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VISUALIZING the FUTURE
VISUALIZING the FUTURE: Table of Contents
Snapshot: Preface to VISUALIZING the FUTURE
Wide Angle: Intro to VISUALIZING the FUTURE
A Mixed View:
Electromagnetic Radiation: Light
Light as Energy
Organic Light-emitting Devices (OLED)
Optics in Everyday Life
Optics: The Science
Optics in Review
Sequel: What’s Next?
Appendix A: History of Computer Graphics (and a whole lot more)
Appendix B: A Sampling of CG Software Programs Used in Moviemaking
Appendix C: Special Effects Glossary (partial)
Appendix D: Famous Names in Optics (not a complete list)
Appendix E: Websites
Snap Shot: VISUALIZING the FUTURE
Visualizing the Future explores how humankind visually sees and interprets the universe.
Visualizing the Future "looks" at how a wide range of visualization methods used to interpret and understand the universe and ourselves. The spectrum of visualization methods ranges from primitive cave drawings to art, electron microscopy to telescopes, photography to movies, dreams to the paranormal, and optics to CGI used in scientific modeling and simulation.
How we visualize the universe spans across a wide spectrum of disciplines. The list ranges from media (movies, TV, CD/DVD, games, the Internet, virtual reality) to science (telescopes, microscopes, modeling, simulation, even astrology), to the arts (performance, paintings, drawings, sculpture), to our views in politics, religion, education and commerce.
Visualizing the Future surveys the various analog and digital hardware, software, methods and tools used by the various disciplines to produce images (and sounds). More importantly, the articles investigate how these various disciplines use images to interpret, understand, and ultimate persuade people to “see” a certain way.
Exploration into the visual includes how we see ourselves--looking inside our minds--and a look into the things we can’t see (death, outerspace, the future).
Since antiquity, we’ve used a number of devices and techniques to visualize the future, from crystal balls and tarot cards to the latest virtual reality. Prophecy has played an important role in human development, in everything from anticipating “the coming of the Lord” to wartime strategies to predicting stock market swings.
Virtual reality, 3D modeling and other Internet technologies allow us to create virtual worlds and virtual communities. Through role playing, we can be someone other than ourselves, offering a decidedly different perspective other than our own.
Mindreading, parallel universes, and the paranormal are other ways we try and see that which we cannot see. These excursions into the world of seeing are not quite as mathematical as the modeling and simulation software used in such areas as military strategy, weather forecasting, space exploration, population analysis, ecological change or even chaos and complexity. But, they are no less important.
A number of themes run throughout Visualizing the Future. These themes intersect and diverge. These themes include storytelling in Hollywood, reality vs. fantasy, what we see and what we don’t see, science and art, and optics in everyday life. These themes interweave in a kaleidoscope of color and light, influencing how we see ourselves and how we see our future.
An important note: Much of the historical and technical information in Visualization the Future is the result of online research. In some instances, information was extracted and then rewritten and/or edited. Nearly all the websites are authoritative websites of manufacturers, educational institutions and government organizations.
However, dates, in particular, do not always gel, as well as who invented what, when and where. Consequently, information is accurate, up to a point. Visualizing the Future is not meant to be the definitive source on the subjects covered. If there was a discrepancy in the dates, a phrase like “In the early 80s” or “In the late 17th century” were used instead.
The SIGGRAPH history of computer graphics doesn’t reflect all the subjects covered in the book, but does cover most media events, computer developments and some optics milestones in addition to computer graphics. It’s an inspirational timeline, nonetheless.
All the subjects covered in Visualizing the Future are complex enough to warrant their own libraries, if not entire universities dedicated to research on any given subject. The goal is to inspire.
Otherwise, the rest of Visualizing the Future is pure speculation. The ultimate purpose is to inspire new ways of visualizing the future of human evolution and discover—or re-discover—the maze of visualization tactics we use to communicate.
Profound credit is due to the numerous companies, organizations, websites, artists, technicians and writers, dedicated to finding new ways to help better see the world, the universe and ourselves…and make the world a better place.
Wide Angle: Intro to Visualizing the Future of Human Evolution
Shadows dance. Intense rays burn rock into dust. Cosmic radiation warps time and gives stars their twinkle. Rainbows hide in prisms. A fire burns. A mirror breaks. A bulb needs replacing. Even mystical lakes in fairytales reflect the sad face of a princess in search of her long, lost love.
Light. We need it to see. Our eyes take light and convert the universe into a paradise of image. Some even think God is light. Ancient Egyptians once worshiped the sun. Now, in the New Millennium, scientists are working on turning light into power.
How we see the world ranges from microscopes to telescopes to what we see inside our minds. And everyone sees things differently.
Light can play many tricks on our eyes...or is it our perceptions? The thrust behind exploring the world of visualization is really an exploration in reality vs. fantasy. The manipulation of reality is as easy as the manipulation of a photograph in Adobe’s Photoshop.
Take the movie, Jurassic Park, for instance. We don’t know what a dinosaur looks like, obviously, because no one has ever seen one. We rely on our current natural world and the insight of Paleontologists to give us the most likely scenario. After years of reconstructing dinosaurs from bones and the age in which they lived, paleontologists, archeologists, historians, and even philosophers and artists have done a pretty good job, we assume, of painting an accurate picture.
Steven Spielberg consulted a number of scientists and academicians before bringing dinosaurs to the screen. All along the route of recreation was a host of experts, writers, and graphic artists who provided a constant check and balance against what could and couldn’t be. Common sense certainly played a role. Its unlikely dinosaurs were pink or paisley, or ran upside down, or spoke a language. But then again, in Hollywood, anything is possible. A talking pink dinosaur is not completely out of the question.
But seeing is far more subtle--and complex--than seeing a physical object or representation of a physical object. How we “see” the world is what we call our “worldview.” When we look at the past or the future, some see triumph, others see disaster. Some people have wildly vivid imaginations. Others see the world in terms of black and white.
Some people look at the world through satellites floating in Outerspace. Others peer through microscopes at things billionths of nanometers small. Some claim they’ve seen “the coming of the Messiah” while still others claim they see nothing but evil in the world.
What we can’t see with our eyes we see with our imaginations. There is no more powerful tool for visualization than the imagination. With imagination, we can see events before they happen. We can practice doing something before actually doing it, so we don’t get hurt. Flight simulators serve this purpose. What we can’t see, we can model and simulate, like weather patterns or the universe expanding (or contracting). We can also act out our sexual fantasies without breaking anyone’s moral code.
Again, the overriding question is, “Is the world what we see with our own eyes or is it what we see in our minds?”
In crime, lawyers, judges and juries rely on witness testimonies and evidence to determine guilt or innocence. Sometimes witnesses lie; sometimes they are unsure of what they saw. Evidence can be circumstantial. Abuse cases are particularly troublesome since rarely does anyone ever see an abuser in action. Physical wounds can heal before they are photographed. And emotional abuse can’t be photographed.
In journalism, journalists strive to be objective. The information they provide must come from reliable sources. But news organizations are well known for their “slant,” often depicted in terms of liberal or conservative. And everyone knows liberals and conservatives most definitely do not see eye-to-eye. Some reporting agencies are biased, and in many instances, under harsh scrutiny, are clearly prejudiced.
Cultural differences are the most problematic. It is within the realm of culture that legends, myths and beliefs are the tools used to describe that which we cannot see...like God. Terrorism in the name of religion is clearly an expression of how world cultures see things differently. However, terrorism doesn’t work. An act of terrorism does not help us see the other side of an argument. In fact, it blinds us. We are not persuaded; we are horrified.
We live in a media-saturated culture. Children are endlessly bombarded with images ranging from depictions of Santa Claus to Daffy Duck getting his beak blown off in a cartoon. Get a little older and cartoons turn into video games. Video games turn into computer screens, TV and the movies. And anything channeled through a media device is manipulated. It is not reality; it is a representation of reality, even with real life documentaries and “reality” TV shows.
Most urban environments are but a fragment of what was once indigenous. We have so altered the landscape that many people have completely lost touch with what nature really looks like. We’ve turned deserts into resorts, removed mountains, and changed the course of rivers. It’s a wonder the sea isn’t colored chartreuse.
The views of science are as intriguing and dramatic as anything Hollywood creates, maybe even more so. What does a nanotube look like, something only billionths of a meter long or high? Without an accurate measuring stick, it’s impossible to see a “meter” yet alone a “nanometer.” Looking outward, no one knows what the “Big Bang” looked like. We don’t even know what a meteor falling to earth looks like since it happens in seconds and we could never be close enough to witness the impact.
And then there’s intelligent design. God is almost always referred to as “he.” Since no one has ever seen God, then obviously “he” is a projected image. Then again, some people will say they see God in everything. Referring to God as “she” is still considered a joke in most circles, something only a comedian or irate feminist would say. God is certainly not a transsexual, the suggestion of which would be considered an act of heresy by many. God could also be black or white. The “he” reference leaves so much to be desired. Is “he” a child, an old man, or does “he” look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or is God not a person at all, but a force; an invisible force we cannot see, but only imagine?
Some things in life happen too fast, too faraway, in the past or future, or behind rock so thick not even Superman can see with X-ray vision. We send probes into Outerspace and into the earth’s crust to do our looking for us. We use time-lapse photography to show us how things look as they change over time. Our vision is limited. We need pictures.
There are two myths this exploration into the visual realm will help destroy. First, there is the belief that “Every picture tells a story.” Two, “A picture says 1000 words.” Sure, pictures tell stories, but what stories? Anyone who has ever lighted a subject in a photography studio or worked with a graphics program like Photoshop knows to what extent pictures can be altered. When it comes to moving pictures, Hollywood has no qualms about spending millions of dollars to shape a 30 second scene precisely according to a director’s “vision.” When it comes to a 1000 words, in the news, it’s not often what the camera sees but what it doesn’t that tells the “real” story, or the “other side” of the story.
In other words, how many of us are living in fantasy worlds and don’t even know it?
A popular theme running through many college curriculums is the “deconstruction of reality.” In simpler terms, the theme is an attempt to cut through the “hype.” But then, just what is hype? How has the advertising community used imagery to influence us as consumers? How have history books used words, pictures and drawings to portray characters and events from the past? How do Whites see Blacks and Blacks see Whites? Is the suicide bomber from Iraq a terrorist or freedom fighter?
There are other myths such as, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” or, “I won’t believe it until I can hold it in my hands,” and “Seeing is believing.” Few poets would argue that the more people who can “see with their hearts,” a better place the world would be.
The tools for visualization in the 21st century have become quite sophisticated. From electron microscopes to camera probes on distant planets, from 3D architectural rendering and war simulation software to digital art and webcams--it’s safe to say, we want to see everything.
Yet, the biggest question of all: How do we see the future? What does the future look like to someone who’s blind? How will the world look to a blind person fitted with artificially-intelligent eyes? What exactly are we seeing or not seeing that determines a positive or negative outlook? What blocks our vision? Is it intelligence? Is it hate? Is it fear? Or is it alcohol and drugs? And, nothing obscures the vision more than when we are hurting. Being free from pain allows us to see things more clearly, and if not, at least more positively.
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