Postcards from the Subconscious in Second Life

Nitroglobus Hall: Postcards from the Subconscious
Nitroglobus Hall: Postcards from the Subconscious

Currently open at Nitroglobus Hall, curated by Dido Haas, is Postcards from the Subconscious, a series of 15 images by Maloe Vansant and Burk Bode. Offered in the familiar large format seen at Nitroglobus, the pictures have a distinctly dark edge to them, which is not entirely what the artists intended.

“This exhibition is like a child. It was planned friendly and glamorous,” Maloe and Burk say of the works on display. “But as always our unconsciousness send us postcards. Feelings like bubbles coming up that told us we had to make just this picture and no other.”

Nitroglobus Hall: Postcards from the Subconscious
Nitroglobus Hall: Postcards from the Subconscious

The result is a series of images which, if not the stuff of nightmares, are certainly the kind thing which might creep into our dreams at three o’clock in the morning to poke at us as we sleep. At the same time, some of them provoke an entirely different response.

Take, for example, Ha Ha Said the Clown and The Dolls, both by Burk Bode. Here we have the embodiment of the hidden menace some of us see within a clown’s make-up, or the suggestion of possession contained within some gaudily painted dolls. At the same time, and while their titles might carry a hint of darkness, we have  Maloe’s Crooked and Who’s That Voice Inside My Head? Two pieces which seem to present a more contemplative frame of mood, largely free of menace, prompting a similar response in the eyes of their beholder.

Nitroglobus Hall: Postcards from the Subconscious
Nitroglobus Hall: Postcards from the Subconscious

All of this adds up to a fascinating exhibit, even if the artists feel it’s not entirely what they originally had in mind. “At the end our child is not what we planned it to be,” they note. “It became somebody dark and nasty. Looking at us like a misbehaving child and telling us: ‘I don’t like you’.”

Be that as it may, it is hard for parents not to love their children, however they turn out, as Burk and Maloe admit in their introduction to the exhibition. It’s also very hard not to be captivated and drawn into these images, Dark might be the subject matter, but the artistry is beautifully evocative and marvellously executed. Open through until June.

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Space Sunday: naming a (dwarf) planet and weather watching on Mars

A revised infographic of the six largest dwarf planets, showing 2007 OR10's revised 3rd place
A revised infographic of the six largest dwarf planets, showing 2007 OR10’s revised 3rd place

While opinions may be in a state of flux over what constitutes a dwarf planet – the recent discoveries around Pluto’s interaction with the solar wind once again highlighting the debate, the fact remains that there are a fair few to be found in the solar system, with the largest five, as traditionally listed in descending order of volume, being: Pluto, Eris, Haumea, Makemake and … 2007 OR10.

These worlds are so small and so far away – in relative terms – that gathering data on them without actually paying them a visit, as we’ve done with Pluto, isn’t easy. In the case of 2007 OR10, this lack of information means it has been left without a name, only a designation related to its year of discovery.

An artist's conception of 2007 OR10. Astronomers suspect that its rosy color is due to the presence of irradiated methane. Credit: NASA
An artist’s conception of 2007 OR10. Astronomers suspect that its rosy color is due to the presence of irradiated methane. Credit: NASA

However, all this might now be changing after data gathered by the Kepler observatory (about which I’ve written in recent Space Sunday reports) has helped reveal the dwarf planet – which orbits the Sun once every 547.5 years – is actually the third largest such body beyond the orbit of Neptune, sitting behind Pluto and Eris, and thus it could be a lot more interesting than first thought.

Up until now, it had been thought 2007 OR10 was about 1280 km (795 mi) in diameter. However, such is the sensitivity of Kepler’s instruments in measuring light variations whilst seeking extra-solar planets orbiting nearby stars, that the observatory has been able to precisely measure variations in the brightness of this unusually dark little world. These measurements, combined with data obtained from the Herschel Space Observatory, suggest that 2007 OR10 is around 1535 km (955 mi) in diameter, or about 255 km (160 mi) larger than previously thought.

2007 OR10The upshot of this is the dwarf planet is liable to be a far more interesting place than previously thought, potentially covered in volatile ices of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen, and may even be somewhat active as a result of its interaction with the solar wind. It also means that it is really overdue for a decent name.

According to convention, the honour of naming it goes to the planet’s discoverers, in this case Meg Schwamb, Mike Brown and David Rabinowitz. They discovered it in 2007 during a search for distant bodies in the Solar System. In fact, Mike Brown has already suggested a name: Snow White, in recognition of the planet’s ice surface composition.

However, this hasn’t stopped suggestions rolling in from the general public – up to and including, “Dwarfy McDwarfface”, in recognition of the recent public voting on the name for the UK’s new polar research ship.

I have to admit that – and indifference to Mike Brown’s suggestion, which doesn’t take into account 2007 OR10’s likely rusty complexion – my personal favourite suggestion has to be that from Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co (shown above right), which puts forward a very strong case for the name of this little world.  I’m also wearing my Dwarf Planet Pride Day badge with … pride!

Two Years of Weather Reporting on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has completed its second year on Mars – its second Martian year, that is; August 2016 will actually mark the end of its fourth Earth year of operations in Gale Crater. This milestone is important, as it means that the rover has been able to accumulate data on two full cycles of Martian seasons and weather.

Gathering data over so long a period helps distinguish seasonal effects from sporadic events. For example, a large spike in methane in the local atmosphere during the first southern-hemisphere autumn in Gale Crater was not repeated the second autumn; it was an episodic release, albeit still unexplained. However, the rover’s measurements do suggest that much subtler changes in the background methane concentration may follow a seasonal pattern; while measurements of temperature, pressure, ultraviolet light reaching the surface and the scant water vapour in the air at Gale Crater show strong, repeated seasonal changes.

Monitoring the modern atmosphere, weather and climate fulfils a MSL mission goal, supplementing the better-known investigations of conditions billions of years ago. Back then, Gale Crater had lakes and groundwater that could have been good habitats for microbes, if Mars has ever had any. Today, though dry and much less hospitable, environmental factors are still dynamic.

Curiosity’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), supplied by Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología, has measured air temperatures from 15.9o C (60.5o F) on a summer afternoon, to -100o C (-148o F) on a winter night.

Comparing temperatures at Mars’ Gale Crater (lower set of bars) to temperatures in Los Angeles. It shows key differences both in how much colder the Martian site is throughout the year, and also how much greater the difference between daily highs and lows. Mars has only about one one-hundredth as much atmosphere as Earth, and without that thick blanket of atmosphere the air temperature around Curiosity usually plummets by more than  55o C (100o F) between the afternoon high and the overnight low.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: naming a (dwarf) planet and weather watching on Mars”

Recreating Buckingham Palace in Second Life

Regency Buckingham; Inara Pey, May 2016, on FlickrRegency Buckingham – click any image for full size

Jacon Cortes recently invited me to visit a project on which he has been working on for the last several years, and which finally opened its doors to the public in late 2015: an exquisite reproduction of Buckingham Palace. Intrigued, I hopped over to take a look, and Jacon and KarenKate Sands were kind enough to join me.

“We call it Regency Buckingham,  Jacon, a period role-player known in-world as  Jacon Cortes de Béxar (the historians might note his surname being indicative of another of his interests) told me. “Altogether, it’s been three-and-a-half years in development. and we’re still  building project, and it is still a work in progress; we still have some rooms we are working on. But we have reproduced twelve of the staterooms, which people can tour.”

Regency Buckingham; Inara Pey, May 2016, on FlickrRegency Buckingham – The Grand Entry

Those more familiar with the modern-day Buckingham Palace might be a little surprised on their arrival. The familiar East Wing of the Palace, which stands before the Mall and is home to the famous Royal Balcony, is entirely absent; its place taken by Marble Arch. This isn’t an error in the design or imaginative thinking; rather it is the first indication that this is not Buckingham Palace as it is, but rather Buckingham Palace as it was, during its construction; hence the name Regency Buckingham.

The Palace was essentially built on the orders of King George IV, after his father had initially purchased the older Buckingham House for conversion into a private retreat for Queen Charlotte. Inheriting the house on his ascension to the throne in 1820, George IV originally envisioned expanding it into a comfortable home, only to have it grow into a design for a Palace, which John Nash designed along classical cour d’honneur lines, with Marble Arch serving as the triumphal entrance to courtyard.

Regency Buckingham; Inara Pey, May 2016, on FlickrRegency Buckingham – The King’s Gallery

This has been a labour of love for Jacon and co-builders Crotian and Twelfthnight Cortes de Béxar, and is also something of a visualisation of what the Palace might have been like, had George IV had lived to see it finished  (in fact, neither George IV nor is younger brother and successor, William IV lived to see the Palace completed).  “We’ve tried to stay true to the building,” Jacon informed me.

The result is a build which exhibits an incredible level of detail and attention to detail, Jacon, Twelfthnight and Crotian drawing on numerous sources, including the National Trust, the Royal Collection Trust and the Buckingham Palace pages of the Royal website, in order to ensure the build is as historically representative and accurate as possible. For example, in keeping with the Palace’s period of construction through the reigns of George IV and William IV, none of the works of art reproduced within it date from later than the end of the 1830s. In fact, many of the reproduced pieces are drawn from the collections of George III and George IV.

Regency Buckingham; Inara Pey, May 2016, on FlickrRegency Buckingham

On offer at the landing point at the Marble Arch, is an information note card written by Tiamat Windstorm which is a must read. Not only does it present the Palace in is historical context as shown by the build, it provides detailed notes on the 12 available staterooms which can be explored, and provides a tour map for finding your way around them.

In addition, many of the staterooms offer images of their physical world counterparts, while hovering your mouse over portraits and paintings will often provide a short description of their subjects. All of this adds immeasurably to the experience of exploring the Palace.

Regency Buckingham; Inara Pey, May 2016, on FlickrRegency Buckingham – The Bow Room

Whether viewed as a historical reproduction, potential educational destination, role-play environment or labour of love, Regency Buckingham makes for an excellent visit, and is genuinely a must see.

My thanks once again to Jacon and Karenkate for taking the time to chat with me during my visit, and for providing me with some insight into Antiquity Estate – a subject and place to which I will be returning in future Exploring articles!

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A disappearance, an Alchemyst, and a walk through Wonderland

It’s time to kick-off a week of 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, May 15th

13:30 Crazy Eights: Tea Time At Baker Street

Crazy Eights sees Caledonia, Corwyn and Kayden reading from The Return of Sherlock Holmes on Sundays from the living room of 221B Baker Street. This week: The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter”, Sidney Paget / Strand Magazine, 1904

Godfrey Staunton is missing. He’s the key player in Cambridge University’s rugby team (and also the heir of Lord Mount-James, his uncle).

With an important match against arch-rivals Oxford looming, Staunton needs to be found, and Mr. Cyril Overton of Trinity College, responsible for the university’s rugby team, has come to London to seek Holmes’ help.

Overton informs Holmes that Staunton had not been looking well and seemed preoccupied. Then, the previous evening, a bearded man had arrived at Staunton’s hotel with a note for him – and Staunton apparently vanished shortly afterwards.

Returning to Cambridge with Overton, Holmes and Watson set about their investigation, learning that the bearded man who delivered the note to Staunton appeared to be worried as well – the hotel porter noted his hand was shaking, and that he muttered something about “time”.

Staunton’s uncle is unable to provide information which may help matters. However an academic at the university, Dr. Leslie Armstrong, may hold the key to the mystery …

15:00 Crazy Eights: Storyteller’s Sandbox

The final Sandbox at LEA 9 featuring Eleseren Brianna with an original tale, and an original radio play from The Cold Shot Players, live in voice.

18:00 Magicland Storytime

Caledonia Skytower presents selections from the wonderful, imaginative world of author and illustrator William Joyce, including The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, Jack Frost, and Ollie’s Odyssey.

Monday May 16th, 19:00: The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1)

Faerie Maven-Pralou reads Michael Scott’s mystical magical novel.

AlchemystAccording to the records, Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330 and died in 1418. Only his tomb has forever lain empty, because Nicholas Flamel is the greatest Alchemyst of all time. Entrusted with the care of the Codex – also known as the Book of Abraham the Mage – Flamel found within it the secret of eternal life.

But there is much else in the Codex which, if used by the wrong minds, could very well bring about the end of the world. So, for 700 years, Nicholas Flamel has guarded the Book, keeping it from all those who might otherwise seek to abuse its secrets.

Until John Dee steals it. And John Dee has the desire to unlock the Codex and bring about the very cataclysm Flamel has always feared. Without the book, Flamel and his wife, Perenelle, will age and die, whilst with the book, Dee can thwart all attempts to recover it.

Enter 15-year-old twins, Josh and Sophie Newman. Prophecy has foretold of a time when the world would be threatened – and of the two youngsters gifted with extraordinary powers who will save it. Flamel recognises the Newman twins as those youngsters, and sets out to awaken their magical talents. So it is that Josh and Sophie find themselves cast into the middle of the greatest tale – the greatest confrontation – of all time.

Tuesday May 17th, 19:00: When Sisterhood was in Flower

sisterhoodThe writings of Florence King return to Seanchai Library as Trolley Trollop continues reading When Sisterhood was in Flower (1982),

Isabel, a conservative southern writer living in Boston, finds her life taking a number of strange turns. After an explosion brings down the wall of her apartment she is forced to share her living space with her neighbour, an ardent, humourless feminist called Polly Bradshaw. Then, between them, they take in nutty Gloria, who is fixated with all things medieval, including the lute, which she constantly plays, and the death of Edward II.

Things start unravelling further when Polly inherits a house in California, and unilaterally decides they’ll form a self-sufficient feminist commune there. Along the way, they collect Agnes, who is trying to escape her survivalist husband, and Martha, a widow whose estranged husband died after an unfortunate incident with an inflatable rubber doll.

Then Isabel has the opportunity to earn a living as a writer … of pornography …

Wednesday May 18th, and Thursday May 19th 19:00: Crazy Eights: The War that Saved My Life

War savedCaledonia Skytower reads Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s children’s story.

It is the Second World War, and when nine-year-old Ada’s little brother is evacuated from London to escape the blitz, she is determined not to be left behind because her mother is too ashamed to allow her to be seen in public with her twisted foot.

So it is that Ada, experiencing her first time in the world beyond the house in which she has always lived, finds herself on an adventure, adapting to life with Susan Smith, the woman charged with caring for Ada’s little brother, and who unexpectedly finds herself with a second ward in her care.

As time passes, Ada learns to ride a pony, watches for German spies, and finds a bond forming between her and Susan smith, a bond shared with her brother, but over which hangs the shadow of what will happen when they have to return to London and the cruelty of Ada’s mother.

Thursday, May 19th, 21:00: Seanchai Late Night

With Finn  Zeddmore.

Saturday, May 21st, 13:00: Crazy Eights: Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland – The Big Read

Saturday, May 21st
Saturday, May 21st

“All the words, all in one session from down the Rabbit Hole to Alice’s Evidence.  We begin and the beginning and go through till the end and then, we stop. Seven voice in rotation.”


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 May / June is Habitat for Humanity, with a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live – a safe and clean place to call home.

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