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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Walt Disney at His Storyboards

A Genius at Work

Apropos of nothing, as they say, here are a few shots of Walt Disney with storyboards of some of his famous and perhaps not as famous characters.

Because he became such a legend, it is easy to forget that, at his core, Walt Disney was a phenomenal artist. Mickey Mouse didn't just pop out of the ether, it took talent to come up with that iconic character, and Walt Disney had it. These shots all appear to be, very roughly, circa 1940.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Ceres Bright Spots

The Ceres bright spots.

The NASA Dawn spacecraft has been approaching the dwarf planet Ceres, and for once we have an ongoing mystery that nobody can figure out. All of these photos are courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The shots on this page were taken from about 4,500 miles (7,200 km), which is pretty close given that there is no atmosphere to obstruct vision. 

There are two bright spots inside a huge crater on Ceres that could be, well, just about anything. The likeliest guesses are that they are salt or ice. However, there are problems with both of those hypotheses.

These shots were taken on Mars in 2008, showing a similar phenomenon. The bright material in both photos was excavated from below the surface and deposited nearby by an impact that year that dug a crater about 26 feet (8 meters) in diameter. The extent of the bright patch was examined by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, an instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It determined that that the whiteness was water ice. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

It appears that something was discharged from the planet from under its surface soil. The spots appear to be elevated above the surface, and that makes no sense at all. But ultimately it will make perfect, boring sense.

Having been through this numerous times, the issue ultimately will be resolved as some kind of rock or mineral or ice - the 'usual suspects.' You know it's coming, everyone wants to believe in Aliens but there is absolutely zero chance that that is what NASA will determine them to be from. 'They' always explain away these anomalies as simple geologic curiosities, and they know what they're talking about. My hunch is that it is some kind of ice from below the surface that at times becomes viewable and somehow achieves temporary stability on the surface. However, while it lasts, this is a fun - and picturesque - mystery that has captured the public's imagination and, truth be told, done NASA a 'world' of good in terms of generating interest in these touristy excursions through the Solar System that, let's face it, have no real tangible value to the common man and woman beyond the 'wow' factor.

Dawn makes its closest approach on 6 June 2015, and if that doesn't resolve the issue, it won't be resolved for quite a long time.

Incidentally, there is a similar anomaly elsewhere in the Solar System, which pretty much seals the issue in terms of the Ceres spots being some kind of natural phenomenon. The other one is at Wunda Crater on Uranus’ crater-blasted moon Umbriel. The 131-mile-wide crater, situated on the moon’s equator, is named for Wunda, a dark spirit in Aboriginal mythology. It is a bright feature about 6 miles (10 km) wide.

Umbriel, showing its white spot.

Umbriel for some reason always reminds me of the Death Star. But, unfortunately for those looking for excitement, it's just a chunk of lifeless rock like everything else.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

'Primordial' - an Otherworldly Animation

Primordial from PeterClark on Vimeo.

'Primordial.' This is a pretty trippy video in more ways than one. Imagine you are an interstellar visitor just minding your own business, and you crash into a deserted planet and - well, things happen. Lots of things! Psychedelic things! And with an interesting end result.

It is not the result that you watch for with a video like this, but the journey. Turn the lights low, have some wine, put it on full screen, and just relax. It will be fine. Quite fine.

According to the artists:
The core of a dark planetoid hosts a primordial soup of microscopic life. Within the neural pathways of these organic compounds, intelligence is born from the primitive drive for survival. Each stage of Primordial has been designed and animated by separate artists and sequentially stitched together as one evolving timeline.
Animation: Jason Kerr / Chris Bjerre / Peter Clark
Title Design: Peter Clark / Wendie Ing
Title Cinematography: Joe Picard
Sound Design: Peter Clark
Vocals: Haley Varacallo


Friday, March 13, 2015

Frozen 2 is On its Way!

Disney Animation's official tweet announcing 'Frozen 2'

Those who are truly captives of the Disney universe surely know that the annual shareholders meeting is held every year in March. Far from a sleepy little confab of wizened old men, it is a big celebration at which news of value to people far and is released. This year, the news was even more exciting that usual.

Well, what do you know, it's March 2015.

Bob Iger, who runs Disney, made the announcement at the meeting that 'Frozen Fever,' an animated short featuring the 'Frozen' characters, debuts in theaters on 13 March 2015 as the lead-in to the new live-action 'Cinderella.' Yes, 'Frozen' and 'Cinderella' on one bill. That, my friends, is known as synergy.

Of more long-term importance, 'Frozen 2,' a sequel to the 2013 'Frozen,' also is on the way. There is no word on when that will be released. I will make a prediction right now, on 12 March 2015 - with no word from the studio itself - that 'Frozen 2' will be released on 7/8 November 2017. At midnight. Unless they run into production difficulties.

You heard it here first.

There also was news about Disney's new Star Wars franchise - and arriving at the same time as 'Frozen' news is probably the only time a new 'Star Wars' film ever comes in second. After the seventh core film is released this December, the follow-up, Star Wars: Episode VIII will come out May 26, 2017. Episode VIII will be written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper). The spin-off is called 'Rogue One' and stars Felicity Jones.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Global Rainfall and Snowfall Animation from NASA

I love entertainment animations, but I also love science ones that expand your mind and your horizons.

This is a cutting edge animation from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center which uses data from the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission to illustrate rainfall and snowfall patterns around the globe. It depicts the period from April to September 2014. The animation covers the 87 percent of the Earth that falls between 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south latitude, as updated every half hour during that time - so, for all intents and purposes in an animation of this length, it is continuous.

The narration during the animation explains everything very succinctly.

The GPM Core Oberservatory (as it is called) was launched on 27 February 2014. It is a collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. It is an active project, updated every half hour, that allows scientists to observe almost in real time precipitation events around the world. It is composed of a string of 12 satellites ("IMERG") that funnel data to the central collection point at Goddard.

If you think that precipitation is unimportant or tedious to consider, you probably don't live in California. NASA itself puts it this way:
Falling rain and snow are essential parts of Earth’s water cycle, which moves water and heat energy around Earth. Near the equator where the sun’s heat drives evaporation that keeps the air moist, rain systems move westward in a steady stream. At higher latitudes, which have not previously been observed in 3-D with high-resolution precipitation sensors, enormous storm fronts march eastward across North America and Europe in the Northern Hemisphere, and across the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica.
As a bonus from 2010, below is an animation that shows global air circulation as simulated by the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The simulation spans one calendar year, and it consists of hourly data. Cloud cover appears whitish with areas of precipitation shown in orange.

Thanks for watching.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Far Side of the Moon Animation

far side moon

This is a creative animation showing the far side of the Moon.

This may not seem like a big deal - after all, the Moon is always up there, right? - but in fact it is a very big deal.

Nobody in human history who died before 1959 saw anything like this, because that is when the Soviet Luna 3 probe, which swung around the Moon in October, 1959, first sent back pictures of it.

Contrary to anything that Pink Floyd may tell you, the far side of moon is not 'dark,' any more than the side facing us is. The earth's gravitation long ago corralled the moon into keeping the same side facing the earth throughout its rotation. While we can't see it, the far side goes through a complete cycle of lunar phases, just the reverse of the ones that we see.

If you look at the pictures, you might note that the terrain of the far side is quite different than what we see when we look up. For instance, it lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar blotchy lunar landscape. The craters are all spread out on the far side. There is a distinctive area, the the South Pole-Aitken basin, visible here as a slightly darker bruise covering the bottom third of the disk. It is one of the oldest features known to exist in the entire solar system.

The Apollo 8 astronauts who first saw this landscape without the aid of cameras in their epic Christmas flight of 1968 created one of the most indelible moments of the entire space age with their expressions of awe and delight. Since then, only a couple dozen other human beings have ever seen it unaided on the subsequent Apollo flights, and nobody at all has seen it in well over forty years. When you ponder time frames like that - there still are no concrete plans to send anyone out of low earth orbit, though there is lots of talk - the magnitude of this type of view comes into focus.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched a few years ago, and since then it has returned hundreds of terabytes of data. Its data was used to create the imagery seen here.

far side moon

Animation is becoming increasingly important in space exploration - there is so much raw data sent back these days from probes that sorting it and presenting it in a useable fashion is a huge and vitally important job, else it just sits on a hard drive somewhere. The quality has improved tremendously in just the past few years, too. Look for more videos of this sort on increasingly remote celestial objects.

I love this stuff. All credit to the men who put it together.

Visualization Credits:

Ernie Wright (USRA), Lead Animator
David Ladd (USRA), Producer
John Keller (NASA/GSFC), Scientist
Noah Petro (ORAU), Scientist


Friday, February 6, 2015

"I Miss You" - for cat lovers

This is just a fun little riff on Star Wars. The title is "I Miss You."

Cat lovers should appreciate it!