This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
The latest Drax Files World Makers took to the air – literally and metaphorically – on Monday June 5th, with a look at the world of Arduenn Schwartzmann.
Arduenn is perhaps most famous for his Warbug combat system of fun and quirky aeroplanes, which represent most eras of flying, and can be enjoyed for pleasure or in friendly air combat games (“combat” perhaps isn’t the right term, as it can feel more like a game of tag around the skies). I’m actually a fan of these little planes, which are small enough that they can easily be enjoyed within the confines of a single region, and have flown many over the years, both at Arduenn’s own Warbug HQ, where I’ve frequently been shot down (and also scored a few hits of my own) – although I admit, up until this show aired, it had been about 3 years since I was last there, although I do have a couple of his aircraft stuffed away in my inventory which come out on occasion for fun.
But there is more to Arduenn than Warbugs. He’s demonstrated clear insight into Second Life; his commentary, when given, has always been provided thoughtfully and fairly, while he has also been something of a pioneer; not only with his Warbugs, but also in things like trying to develop a means of shooting 360-degree video in SL. As such, this is a segment which should have a lot to offer.
And indeed, it appears to be ready to deliver from the outset. In the first 90 seconds of the 4 minute 30 piece, we get a potted history of Arduenn’s background as a molecular biologist before swinging fully into his unbridled enthusiasm for the creative scope presented by Second Life and the ‘umble prim. Make no mistake, here is a man who, after a decade in SL, is in no way jaded by the magic and the promise, but who fully embraces it.
Similarly, the final part of the piece, where we see Arduenn with his kids and gain his thoughts on life, creativity and balance, which offers us the expected insight into what attracts someone to SL and and causes them to first glue a couple of prims together. It is the bit in the middle I have problems with. Warbugs are there, and rightly so – and the voice-over gives the images the depth they need. But following it comes a period which tends to come over as pure product placement when we could perhaps be delving into more of what makes Arduenn tick, why he digs into challenges like trying to develop a 360-vedio capture system (particularly as he worked with Drax on this) and get involved in people’s projects; and so, for me, a part of the potential for this segment is lost.
Which is not to say the segment is not enjoyable – it is, and it clearly delivers in making us feel Arduenn’s passion for creativity in second Life, his sense of fun and the glorious light-heartedness of Warbug flying. I would just like to have seen the curtain cast back a little further to explore more of Arduenn’s thoughts about Second Life, content creation and what, after a decade in world, keeps him engaged in the platform.
One of the reasons I like the small, more boutique-style galleries scattered across Second Life is that they are most often the places I encounter artists and photographer with whom I’m less than familiar in terms of their work. While larger galleries are oft tempts to stick with “established” names, these smaller venues tend to cast their nets much wiser.
Such gallery is Club LA and Gallery, curated by Fuyuko ‘冬子’ Amano (Wintergeist), which for June presents a selection of images from the portfolio of Peeter Tamerlane. A photographer / artist whose work encompasses both avatar studies and landscape images, Peeter’s art is new to me, and I’m delighted to have come across it.
Twenty pieces are offered in the exhibition, and they clearly demonstrate his passion for photography and art, offering evocative, eye-catching and – in places – sensual images which all have a story to tell in one way or another. They are presented in a range of formats, large and small, and set out in such a way as to suggest a working studio as much as a galleried exhibition, with pictures both on the walls and leaning against them, sometimes overlapping slightly, all of which adds to the cosiness of the display.
In terms of the larger format pictures, these are dominated by landscapes which instantly attract the eye – not just because of their panoramic format, but because of their overall composition. Gulls, facing the gallery entrance, for example, is quite magnificent for its framing of a coastal scene; the lighting is exquisite, the camera position beautifully suggestive of the picture having been taken by someone wading through the ebb and flow of waves along the sand. Equally, on the other side of the wall on which Gulls is mounted sits Cold, a piece more evocative of a painting than a photo, in which the title is beautifully brought forth through the use of colour.
Among the smaller pieces are studies of sensuality (Last Kiss To…) and sexuality (the Vea series), which again show a skilled artist’s eye in bringing forth the emotional content of the pictures. Last Kiss To… is rich in soft colours, perfectly reflecting the love between the couple. The Vea series, meanwhile, are presented in monochrome, which brings to the fore their naked sexuality. Then there are the more introspective pieces – Horizons, The Love Is…, Is Missing, Whenever, etc., each of which captures us within the spell of a story fragment caught in time, drawing us into them.
This is another delightful exhibition of an artist’s craft, and one well worth visiting throughout June.
Curiosity, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, has found further evidence that Gale Crater had liquid water present within it for a long time, and the data the rover has gathered during its explorations is allowing scientists to better characterise the nature of the lake which once occupied the crater.
In 2015 Curiosity encountered pale “halos” around fractures the bedrock on the lower slopes of “Mount Sharp”. Analysis of spectrographic data gathered by the rover’s on-board Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument has confirmed they contain copious silica. This indicates the crater held liquid water for a long time in aeons past.
“The concentration of silica is very high at the centre lines of these halos,” said Jens Frydenvang, a rover-team scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “What we’re seeing is that silica appears to have migrated between very old sedimentary bedrock and into younger overlying rocks. These findings tells us is that, even when the lake eventually evaporated, substantial amounts of groundwater were present for longer than we previously thought — further expanding the window for when life might have existed on Mars.””
Further to this, a new study reveals that the ancient lake in Gale Crater likely provided stable environmental conditions that differed significantly from one part of to another, potentially allowing different types of microbes to exist at different points simultaneously in the same lake, the water within it being stratified in a similar manner to water in lakes on Earth. In Gale Crater’s case, the shallow water was richer in oxidants than deeper water was.
The study combines the analyses of the chemical and mineral composition of rocks found at different points along Curiosity’s ascent up mount sharp reveal a clear correspondence between the physical characteristics of sedimentary rock from different parts of the lake, and how strongly oxidised they were. In essence, those rocks with the physical characteristics of having been deposited near the edge of the lake have a stronger oxidised composition than those with physical characteristics indicative of being deposited in deeper water.
“These were very different, co-existing environments in the same lake,” said Joel Hurowitz of Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, lead author of the study. “The diversity of environments in this Martian lake would have provided multiple opportunities for different types of microbes to survive, including those that thrive in oxidant-rich conditions, those that thrive in oxidant-poor conditions, and those that inhabit the interface between.”
This doesn’t mean that there were microbes swimming around in the waters of Gale Crater, but it does offer a further indication that the lake was a potentially benign environment for such microbes, if life on Mars ever developed that far.
In addition, the study offers further insights to the overall environmental changes which occurred on Mars, suggesting that while across the aeons, things went from warm and wet to cold and arid, Gale Crater exhibited short-term fluctuations in the other direction, at times becoming warmer and wetter. Findings which correspond to earlier studies suggesting the sediments comprising “Mount Sharp” were laid down as a result of several different wet periods in the crater’s history.
LIGO Records Third Gravitational Wave Event
In February 2016, I wrote about LIGO – the Large Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory – an international quest established in 1992 to detect gravitational waves. At that time, it had just been confirmed that, quiet unexpectedly, two brand-new LIGO detectors in the United States had almost simultaneously recorded gravitational waves as they came out of “engineering mode” tests and were being run up to full operational mode, in September 2015.
It was later confirmed that the two detectors, funded National Science Foundation and located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington State, had made a further detection of gravitational waves in December 2015. On June 2nd, 2017, it was confirmed the instruments at Livingston and Hanford had detected gravitational waves for a thirdtime in January 2017.
Predicted over a century ago by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves (not to be confused with “gravity waves”, which are something else entirely) are at their most basic, ripples in space-time, generated by the acceleration or deceleration of massive objects in the cosmos. So, for example, if a star goes supernova or two black holes collide or if two super-massive neutron stars orbit closely about one another, they will distort space-time, creating ripples which propagate outwards from their source, like ripples across the surface of a pond. As such, their detection goes a long way to confirming Einstein’s description of space-time as an integrated continuum.
In all three of the case so far detected, the gravitational waves have been traced to the merger of black holes. In the case on the latest detection – called GW170104 after the date of its detection – the two black holes are roughly three billion light years away from Earth, twice the distance of the first two detections.
That all three events have been the result of the merger of black holes suggests that binary black hole systems are potentially far more common than had been believed, and mergers between them could be occurring a lot faster than previously predicted. They are, however, an ideal target for gravitational wave detection: when they do merge they can produce more power than is radiated as light by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any given time.
Having three sources for gravitational waves now means that scientists can now analyse them in detail. The two already discovered have not only confirmed Einstein’s prediction that such phenomena would exist, but also that the waves themselves do not suffer from dispersion – again as Einstein predicted would be the case. the readings from GW170104 further indicate no dispersion is apparent in the waves, even across 3 billion light years of propagation from their source.
As well as helping confirm Einstein’s model of space-time, LIGO’s studies of these black holes will allow for a more detailed examination of the nature and properties of black holes themselves, presenting a treasure trove of understanding for science. Currently, LIGO is mid-way through its third run of observations of deep space, which will end in late summer. Thereafter the facilities at Livingston and Hanford will undergo a period of upgrade and testing, before a fourth round of observations commence in 2018.