A Demonstration in High Power Badness

I ran across this video of a high power demonstration in Florida – I bring this up because the Spring storms are getting worse, and after last year’s winter time fun in Oklahoma City (as with other parts of the country) we can all use a reminder how deadly electricity can be.  Check out the video:

The Linac Coherent Light Source

$500 million dollars later, the DoE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford has created the world’s brightest X-ray source – world, meet the Linac Coherent Light Source:

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The LCLS is the first high energy X-ray laser light source – also called a “hard” laser – and it’s going to turn some heads.  The LCLS will, once the finest tunings take place, create the world’s brightest short-pulse X-ray laser for scientific study.  Using the LCLS, scientists will be able to study the arrangement of atoms in a ton of materials, from metals to catalysts, plastics, and bio mateiral.  In short, this thing is pretty amazing.

From the press release at the SLAC:

“This milestone establishes proof-of-concept for this incredible machine, the first of its kind,” said SLAC Director Persis Drell. “The LCLS team overcame unprecedented technical challenges to make this happen, and their work will enable frontier research in a host of fields. For some disciplines, this tool will be as important to the future as the microscope has been to the past.”

Even in these initial stages of operation, the LCLS X-ray beam is brighter than any other human-made source of short-pulse, hard X-rays. Initial tests produced laser light with a wavelength of 1.5 Angstroms, or 0.15 nanometers-the shortest-wavelength, highest-energy X-rays ever created by any laser. To generate that light, the team had to align the electron beam with extreme precision. The beam cannot deviate from a straight line by more than about 5 micrometers per 5 meters-an astounding feat of engineering.

“This is the most difficult lightsource that has ever been turned on,” said LCLS Construction Project Director John Galayda. “It’s on the boundary between the impossible and possible, and within two hours of start-up these guys had it right on.”

Unlike conventional lasers, which use mirrored cavities to amplify light, the LCLS is a free-electron laser, creating light using free-flying electrons in a vacuum. The LCLS uses the final third of SLAC’s two-mile linear accelerator to drive electrons to high energy and through an array of “undulator” magnets that steer the electrons rapidly back and forth, generating a brilliant beam of coordinated X-rays. In last week’s milestone, LCLS scientists used only 12 of an eventual 33 undulator magnets to generate the facility’s first laser light.

Chock one up for the DoE scientists.  I’m thrilled to see what this thing can do.

Thanks, MedGadget!

Jason Eppink’s Pixelator – Turning Ads into Art

Vicki DaSilva turned me on to Jason Eppink’s ongoing unauthorized work, Pixelator.  I learned a few things from researching this project, as I often do – for one, NYC’s Metro Transit Authority is paying an estimated $274,000 per screen (on about 80 screens) across the city, located above subway entrances.  These screens blast ads and other media conglomerate events.  The cost of these billboard screens obviously decreases the amount of art that appears in these spaces – Jason’s project gives instructions on how to create a mock-screen-thing that turns these billboards into a series of 45 blinking, color shifting pixels.  You gotta check this out:

If you live in NYC or have visited NYC and seen one of these, post in the comments!  Check out Jason’s Pixellator site, too.

From Water, Oils, and Color to Ones and Zeroes and Laptops

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I feel like every designer at some point reaches back to his or her roots to try and reboot the creative machine – for each day I spend learning some new visualizer or media server software, I find myself digging back into the cranial wayback machine to seek out where we started in lighting design, and where we’re going.  It doesn’t really matter what genre of lighting design you prefer, it’s all wavelengths of light at different color temperatures and outputs.  I find that there are a lot of education programs out there who graduate students without knowing some of the basar, factual and practical fine points of working with light as a medium, and it generates a lot of really crappy design.  Very few people want to be hands-on anymore – and it’s not for me to stand in the way of technology ever – but do you ever ask yourself if you can hand-render a design instead of letting your viz software generate it?  It’s not terribly efficient, of course, but can you do it?  Can you hand-calculate photometrics?  Can you find the oval width and length of a beam of light?

I’ve been researching liquid projection teams and some of the more well-known projectionists of the 60’s and 70’s – namingly groups like Joshua Light Show and Single Wing Turquoise Bird.  These groups of projectionists lit for bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Steve Miller Band, Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead, and others.  Technology in these areas was pretty basic and complex simultaneously – overhead projectors, slide projectors, an opaque projector with a pan of water underneath into which colored oils would be mixed.  Creativity at its peak – for artistic integrity, creative expression, and audience enjoyment.  I want to be able to imagine a huge projection of oil and water moving and dancing together while seeing The Who, or Traffic (come on, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys ROCKS!).

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Members of Joshua Light Show with their gear

Playing around with video managers like Arkaos VJ and Catalyst give us modern folk a digital representation of this fundamental idea of lighting enjoyment – having a big stage and six DL2s gives another dimension of light.  Adding video into a design – wait, let me rephrase that – adding video visualizations into a design, rather, provides an intangible dimension for audience members, whether the medium is a concert, internal or external architecture video, or something that hasn’t been dreamed up yet.  We can use technology to turn a team of people like Single Wing Turquoise Bird into one, maybe two people – but the good designers who are working embody the spirit of artistry just the same.  We’re doing the work on laptops and high-powered desktop machines now – but the need for artistic expression through interpretive light hasn’t changed.

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Joshua White and an overhead projector

Please check out some of the sites I have been looking at for historical reference – a good site on Single Wing Turquoise Bird, and information on Joshua Light Show.  There’s a PDF of a book called Expanded Cinema, about some of this era of projection and design and pioneering of modern multimedia.  I highly recommend it.

Funny enough, the Museum of Fine Art in Houston played a videolast week, on April 17, about Joshua Light Show and musical artist Silver Apples.  Check that out here.  Here’s a great article about the movement at Rhizome – and one last link – an interview with Joshua White from the Gothamist.  Excellent.

Also, here’s a video of work by Joshua Light Show, and below it, work by Single Wing Turquoise Bird:

Bill Graham, thanks for spending money on a light show way back in the day.

The Kurage Lamp Series by Schemata Architecture Office

Fiber optic deliciousness – this series of fixtures from Schemata Architecture Office is a colorful wonderland of fiber optic awesome – clusters of light fibers in some kind of controlled chaos formation.  That’s what I’m calling it, so there.

This work is so crazy and so different to me that I could only use it in architecture that suits it perfectly.  Now I’m looking for the perfect architecture.  Check out the Schemata website, and the Kurage 1, Kurage 2, and Kurage 3 lines.

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Thanks, DesignBoom!

An Architect’s Perspective On Rendering?

I just read a post at Young Architect about rendering – more specifically, the article was stating that rendering is something that should be “avoided at all cost.”  I am a bit shocked by the post – not because of the concept that rendering is difficult, but because you wouldn’t render your design or architecture because rendering is time-consuming and difficult.  Being a lighting designer, for example, I cannot imagine going to a client with a light plot and telling that client their project will be illuminated. I doubt I’d get any clients if I couldn’t (or just refused to) communicate what a design looks like without showing them through some kind of rendering.

I learn things about my design when I render – I fix things when I create renderings.  Most times I am able to perfect and clarify my design through doing the renderings.  Communicating, whether you’re a designer, architect, engineer, or some other derivation of these, is part of your job.  Communicating and collaborating.

I won’t launch a diatribe about this subject – but I am really, really curious about your thoughts on it.  Read the article at Young Architect, and let me know what you think – post below in the comments, please!

Visual Music – The Art of Liquid Projection

A while ago I wrote an article about Peter Wynne-Willson and his psychedelic projections in the time of liquid projections and relatively low-tech (comparatively) lighting design for concert production.  I was searching for some liquid projection content for a project I’m doing, and I came across some really interesting stuff.  No matter what the genre of music, this stuff seems to fit!  Now this is of course my opinion only…

Check these out – two of thousands on YouTube:

Everlast’s PVW Hybrid Street Light

I wrote a post about induction lamp technology a few days ago – a company called Everlast is producing a solar and wind powered induction lamp street light.  PV panels, a turbine, and a 70-100W fluorescent induction source.  The system as a whole is pretty sweet – the wind turbine operates at as low as 2-3 mph, and has an electric shutdown after 60 mph.  I would assume that those blades could create some catastrophic failure on high winds, as any wind power collector.

Check out Everlast’s product page on the PVW Solar/Wind Street Light.  It’s pretty interesting!

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