My God, It’s Full of Stars! What You See When Your Eyes are Closed – Phosphenes

As much as I love light, I love to close my eyes and stare at the back of my eyelids.  Have you ever noticed how amazing, how beautiful the events that occur are when you rub your eyes and notice the instant star and explosion show that occurs in your vision?  I always imagine it as I’m looking into the birth of a universe – each time I stare at my eyelids I see little exploding stars that each take about 2-3 seconds to fully ignite, explode, and become part of the other stars waiting for me to focus my gaze on them.  Try it, it’s a lot of fun!  It is for me, at least.  Perhaps I’m nutso.  Still, AWESOME!

These little events are called entopic phenomena, meaning that they come directly from the eye itself.  I’m pretty sure everyone’s experienced the most common form of entopic phenomena, eye floaters.  Right?

 

Eye floaters, whether or not they have a sarcastic retort like the ones in Family Guy, are entopic phenomena.

The light that you see when you don’t see any light – whether it’s the random star birth and death that I see when I close my eyes, or if I rub my eyes, or any of a few things that trigger it for me – are called phosphenes.  That word is from two greek words, phos (light) and phainein (to show), and goes to explain most of the “hey there is light in my vision but there’s no source” mysteries.  The phrase “seeing stars,” like from getting whacked in the head or from being dizzy is phosphenic.  When people are deprived of light for long periods of time, phosphenes occur in the person’s vision as well – this is referred to as “the prisoner’s cinema.”  Isn’t that just creepy and horrible?  Apparently phosphenes can occur through several methods, from strong magnetic fiends, to just rubbing your eyes, to reports of astronauts seeing them when exposed to radiation in space.

Here’s a good account of the Prisoner’s Cinema, which also happens apparently to truck drivers, pilots, and other folk who have to concentrate on something for very long periods of time:

It has been widely reported that prisoners confined to dark cells often see brilliant light displays, which is sometimes called the “prisoner’s cinema.” Truck drivers also see such displays after staring at snow-covered roads for long periods, and pilots may experience phosphenes, especially when they are flying alone at high altitudes with a cloudless sky. In fact, whenever there is a lack of external stimuli, these displays can appear. They can also be made at will by simply pressing your fingertips against closed eyelids. In addition, they can also be produced by an electrical shock. In fact, reportedly, it was high fashion in the eighteenth century to have a phosphene party. It is noted that Benjamin Franklin once took part in such an encounter where a circle of people holding hands would be shocked by a high-voltage electrostatic generator, so that phosphenes were created each time the circuit was completed or broken.

The earliest account of phosphenes is given by the Bohemian physiologist Johannes Purkinje in 1819. These subjective images are called phosphenes (from the Greek phos, light, and phainein, to show). Oster (1970) suggests that, because phosphenes originate within the eye and the brain, they are a perceptual phenomenon common to all mankind. The visual areas of the brain at the back of the head (occipital lobe) can also be stimulated to produce phosphenes.

I find these very fascinating, these entropic events.  Do you have them?  How would you describe them?  Please, leave a message in the comments, I am very interested in your phosphene experiences!

Check out this beautiful video representation of phosphene events portrayed artistically.  So pretty!

Thanks to Wikipedia, and again, and Multiple Sclerosis Info, WiseGeek, MadSci, and MotiFake!   

I Think I Agree with Jon Stewart On EISA 2012 Right Now

I think this is kind of a very weird thing for me to say, but right now in Capitol Hill our Congress and Senate are debating the Energy Independence and Security Act (PDF link), and I think that it’s something that can wait until the rest of the bulls*** is solved and our politicians stop acting like a bunch of five year olds over this debt ceiling nonsense.  I mean, what do they really think they’re going to do?  Default?!  Come.  ON.

Take a moment and watch this Daily Show clip, you won’t regret it.

A snippet:
“It’s not, ‘Let’s all chip in a buy a keg for the party,’ it’s ‘Buy me a keg or I’ll burn your f***ing house down.'”

There is a big post coming in the next day or so about EISA 2012.  Stay tuned for that, I’m trying to demystify it as far as possible.  While the government works on getting this simple thing fixed (yeah, simple, I said it) then me and the world’s network of lighting bloggers and lighting professionals will try to hash out this other bulls*** for you.  I get the feeling that Jon Stewart will want to turn to us anyway for the real deal on all of this once all this other crap is no longer news.  I could be wrong though, Stewart’s a pretty smart and funny guy.

Thanks for the image, Maru!

The Actual Life of a Rockstar Lighting Designer

I’ve written about a friend of mine, a good writer and an even better lighting designer – Jeff Waful – a bunch on JimOnLight.com.  I’ve written about Jeff’s work with Umphrey’s McGee, I’ve written about Jeff’s television show, Jeff Waful +1, and I’ve written about just talking with Jeff about life, light, and design in general.  Jeff just had an amazing interview with a lighting designer that both Jeff and I think very highly of in general, Chris Kuroda.  You have to check it out.

What makes this interview different is that Jeff talks with Chris about life and light, but mostly about living on the road as a lighting designer.  This is an interview that Jeff should be very proud of, because I think he nailed it.

Read PART ONE of Jeff Waful’s interview with Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda
Read PART TWO of Jeff Waful’s interview with Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda 

Sunday JimOnLight.com Flickr Group Photo Pool

Some beautiful shots this week!

I’m preparing for a hot night of watching The Seagull outside in the Theatre at Myriad Gardens here in Oklahoma City.  I’m lighting their season, we’re into the second show.  We’ve also unfortunately experiencing a heat wave, and temperatures have been soaring in the 100’s.  I cannot even fathom how the rest of July and August are going to be when it’s already into the mid 100’s.  It’s gonna still be 98 degrees when we do focus call tonight.  Aww yeah, living the dream!

Check out this week’s awesomeness:

Shadowplay

1st official tacky light tool test 2

Lagoon Nebula M8 in Hydrogen Alpha

Devon Tower construction - May 21

“BATALAN”

Sun Fishing - Lưới trời lồng lộng

layers of confusion

DSC_3993

DSC_4401

DSC_4198

Atlantis STS-135: Congratulations, and Godspeed!

The final mission of the NASA Space Shuttle program has launched – Space Shuttle Atlantis is going upward attached to two sticks of fuel that create about a million pounds of thrust, hurling them towards that barrier in the sky where our world ends and the relatively unknown begins.  The shuttle program is ending, but Man’s fascination with the unknown will never end.  No matter how many politicians try to get in the way of progress, no matter how many budgets get cut in the future, we’ll still be heading into space.

If you’re still interested in watching some first-hand NASA video live, check out their NASA Live link.

So, what do you think is next for the NASA Space Program?  To date, we’re still using fuel and fire to get us into orbit – what do you think is coming next?  Ion drives?  Plasma drives?  Light drives?  A huge slingshot?  Lasers?

Have you ever heard of an Ion Drive?  It’s a developing technology that is suppsoed to ionize a gas, like Helium, into something that could propel a craft.  The problem right now is that it doesn’t seem to be worth a crapola in the atmosphere.  Watch this video:

Here’s some video of a solar-powered plasma drive – this is kinda outstanding!

Ah, who knows.  I’m just postulating.  Let’s all wish the crew of Atlantis a safe return journey, and a safe mission for all involved!

Thanks, KCOY!

Rotary Photon Drag Enhanced by a Slow-Light Medium. Right? Right.

Remember that scene in the Jody Foster movie called Contact when they got all of those drawings of “the machine?”  There was a part of the movie where Ellie realized that the images were encoded somehow, and the key to encoding them was by looking at them in three dimensions.  Remember that minute little detail?

I read an article on this just the other day, and after I read the entire article in the journal Science, I really want to share the gist of this thing with you all.  It totally reminds me of this for some reason.  I was explaining this all to a friend on Skype, and I got tired of typing, and then the researcher slice of my brain started going ape-sh**.  Pardon me.

First, read the abstract of the article written by Sonja Franke-Arnold (School of Physics and Astronomy (SUPA), University of Glasgow, Scotland), Graham Gibson and Robert W. Boyd (Department of Physics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada), and Miles J. Padgett (The Institute of Optics and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY):

Transmission through a spinning window slightly rotates the polarization of the light, typically by a microradian. It has been predicted that the same mechanism should also rotate an image. Because this rotary photon drag has a contribution that is inversely proportional to the group velocity, the image rotation is expected to increase in a slow-light medium. Using a ruby window under conditions for coherent population oscillations, we induced an effective group index of about 1 million. The resulting rotation angle was large enough to be observed by the eye. This result shows that rotary photon drag applies to images as well as polarization. The possibility of switching between different rotation states may offer new opportunities for controlled image coding.

Ok, got it?  Yeah, read it a few times, but generally the concept of the experiment is pretty simple, and the results are very interesting!  What these folks were doing was shining a shaped, collimated beam of light through a spinning ruby disk rotating at a given speed – in this case a maximum of 30 cycles per second.  The ruby disk causes a bit of “drag” on the photons travelling through it, causing the light to refract and exhibit some interesting behavior.  Check out this little video, from the paper and from the journal Science:

to view the .MOV file, click here

Ruby has a heavy Index of Refraction, which means the light is slowed down (refracted) at a rate of X when it leaves the air and enters the ruby itself.  If you imagine the 1.0 value of the Index of Refraction as how light travels through regular ol’ air (and not taking into account humidity, pollution, or any of that schtuff), anything greater than 1.0 is refracting.  Diamond has an Index of Refraction of about 2.42, and Ruby’s Index of Refraction is about 1.77.  Ruby refracts less than diamond.  Make sense if you didn’t already get it?

Here’s the weird thing – Ruby is not what we consider isotropic – meaning that no matter what the incidence angle is and no matter what the orientation of the crystal is, the light travels through the crystalline matrix equally as it travels through the medium.  Glass, sodium chloride crystals, and a lot of polymers exhibit this kind of “perfect” structure.  Sodium chloride is basically a cubic structure, relatively perfectly bonded in a cube matrix.  Ruby, on the other hand, is an anisotropic crystalline structure, meaning that there are more than one axes that are different within the structure of the crystal matrix.

Here’s a good image of the difference between an isotropic and anisotropic crystal structure, optically, from Olympus America’s Microscopy Resource Center.  Figure A is a sodium chloride crystal, which is isotropic.  Figure B is a calcite crystal, which has calcium ions and carbonate ions in it.  Calcite is anisotropic.  Check it:

Ok – now if you think of a crystal structure with light shining through its matrix, and the light is going to pass through two different planes of refraction, essentially – what do you expect to happen to one beam of light as it enters the anisotropic crystal structure and slows down?

Who said it’s going to split into two beams?  (DJ Lemma, pout your hand down, I know you already know the answer!)  You’d be correct – the incident beam splits into two beams, each sort-of along that individual crystal plane.  Take a look at this image of a calcium carbonate crystal, and how it is creating a double image:

This phenomenon is called birefringence.  Deep breath – bi-re-frin-gence.  Ruby, the gem used in the experiment, is also an anisotropic crystal, and it exhibits traits of birefringence.

So, imagine taking that birefringent crystal disk, spinning it at a relatively high rate (30 Hz), and shining a very specific wavelength of light (ie, a laser), that is in a certain shape through the ruby disk as it spins.  A bunch of stuff was discovered with this experiment, all related to the image.  The generalities of the experiment, as I paraphrase, is that the group shone a very bright laser with a square-ish shape through the ruby disk, noted the position that the laser had ont he other side of the ruby disk after it was on the other side of the disk.  When you shine a shaped laser beam at 532 nanometers (green) through a spinning ruby disk (which is a very slow-light medium, slowing the light down to just a few tens of meters per second) spinning at a rate between not spinning and 30 rotations per second, the image refracts from about a third of a degree to about ten degrees as the ruby disk increases from slow revolutions per second to thirty revs per second.

What a crazy experiment, huh?  I needed a good dose of photonics and optics in my Thursday!

The ramifications of this experiment have to do with encoding images with extra data – if you can imagine an image that has more information in it depending on which way the image is spinning, that is some trippy Minority Report shizzyhizzle.  “Oh, you’ve stolen my image!  But since you don’t know which wavelength to use and at which speed to spin the image, you’ll never decode my super secret plans of world domination!!!

Yeah, I have a vivid imagination.

HUGE number of thanks:
the journal Science
PhysOrg
PhysicsWorld
the Index of Refraction of Ruby and Sapphire (actually a very cool fact doc, check it out!)

Nosigner’s Moon Light

This is an interestingly simple design that has really piqued some curiosity in my head.  There is a very small movement into smaller scaled, lower output personal lighting fixtures popping their way onto the market – you’ve seen them, things like OXO’s Candela series, little sources that have a nice glow.  Ikea has some, but I’ve found that the solar cells that charge them aren’t worth crap.  Sorry Ikea, it’s true, your solar collections and storage systems suck.

Meet Nosigner’s Moon Light – it’s a small (cantaloupe sized) glowing source modeled after our moon, hence the name, smart alecs:

Nosigner is the firm of MoonLight designer Eisuke Tachikawa – the Moon Light is an LED sourced fixture that accurately recreates the topography of our moon, and was inspired by the recent earthquake (and resulting tsunami) that destroyed part of Japan.  The little fixture is amazingly pretty – when it is illuminated, it is like holding a small moon in your hands.  Well, maybe Paul Bunyan’s hands, but you get the idea.

Check out these images of Nosigner’s Moon Light, and check out Nosigner’s website – there is a LOT of flash on there, just FYI.  It certainly is pretty though.

Thanks, DesignBoom!

 

Arduino Light Painting

After the Roomba Light Painting article from this morning, I got a bit jazzed about checking out some inspiring light painting articles.

I ran across this one from one of my favorite blogs, Hack-N-Mod, about using an arduino chip to make some excellent pieces of long-exposure light art.  The artist who they feature in the article, Kim Pimmel, used some pretty simple arduino rocking to make some beautiful art.  Some of this stuff is just amazing.

That screenshot above is from Kim Pimmel’s Flickr photostream of some of his light art with Arduino.  Amazing.

Here’s a video of some of that work – WELL worth your time!  Be inspired!

Light Drive from Kim Pimmel on Vimeo.

Thanks, Hack-N-Mod!