Memories and passive reflections in Second Life

Memories by Giovanna Cerise, Berg by Nordan Art
Memories by Giovanna Cerise, Berg by Nordan Art

Opening at 11:00 SLT on Sunday, October 2015 at Berg by Nordan Art, curated by Kate Bergdorf, are two new exhibits, and what marks something of a change for the Nordan om Jorden region.

Taking place in Kate’s cosy skyborne gallery space is Passively by Sina Souza, while taking up the ground level of the region, reached via teleport board from the gallery and which has up until now been the setting for a series of eye-catching landscape designs by Kate, is an installation by Giovanna Cerise entitled Memories.

The latter is inspired  by the poem Non recidere, forbice, quel volto (“Do not chop away, shears, that face”) by Eugenio Montale from his 1939 collection Le Occasioni. The design and execution of the installation, to me, both reflects the nuance of the poem and also echoes elements from some of Giovanna’s past works in form and colour, if not in actual content.

Memories by Giovanna Cerise, Berg by Nordan Art
Memories by Giovanna Cerise, Berg by Nordan Art

Central to the piece is the motif of a face – presumably the face of the woman referred to in the first stanza of the poem, as the narrator pleads with the shears of time not to erase it from his memory. This motif is repeated across the region in various forms, most noticeably on the faces of multiple black and white semi-transparent cubes arranged in a series of three-dimensional chequerboards.

Camming around these cubes causes a degree of “alpha-ing” between the black and white cubes, so they appear to swap positions. as they do so, the images on their faces flicker in and out of view, further suggestive of a memory fading in and out focus, again echoing the poem’s theme.

Visual Ignorance, Passivity, by Sina souza, Nordan Art
Visual Ignorance, Passively, by Sina Souza, Berg by Nordan Art

Sina’s pieces – 3 in all – present images in soft tones and in a large format which draws the observer into them. While the tones in each might be muted, the emotions they evoke aren’t necessarily so, with each piece powerfully reflecting its title: Lost Memories, Visual Ignorance, and The Transience of Existence.

Lost Memories offers something of a link with Giovanna’s work, but all three are extraordinary in both presentation and message, and are deserving of considered study in order to appreciate all the nuances of context.

As noted, both exhibits open at 11:00 SLT on Sunday, October 11th, with music by Eif (aka d-oo-b).

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Space Sunday: of water, Apollo and space spies

CuriosityThe Curiosity rover team have released a further study showing that ancient Mars was capable of storing water in lakes over an extended period of time, and that this water was a principal component in the creation of “Mount Sharp”, the mound at the centre of Gale Crater, currently being investigated by the NASA rover.

This forms the latest in a series of reports on the subject of water on Mars and in Gale Crater to be published by the Curiosity science team, and comes almost a year after I wrote about studies released by the team which detailed how “Mount Sharp” – more formally known as Aeolis Mons – was most likely formed by sediments laid down  by successive wet period in Mars’ ancient past.

“Observations from the rover suggest that a series of long-lived streams and lakes existed at some point between about 3.8 to 3.3 billion years ago, delivering sediment that slowly built up the lower layers of Mount Sharp,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, discussing the new report.

In December 2014, NASA issued a report on how
In December 2014, NASA issued a report on how “Mount Sharp” was likely formed. On the left, the repeated depositing of alluvial and wind-blown matter (light brown) around a series of central lakes which formed in Gale Crater, where material was deposited by water and more heavily compressed due the weight of successive lakes (dark brown). On the right, once the water had fully receded / vanished from the crater, wind action took hold, eroding the original alluvial / windblown deposits around the “dry” perimeter of the crater more rapidly than the densely compacted mudstone layers of the successive lake beds, thus forming “Mount Sharp”

However, until Curiosity actually started studying “Mount Sharp” in detail,  the accuracy of the earlier studies couldn’t be completely verified. The latest results from the rover indicate that these wetter scenarios were correct for the lower portions of Mount Sharp, and that the filling of at least the bottom layers of the mountain occurred over a period of less than 500 million years, mostly as a result of material deposited by ancient rivers and lakes.

The new report also comes on top of confirmation that the recurring slope lineae (RSL) features seen on Mars from orbit are most likely the result of outflows of water which are occurring today. together they are reshaping some of the thinking around water on Mars – and what might have happened to it.

“What we thought we knew about water on Mars is constantly being put to the test,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Programme. “It’s clear that the Mars of billions of years ago more closely resembled Earth than it does today. Our challenge is to figure out how this more clement Mars was even possible, and what happened to that wetter Mars.”

Strata at the base of
Curiosity has found plenty of evidence for water on the floor of Gale Crater, which likely took the form of one or more lakes during the wetter parts of Mars’ history, before becoming rivers and streams later. Strata at the foot of “mount Sharp” (shown above) strongly suggested water played a significant part in forming the mound, and the evidence for this being the case has continued to be revealed as the rover climbs the lower slopes

Currently, images of the flanks of the mound returned by the rover and from orbit suggest water-transported sedimentary deposition may have extended at least 150 to 200 metres (500 to 650 feet) above the crater floor, and possibly as high as 800 metres (approx 1/2 a mile). This both indicates that there was at least one standing body of water in the crater and further confirms that “Mount Sharp” was a direct result of sediments deposited by this water. Or at least, the lower slopes were; there is currently little evidence for the sedimentary strata extending about the 800 metre mark, however. This has led to speculation that wind-blown deposits are responsible for the upper reaches of the mound.

Taken together, the recent findings concerning Mars and its water suggest that the planet’s history is far more complex than had been thought. “We have tended to think of Mars as being simple,” John Grotzinger, the former project scientist for the Curiosity mission said of the latest findings.

“We once thought of the Earth as being simple too,” he continued. “But the more you look into it, questions come up because you’re beginning to fathom the real complexity of what we see on Mars. This is a good time to go back to re-evaluate all our assumptions. Something is missing somewhere.”

Pluto’s Water

The blue haze of Pluto's atmosphere
The blue haze of Pluto’s atmosphere: released on October 8th, this true colour image taken after the New Horizons spacecraft had completed its closest approach to the dwarf planet shows Pluto’s night side ringed by the blue haze of its thin atmosphere, as illuminated by the distant Sun, far away on the other side of the little world

The latest images and data to be received on Earth from NASA’s New Horizons space vehicle reveal Pluto’s atmosphere to be a rich blue in colour, and confirm that water ice exists on theplanet.

“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It’s gorgeous,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator as the striking image shown above was released as part of the latest batch of pictures and data to be received from the space craft and undergo processing and initial analysis.

The blue colour indicates that the haze within Pluto’s atmosphere is made up of a lot very fine of particulate matter, which scatters blue light from the Sun more easily than other colours, due to blue having a shorter wavelength (which is also the reason the sky we see here on Earth also appears blue, because that wavelength is easily scattered by the tiny particles making up our atmosphere).

In Pluto’s case, it’s thought that the particles in the atmosphere are largely tholins, created by ultraviolet radiation from the Sun breaking down the methane and nitrogen in Pluto’s upper atmosphere, allowing their molecules to gradually recombine into the more complex tholins, which draft down through the atmosphere, undergoing further changes, before eventually reaching the surface of the planet, giving it a distinctive reddish colour.

Instruments forming the Ralph suite aboard New Horizons have identified regions of exposed water ice on Pluto which occur in regions which have corresponding deposits of tholins. Quite what the relationship is between the two is unclear. The water ice deposits are shown in blue on the inset image simply for convience, and not because that's how they appear on Pluto
Instruments forming the Ralph suite aboard New Horizons have identified regions of exposed water ice on Pluto which occur in regions which have corresponding deposits of tholins. Quite what the relationship is between the two is unclear. The water ice deposits are shown in blue on the inset image simply for convenience, and not because that’s how they appear on Pluto

The discovery of water ice on Pluto has taken scientists by surprise. Not so much because it is there, but because it appears to be somehow related to areas of heavy tholin deposits. Confirmation of the presence of water ice came from data returned by the Ralph instrument suite aboard New Horizons, but just how widespread it might be isn’t clear, as it seems that it might be masked elsewhere by other surface material.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: of water, Apollo and space spies”

Of mysteries, murders and ghosts in Second Life

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, October 11th

13:30: Tea time at Baker Street

The Valley of Fear, The Strand Magazine, 1915. Illustration by Frank Wiles
The Valley of Fear, The Strand Magazine, 1915. Illustration by Frank Wiles

It was the fourth of February in the year 1875. It had been a severe winter, and the snow lay deep in the gorges of the Gilmerton Mountains. The steam ploughs had, however, kept the railroad open, and the evening train which connects the long line of coal-mining and iron-working settlements was slowly groaning its way up the steep gradients which lead from Stagville on the plain to Vermissa, the central township which lies at the head of Vermissa Valley. From this point the track sweeps downward to Bartons Crossing, Helmdale, and the purely agricultural county of Merton. It was a single-track railroad; but at every siding—and they were numerous—long lines of trucks piled with coal and iron ore told of the hidden wealth which had brought a rude population and a bustling life to this most desolate corner of the United States of America.

For desolate it was! Little could the first pioneer who had traversed it have ever imagined that the fairest prairies and the most lush water pastures were valueless compared to this gloomy land of black crag and tangled forest. Above the dark and often scarcely penetrable woods upon their flanks, the high, bare crowns of the mountains, white snow, and jagged rock towered upon each flank, leaving a long, winding, tortuous valley in the centre. Up this the little train was slowly crawling.

The oil lamps had just been lit in the leading passenger car, a long, bare carriage in which some twenty or thirty people were seated. The greater number of these were workmen returning from their day’s toil in the lower part of the valley. At least a dozen, by their grimed faces and the safety lanterns which they carried, proclaimed themselves miners. These sat smoking in a group and conversed in low voices, glancing occasionally at two men on the opposite side of the car, whose uniforms and badges showed them to be policemen.

Several women of the labouring class and one or two travellers who might have been small local storekeepers made up the rest of the company, with the exception of one young man in a corner by himself. It is with this man that we are concerned. Take a good look at him, for he is worth it.

Thus opens the second part of  The Valley of Fear, and with it we are transported to the United States in the year 1875, and introduced to a man by the name of Jack McMurdo. But where, in all of this, might sit the hand of Moriarty?

Join Caledonia Skytower, Kayden Oconnell and John Morland as they continue to read the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel.

18:00: Serafina and the Black Cloak – Encore

Join Caledonia Skytower as she presents an encore of the beginning of Serafina,  at Magicland’s Golden Horseshoe (see below for more on the story).

Monday October 12th, 19:00: A Night in the Lonesome October

The Seanchai staff are marking the arrival and passage of the Halloween month with readings of Roger Zelazy’s A Night in the Lonesome October. The latter is the last of Zelazy’s published works, and 31 of its 32 chapters (the first being an introductory chapter) each take place on a night in October.

Lonesome OctoberThe book is satirical in nature, and is written in the first person – the narrator being Snuff the dog, the companion to none other than Jack the Ripper.

Once every few decades, when the moon is full on the night of Halloween, the fabric of reality thins, and doors may be opened between this world and the realm of the Great Old Ones.

At this time, men and women with occult knowledge gather at a certain location to engage in The Game – an attempt by some to open the doors, and others to hold them closed. Should the Openers ever win the game, the Great Old Ones will come to Earth, remake it in their own images and enslave or slaughter the human race in the process.

Thus, through the month of October, the Players in The Game – all archetypal characters from Victorian Era Gothic fiction – form alliances, make deals, oppose one another, and even resort to murder in their attempts to make sure the doors are ready to be opened or can be held fast when, on the night of October 31st, the final ritual takes place and the fate of the world is decided.

Tuesday October 13th,19:00 The Ghost of William S. Burroughs

… Makes an appearance at Seanchai… seriously!

Wednesday October 14th 19:00: Serafina and the Black Cloak

serafinaCaledonia Skytower continues reading of Robert Beatty’s spooky mystery thriller.

Serafina lives a life of total secrecy. While her father may be the maintenance man for the great house of the Biltmore Estate, the wealthy owners of the estate have no idea that he lives in the basement of the house – and much less that his daughter lives there with him.

Not that this is a problem for Serafina; she is quite at home exploring the great house and its grounds whilst avoiding being seen. There’s certainly no need for her to venture into the great forest beyond the estate, and with which, he father has said, lie many dangers.

But when the children on the estate start vanishing, Serafina is forced to join forces with the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners, and discover the identity of the one they believe to be behind the disappearances: the Man in the Black Cloak. But in order to do so, Serafina must enter the forest her father has warned her against; and within that forest lies a deeper secret Serafina must confront – that of her own identity.

Thursday, October 15th

19:00: Ghost Stories

With Shandon Loring.

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

With Shandon Loring.

Saturday, October 17th, 12:00 Noon PDT at Seanchai InWorldz

The Fetch, a ghost story, with Shandon Loring.

A fetch is a supernatural double or an apparition of a living person in Irish folklore. Akin to the doppelgänger it is regarded as an omen, possibly of impending death. So what does it have in store for us? Join Shandon and find out!


Also This Month

  • Seanchai Library is participating in the Good Reads Hunt. To get started, visit the Good Reads starting point at Literature Alive!/Desi’s Gifts and Prints
  • Don’t forget to visit the Five Irish Haunts panels at Seanchai Library to discover something about ghosts and hauntings!


Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for October – December is Reach Out and Read, one of the most highly rated literacy charities in the USA which reaches 4.4 million children annually and distributes 1.6 million books.

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