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Archive for February, 2010

Artist Reception and New Art

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Modern Life
Modern Life

I’ll be leaving in a couple of hours to attend an artists’ reception at Advocate Good Shepard Hospital in Barrington. The reception is for myself and fellow artist Eric Hill. It is being sponsored by the Northwest Cultural Council. Eric and I are both artists in the Northwest Cultural Council’s Corporate Art Gallery program and currently have art on display at the hospital.

So here is a chance for you to have some free wine and cheese, talk with Eric and myself about whatever strikes your fancy, look at some art, and have a good time. The reception begins at 5:30pm and runs until 7:30pm. For complete details on the reception, see Artist Reception at Advocate Good Shepard Hospital, Barrington

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I used a piece of art that I just added to my Technology Gallery. Titled Modern Life it is based on a digital photograph I took a year ago. For more about the piece and to view a wallpaper sized version of the same, see Modern Life.

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New Art: Digital Rain

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Digital Rain digital art painting
Digital Raindigital painting

Added some new art the other day to my Nature Art Gallery – a gallery I’ve ignored for far to long. Titled Digital Rain, this was simply an experiment in painting a heavy rain – so heavy as to make the sky opaque. The idea came to me while watching a rain storm last year while at Bryce Canyon National Park. From my mountain side viewpoint, a heavy rain in the distance connected the sky to earth and was sufficiently heavy so as to obscure the landscape beyond.

It’s a hazy boundary between being clever and the opposite. We frequently see people creating something that forces us to ask ourselves what on Earth were they thinking when they did that? Now I’m not sure if I’m crossing that boundary here but the thought struck me to write a limerick about my painting to accompany this post – the goal being to make this post a little more entertaining. So for better or worse here goes.

My digital painting of rain
won’t pose a challenge to your brain
As fine art it’s not much
But it does give a touch
To the scope of nature’s domain

For details about the painting, visit the Digital Rain web page.

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Astronomical Art, Algorithmic Art, and Science Fiction

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Sands of Mars
Sands of Mars

The Capricon Science Fiction Convention opens today and runs through Sunday. I have a fairly busy schedule at the con this year. First I will be participating in the convention’s art show. I will have seven works of art in the show:

In addition to the art show, I will also be providing two presentations for the convention: Algorithmic Art: Where Art Meets Math and The Art of Astronomy.

Algorithmic Art: Where Art Meets Math gives a history of algorithmic art, discusses some of the concepts and takes a look at some of the software tools available today to those interested in algorithmic art.

The Art of Astronomy is a straight forward history of astronomical art which also includes a discussion of how I have created some of my astronomical art as well as providing an overview of how anyone can use freely available graphics software to work with the raw image data available online from the various NASA robotic missions.

In addition to my two presentations, I will also be participating on the following panels.

Panel: Do You Still Believe in the Future?
Description: They say the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” is thirteen and when you’re thirteen all sorts of things are possible in the future. Now that you’ve grown up, chronologically, if nothing else, do you still view the possibilities of the future the way you did when you hit that golden age? Is it possible to retain that hope and optimism or are humans naturally cynical? With co-panelists Michael D’Ambrosio, Butch Honeck and Dermot Dobson as moderator.

Panel: Nuclear Fission or Fusion or ???: What Will Power our Future?
Description: Wind…Water…Coal…Steam…Oil. Over the centuries our fuel choices have changed as we’ve found more effective alternatives. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the most effective alternative, nuclear fission, carries a strong negative, and fusion isn’t ready for prime time. What advances will fuel sources see in the next 50 years? 100 years? Will we ever run out of fuel? With co-panelists Jim Landis, Pat Nuccio, Isabel Schechter, and myself as moderator.

Panel: ISDC: The International Space Development Conference
Description: The International Space Development Conferences is coming to Chicago on Memorial Day weekend this year. Come learn what this professional conference has to offer and learn how you can attend at a discount. With co-panelists Raymond Cyrus and Tom Veal and myself as moderator.

Panel: Manned visit to Mars: Round Table Discussion
Description: Is it worth sending a man to Mars as opposed to unmanned probes? With co-panelists Brother Guy Consolmagno and Bill Thomasson as moderator.

See you at the con.

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A Personal Perspective on NASA’s New Direction

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Abandon in Place space art
Abandon in Place space art

Yesterday I had the privilege of being interviewed by Steve Grzanich, a reporter for WBBM-AM radio. The topic of our conversation was my reaction to this week’s announcement regarding NASA’s new budget and the decision to cancel both the Constellation program and NASA’s plans for a return of humans to the Moon. In the context of the interview I was speaking as an individual who also happens to be a director for the National Space Society and a vice president of the Chicago Society for Space Studies.

I would summarize my reaction to the new NASA direction as mixed. There is good news in the announcement but also bad news. My feeling is that on the whole, the announcement reflects an administration position that is soft on its support for space exploration.

On the good side is the plan to operate the International Space Station for an additional 5 years – until 2020. ISS was built to provide us with a science platform in space and I viewed it as the height of folly to terminate the station by de-orbiting it in 2015. Who but the government would spend 25 years and over $100 billion to build a laboratory and then abandon it only 4 years after its completion? I would also hope that when 2020 arrives, if ISS is still viable, that it be privatized for continued use and not deliberately destroyed as was originally planned.

The very good news was the expansion of a commitment for NASA to procure commercial launch services. This is something that the space movement has been advocating for years. Such a program was already underway in the guise of the COTS program. COTS – Commercial Orbital Transportation Services – is a program to procure the commercial delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS). One of the driving factors for this was the “gap” – that being the period of time between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the availability of its replacement via the Constellation program. During this gap, the U.S. government would essentially be outsourcing its access to the space station to Russia.

Tied in with the decision to expand NASA’s procurement of commercially provided services is the administration’s decision to cancel the Constellation program. Constellation is/was the program that would provide both crew (Ares I) and cargo (Ares V) launch vehicles, a crew spacecraft (Orion), and a lunar lander (Altair). Of course there is no reason why both government and commercial launch services could not have been pursued in parallel. Make no mistake – this decision was not made because the Obama administration has become pro-space advocates of free markets. Rather it is in recognition of the fact that private enterprise can probably do the job faster and cheaper and abandoning Constellation means the cost of the Constellation program can be removed from the NASA budget.

The bad news is the cancellation of plans to return humans to the Moon which once again consigns astronauts to LEO (Low Earth Orbit). A pro-space administration would have expanded the commercial program to include calls for private industry to develop a transportation system that could deliver humans and cargo to the surface of the Moon – with NASA signing on for some number of missions. There was no need to throw out the goal of returning people to the Moon.

As to NASA’s proposed budget for the next five years, the annual increases called for will be less than the rate of inflation so NASA’s purchasing power is actually going to decline over time. Given that NASA’s 2009 budget was 18.78 billion (inclusive of stimulus funds, source:NASA Budget Summary) and the proposed 2015 budget is $20.99 billion, this works out to an annual growth rate of a paltry 1.8 percent.

On the good side, the budget will provide $4.9 billion over 5 years for a space technology development program; $3.1 billion over five years for heavy lift vehicle research (recall the newly canceled Ares V heavy lift vehicle); and $7.8 billion over five years for technology demonstrations for spaceflight technologies – if the administration keeps its word. Unfortunately all the technology examples given are technologies initiated in the past but abandoned. For example – inflatable structures. Does anyone here recall TransHab?

One disconnect I noticed was NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s claim that "Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year." This means the development of a non-chemical based propulsion system. Unfortunately there is not one word about the development of such a revolutionary system in the NASA budget statement.

While there is more to say about the new direction being set for NASA, my comments here represent my reaction to the major points announced earlier this week.

The Illustration

Abandon-in-Place is a piece that I created to voice my disappointment at the cancellation of the last three Apollo missions to the Moon – one empty spacesuit for each of the canceled Apollo missions. Given that NASA has now been told by the administration to abandon plans for a human return to the Moon, this artwork seemed an appropriate piece to use. For more information about the art, see the Abandon-in-Place web page.

Ad Astra, Jim

Postscript: The National Space Society has released a press release outlining its position on the new NASA budget. See Welcomes Sci-Tech, Private-Sector Spending In 2011 Budget, But Calls For Continued Human Spaceflight Beyond Earth Orbit

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New Art: Emergent Hand

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Emergent Hand
Emergent Hand

I had a tough time naming the newest addition to my Computer Art Gallery. Emergent Hand
started out as a landscape scene inspired by what I observed last year while visiting Bryce National Park in Utah. Upon completion of the piece I realized that I had created a hand. In fact, turning it sideways brought to mind that flying Blue Meanie glove from the Beatle’s movie Yellow Submarine. I found the ambiguity of the piece particularly appealing.

For more information about the art and to see a wallpaper sized version, visit the Emergent Hand web page.

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To Be Anonymous Added to Computer Art Gallery

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

To Be Anonymous
To Be Anonymous digital art.

To Be Anonymous is the newest addition to my Computer Art Gallery. Looking at this piece you may find it ambiguous and you’d be right. The subject is anonymity. To the outside observer, everyone in this crowd is anonymous. However, inside this digital painting there is one who, while a part of the group, is separate from it. What you the observer need to work out is this: is that individual turned away from us while the crowd face us, or is it the crowd that has their backs to us and the individual who stares out at us anonymously.

Back tomorrow with another new digital painting.

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