August Art at the Park in Second Life

Holly Kai Park

Saturday, August 5th marks the opening on the August edition of Art at the Park at Holly Kai Park, which run through until Sunday, September 3rd.

The artists who have accepted our invitations to display at the park through the month are: Dido Haas, Cecilia Nansen Mode and Jes Mode, Wintergeist and our 3D artist for the month, Diamond Marchant. You can read more about them below.

The opening of the exhibition will be marked by a party, with Joy Canadeo providing the music from 2:00pm SLT onwards. The dress code is smart / formal, and we invite all those so minded to attend.

About the Artists

Dido Haas

Dido Haas

Dido really needs no introduction, as words simply aren’t enough to describe her. She’s a long-standing artist in Second Life, having enjoyed her first public exhibition of her work in 2012. Not long afterwards, she and her partner, Nitro Fireguard started the Nitroglobus gallery, with Dido taking on the role of gallery curator and manager, although she and Nitro both showed their work there.

Nitroglobus quickly built a reputation as one of the foremost galleries in Second Life, and it was through visiting the exhibitions there that I first met Dido. She has a gift for finding some of the most unique talents in Second Life and getting them to exhibit, and I’ve long enjoyed covering her exhibitions at the gallery in these pages.

Sadly, Nitro passed away in 2015, bringing the original Nitroglobus gallery to a close. However, Dido continues to curate art exhibitions through Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, which continues to host some incredible exhibitions, as well as commemorating Nitro himself through the display of many of his mesh sculptures. The gallery also continues to be the home of music events every Sunday at the Nitroglobus Cafe. Between managing all that, Dido continues with her own photography, and we’re delighted to have her at Holly Kai Park.

You can see more of her work on her Flickr stream.

Cecilia Nansen Mode and Jes Mode – “the Modes”

The Modes

I first encountered the work of Cecilia Nansen Mode and Jes Mode almost simultaneously, if quite coincidentally at two separate exhibitions in the same month. Jes was exhibiting at DixMix Gallery, and Cecilia at Artful Expressions, run by my dear friend, Sorcha Tyles. I was immediately struck by their art, and discovering they are SL partners encouraged me not only to invite them to exhibit at the park, but to ask that they do so together as a part of our occasional “partners” invitations.

For the August exhibition, they’ve taken this invitation quite literally, and are presenting a joint exhibition under the title One Love, One Life. Across the two display areas, “the Modes” display images of a loving relationship which has forging a shared passion for photography. They are a combination of the cold North and the warm South. The dramatic and the calm. The expressive and the subtle. Together they are tied by a deep and profound connection, which shows in their pictures, both when working together, as well as individually.

Jes has a history of photography in RL with some knowledge as well as experience. He restarted after some years as a photographer, this time in SL and is slowly finding his own style and personal expression, with mainly black and white pictures. Cecilia started a little over a year ago as a SL photographer and is slowly finding her own style, still experimenting and learning day by day. Together they support, mentor, teach and are each others first filter of approval in a balance of synergy and seeing each other grow.

If you are interested in seeing more from their work, please visit their Flickr streams:

Diamond Marchant

Diamond Marchant

Diamond Marchant is, in the physical world, a photographer and software developer. In SL, she creates boat and sail textures for the sailing community as well as numerous fishing products.

I first became aware of her interest in building models at SL13B, when she exhibited a Mars lander. For SL14B she was even more ambitious, building a simply stunning and exceptionally accurate model of NASA’s Cassini orbiter, which for the last 13 years has been adding immeasurably to our understanding of Saturn and its moons.

2017 is a special year for the Cassini mission, as it brings to an end the work of this remarkable probe, which has been in operation some 20 years from launch to the present day, including a 7-year journey from Earth to Saturn (by way of Venus, Earth and Jupiter). Right now Cassini is in the Grand Finale part of its mission, orbiting Saturn over its poles and repeatedly diving between the planet and the innermost of its magnificent rings. In September, not long after the exhibition at Holly Kai closes, Cassini, its manoeuvring fuel all but used up, will enter the upper reaches of Saturn’s atmosphere and burn up, forever becoming a part of the planet it has observed and studies for so long.

Of the model presented at Holly Kai – which is interactive (touch the probe itself and almost make sure you try the media links) – Diamond says, “Spacecraft modelling is a new thing for me. I was inspired to build the Cassini orbiter after seeing the 3D model on their website and noticing that the shapes on the orbiter are similar to the shapes you can make out of system prims.”

Wintergeist

Wintergeist, aka Fuyuko Amano, is both a photographer and gallery curator at the Club LA and Gallery. Her photographic work spans both the physical and digital worlds.  In the physical world, she started with photography when she was about 10, and it has remained a passion for her. When she started playing video games, she realised their potential for photography and started experimenting and developing an approach to digital imaging, which in turn led to her modding game environments and taking pictures of them.

Then she discovered Second Life. After initial resistance to it, she signed-up – and became immersed in SL photography.

“What do I like in pictures?” she asks rhetorically. “I do love colours – strong colours, contrast and a motif that is more than the simple ‘my avatar in front of fancy background’. Mostly I don’t know beforehand what kind of picture I want to do. When I see a motif, I get a vague idea of angle and composition and I try to capture that. Sometimes it works, but I am far from perfect. I haven’t reached my goal to make the perfect picture. I guess that is even something no one can achieve….. but, you can try.”

You can see more of her work at Galleria Amano, La Perla, and on her Flickr stream.

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Space Sunday: of life elsewhere and launches

Titan’s structure (via wikipedia)

Saturn’s giant moon, Titan, has been a source of speculation of decades. Shrouded in a dense, methane-nitrogen rich atmosphere, potentially harbouring a liquid water ocean beneath its crust, the moon has long be thought to have the conditions in which basic life might arise.

The joint NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens mission has, over the span of thirteen years, added immeasurably to our understanding of Titan – and to the mysteries of its potential. In doing so, it has also provided us with evidence of processes taking place which are the precursors to the development of life. For example, we know that within Titan’s ionosphere, nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen are exposed to sunlight and energetic particles from Saturn’s magnetosphere. This exposure drives a process wherein these elements are transformed into more complex prebiotic compounds, which then drift down towards the lower atmosphere and form a thick haze of organic aerosols that are thought to eventually reach the surface.

However, while the drivers of the process are known, the nature of the process itself has been something of a mystery – one which an international team of scientists led by the University College London (UCL) think they now understand.  In Carbon Chain Anions and the Growth of Complex Organic Molecules in Titan’s Ionosphere the team identify Titan’s upper atmosphere contains a negatively charged species of linear molecule in Titan’s atmosphere called “carbon chain anions” – which, it has in the past been theorised, may have acted as the basis for the earliest forms of life on Earth.

The molecules were detected by CAPS, the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer, as the vehicle passed through the upper reaches of Titan’s atmosphere on a final flyby before commencing its “Grand Finale” of flights between Saturn and its rings. The discovery came as a surprise, as carbon chain anions are highly reactive, and should not survive long in Titan’s atmosphere. However, what particularly caught the attention of the science team was that the data show that the carbon chains become depleted closer to the moon, while precursors to larger aerosol molecules undergo rapid growth. This suggests a close relationship between the two, with the carbon chains ‘seeding’ the larger molecules – those prebiotics mentioned above – which then fall to the surface.

How complex molecules are thought to form in Titan’s atmosphere. Credit: UCL

“We have made the first unambiguous identification of carbon chain anions in a planet-like atmosphere, which we believe are a vital stepping-stone in the production line of growing bigger, and more complex organic molecules, such as the moon’s large haze particles,” said Ravi Desai, the lead author for the study in a press release from UCL.

He continued, “This is a known process in the interstellar medium – the large molecular clouds from which stars themselves form – but now we’ve seen it in a completely different environment, meaning it could represent a universal process for producing complex organic molecules. The question is, could it also be happening at other nitrogen-methane atmospheres like at Pluto or Triton, or at exoplanets with similar properties?”

With its rich mix of complex chemistry coupled with its basic composition, Titan is something of a planetary laboratory; one which probably mirrors the very early atmosphere surrounding Earth before the emergence of oxygen-producing micro-organisms which started the transformation of our atmosphere into something far more amenable for the advance of life. As such, the discovery of carbon chain anions in Titan’s atmosphere potentially confirms that long-held theory that they help kick-start the life creating processes here on Earth, and suggest conditions on Titan might allow the same to happen there. It also offers insight into how life might start elsewhere in the galaxy.

“These inspiring results from Cassini show the importance of tracing the journey from small to large chemical species in order to understand how complex organic molecules are produced in an early Earth-like atmosphere,” Dr Nicolas Altobelli, ESA’s Cassini project scientist, said in the same press release. “While we haven’t detected life itself, finding complex organics not just at Titan, but also in comets and throughout the interstellar medium, we are certainly coming close to finding its precursors.”

Dream Chaser ISS Flights target 2020 Commencement

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has confirmed than United Launch Alliance (ULA) will provide the veritable Atlas V booster as the launch vehicle for the Dream Chaser Cargo mini-shuttle, which will be joining fleet of uncrewed vehicles from America, Russia and Japan keeping the International Space Station (ISS) supplied with consumables, equipment and science experiments. The company also indicate that launches of the vehicle could start in 2020.

The Altas V – Cream Chaser Cargo launch configuration. Credit: United Launch Alliance

Dream Chaser was originally conceived to fly crews to and from the ISS as part of NASA’s commercial crew transportation joint venture with the private sector. Four companies vied for contracts to supply NASA with vehicles capable of shuttling up to six personnel to and from the space station. Despite being one of the most advanced of the designs in terms of feasibility and development, the Dream Chaser was not selected for that work, with NASA opting for the SpaceX Dragon 2 vehicle and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule.

However, support within the US space agency for the Dream Chaser continued, allowing SNC to propose the development of Dream Chaser Cargo, a revised version of the original concept, capable of supplying up to 5.5 tonnes of cargo to the ISS. In January 2016, in renewing its contract with SpaceX (Dragon) and Orbital ATK (Cygnus) for such resupply missions, NASA extended it to include SNC. This was followed a year ago by formal approval being given for Dream Chaser missions to the ISS, which allowed SNC to push ahead with testing of the revised vehicle.

Dream Chaser will launch atop the commercial Atlas V in its most powerful configuration, dubbed Atlas V 552, with five strap on solid rocket motors and a dual engine Centaur upper stage. The cargo vehicle will be held inside a five metre diameter payload fairing with its wings folded. Cargo will be carried both within the vehicle itself and in a support module mounted on the rear of the spacecraft, which will also house a docking adaptor for connecting with the space station. The latter will be supplied to SNC by the European Space Agency, which is also supplying NASA with the Service Module for the Orion multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

The Dream Chaser Cargo, built by SNC, and the International Berth and Docking Mechanism, to be supplied to SNC for Dream Chaser flights by the European Space Agency. Credit: SNC

In addition to flying up to 5.5 tonnes to the ISS, Dream Chaser Cargo will be able to return some 2 tonnes of equipment, experiments and other items from the space station to Earth, where it will make a conventional runway landing using the former space shuttle runway at Kennedy Space Centre – or any other suitable landing facility in the United States.

It is expected that Dream Chaser cargo will fly a total of six missions to the ISS between 2020 and 2024, when it is currently anticipated the space station will be decommissioned.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: of life elsewhere and launches”

Second Life: updates to some purchase notifications

On Friday, July 28th, the Lab blogged about some changes to some purchase notifications. The blog post making the announcement reads in full:

As you may notice, to fulfil legal obligations, we have added a notification in some places when making purchases that clarifies which legal entity you are transacting with, depending on the country associated with your payment method. Tilia Inc. and Tilia Branch UK Ltd are wholly owned subsidiaries of Linden Research, Inc, and this does not affect how you contact or receive support.

We wanted to clarify this to hopefully help those who may have encountered this and were wondering why they saw some updated notifications.

The Marketplace is one of the areas where these changes are visible. When paying the Second Life Cashier (cashier page), a notification is displayed at the foot of the invoice column:

New purchase notification on the Marketplace Cashier page

This change also matches recent updates to the Linden Lab Terms of Service which now reference Tilia Inc and Tilia Branch, as which come into effect on Monday, July 31st (and you may already have been asked to accept the new ToS when logging into Second Life or one of the Lab’s web properties).

“Bento equipped” starter avatars for Second Life

The new Rhiannon avatar from the Lab standing and with optional Bento horse

First hinted at during Patch and Dee’s Meet the Lindens session at SL14B, the new set of Second Life avatars from Linden Lab appeared on Wednesday, July 5th, and were announced via an official blog post.

There are eight avatars in the new range, referred to as the “Renaissance” set – a term more akin to the capabilities provided with the avatars than the actual historical period, perhaps. They are paired into four sets of male and female avatars which might be described as: angel, demon, warrior and (as the Lab calls them) “mystic heroes”.

Three of the pairs – angel, demon and warrior – are “Bento equipped”, meaning they make use of the Bento skeleton for their wings (angels / demons) or horse (warriors). Note this does not mean the avatars themselves are Bento; they are system avatars, but are supplied with fitted mesh clothing and mesh accessories.

The new avatars are best accessed via Me (/Avatar > Choose an Avatar)

To make use of any of the new avatars, display the Choose an Avatar picker, scroll to the one you wish to try, and click on it. Your avatar will wear the outfit, which is also transferred to your Clothing system folder under the avatar’s name, one of:

  • Anna or Marcus for the angels
  • Elleria or Sauin for the demons,
  • Kara or Feng for the “mystic heroes”
  • Rhiannon  or Thomas for the horse riders.

There can be some short-lived oddities when wearing the Bento equipped avatars using Replace Current Outfit. For example, as the riding animation for Rhiannon and Thomas is an attachment, depending on how things load, it can briefly look as if you are standing “in” the horse, rather than sitting in the saddle.

Also, as the horses use the wing bones for their forelegs, swapping to a winged avatar after using one of the horse-related avatars at any time in a session, can lead to your wings appearing in front of you  at thigh level to you and those around you. Walking forward should fix this in all views (if not, right clicking on your avatar and using the Reset Skeleton option may be required – if other still see your wings oddly placed, advise them to do the same with your avatar).

The Kara “Mystic Hero (and non-Bento equipped) avatar (l)  and the Elleria avatar with Bento wings

You can obviously mix’n’match the avatar elements should you wish. For example, want to have the (nominally) “non-Bento” Kara avatar to ride a horse? Just copy the horse mesh and riding AO from Rhiannon’s folder to Kara’s folder. Detach Kara’s default AO and then attach the riding AO and horse.   and attach.

Be aware that a little care is required if you wish to use a horse with one of the winged avatars. As the horse forelegs use the wing bones, you will need to remove the wings before attaching a horse (and vice-versa), or a conflict will occur. Note, as well, that you can rez the two horses in-world as static objects, should you wish. They have an LI of 26 (male horse) and 31 (Female horse).

As system avatars with editable shapes, you can obviously apply skin, tattoo and clothing layers to them if you wish and change their shape (the fitted mesh clothing should all follow shape changes within reason).  All of which makes each of them a nice little package if you’re looking for something different for an alt or something.

The new avatars on the SL sign-up page

That said, these avatars aren’t designed for the established user per se – although their low render cost is obviously a boon to those on lower-end systems. Really, these are more geared to new starters in SL, and as such, they have all taken their place on the sign-up page avatar carousel. In terms of their render costs, seven of the eight sit between 12K and 18K in their default look, and the most expensive in terms of rendering – Kara –  is 30,059, which is still more than reasonable.

In terms of general looks, these avatars compare very well with updated Classic avatars released in 2015 and the last set of mesh avatars released by the Lab. However, a little more in the way of ethnic diversity might be nice (Asian, for example?).

My alt avatar using the new Elleria demoness avatar, sans wings (so as to avoid conflicts with the horse), the Rhiannon avatar AO, and the Bento horse from the Thomas avatar – note my avatar is also wearing my preferred system skin for her, applied to the Elleria shape

Overall, a decent set, which increases the range of starter avatars and which are pretty cost-effective. I certainly like the Elleria avatar enough to now use it as the default look (again, sans wings for now) for my alt avie. As she is simply a CTA (Crash Test Avie) when fiddling with viewers, and a stand-in for me when I’m busy in-world elsewhere and cannot always attend a meeting, I’ve never really invested in outfits for her. So I think she appreciates the occasion change of look like this 🙂 .