of these is The Mandelbrot set. It is the simplest possible formula of it’s kind (almost as simple as 1+1=2) And it produces a shape so complex that mankind could explore it for eternity and never see all of it. It has earned the nickname, God’s Thumb Print. Here’s a picture.

The Mandelbrot Set

Not exactly a work of art. . . . until you apply colours to the numbers that lead to this shape. Then you get something like this. . . . . .

The Mandelbrot Set

And through the wonders of computers, we can zoom in on this image by calculating the shape to more and more precision. You can do this until human beings evolve a new limb. But, the deeper you go, the more number crunching the computer has to do. There are scientists using supercomputers to explore the deepest reachable realms of the Mandelbrot set. It’s just numbers, but it is beautiful. See those weird jagged edges and tendrils? There is a VAST array of patterns, shapes and colours that keeps getting more complex the deeper you go. Here’s a video of a zoom into a tiny part of the set.

Click-here.

Notice that there are little mini-Mandelbrot sets inside. Each of them is just as infinite as the big one, and each one is slightly different. The decorations surrounding them are all different. And there are an infinite number of them too. It boggles the mind.

With a fractal program you can explore many different parts of the set, confident that as you go really really deep, you’re probably looking at a part of the set that no human has ever seen, or will ever see between now and the death of the universe. It’s that big. Here’s a compilation of deep explorations of the Mandelbrot set.

Click Here.

All of this art is the actual mathematical result of the formula Z = z2 + c when it’s fed back into itself over and over, ad infinitum. It’s ALL just numbers. Proof that Art and Science are one and the same.  Here is one more video showing an extremely deep dive into the relatively featureless tip of the set.  The set zooms to a size larger than the known universe.

Click here.








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