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Posts Tagged ‘Capricon’

Capricon Science Fiction Convention – Artificial Intelligence

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Capricon Science Fiction Convention
The Capricon Science Fiction Convention: Artificial Intelligence

I am quite looking forward to next week’s Capricon Science Fiction Convention. The theme for this year’s convention is artificial intelligence, which is an area of computer science that I find fascinating. One aspect of artificial intelligence that interests me is the thought of AIs as the creators of art and music. This would represent a significant advance over today’s generative art approach.

Before getting into a discussion of the panels I hope to attend, I’d like to call attention to the panels I will be on.

Riverworlds: The Latest on Mars and Titan
A panel that I’ll be moderating on the finding of features on Mars and Titan that appear to have been produced by fluvial processes. My copanelists will be a pair of friend of mine: Bill Higgins and Jeffrey Liss.
I Shouldn’t Have Blogged That
Sometimes we speak without thinking – which is bad enough but then your only audience is those folks who are within earshot. But with blogging and social media – we all have the opportunity to look like fools to a huge number of family, friends, and strangers alike. Along with Tracy Lunquist, the panel’s moderator, Kathryn Sullivan and I will talk about how to minimize your risks and how to do damage control.

In addition to participating on two panels, the folks at Capricon graciously offered me the opportunity to do a presentation on my digital art.
The title they picked for my presentation is The Art of Jim Plaxco and has the following description:

Explore the visual possibilities of digital art which uses a variety of techniques using computer graphics software, hardware, and both film and digital photography.

I do like that description because my intent is to focus on what it means to work digitally. I’ll cover hardware, software, work flow, and methodologies and will use some of my own art as examples.

As to the panels I hope to attend, those would be:

AI and the CDC
How the Center for Disease Control is using artificial intelligence.
AI Vision: Early AI vs. Current Technology
A historical overview of human imaginings about AI.
AI’s Impact on Religion and Religion’s Impact on AI
The impact of artificial intelligence on religion and the impact of religion on artificial intelligence.
Boundaries Between Science and Pseudoscience
As a skeptic and proponent of fact-based decision making, this could be quite interesting.
Curiosity on Mars Slideshow
A presentation by my friend and fellow JPL Solar System Ambassador Bill Higgins on the Curiosity rover and what it has uncovered on Mars. Note that Curiosity won the 2012 Crunchie For Best Technology Achievement.
Cylons, Cyberman, and Borg, OH MY! AI Destroys!
Ah yes, the dark side of hi tech.
Do AIs Have Rights?
Perhaps a more interesting question is should all AIs be treated equally?
Dystopias and Why We Love Them
I’ve been on a couple of dystopia panels before and wish I had gotten on this one. It’s a topic that has always fascinated me.
Is Google Making Us Stupid? To the Internet! [Is Google Making Us Stupid?]
I guess I better Google this before providing an answer.
It’s All in the Presentation
A panel for artists that discusses various aspects of the art biz.
NASA/JPL Saturn Mission Lecture
A very cool presentation (I’ve seen earlier versions of it) by friend and fellow JPL Solar System Ambassador John Vittallo about the Cassini mission to Saturn.
Non-Traditional Publishing Options
A look at publishing Ebooks, self-publishing, Amazon, etc.
When Does a Computer Become a Robot?
I would think the answer to this is obvious: when it sprouts arms and legs and is able to fetch.
Writing Nonfiction
A panel for folks who are interested in writing nonfiction.

I’ve listed a lot of panels here but have not checked the program schedule for time conflicts and given my luck I’ll probably actually make less than half of them. I also hope to attend at least some of the convention’s art auction on Saturday night. I still have to decide on whether or not I am going to participate in the convention’s art show.

Reference Links

If you’re attending Capricon, I hope that you are able to find the time to catch my presentation The Art of Jim Plaxco.

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From Capricon to Floral Photography

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Flyers of Fomalhaut b Digital Art Painting
The Flyers of Fomalhaut b Digital Painting

Part 1: The Capricon Science Fiction Convention

This year Capricon was a short affair for me. While the con ran Thursday thru Sunday, I only attended Friday and Saturday and then only until 6:30pm as I had made plans to attend the opening of a photo exhibition at the Prairie Arts Center in Schaumburg. And because I was not returning on Sunday I did not participate in the art show. On Saturday I did make sure to go through the art show and was happy to see work exhibited by a couple of my friends. What I found disturbing though was the fairly large number of empty display bays in the show. In my experience the Capricon Art Show generally has little, if any, unused space. Unfortunately I had to leave before the start of the art auction so have no idea how well that went.

With respect to programming, my only job Friday was as a panelist on Pluto Is Still a Planet in Illinois with Bill Higgins (Fermilab physicist) moderating and copanelists Brother Guy Consolmagno (Vatican Observatory) and Steven Silver (Capricon Fan Guest of Honor). This was a really good panel given that Brother Guy was a part of the IAU meeting at which the Pluto vote was made and Steven was a friend of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. If you were at Capricon and missed this panel – it was definitely your loss.

I arrived back at the con Saturday morning shortly before I was scheduled to give my presentation The Art of the Exploration of Space. I especially liked that I had 75 minutes to speak as this allowed me to go at a leisurely pace and engage in conversation with the audience as I went along. This was immediately followed by my moderating a panel at the opposite end of the convention on Goodbye, Space Shuttle. My copanelists were Henry Spencer, Chris Gerrib, and Kent Nebergall. Kent had the misfortune of being in the audience of my space art presentation whereupon I drafted him for the Space Shuttle panel as I knew that he would have valuable insights to contribute.

I next attended The Coming War on General Purpose Computation presentation by Cory Doctorow, the author guest of honor. It was a fascinating presentation. While I agreed with Doctorow on SOPA and other aspects of attempts to stamp out the theft of intellectual property, I came away dissatisfied that he offered no remedy for the authors, artists, and musicians who are having their work stolen. I was also somewhat surprised by his stance towards Facebook in that he seemed to believe that people should not be given the choice of sharing their information on social networks. I viewed this as being inconsistent with what I would characterize as a free and open internet perspective.

The last panel I attended was the most boring panel I have ever attended at any science fiction convention. Now with a title like Civil Disobedience: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement you would expect there to be an invigorating debate between the panelists and between the panelists and the audience. However, this panel was run by the brown shirts. No audience participation was allowed. There was a short period at the end where 5 people were identified and allowed to ask one question each with no follow up or commentary by the questioners permitted. In short, this panel was a total waste of time for the audience.

In summary, I’d say that the best things about Capricon were:

  • The accidental meetings
  • The conversations in the halls
  • The food in the green room
  • Prowling the Dealers Room
  • Checking out the art show
  • How well my The Art of the Exploration of Space presentation went and the ensuing conversations
  • Being on the Pluto panel with Brother Guy Consolmagno, Bill, and Steven
  • Friday lunch in the Green Room with Brother Guy, Bill Higgins, and Henry Spencer
  • Drafting Kent Nebergall to serve on the Space Shuttle panel.

Only one more year until Capricon 33!

Part 2: The Photography Exhibition at the Prairie Art Center, Schaumburg IL

Departing Capricon, I swung by home to grab a bite to eat and then headed over to the Prairie Art Center to take in a photography exhibition that was opening that night in the Herb Aigner Gallery. Titled Flowers in Our Soul, the show is devoted to artistic photographs of flowers and consists of 27 separate works. The photographers that I identified as having work on display in the show are Maria Aiello, Mary Angelini, Debbie Beller, Cindy Brumm, Susan Couch, Randee Lawrence, and Karie Strangeway. I had the opportunity to speak with several of them about their work. I was also curious to learn whether they printed their own work or used an outside service. If you would like to see the show, it runs through the end of February. See Prairie Center for the Arts, Schaumburg IL.

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I decided to use a piece of science fiction art that I just added to my web site. Titled The Flyers of Fomalhaut b, it is an imagining of what the life of exoplanet Fomalhaut b is like (note: not only is there no evidence of life on this planet, there is some question as to whether or not the planet even exists). Fomalhaut b appears to be a Jupiter-like planet that is about three times more massive than Jupiter and which orbits the star Fomalhaut once every 872 years. By comparison Pluto takes 248 years to complete an orbit of the Sun.

For more about this digital painting, see The Flyers of Fomalhaut b.

Until next time, Ad Astra, Jim

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Capricon 32 Science Fiction Convention

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Beyond the Mountains Exoplanet Landscape Painting
Beyond the Mountains exoplanet landscape painting

This weekend I’ll be attending the 32nd Capricon Science Fiction Convention being held at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling, IL. The theme this year is Amazing Adventures. I’ve attended quite a few Capricon’s over the years and they’ve always been fun. In addition to participating in the con’s programming, I’ve participated in their art show for the last several years.

With respect to programming, this year I am giving one presentation – The Art of the Exploration of Space. In this talk, I give an overview of the development of space art and how that art evolved over time to reflect the realities of aerospace engineering. I pay particular attention to the means by which art is used to portray space exploration, from exploratory to educational to inspirational. I also talk about the NASA Art Program and NASA’s recognition of the emotional impact of art vs photography. I even sneak some of my own space art into the talk.

I will also be moderating the panel Goodbye, Space Shuttle where we’ll be discussing human access to space in the post-Space Shuttle era. Joining me will be Henry Spencer, all the way from Canada and a co-panelist on a number of past space panels, and Chris Gerrib, whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting.

Lastly, I will be a panelist on the Pluto Is Still a Planet in Illinois panel. Moderating will be friend and scientist Bill Higgins. My fellow panelists will be Brother Guy Consolmagno (who was actually at the 2006 IAU conference at which Pluto was relegated to dwarf planet status) and Steven Silver. One of the questions the panel is asked to answer is Why are we still so invested in the classification of this distant object? In the case of Illinois politicians, I’m betting it’s because the chuckle heads, eer elected representatives, in Springfield would prefer to deal with weighty issues like Pluto’s planetary status rather than the financial and ethical holes they’ve dug the state into.

Uncharacteristically, I have not yet decided whether or not I am going to participate in the Capricon art show. Sunday has limited programming and I am not on any panels that day. Not participating in the art show frees up my Sunday which works out exceedingly well for me as I have other commitments that day.

Looking over the programming line up, you may find me in the audience of the following panels:

  • Whither Goes the Art Show?
  • Chicon 7: The 2012 Worldcon Open Meeting
  • Civil Disobedience: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement
  • Dystopia Now
  • Fan Artists You Should Know
  • SF/F Music that Isn’t Filk
  • The Coming War on General Purpose Computation
  • There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow! The Disney Imagineering Panel
  • We Do It in Groups: Fandom and Social Media

You can get all your Capricon questions answered at the Capricon web site.

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I decided to use a relatively recent digital painting I created and only added to my web site today. Beyond the Mountains is a minimalist representation of an exoplanet landscape.

Bon Voyage, Jim

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Capricon Science Fiction Convention 2011 Debriefing

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Capricon Live Art Sound Art Landscape
Capricon Live Art Program – Sound Art Landscape

The Capricon Science Fiction Convention was held at the Wheeling Westin Feb. 10 thru Feb 13. I arrived Thursday evening for my first panel – Requiem for the Space Shuttle. Along with fellow panelists Bill Higgins, Tracy Lunquist, and Henry Spencer, we discussed the history of the space shuttle program and its impact on space exploration. We also spent some time talking about the future of human access to space and the commercial revolution that will make it possible for private citizens to buy tickets for trips to space, i.e. space tourism. Our discussion lasted for over 90 minutes with lots of input from an enthusiastic audience.

Live Art

For me, the highlight of my participation in Capricon was my Friday morning Live Art presentation. My presentation opened with a demonstration of one of my programs for taking sound input from a microphone and processing that sound in order to create visual imagery. This was followed by my presentation which explored the subjects of algorithmic art, conceptual art, the question of is computer art art, and an explanation of my methodologies and the programming tools that I used to create the various programs. In fact a reasonable part of my presentation could be considered as a sales pitch for the field of computer art. My presentation was followed by the "show" – which involved running a number of different programs I had written to convert sound into art and letting the audience have their way with the microphone. Several of the artworks we created can be seen at A Gallery of Live Art Created at the Capricon Science Fiction Convention. The point that I sought to drive home was that while the sounds being generated by the audience were largely the same, the way in which they were interpreted visually varied tremendously based on the algorithm being used to translate the sound waves into visual imagery. For information about Live Art and my other presentations, see my Art Lectures page.

The Art of Space Exploration

Saturday morning I gave my The Art of Space Exploration presentation which provides an overview of the history of space art – beginning with early astronomical art and concluding with a discussion of space art from an artist’s business perspective. I included a couple of my own works in the presentation, including Shattered Dreams, a piece that I created as political commentary on the cancellation of NASA’s planned return of humans to the Moon and which was the cover art for the 2010 International Space Development Conference Program Book.

Capricon Odds and Ends

The rest of the weekend was spent either in conversation in the halls or over food, or attending panels on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately for me, the three programs I most wanted to see at the convention were scheduled in the same time slots as when I was speaking. My surprise meet-up of the convention was with fellow space artist John Kaufmann. This was the first time I had met John face to face – our previous meetings were of the virtual variety. John had some great astronomical art in the convention’s art show. We had a wonderful time talking shop and otherwise. Dinner Saturday consisted of an outing to a local mexican restaurant with Tullio Proni, maker of ray guns and other fine energy weapons; Bill Higgins, a beam jockey at Fermi Lab; and Nora. The other convention highlight was attending the Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog which indeed lived up to its name. In short, I had a fine, fun time at the con.

The Illustration

To illustrate this blog post, I combined two of the artworks created during the Live Art program in Photoshop and performed some additional image manipulation on them to create an abstract landscape. I also use this piece to illustrate A Gallery of Live Art Created at the Capricon Science Fiction Convention.

Referenced Links

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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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