Archive for the ‘virtual world’ Category

Exquisite? ‘Wake Up, Freak Out, Then Get a Grip’

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I watched this thanks to Ray Ison, and was mightily impressed with the quality of the animation and the sound effects.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I found myself wanting more!  I’d love to see the team that created this apply their talents to lots more stuff.  It strikes me this medium can work incredibly well as a storytelling and educational vehicle. Very nice song at the end.

Now for my critique.  On the whole, the narrative was cogent, but the intense relaying of scientific information seemed to cater more for a science-literate audience.  I felt the scripting and narration left quite a lot to be desired.  The narrator skipped quickly between concepts, leaving non-scientists like myself befuddled and breathless, and needing to rewind the animation to work out what was being discussed and to catch up.  It seriously denigrated my experience of what could be a stunning project.  I dearly wanted a simpler script and much, much clearer transitions between each science-spiel segment.  And less jargon. (Interestingly, the animation’s creator conceived the animation as an old-fashioned piece of unilateral communication.)

I’m curious what you think and how you feel about it.  Comments and insights welcome.


Net neutrality – the internet’s future at stake

Friday, August 8, 2008

Watch the video, featuring Tim Berners-Lee, Lawrence Lessig and others, here. Via Memex 1.1.

Mapping a future for ancient trees

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Here is a lovely website – the UK Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt – in which people are invited to find and map ‘all the fat, old trees across the UK’ to create a ‘comprehensive living database’ of ancient trees.

Britain enjoys a rich endowment of trees. Thanks to the Normans, who planted hunting forests, we can claim more ancient ones than any other country in Europe. We haven’t got anything as iconic as the plane tree of Kos in Greece, a descendant of the one under which Hippocrates supposedly taught students 2,400 years ago. But while Kos may have the largest plane tree in Europe, the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is possibly the oldest tree in Europe, according to the Woodland Trust, one of the backers of the scheme, which hopes to log 100,000 ancient trees by 2011. It is salutary to be reminded of the grandeur of our trees, as it was 20 years ago this month that the strongest winds for nearly 300 years uprooted 15 million trees.

– from today’s Guardian Environment Leader. Whilst Roger Deakin’s disapproval about the fetishisation of trees (‘Trees to him were herd creatures, best understood when considered in their relationships with one another’ – from Robert Macfarlane’s lyrical memorial article about Deakin) rings true, to my mind the beauty of the Woodland Trust’s project is its collective effort of appreciation. Good.

Nature doesn’t always behave the way you want

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nature is always full of surprises –

– by Carlos Puertolas; came across his animation at the facebook group, Stop Global Warming – which to date has raised over £5000 ($10,000) for charity (Friends of the United Nations Environment Programme). You can find more of his fun artwork at his blog.

Planetary intensive care: where computing and the physical world merge

Friday, September 21, 2007

An old university friend and acquaintance of mine, Paul Warde, has set up something interesting. He’s becoming a reader at University of East Anglia, having been a history lecturer and director of studies at Cambridge (UK) and, amongst other things, initiated the ‘Documenting Environmental Change‘ programme at the Centre for History and Economics. Apart from being rather jealous at his clearly having found himself a niche, I followed a few links (to H-Environment – an online resource for those involved in environmental history, where Paul is the Book Review editor) and came across an intriguing-sounding book and an even more intriguing review.

The book is Environmentalism and the Technologies of Tomorrow: Shaping the Next Industrial Revolution, a collection of essays edited by Robert Olson and David Rejeski, and published by Island Press; and the review was by someone called Victoria Garcia at the University of Houston, Texas, USA. Here’s her take on Chapter 5, which ‘took her by surprise’.

While previous chapters were challenging and demanded careful attention, this is the chapter that stopped me in my tracks and made me realize that what these authors are trying to describe is an environmental agenda light-years away from the events leading to Earth Day in 1970. “Ecological Computing,” by Feng Zhao and John Seely Brown, describes the development of a vast, autonomous, co-evolving, self-configuring global sensing system grid, “an enormous digital retina” many generations beyond the Internet. Tied to intelligent browsers, it will allow humans to “go where we cannot” to monitor life systems at all levels of complexity in order to pose questions unimagined in previous generations (p. 54). This grid, already in development, will create vast harvests of information, making it simpler and less invasive to listen to earth’s heartbeat. Tiny wireless sensors, deeply embedded in the physical world, could be used to track pollutants, to allow for transportation vehicles to communicate to one another about road conditions, to track variance in agricultural conditions, and to efficiently coordinate the manufacturing and transfer of commodities. The authors explain: “Ecological sensing systems are blended into the physical environment through sensors, actuators, and logical elements; they are invisible, untethered, adaptive, and self-organizing. This is where the computational world meets the physical world” (p. 58).

The first thought that came to my mind when reading this article was that of life support: we seem to be talking about implementing an immense intensive care program of an unprecedented scale to save the life of our planet.

I don’t know about you but this sounds radical to me and, because it may be a little beyond comprehension right now, awesome in the ‘bit scary’ kind of way? Other chapters in the book are concerned with renewable energies, nanotechnologies, genetic engineering and the governance of emerging industries – with one by one of my old favourites, Stewart Brand. For the rest of the book review, click here.

(Ahem) *bullshit* bottled water!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If ever there was a case for the power of advertising and context, then this is it – with the irrepressible US conjuring comedians, Penn & Teller:


Changing the message II

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Having posted yesterday about No Impact Man‘s excellent thoughts, here’s his follow up in the form of an advert for the future.

It struck me as powerful, playing on a number of reversals: that of the cliche of the son or grandson asking what their forebear did in the war; that of the notion of sacrifice, which is usually understood as something willingly undertaken; and, that of inheritance, by which the next generation inherits something of value. I understand the message that this image challenges to be that it’s ok to squander the future without a second thought.

So I took up No Impact Man’s invitation to post it ‘wherever’ on the web and created a group, ‘Change the message‘, at Flickr. Could be fun!

Consuming powers

Friday, August 17, 2007

The power consumption of today’s computers

“has rocketed. In the mid 90s when the original Pentium processor was introduced, the average computer system could work with a 130/140 watt power supply, which is much lower that it is today,” said Scott Richards of computer component manufacturer Antec. “The processor was probably 15 watts of consumption and the graphics cards was about 10 watts of consumption. Then you had your hard drive and your floppy drive, so even given the 10 or 20 percent headroom you need to operate the computer you could easily do a 130/140 watt power supply. Today we are selling power supply units at 1,200 watts.”

– Chris Long, writing on BBC Online’s Click website. If you’re hosting, or thinking of setting up, a network, and interested in how both to economise on costs as well as maximise resource efficiency, you would do well to look at the Ndiyo (meaning ‘yes’ in Swahili) Project.

One more green voice

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I’d been wondering when the green movement would take up the possibilities offered by social networking technologies… Looks quite good.