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A Musecon Review

Lichtenberg figure
Stylized Lichtenberg figure

I arrived at Musecon Friday evening in time to catch the opening ceremonies. In the event you are unfamiliar with Musecon, see my previous blog post: Musecon 2012 Convention. Following the opening ceremonies it was time to give my own presentation. I was surprised at the size of the audience for my presentation Building an Online Presence: The Internet for Artists and Photographers as scheduled opposite my and the other programs in the time slot was the Masters of Lightning and their amazing singing tesla coils show. Fortunately my presentation was in the last time slot of the day for that room so instead of speaking for 1 hour and 15 minutes, I wound up going for a full 2 hours. This was in part because of lively audience participation. I classify my talk as having been a success

I closed out the first evening after an extended discussion in the con suite on various photographic issues, including the alternatives for doing macro photography. I do in fact have a blog article on the subject fully written (done several months ago) – just waiting to be posted. Not sure what I’m waiting for.

The first program I attended on Saturday was 3D Printing Discussion. The 3D printing program won out over the digital photography session that was running in the same time slot. After the lunch break there was a 3D Printing Show and Tell. My principal take-away from these two sessions is that 3D printing is still very much in its infancy. It seems that much time is devoted to managing, maintaining, and improving the performance of these home built 3D printers.

3D printers
Left: one example of a 3D printer; Right: Dwayne explaining about 3D printers

And the joke of the day was What do you do with a 3D printer? You use it to make more 3D printers. In the photograph above, for the 3D printer on the right, all the parts in black and blue were created by other 3D printers. Given that my sole interest is in the printer’s output capabilities, I’ve decided that a 3D printer is not for me at this time.

My second and last presentation followed: Processing for Artists and Photographers Everyone in the audience had programming experience and many had downloaded and installed Processing prior to the start of my talk. My talk consisted of two parts. First a formal presentation that provided an overview of Processing and the principles of the creation of art via programming. Second was a walk through of several Processing sketches that I had written to illustrate the actual functioning of the language. I had to stick to the schedule on this one not only because there was another program in the room immediately after mine, but also because I wanted to attend the Workshop 88 session on Arduino for Beginners..

While I do have my own Arduino and have written some small programs for it, it has set in a box for almost a year untouched. Here was a chance to reintroduce myself to Arduino. I didn’t take the time to photograph the Arduino I was working with but this workshop proved to be time well spent.

The Arduino class was the last session I attended Saturday. I then had dinner and spent time talking with other attendees before heading for home.

I started Sunday by attending the Studio Lighting session run by Pan and Squirrel (fandom names). This session provided attendees the opportunity to work with a professional lighting setup. Most impressive was the large softbox light. A number of photographers in the audience took up the opportunity to do some shooting with the lights Pan and Squirrel so kindly provided.

Todd Johnson: Stand Back! I'm Going to Try Science
Todd Johnson: Stand Back! I’m Going to Try Science

The session that followed was aptly titled Stand Back! I’m Going to Try Science by Todd Johnson, a physicist at Fermilab. Todd’s presentation was all about the world of Lichtenberg figures and some of the adventures he has had in their creation. Note that the photo used to illustrate this post is derived from one of the Lichtenberg figures that Todd had on display. In addition to explaining the science of Lichtenberg figures, Todd also created give-away Lichtenberg’s for the audience on the spot. For more of Todd’s work, visit his Deviantart Gallery.

Next up was the session Hackerspace and Makerspace which dealt with the Chicago hacker/maker community. Dwayne of 2DKits provided a general overview and Randy spoke in more detail about Workshop 88 located in Glen Ellyn.

The final program of the day for me was Babbage’s Favorite Picture by another Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins (that’s W. Skeffington Higgins for fandom). A fascinating look at Babbage, Jacquard and his loom, Carquillat’s Jacquard Loom portrait of Jacquard, and Mr. Higgins quest to locate and view a "Jacquard Jacquard". All in all a fascinating discussion. For more on the "Jacquard Jacquard", see Portrait of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, 1839 Manufactured by Didier, Petit et Cie; Woven by Michel-Marie Carquillat (French, 1803–1884).

Favorite Quote

While I really liked the joke What do you do with a 3D printer? You use it to make more 3D printers, my favorite quote from the talks I attended is actually two quotes. First up is Todd Johnson who shared the wisdom of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:

"A physical experiment which makes a bang is always worth more than a quiet one."

That is a hard quote to top. More sublime was a quote offered by Bill Higgins in his presentation, who quoted Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, aka Ada Lovelace:

"We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves."

What lovely imagery.

And that’s the end of my story on Musecon.

Addendum

There had been a thunderstorm on Saturday and on returning home Sunday afternoon I discovered not one but three trees down in our back yard. One was a neighbor’s tree that had crashed in our general direction taking out a good portion of one of our trees in the process. The third was our crab apple tree – which suffered the loss of one of its three main basal branches. It turns out that inside the base was an ample supply of soil, the result of carpenter ants eating away at the base of the tree. We shall see how much longer it survives. So instead of coming home to an afternoon of R and R, I came home to an extended session with pruning shears and saws.

Ad Astra, Jim

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