Les évolutions dangereuses

This month sees the third round of the Linden Endowment for the Arts Artist-in-Residence programme drawing to a close. With applications for round 4 now open, I thought it time I caught-up on some LEA-related posts on various exhibits which have been in draft form over the past for weeks and got them blogged.

Given that science forms the basis for a large part of my non-SL posts here, I thought I’d begin with Kicca Igaly and Nessuno Myoo’s Danger in Evolution, currently on display at LEA27.

Danger in Evolution
Danger in Evolution

The artists describe the work, which comprises two separate but interlinked installations by each of them respectively, as:

The contradiction that is at the heart of any technological and scientific evolution when there is not  growth, maturity and an awareness of value potential risks that this implies evolution in the life of everyone. Especially when interests of prevarication or economic, social, religious interests come into play.

It’s a dark piece – literally, given the recommended windlight settings and overall hue and tone of the builds themselves – which is both provocative and rich in imagery, challenging us to consider the ethical, moral and religious challenges, both positive and negative, inherent both in the pursuit of science and technological development.

Danger in Evolution
Danger in Evolution

Nessuno Myoo presents us with a scene which is both chaotic and yet potentially joyful – a huge carousel-like ball on which people ride. From a distance all seems to be fun and laughter – but as one draws closer, it is apparent that this is not the case. Those riding the carousel are perhaps not really in control, but are perhaps trapped by the very thing they sought to create.

Closer examination still reveals that the carousel is far from innocent; at its heart lay a representation of of the atomic structure of uranium 235, of which the nucleus is that of “Little Boy”, the first atomic weapon ever used in anger, which exploded over the city of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. This brings the carousel’s design into sharp relief – it is in fact the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion, and thus the surrounding chaos can be understood, as can the myriad of eyes witnessing the scene.

Danger in Evolution
Danger in Evolution

In her piece, Kicca Igaly continues the nuclear theme central to Nessuno’s work, as she presents a piece depicting nuclear research, wherein those performing the work are seemingly oblivious to the fact that while they have the benefit of every protection which can be afforded them in their work, the real nightmare is already out in the world in the form of nuclear waste which is poisoning the world, and ruining lives, as shown by the two children who innocently play with toxic waste, themselves seemingly oblivious of their own missing parts…

The children are perhaps a link into the second aspect of Kicca’s work, as she also presents a tableau depicting genetic research as a scientist, surrounded by models of DNA, peers steadfastly into a microscope. Will he find a new means of aiding the sick or overcoming sickness – or will his research result in further chaos and destruction? As Kicca notes, “The timing of the research are often too short to fully evaluate the consequences of what is produced afterwards. I wanted to emphasize in these scenes, that these aspects need to be taken into extreme account by researchers and by who finances them and often influence their activities, with cursory expectations. ”

Danger in Evolution
Danger in Evolution

Of course, scientific and technological advancement are often rarely without risk. That does not mean we should turn out backs on either – and neither Kicca nor Nessuno are implying we should. But we have reached a point in our own understanding of both science and technology where we do need to be more aware of both the broader potential and impact of scientific discovery and development. As such, we perhaps move to free ourselves from both the imperatives of financial gain arising from research and  – equally – the religious ignorance which often prevails against the potential for life-saving / life-enhancing research and development, and look upon things in a broader light – particularly where our endeavours can have such a wide-ranging impact on both our evolution and on the world around us.

Danger in Evolution is a powerful, evocative piece, however one looks at it, both directly and indirectly. The imagery is both intense and also subtle, challenging us to consider matters of evolution, development, research and science from all parts. Walking through Nessuno’s part of the installation in particular, I could not help but hear Oppenheimer’s quote when looking back on the detonation of the very first A-bomb during the Trinity tests in New Mexico, when he referred to a passage from the Bhagavad Gita,  “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

This is also a piece that again demonstrates the sheer power of environments such as Second Life for staging immersive works of art which can so challenge our perceptions and thinking – and as such, it is not one to be missed.

Danger in Evolution
Danger in Evolution

Related Links

Of rocks, drills and portraits

CuriosityOn Wednesday 6th February, Curiosity used its drill for the very first time to cut into a rock on Mars – the first time such an operation has ever been undertaken on the Red Planet.

The operation wasn’t a sample-gathering one, or even an attempt to obtain surface material for use in “cleaning” the internal sample collection feeds in the drill. It was what NASA referred to as a “mini drill test” designed to ensure the drill behaved as anticipated when combining both the drilling and hammer actions, and to generate cuttings which could be used to confirm the inside of the rock – dubbed “John Klein” in tribute to former Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager John W. Klein, who died in 2011 – would provide material suitable for processing by the rover’s sample handling mechanisms.

The borehole resulting from the operation cut just 2 centimetres into the rock, but it provided enough material for initial visual analysis using the Mars Hand Lens Imager MAHLI), also mounted on the rover’s robot are along with the drilling mechanism.

A “blink” pair of images showing “John Klein” before and after the “mini drill test” : the bore hole (some 2cm deep and 1.6cm in diameter) and debris.

Two images taken by the telephoto lens of the rover’s Mastcam system were taken to present a before-and-after “blink” image of the drill site, with the first image capture on Sol 178 (February 4th), prior to drilling, and the second captured on Sol 180 (February 6th), immediately after drilling had been completed and the turret rotated out of the way. In the second image, the results of the drilling can clearly be seen – not just with the hole and surrounding cuttings, but in the way that vibrations from the drill’s cutting / hammering has shaken dust and debris from the surrounding veins in the rock, most notably those at the bottom of the image.

Once drilling had been completed, Curiosity manoeuvred MAHLI into position over the hole to capture a range of close-up images which would be used to visually analyse the cuttings and assess their suitably for sample processing. The first of these images returned to Earth revealed a near-perfect borehole, leading members of the mission team to dub it “sweet baby”.

“Sweet baby” up close: imaged by MALHI, the 2cm deep hole is revealed in detail, surrounded by cuttings, some of which are compacted as a result of the drill’s cutting / percussive actions.

Visual analysis of the images is liable to continue for the next few days, and will likely be coupled with use of the Chemical Camera (ChemCam) system with its powerful remote imager system, prior to a decision being made as to whether material yielded by the rock is suitable for further processing.

Providing engineers and scientists are satisfied, a further drilling operation will take place on the same rock, with the aim of cutting a borehole some 5cm deep. This will be deep enough for cut material to be pushed up behind the drill head and into the sample collection mechanism behind it. These cuttings will then be used to “clean” the internal elements of the drill’s sample-gathering system, prior to being passed to CHIMRA  – the Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis system, used to pre-process samples for delivery to Curiosity’s on-board science instruments – and dumped.

Once engineers are satisfied that the drill’s internals have been suitably cleaned of any remaining microscopic contaminants from Earth, material gathered by it will be delivered to CHIMRA for processing and delivery to the Chemical and Minerology (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments on board the rover proper.

All of this operations are expected to commence this coming week, and will mark the opening of yet another new chapter in Curiosity’s history.

A Further Self-portrait

Prior to carrying out the final drill tests, a series of commands were uploaded to Curiosity, instructing it to gather several dozen exposures of itself as it sits on “John Klein”. The aim of the exercise was to gain further views of the rover’s general condition, combining both “wide-angle” and “close-up” shots of the rover and its components.

A further self-portrait. Some 66 images were put together to produce this mosaic of Curiosity parked on “John Klein”. Captured using MAHLI, mounted on the turret at the end of the rover’s robot arm

Some 66 of these images, gathered on Sol 177 (February 3rd), were combined into a mosaic showing the rover parked on “John Klein” to give a remarkable “in-situ” self-portrait, in which all of the major components of the rover can be seen, other than the robot arm itself (although the arm’s “shoulder” joint can be seen next to the rover’s wheel in the bottom right of the picture). At the back of the rover is the nuclear power unit, with the communications systems on either side of it (the “tin can” of the low-gain antenna to the left and the hexagonal high-gain antenna to the right). Front left of the picture is the mast system, with the ChemCam system with the Mastcam and NavCam cameras directly under it facing towards MAHLI, and the grey covers of the sample delivery systems for CheMin and SAM visible at the front of the rover, between the mast and MAHLI’s position.

MSL reports in this blog

All images courtesy of NASA / JPL

SL project news week 6 (2): server deployment updates

Server Deployments – Week 6

The planned server deployments for week 6 occurred as anticipated:

  • On Tuesday 5th February, the Main channel received the server maintenance project deployed to LeTigre in week 5. This has miscellaneous minor bug fixes and new features – release notes
  • On Wednesday 6th February, the RC channels received the following:
    • BlueSteel: code for materials processing (project viewer still pending) – release notes
    • LeTigre: a new maint-server project to fix miscellaneous crash modes, and with minor performance improvements – release notes
    • Magnum: interest list code update to specifically address the bot / bandwidth problem reported on in last week’s update and also support for materials processing – release notes

Server Deployments – week 7

There is no advanced news on potential deployment for the week commencing Monday 11th February, 2013.

SL Viewer Updates

The beta viewer was updated on February 6th with the release of Please refer to the release notes for details of all changes and updates. The CHUI project development viewer also updated to on February 6th.

Updates – Issues and Other Bits

Bot / Bandwidth Issues

Speaking at the Server Beta user group meeting on Thursday February 7th, Maestro Linden indicated the ongoing bot / bandwidth issue related to the interest list code and as pointed to by Latif Khalifa and confirmed by Andrew Linden (reported in more detail here), appears to have been resolved. Commenting on the bug fix in the server deployment thread, Triple Peccable, who was one of those being badly impacted by the problem, comments:

Maestro and Andrew,

I wanted to report on the bot’s usage. Fixed!

Before this incident the bot’s “normal” usage was 5 MB / hr. That is so normal no one would suspect anything.

But now it is 1 MB / hr! It has never been that low before, ever.

The improvement might be from the interest list changes, but since the bot is parked 3300m up with a very limited draw distance, I think it is from this UDP bug fix, and will help with more than just bots. :smileyhappy:.

Estate Ban Issues

Two issues have been reported in relation to estate bans recently.

One is the use of LSL commands for estate moderation, as mentioned in the second part of my report for week 5. While it is not clear how widespread the issue is (the reports received so far appear to relate to four regions), it had been hoped that the code deployment to LeTigre might have fixed the problem, but tests with an affected region move to LeTigre showed this was not the case. However, Maestro Linden believes LL may have a match between the issue and a bug that was filed internally after  crash report fingerprints were browsed, so investigations are liable to continue.

In the second, Whirly Fizzle has reported an issue with the “GTFO” ban feature in Phoenix. While this adds the banned individual’s name to the banlist for an estate, the individual isn’t actually barred from accessing the estate. As such, it is thought that this issue might contribute to recent problems in people apparently circumventing estate bans, and is something which will not be rectified by the estate ban improvements currently being deployed by LL, as it is an issue within the Phoenix viewer code itself.

Region Crashes on Restarts

In addition to the restart performance issues related to physics memory use previously reported and updated in part 1 of this report, some regions are experiencing issues with the physics engine during a restart, with all scripting capabilities being disabled as the physics engine is overloaded. Scripting must then be re-enabled by the region owner / estate managers. A fix for this is being worked on, and should be available soon.

Vanishing Regions

Following the week 5 deployments, Alvid Majestic contacted me concerning issues with regions diagonally opposite Brocade, on the Mainland, failing to render in the viewer’s world view, and would not render until such time as a person moved into one of the regions immediately adjacent to it / moved into it.

Missing regions: Mullein and (beyond it) Ear fail to render from Brocade, which sits diagonally opposite them
Missing regions: Mullein and (beyond it) Ear fail to render from Brocade, which sits diagonally opposite them

This is not a new issue, having previously been reported in SVC-8130, although there was some confusion as to whether or not it had been resolved. Commenting on it in general at the Server Beta User Group meeting, Maestro Linden informed me, “It’s somewhat rare, but it was never officially fixed.”  As the JIRA is closed to comment, Shug Maitland has raised a forum thread on matter, so if you are witnessing the same issue on an ongoing basis, consider adding your comments there as well as raising reports.

Region Crossings

There has been mixed feedback to the results of the deployment of the new region crossing code across Agni.

Regular commentator on this blog, Wolf Baginski Bearsfoot has put together a report on his findings in the SL Server sub-forum, which builds on his initial impressions posted in this blog.

Some feedback given through the User Groups suggest that in some instances region crossings – such as with sailing – are improved, and at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 5th February, Simon Linden indicated LL were seeing fewer instances of stuck teleports.However, there have also been reports passed through the Server Beta group of automated cars on the Mainland encountering problems at region crossings while following Linden Roads and piling-up at the boundaries of regions such as Furness to Ravenglass, although instances appear to have calmed down. More updates on this as they come.