Be a Stargazer right from your computer

•April 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment
www.stellarium.orgStellarium is a rare gem of a program that allows you to see the night sky from the comfort of your computer in 3D.  There are a bunch of other programs that allow you to see the stars (Google Earth’s Sky feature and MS’s World Wide Telescope), but none compare to the rich features that Stellarium offers. Some of these features include: photo realistic atmospheres (that are customizable), sunsets/sunrises.  You can even set your location and see live mapping of the stars that are currently in your part of the night sky.  Other cool features are skinable landscapes (oceans, mountains, forests, fields..etc), telescope controls, twinkling stars, shooting stars, milky way, nebula’s, solar system objects, simulated eclipses, zodiac images that apply to the stars, the ability to fast forward and go back in time, and alot more. Watch as the earth rotates around the stars when you fast forward the hours. All zoomable and in 3D.

Get ready to loose hours on end watching the night sky or day. Check out their website at Works on windows,macs and linux systems.

Art in video games

•April 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Videogames have been around for over 30 years and its popularity has been steadily growing.  Most old-school gamers are in their early to mid 30’s and with the daily grind of life, stress, work and busy schedules, art in games has been evolving into a more tranquil and relaxation medium. People play games to escape from daily stress and as a means of entertainment, just like our favorite movies.  Not surprisingly, video games within the past  10 years have had a maturing audience  that crave a relaxed entertaining experience as opposed to blood and gore infused violence.

True, video games have grown in violence – with advancements in graphical technology, blood never looked so real; BUT they have also grown artistically as well. These graphic engines have plenty more to show off.

Here are some video games (in no particular order) that show off some of the artistic imaginations, original concepts with great execution both visually, musically and story telling from the design teams:

Cloud cloud2

Cloud (pc): made by a indie game company. Inspiration for this game came from dreams, clouds, flying above land and as well as exploration. You collect white clouds to rid the skies of pollutants and rain from the muggy dark clouds.

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Ico (ps2): one of the 1st games to take a chance towards artistic greatness. You play a young boy that has been banished in a castle for having horns. You then find a girl trapped in a cage at the tip of the castle. The premise is simple, try to escape the castle while escorting the young girl through the puzzles of the enormous castle.  On the way you must climb walls, pull levers and make ‘waypoints’ for the girl to follow; leave the young girl too far behind and the shadows come out and try to take her away which you then need to fend off.  You can call to her and she follows; holding her hand you guide her through the castle.

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Flower (ps3): in this recent ps3 game you play as wind. Yes, wind. Collecting flower pedals while you sore through the games magnificent landscape. There are no button pushing just tilting of the controller simulating movement and speed. You explore nights and days with weather effects. Each blade of grass is individually rendered as you literately fly like the wind. The goal to enrich and bring life back to the land that has been corrupt by factories and plants, by collecting as many flower pedals through the levels landscape.

braid braid2

Braid (xbox360): puzzles that use time travel and manipulating the world around you (by slowing, rewinding, fast forwarding and freezing time) to get further. All in a poetic story with a great classical music score that changes with the speed of time.

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Shadow of the Colossus (ps2): You play a young boy on a horse, traveling great landscapes in search of enormous skyscraper size giants. You find these giants by holding a sword up and following the light trail to the giant’s place of habitat.  Once you find one of the many giants you then must climb on to its ankles and climb up to its head in search of its weak spot. You are only equipped with bow and arrow and a sword alongside with your trusty horse. Your objective, destroy the giants to release a spell to awaken a deceased girl.  Giants vary from underwater serpents to flying dragons, and are always a spectacle to see.

rez rez2

Rez (ps2, xbox360): Visually this looks like Tron , speeding through glowing wireframes of colors. You (a digital lifeform that evolves to human spirit) are flying through a computers mainframe fighting off viruses that look like digitized organisms with highly creative boss battles. The music relies on your actions which is in sync with every ‘virus’ you shoot and adds to the musical scores great electronic/tech beat. Trippy indeed.

Welcome to the new digital paintbrush.

Mammatus Clouds

•April 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

A lot of New Yorkers don’t usually have any views of the sky or horizons.  We are surrounded by buildings and are always on the go, its kind of hard to even have the time to ’stop and smell the roses’ of some of nature’s marvels.  Recently on June 26,2009, New York City had an extraordinary looking cloud formation called Mammatus Clouds.  These amazing clouds look as if they were brought in from another planets atmosphere.

A little info about Mammatus clouds (a name derived from the Latin word for breast).  These clouds form from thunder clouds and have properties which are rarely seen.  They have a bobbley downward  protrusion that hold usually as little as 5 minutes and can rarely be seen lasting as long as an hour.  They are produced entirely from water or a mixture of ice and water, they form an average of about once a year and are seen dramatically when the sun is at a low angle.

If you haven’t seen anything like this, then keep one eye in the sky and the next time you might witness some of these other worldy cloud formations.

Jumping from the Edge of Space

•April 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

On  August 16, 1960 Joseph Kittinger ran one of 3 series of tests for the U.S. Air Force called Project Excelsior.

Jumping from a hot air balloon at a world record of  102,800 feet (31,333 meters) to test high-altitude parachutes and the effects on the human body. His descent took almost 14 minutes and reached speeds of  614mph. Reaching temperatures of -90 degrees and nearing the speed of sound.

This has to be one of the most amazing recordings as he  jumped with a camera at hand. Till this day Joseph Kittinger holds the record for the highest jump in history.

Below is a clip of the jump. The clip is edited after 2:20, as it was used in one of my fav  Scottish electronic music duo,  Boards of Canada.