“My art primarily explores the freedom on-line communities, specifically Second Life, provide, allowing you to set aside your cultural roles and explore other roles.” Myra Wildmist in introducing her new exhibition Transitions, which opened at the Club LA and Gallery, curated by Fuyuko ‘冬子’ Amano (Wintergeist), on Sunday, October 22nd 2017.
She continues, “Real life cultural roles are necessary for a functioning society, but they are often extremely confining, almost forcing people into pigeon holes of expected behaviour. Second Life gives us all the opportunity to slip out of our pigeon holes and be almost anything we can imagine.”
What follows is a selection of a dozen images offering some remarkable views of Second Life, each with a touch of the personal as then all include Myra herself in their frames – although it would be unfair to call all of them avatar studies; their compositions being such that the avatar forms a part of the overall scene rather than the focus of the image. Even those which do focus on the avatar do so in ways very different to more “traditional” avatar studies, allowing each one to tell its own story.
There are three pieces in the exhibit which might be considered NSFW, but all twelve are richly expressive, and demonstrate a broad range of approaches to photography which mark Myra as a true exponent of her art.
Transistion shares the gallery space with Twain Orfan’s An Exhibition, which I reviewed in September, and a select of four images from John Brianna’s physical world photography.
Around the world on August 17th, 2017, some 70 telescopes and observatories – including the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), responsible for confirming the existence of gravitational waves (see here and here for more) – quietly turned their attention on the same spot in the constellation Hydra.
“I don’t think it’s out of the question that this is the most observed astronomical event ever. It’s a thrilling notion, and a little overwhelming,” said LIGO spokesperson David Shoemaker. “We’ve got somewhere between a quarter and a third of all the world’s astronomers working with us.”
The reason? Hours earlier, an observatory in Chile had detected gravitational waves followed by a burst of gamma radiation – potentially the signature of two neutron stars colliding far beyond our galaxy. If so, the detection would be the first time gravitational waves have been observed originating from something other than the merger of two black holes. Hence, an alert was issued to observatories around the globe, resulting in the massed focusing on instruments on that single point in space.
Over the coming days, the data revealed that a collision between two neutron stars in what is referred two as a “kilonova” – which sits between a star going nova and a super-massive star going supernova. It marks the first confirmation that neutron star mergers can cause gamma ray bursts. However, there is much more to the event.
Neutron stars are the dense remnants of massive stars that long ago exploded as supernovae. The two stars in question are located in galaxy NGC 4993, 130 million light years from Earth. Originally, these stars were each around 10-20 times the mass of our sun; after each went supernova, they collapsed down to bodies around 16 km (10 mi) in diameter, comprised entirely of neutrons so densely packed, that despite their small size, each still had a mass perhaps twice that of our own Sun.
These two neutron stars, located close together, were gradually drawn together over the course of perhaps 11 billion years by their mutual gravities until they collided, venting huge amounts of energy across the spectrum and space-time in what astronomers call a “multi-messenger event”. It was the arrival of the light waves and gravitational waves here on Earth, 130 million years later, that astronomers from around the world were keen to observe, marking the first time a cosmological event of this nature has been observed in both gravitational waves and light, producing a huge amount of data for researchers to study.
Thanks to the alert sent out by the Chilean observatory, over 3,500 astronomers and more than 100 instruments – including LIGO and a the Hubble Space Telescope responded, making the event the first to be observed through the detection of visible light and gravitational waves. Their findings are now being made public, and include some remarkable facts.
These include the first confirmation that neutron star mergers can cause gamma ray bursts – although there is some questions over what this might in fact mean. It also marks the first measurement of the universe’s expansion using gravitational waves.In addition, as the collision was recorded in wavelengths right across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio to gamma rays, it is the first time a cosmological event of this nature has been observed in both gravitational waves and light. A further result of the observations is that astronomers have witnessed heavy elements being formed from the aftermath of the event.
“People have long suspected that heavy elements were made in neutron star mergers, but this is really the first time we’ve nailed that down,” Andrew Levan, an astronomer at the University of Warwick in the UK. “This merger made something like the mass of the Earth in gold, along with other heavy elements such as platinum, lead and uranium.”
It was actually the discovery that heavy elements were being formed in the material resulting from the collision which confirmed the event was an actual collision of two neutron stars. The elements would only be formed if neutrons were being ejected from the two stars to collide with lighter atoms in the surrounding space. Material would only be ejected if the objects in collision each had a surface, something black holes don’t have – they only have an event horizon.
This in turn indicated the event was far closer that the previous five detections of gravitational waves which have occurred since 2015. These have been the result of pairs of black holes merging, none of which have been closer than 1.3 billion light years away. That the gravitational waves were observed alongside of light waves also gave further confirmation of another of Einstein’s general relativity predictions: that light and gravitational waves travel and more-or-less the same speed.
Observations and data gathering continued after the initial explosion was detected, although the light from the collision faded over the 6-8 days following the event, and astronomers are keen to discover what has been left behind. Currently, the region of NGC 4993 where the kilonova occurred is obscured behind a cloud of matter and heavy elements, leading to questions on whether or not the two stars may have merged to form an even larger neutron star, or whether they collapsed into a black hole. Some of those studying the data gathered believe the gamma ray burst recorded after the initial detection of gravitational waves might be indicative of the latter, the result of matter left over from the event and collapse being drawn into the event horizon.
Summing up the significance of the event, astronomer Tony Piro from the Harvard–Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics said, “The ability to study the same event with both gravitational waves and light is a real revolution in astronomy. We can now study the universe with completely different probes, which teaches things we could never know with only one or the other.”
It’s time to kick-off another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.
Sunday, October 22nd 13:00: Scare Me Silly 2017
The Seanchai Library team join Team Diabetes / Kultivate Magazine’s Scare Me Silly 2017 for an afternoon of storytelling.
Join Aoife Lorefield, Dubhna Rhiadra, Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen, and VT Torvalar as they tell of ghostly goings-on, read from books about thing going bump in the night, offer terrifying tales and recite spooky sagas…
Monday, October 23rd 19:00: Reckoning Infinity
Gyro Muggins reads John E. Stith’s alien first contact story, once described as “Rendezvous with Rama meets James and the Giant Peach“!
Lieutenant Commander Alis Mary Nussem, her body partially bionic, isn’t to happy about finding herself aboard the same space vessel as the man she deems responsible for the accident which robbed her of a part of her natural body. However, she must put aside her differences with scientist Karl Stanton when a massive object enters the solar system, apparently on course to be swallowed by the Sun – but not before it will collide with a space station in Earth orbit.
Ordered to investigate the object, which is as large as a moon and quickly given the name “Cantaloupe,” Nussem, Stanton and the crew of their ship rendezvous with it, only to find they are not the first: the wreck of another vessel lies on the surface, a hole drilled into the object close by. The only means of entry to the Cantaloupe, Nussem and Stanton lead a team down through it – to make a stunning discovery.
Like Nussem, Cantaloupe is an bio-mechanical entity. It is alive, but it’s interior also have pipes, elevators chambers and more within. But it is also a place of danger – as Nussem and her also companions quickly discover – some to their cost. It’s also a place of unexpected surprises, as the crew’s biggest discovery proves…
Also presented in Kitely hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528.
Tuesday, October 24th, 19:00 The Water Mirror
Faerie Maven-Pralou reads Kei Meyer’s tale of magic.
Merle is apprenticed to a maker of magic mirrors. She even has one of her own, with a surface of water into which she can reach without ever getting wet – magic being a relatively common thing in Venice. Meanwhile, her friend Serafin, once a master thief, now works for a weaver of magic cloth.
Both Merle and Serafin accept the wonders of the city, from the mermaids in the canal to the stone lions on which the city guards ride on their patrols. But all is not well; beyond the walls of the city, the Egyptian Empire is laying siege, an army of mummy warriors and flying sunbarks held at bay by the power of the Flowing Queen, which runs through the city’s canals and hold the enemy forces at bay.
Then Merle and Serafin overhear a plot to capture the Flowing Queen and render the city defenceless. And while no-one actually knows what the Queen looks like, they set out to protect and / or rescue her. In doing so, they must ally themselves with the Ancient Traitor and journey into the realm of Dark Reflections…
Also presented in Kitely hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528.
Wednesday, October 25th, 19:00 Somewhere in My Mind There is a Painting Box
Aoife Lorefield reads Charles de Lint’s 2002 short story spin-off from his The Cats of Tanglewood series, and first published as a part of The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
In this tale, Lillian, the protagonist from Cats is now in her mid-teens and hungry for her life to broaden; she longs to be an artists, but has neither the money nor training to achieve her desire. Then, whilst wandering in the forest one day, she discovers a paint box, long abandoned. Examining it, she recognises the name on one of the panels with the box as that of an artist famed for his pieces depicting the forest, but who disappeared years earlier, along with his apprentice.
Later, Lillian encounters the artist’s apprentice, looking not a day older than when he and the artists vanished. He tells her a tale of their having crossed into another realm, and her past experiences with magic allow her to accept the story. That world, the apprentice explains, is so beautiful neither he nor the artist wanted to return – and Lillian finds herself on the tip of a bittersweet voyage of discovery.
Thursday, October 26th 19:00 True Life Ghost Stories
With Shandon Loring in a special session at Octoberville in Second Life. Also presented in Kitely hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/108/609/1528.