Melusina’s Mysteries in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

Melusina Parkin returns to the Nitroglobus Roof Gallery for October, with an exhibition called Mysteries, and it is a thought-provoking display of photography.

“Missing faces, veiled ones, obscure looks,” Melusina states in introducing the exhibition. “Statues and mannequins populate Second Life with their mysterious mood. Sometimes they are creepy, sometimes they are gentle, always they are silent.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

Thus, Mysteries presents thirteen images of mannequins, figures and statues captured from around Second Life. Such figures, to be found all over the grid, whether in stores or art events, parks or role-play regions, homes or photography studios, all have some kind of story to tell – be it part of a larger setting or contained within the frame of their own display as a work of art or object of everyday use.

So to, through Melusina’s collection, do they tell a story or stories within this exhibition. The images have clearly been selected with care to project this, Mystery 10 through Mystery 13, for example, are displayed together on two walls, presenting an unfolding narrative – although what that narrative might be is up to each of us as we view the images. Others, such as Mystery 7 perhaps tell a story quite independently of the other pieces in the collection. But however one looks at them, the stories are there, individual or collected, waiting to be heard.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

But there is more here as well, if we’re willing to look a little deeper. Our avatars are, in a sense, our own mannequins. Through them, we get to decide not only how we interact with one another, but how we actually appear to one another. We can project – or inhabit – our avatars at will, using them to reveal or hide, project or protect, many different facets of who we are. They are both a window into who we are and a shield by which we can hide the things we do not wish to have seen. Mystery 2 and Mystery 3 perhaps embody this most specifically.

So as Melusina states, Mysteries may present an apparently lifeless population – but in doing so, it makes us wonder about human feelings and thoughts – and particularly, perhaps about our own feeling and thoughts, about our identity, relationship with others,  and our openness.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

Mysteries is another nuanced, fascinating exhibition from Melusina; and yet another not to be missed.

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A Regency picnic in Sansar

Picnic at Mr. Darcy’s

Step back into Regency England and pay a visit to Mr. Darcy’s splendid manor house and grounds. Here you can picnic as you watch the croquet match (even play), waltz to a sweet melody on the vast marble terrace or just take a long walk to gather your thoughts.

So reads the invitation from Solas (SolasNaGealai in Second Life) for people to visit Picnic At Mr. Darcy’s, one of her Sansar experiences. For those seeking a relaxing, period walk and time with a friend, it could be just the ticket – albeit with a little bit of a twist in places.

As the invite states, visitors are offered the chance to visit the grounds of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s magnificent Pemberley manor house as imagined by Solas, and spend time exploring them. A visit starts on the grand lawn, with Tchaikovsky‘s waltz from Sleeping Beauty playing in the air. Behind the lawn, the façade of the house rises as a stately edifice, while immediately alongside the spawn point is the promised croquet game. Alas, play would appear to be restricted to those in VR mode (although those in Desktop mode could perhaps play a variant of the game based on tossing the balls around!).

Picnic at Mr. Darcy’s

A single oak tree grows from the lawn, shading a picnic blanket with hamper and gramophone beneath its branches. A pergola sits close by offering further edible delights – clearly, Mr. Darcy likes to entertain and keep his guests well fed! A formal garden borders the raised lawn and separates it from the manor house. Reached via stone steps which curl down from the cardinal compass points of the lawn, the gardens offer paved paths ready for visitors to stroll.

The grand house itself rises from a marble topped terrace which sits above the gardens, affording a grand view out over the gardens and lawn, the remains of an earlier building – perhaps left as a folly –   sitting between house and lawn. More pergolas sit on the terrace, and it is easy to imagine an afternoon dance being held here one fine summer’s day, with ladies and their gentlemen gliding over the tiles of the terrace, or sitting in the netted shade of the pergolas.

Picnic at Mr. Darcy’s

Unfortunately, the house is but a façade, and not a place to be itself explored. I would also suggest the sitting itself is to the rear of the house, rather than the frontage; there is no broad drive one might expect, leading up to a grand entrance designed to reinforce the status of the owner. This does not detract from the setting, however; rather the reverse, as it suggests visitors are indeed guests of Mr. Darcy, having already been formally greeted and show through the house to the gardens.

What I particularly like about this design are the little eclectic incongruities. Mr. Darcy is a Regency man, in his prime in the early 1800s – yet the choice of music comes from the opposite end of the 19th century, well outside of the Regency period (1890). Similarly, the gramophone sitting beneath the oak tree on the picnic blanket belongs more to the early 20th century, while the modern game of croquet on the lawn and the gas lamps both lean more towards the period immediately after the Regency.

Picnic at Mr. Darcy’s

But again, rather than detracting from the scene, these touches add an interesting depth. Dances, for example, were very much part of the period, and whilst from a later time, it is nevertheless easy to picture gowned ladies and tailcoated gentlemen gliding over marble of the terrace to the Sleeping Beauty waltz and quietly conversing. Similarly, the presence of gas lamps in the grounds suggest that Mr. Darcy is forward thinking, adopting the technology just as it starts to make a public appearance on the street of England, while the croquet set perhaps indicates he has an interest in the game just ahead of it being more formalised through recognised rules. Even the gramophone gives a certain “feel” to the scene – a reminder that we are perhaps travellers from another time, looking in on Darcy’s world.

I hope that as Sansar’s capabilities develop, Solas will enhance this scene; it would be a joy to return at some point in period garb and genuinely participate in a dance at Pemberley (out on the terrace or perhaps even indoors in a suitable hall!), or enjoy a game of croquet whether in VR mode or Desktop mode, or simply wander the gardens and see more flora and accompanying fauna appear.

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2017 Viewer release summaries week 41

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, October 15

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.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version 5.0.8.329115, dated September 22nd, promoted October 13th – formerly the “Moonshine” Maintenance RC – NEW
  • Release channel cohorts (notes on manually installing RC viewer versions):
    • Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 5.0.9.329464, dated October 13th.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V5-style

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

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Space Sunday: radiation, rings and pollution

Missions like Elon Musk’s hopes for Mars need good radiation protection for crews – and NASA is working to bring this about. Credit: SpaceX

I’ve written several times about the risk radiation poses to dee space missions; particularly Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs), the so-called “background radiation” left over from the big bang. As I’ve noted, while solar radiation – up to and including Solar Particle Events (SPEs or “solar storms”) can be reasonably well dealt with, on account of the particles being relatively low-energy – 13 centimetres (5 inches) of water or similar liquid – is pretty good protection against the primary radiation threat of SPEs, for example – GCRs are far harder to deal with.

However, there are materials which can block them. Again, I’ve written about Hydrogenated boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs). These are something being developed by NASA’s Langley Flight Centre in Virginia; extremely flexible, they can be used in the construction of key elements of space vehicles – walls, floors, ceilings, for example – and can even be woven into a material used as a lining in space suits to protect astronauts.  Similarly, borated polyethylene – already used for radiation shielding in nuclear reactors aboard US naval vessels, medical vaults and linear accelerators, among other applications – offers a means to provide primary radiation protection within the structure of space vehicles.

However, these are only effective in stopping primary radiation damage – that is, damage cause by the direct impact of radiation on living cells. A far, far greater risk people in deep space will face is from so-called secondary radiation,  particularly in the case of GCRs.  simply put, when a GCR particle collides with another, it sends energetic neutrons, protons and other particles in all directions, which can collide with others. It’s like a bullet striking something and scattering shrapnel, potentially doing damage to a lot of cells if they strike a living body. The problem here is that the more material used to block the effects of primary radiation damage, the more the risk of secondary radiation damage is increased.

Materials such as BNNTS and borated polyethylene could be used for surface vehicles and equipment as well

This means that there is unlikely to be a single solution to the issue of radiation exposure on deep space missions such as to Mars. Which is why scientists aren’t looking for one. NASA, for example has been conducting research into technologies such as BNNTs and magnetic shielding for space vehicles for over a decade. The latter, if possible, would use a magnetic field around a space vehicle to protect the crew, much as Earth’s magnetic field protects us. The problem here is that such systems currently require huge amounts of electrical power and can add a significant amount of mass to a space vehicle.

Another avenue of research being investigated is the use of pharmaceuticals as possible radiation inhibitors. Drugs such as potassium iodide, diethylenetriamine pentaacietic acid (DTPA) and the dye known as “Prussian blue” have for decades been used to treat radiation sickness. The theory is now that they could be used as part of a preventative regime of preventative treatment for astronauts on deep space missions.

The whole subject of radiation protection has become a focus in light of NASA’s “new” directive to return humans to the Moon and also because of Elon Musk’s determination to send humans to Mars, possibly as early as the mid-2020s. Because of this, NASA has been highlighting its research into radiation exposure management of late, which also includes solar weather forecasting (to help warn crews in deep space about the risk of SPEs, etc.), and in looking at 20+ years of orbital operations aboard the shuttle ISS and Russia’s MIr space station. All of this is leaving some at NASA feeling very positive about efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit, as Pat Troutman, the NASA Human Exploration Strategic Analysis Lead, stated in a NASA press statement on the matter:

Some people think that radiation will keep NASA from sending people to Mars, but that’s not the current situation. When we add the various mitigation techniques up, we are optimistic it will lead to a successful Mars mission with a healthy crew that will live a very long and productive life after they return to Earth.

Whether progress on all fronts will be sufficiently advanced to encompass something like Elon Musk’s aggressive approach to human missions to Mars remains to be seen. However, with the “new” directive for NASA to return humans to the Moon, there’s a good chance we’ll see some of the current initiatives in radiation protection bearing fruit in the next few years.

The Risk Posed by Tiangong 1

Tiangong 1 (“Heavenly Palace 1”), the first Chinese orbital facility has been creating some sensationalist headlines of late.  Launched in 2011, the facility saw two crews spend time aboard it, prior to it being run on an automated basis from 2013. On March 21st, 2016 the Chinese Manned Space Engineering Office announced that they had disabled the facility’s data service in preparation for shifting their focus to the (then) upcoming Tiangong 2 facility and in allowing Tiangong 1’s orbit to decay so it would burn-up re-entering the upper atmosphere.

Tiangong 1. Credit: CMSE

The time-frame from re-entry was predicted to be late 2017 / early 2018. However, around the time Tiangong 2 was launched the Chinese space agency admitted they’d lost attitude control of the laboratory, so they could no longer orient it as it orbits the Earth. As a result, the facility has been under scrutiny from Earth by individuals and groups monitoring the rate of its orbital decay.

One of these observers is astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of Harvard university. In early October he released a statement indicating that as a loss of attitude control coupled with increased atmospheric friction has resulted in a sharp decline in Tiangong 1’s altitude to the point where it could see the vehicle re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere in the next few months. He also noted – accurately – that some elements of the 8.5 tonne vehicle could survive re-entry and reach the surface of the Earth (something the Chinese have always noted).

Unfortunately, his report led to some sensationalist responses from portions of the media. For example, one UK media tabloid blasted: “Out-of-control space station to smash into Earth THIS MONTH…and it could hit ANYWHERE. … A MASSIVE space station is hurtling towards Earth!” (block capital their own, not mine); other newspapers also highlighted the upper-end of the risk posed by the vehicle’s re-entry.

Needless to say such reports wildly over-egg the situation. The reality is that Tiangong’s orbit carries it over vast swathes of ocean and large areas of sparsely populated land. As such, while there is a risk of parts of the station reaching the ground, the chances of them hitting a populated area are remote. In this, Tiangong reflects the US Skylab mission in 1979 and the Russian Salyut 7 / Cosmos 1686 combination of 1991. Both of these where much larger than Tiangong 1 (77 tonnes and 40 tonnes respectively), both made an uncontrolled re-entry, and in both cases, wreckage did not cause loss of life.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: radiation, rings and pollution”