Big Think Interview with Milton Glaser
Milton Glaser (b.1929) is among the most celebrated graphic designers in the United States. He has had the distinction of one-man-shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Georges Pompidou Center. In 2004 he was selected for the lifetime achievement award of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. As a Fulbright scholar, Glaser studied with the painter, Giorgio Morandi in Bologna, and is an articulate spokesman for the ethical practice of design. He opened Milton Glaser, Inc. in 1974, and continues to produce work in many fields of design to this day.
Question: When did you decide to become an artist?
Milton Glaser: I decided to become an artist at the age of five when a cousin of mine came into the house and drew a picture of a horse on a paper bag, and I was so astonished that somebody could replicate life that I said, “That's what I'm going to spend my life doing.” And, of course, that's what happened subsequently. Not so much of drawing horses on the side of bags, but actually making things. I suppose that was the thing that most attracted me about the idea of being an artist.
Question: What was the first design work you were paid for?
Milton Glaser: The first thing I did that I was paid for was, at the age of eight or nine, drawing pictures of naked girls for my classmates for a penny apiece. It was not high paying, but then again it developed my aptitude.
Question: Has your artistic career path surprised you?
Milton Glaser: That's such a complicated question. I don't know exactly what my expectations were when I was living in Bologna. I could say that the only real expectation I had that was meaningful was the opportunity to do good work. And so I didn't know exactly what that path would be when I started. I knew there was such a thing as design as an activity that you could pursue, but what aspect of it I would specifically find myself doing, I really didn't know. And the truth is that throughout my career as a designer I've done all these strange things that, frankly, I did not expect to ever do, like designing restaurants and publications and supermarkets and any number of other things that could not have been anticipated except for the fact that you encountered people who gave you that opportunity.
When I was in Bologna, I was toying with the fact of becoming a graphic artist in the sense of doing prints, [then] I discovered afterwards that the designation "graphic artist" is mostly used now to describe people who do book jackets and album covers and all other things that have only a casual relationship to the world of art. So at the beginning, I didn't have a very clear definition of what I would be doing on a day-to-day basis, but I did have this sense that I wanted to be engaged in activity that would take objects that I saw around me and translate them into some kind of visual equivalent and communicate ideas to people. I know that sounds vague, but that was as specific as I was getting.
Question: How has your work evolved over your career?
Milton Glaser: Well, it's interesting to look at the history of your work. Actually, one of the benefits of being in the world of making things is that you have an accurate record of what it is you've made. And for most of us the past is a mystery. I mean, I know that the mind is extremely unreliable in terms of memory and trying to recall what it is you've already done. If any of us goes back to the house that we lived in, we are astonished [at] the degree to which it has shrunken. The nice thing about a career in the visual arts is there is an accurate record of what you once believed and what you once thought about the world and how you perceived it. I think the most wonderful thing about being in this field is that you can continue to do it for a very long time and that you don't have to do exactly the same thing for a very long time. The opportunities for change and the desirability of change becomes evident over a period of years.
I've been doing this for an awfully long time and the work in some cases is not recognizable from what it was forty or fifty years ago. And one hopes that the change is to become broader and deeper and simpler and more compelling as you go along. I don't want to be immodest, but I think my work has gotten less complex, more direct, and I'm more effective at communicating ideas in a way where they remain potent. My work was also more illustrative, more interested in a particular manifestation of style, and so on, in the early years, and it became less involved with issues of style and more involved with issues of clarity and effectiveness.
Question: What historic art movements have most influenced your work?
Milton Glaser: In terms of art movements. Well, I've been persistent in using the history of art as my basic resource. And my favorite periods are certainly the Viennese Cessation and American Modernism and my attachment to Italy and the Renaissance and Piero della Francesca. And the two poles of my affection and experience and influence are Morandiva, studied with the fantastic show here at the Metropolitan that was profound and deep and incredibly moving. He was a man who wanted nothing. He didn't want women or success or fame or money, and alternately, Picasso, who wanted everything. He wanted all the money, all the fame, all the women. And I find my personality in life bouncing between those two models.
Question: What is the difference between design and art?
Milton Glaser: There's this stupid overlap between the two that no one understands. And the lack of distinction between art and design and art and non-art is so puzzling to people. And everybody wants to be an artist because, in terms of status, there's almost nothing better you can be in almost any culture; basically, [this is] because art is terribly important as a survival mechanism for any culture. As a result, the people in primitive cultures who can create art as such are those who are highly respected. And that basically occurs in sophisticated cultures as well. But the only purpose of art is that it is the most powerful instrument for survival—art is so persistent in all our cultures because it is a means of the culture to survive. And the reason for that, I believe, is that art, at its fullest capacity, makes us attentive.
But if you look at a work of art, you can re-engage reality once again, and you see the distinction between what you thought things were and what they actually are. Because of that, it is a mechanism for the species to survive. And because of that, it is terribly important in human consciousness. I also believe, curiously, that beauty, which is very often something we confuse with art, is merely a mechanism to move us towards attentiveness. You realize we all have a genetic capacity and need to experience beauty, but beauty is not the ultimate justification for art. It is merely the device by which we are led to attentiveness.
Anyhow, this is all very complex. And I've been thinking about it most of my life and now I finally feel that I can distinguish between what is art and what is not. And my distinction is if it moves you to attentiveness, it is art. If it doesn't, it's something else.
Question: Is fine art losing its relevance to everyday life?
Milton Glaser: Well, you know, the odd thing about is to examine the art world, so-called, and examine [how] the art world is concerned primarily with money and status. And that's linked to people's need to elevate themselves, and also [a need] to invest in objects that will have a good return. Of course, that is not the standard by which people really interested in art would judge art.
And I'm always amused by the definition of "fine art" because I never knew what the word "fine" meant until I looked it up and found out that "fine" as it applies to art is a term used in metallurgy. It means that you apply heat to metal [with] sufficient intensity so that the impurities are burnt off. Well, with that definition, you begin to understand something about the subject. And also you say, “Well, what are the impurities of art?”
My belief is that the impurities of art are everything that does not contribute to its function of producing attentiveness. And, of course, those impurities are largely status and money. And then you look at what's reported and talked about in the art world and it's always about the money. The leading issue that people care about in the world of art is what the Bonnaud sold for, forty million dollars at the time, which broke all records. And so, well, who cares about what the Bonnaud sold for in terms of art? That's one of the impurities—except that it is the focal point and the central issue in art as it is observed in our culture today.
Question: Describe a profound encounter you had with a work of art.
Milton Glaser: Well, there have been a million encounters at least, but certainly one of them was when a friend took me to the Frick, I was eighteen, to show me the first Piero [della] Francesca I had ever seen. And I almost fainted when I saw it. And that produced a lifetime of exploration of Piero, going all over the world looking for Piero paintings. And I think, finally, having seen most of them—fortunately, he did relatively few—I ended up doing a series of watercolors and drawings based on the work of Piero [that] was sponsored by the Italian government. That was actually shown a few years ago in Piero's home, in Sansepolcro, which has to be one of the great things that could happen to anyone who was as obsessed as I was.
Question: As magazines move from print to the Internet, is their design potential lost?
Milton Glaser: Well, at the moment, the Internet is enormously limiting in terms of the capacity for innovation and variation. I mean, if you look at it, everything is pretty much the same because of the constraints of the screen and the lack of the peculiar things that happens with ink and paper—it is an enormously limiting medium. Not to say that enormously limiting mediums cannot produce great work. [They] can. If you stop to think about making an etching—you realize you have a plate of metal, you have to make little scratches, then you have to fill them with ink and then you have to put some damp paper on top of that. And given all of that, you can still produce the most extraordinary things.
You realize that limitation of materials and scale and so on are not the central issue, except for the fact that when you look at the electronic world, you just realize that the amount of repetition and images that are totally determined by the medium itself. Tools are tremendously powerful in changing the nature of what you were wanting to express. There's a big difference between doing a drawing of something with pencil on a sheet of paper and trying to recreate that experience from existing material that you assemble on a screen. And curiously, the pencil and paper turns out to be the most potentially expressive medium for reasons that are very complex to understand.
So in truth, there is no profound limitation on what you can do in terms of the imagination on a screen electronically, but as it turns out, the material that you produce is so dominated by the peculiarities of electronic transmission that when we look at it, we see so many things that look exactly the same. It turns out to be, as is often the case, first, it feels like the most enormously potential instrument that any designer could have, and then it turns out to be something that so dominates your thinking process that you have to be very wary and very suspicious of its power.
Question: What do you make of the trend of crowdsourcing design?
Milton Glaser: Well, it's a bigger development, I mean. And it exploits the innocent and it very rarely produces good results. I mean, it's not that some very beginning person can't do good work or even something about the fact that, statistically, if you get a thousand pieces you're likely to find one that is excellent. My experience with all this sort of free work and general calls for submission is that they produce very low-level responses. It is also a real exploitation of the innocent. And people are so desperate to find a way of becoming visible that you can get anybody to work for nothing.
One of the curious things that happens in the field is that, because our activity is linked to the arts and the arts are not supposed to be concerned with money—after all, money is impure, it's not fine—there's a tremendous amount of inquiry about free work. You can—as I probably have in the last two weeks—get twenty calls from people who want and expect you to do something without being paid for it, because of visibility or because you're not supposed to be interested in money. Well, that's not exactly the case. And so it is, I think, fundamentally exploitive. You wouldn't go into a butcher shop and ask for a pound of steak without anticipating that you would have to pay for it.
Question: Do you like the trend of people becoming designers without formal training?
Milton Glaser: Well, that's a complex question. The question of the degree of skill and classicism in anyone's makeup depends very much on context and capacity. People have different aptitudes. It is possible to be self-taught in any area, but the issue of whether somebody should have a classical education depends very much on genre. For instance, is it necessary to have a classical education in music? Well, if that means to develop skills and understanding about composition and also to be able to play a piano or any other instrument to where you can express your ideas, I would say you would be severely limited if you couldn't do those things. I think the same thing is true in the world of design.
I'm totally obsessed with the idea of drawing as being the fundamental tool and instrument by which you understand what you're looking at, and there is no replacement for that. The idea of looking at something, letting it enter your brain, transforming it, moving it down the neurological path to your hands, moving your hand to create something that can be evaluated by your brain and corrected, that iteration, that conversation between the mind and the hand, it seems to me, is the way we learn what is real. And the issue in the arts, very often is that question, “What is real?” And the distinction [is] between what we pre-imagine the world to be and what enables us to see it with clarity and understanding.
So there is nothing that I know of, or have experienced, that enables us to engage the world better than the act of drawing and being able to create form as we see it. And people spend their entire life trying to learn how to draw. And then, after years and years of effort, they discover that they can successfully replicate what's in front of them. It's a kind of drawing that appears in all the art classes and all the studios as people learn how to do it in the world. And then finally you learn that you can represent what is in front of you accurately [and] at the same time you learn that it's not the point, that that is only the beginning of the real point, which is how to engage what is real.
Question: What is your advice to young artists who want to make a name for themselves?
Milton Glaser: My general advice to the young—you have to work like hell. There's no issue about being a natural genius and then falling into opportunities that will support it. Nobody's interested in supporting genius. Malcolm Gladwell's recent book defined ten thousand hours as the amount of time anybody has to put in to attain mastery. I love the fact that he was able to quantify that, and I would quite agree that that is a good number before you begin to understand what it is you're doing.
So the first thing I would say is put in your ten thousand hours. And after that, simply don't get stuck in your own belief system. Continue to understand the issue is not about style or what's going on at the moment, but things can be deeper, more profound, and more influential. And you can't stop working. The only thing that matters is that you have to be engaged and consistent and you can't give up and you can't be lazy. And outside of that there's no guarantee, even with all of that, that you will necessarily succeed—but as they say, that's life.
Question: Are you ever annoyed by the prevalence of the “I Love New York” logo?
Milton Glaser: No, I am not, in any way, annoyed about that. I am astonished, but I am not annoyed. I mean, you very rarely do anything in your life that gets exploited, if you will, or recognized or observed or used to the extent that that has been. I don't get it. I don't know why it became an icon that moved around the world, where you can't go out in the street—for instance, we'll go out after this broadcast and we will encounter at least 20 “I Love New York's” on the street as we walk across town. I did the bloody thing in 1975 and I thought it would last a couple of months as a promotion; why it has persisted in people's consciousness for such a long time is totally miraculous. And since most of us were involved in design and were interested in having our work have an effect in the world, it is a great pleasure for me to see that it is still being used and it's still around, that it still seems to be affective. It's a great thing to have happened for me.
Question: Are you upset you don’t have the trademark to the image?
Milton Glaser: Well I think you get annoyed if something you had done had been exploited by others and they made insufferable amount of money doing it and you had done. So under those conditions I can see somebody getting angry because “I could have…” and so on. But for me it's not the case. First of all, I have enough money and I've never worried about it. And just the pervasiveness of it is a great pleasure.
Question: Why did you choose to live in Woodstock?
Milton Glaser: Well, we've been in Woodstock for an extremely long time, but it always had this history of being an art colony, which was a good reason not to go there. As a result of that, everybody trendy didn't go there. So back in the early '60s when we were considering where we would like to be, we had friends who had a barn up in Woodstock and we used to spend weekends with them. We got to love the area and Woodstock itself. It was so unpopular at that time. Refreshingly cranky. There were no trendy cool people up there that we knew, except people who really interested in finding a cheap house, which is what we were interested in.
So we went there. Most of our other friends ended up in the Hamptons, but we found [Woodstock] was extremely compatible in terms of our own desires. We don't like social scenes and we like to be alone. We got a beautiful house for no money because you could get a house for no money. It's been one of the great satisfactions of our life.
Question: What keeps you up at night?
Milton Glaser: What keeps me up at night? Not much. Sometimes it's just when you reach 80 you realize that everything is falling apart. Things that you didn't know you even had begin to fall apart, but I don't worry about many things actually. My life has been free of pain; I've had a marvelous life. I don't have anxiety issues.
Question: You have no worries at all?
Milton Glaser: I don't know. What I enjoy more than anything else is coming to work in the morning with a wonderful group of people, young people who are responsive and lively and full of energy; just the experience of sharing what you know with others and listening for different viewpoints and working collaboratively. It is so much fun. My great dread, if we must [talk] about what keeps me up at night, is the idea that some day I may have to stop working. The idea of dying at my desk is the most attractive thing I can think of.
Question: What is the biggest obstacle that you've had to overcome in your career?
Milton Glaser: The biggest obstacle I've had to overcome? Well I think everybody's biggest obstacle is stupidity. I mean, not knowing what you were doing or being in over your head, but it's an odd thing. I don't say this with any great arrogance or anything, but I have had the most easy life. Everything I ever dreamed I would want to accomplish, excuse me for this, but basically, I have done. I do not, at this point, experience my life as having in any way been difficult.
Recorded on: August 27, 2009
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Virtual reality continues to blur the line between the physical and the digital, and it will change our lives forever.
- Extended reality technologies — which include virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality — have long captivated the public imagination, but have yet to become mainstream.
- Extended reality technologies are quickly becoming better and cheaper, suggesting they may soon become part of daily life.
- Over the long term, these technologies may usher in the "mirror world" — a digital layer "map" that lies atop the physical world and enables us to interact with internet-based technologies more seamlessly than ever.
What will the Disneyland of the future look like? | Hard Reset by Freethink www.youtube.com
Immersive technology aims to overlay a digital layer of experience atop everyday reality, changing how we interact with everything from medicine to entertainment. What that future will look like is anyone's guess. But immersive technology is certainly on the rise.
The extended reality (XR) industry — which includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), which involves both virtual and physical spaces — is projected to grow from $43 billion in 2020 to $333 billion by 2025, according to a recent market forecast. Much of that growth will be driven by consumer technologies, such as VR video games, which are projected to be worth more than $90 billion by 2027, and AR glasses, which Apple and Facebook are currently developing.
But other sectors are adopting immersive technologies, too. A 2020 survey found that 91 percent of businesses are currently using some form of XR or plan to use it in the future. The range of XR applications seems endless: Boeing technicians use AR when installing wiring in airplanes. H&R Block service representatives use VR to boost their on-the-phone soft skills. And KFC developed an escape-room VR game to train employees how to make fried chicken.
XR applications not only train and entertain; they also have the unique ability to transform how people perceive familiar spaces. Take theme parks, which are using immersive technology to add a new experiential layer to their existing rides, such as roller coasters where riders wear VR headsets. Some parks, like China's $1.5 billion VR Star Theme Park, don't have physical rides at all.
One of the most novel innovations in theme parks is Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction, which has multiple versions: physical locations in California and Florida and a near-identical virtual replica within the "Tales from the Galaxy's Edge" VR game.
"That's really the first instance of anything like this that's ever been done, where you can get a deeper dive, and a somewhat different view, of the same location by exploring its digital counterpart," game designer Michael Libby told Freethink.
Libby now runs Worldbuildr, a company that uses game-engine software to prototype theme park attractions before construction begins. The prototypes provide a real-time VR preview of everything riders will experience during the ride. It begs the question: considering that VR technology is constantly improving, will there come a point when there's no need for the physical ride at all?
Maybe. But probably not anytime soon.
"I think we're more than a few minutes from the future of VR," Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan told the Washington Post in 2020. "Will it be this year? No. Will it be next year? No. But will it come at some stage? We believe that."
It could take years for XR to become mainstream. But that growth period is likely to be a brief chapter in the long history of XR technologies.
The evolution of immersive technology
The first crude example of XR technology came in 1838 when the English scientist Charles Wheatstone invented the stereoscope, a device through which people could view two images of the same scene but portrayed at slightly different angles, creating the illusion of depth and solidity. Yet it took another century before anything resembling our modern conception of immersive technology struck the popular imagination.
In 1935, the science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum wrote a short story called "Pygmalion's Spectacles," which describes a pair of goggles that enables one to perceive "a movie that gives one sight and sound [...] taste, smell, and touch. [...] You are in the story, you speak to the shadows (characters) and they reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it."
The 1950s and 1960s saw some bold and crude forays into XR, such as the Sensorama, which was dubbed an "experience theater" that featured a movie screen complemented by fan-generated wind, a motional chair, and a machine that produced scents. There was also the Telesphere Mask, which packed most of the same features but in the form of a headset designed presciently similar to modern models.
The first functional AR device came in 1968 with Ivan Sutherland's The Sword of Damocles, a heavy headset through which viewers could see basic shapes and structures overlaid on the room around them. The 1980s brought interactive VR systems featuring goggles and gloves, like NASA's Virtual Interface Environment Workstation (VIEW), which let astronauts control robots from a distance using hand and finger movements.
1980's Virtual Reality - NASA Video youtu.be
That same technology led to new XR devices in the gaming industry, like Nintendo's Power Glove and Virtual Boy. But despite a ton of hype over XR in the 1980s and 1990s, these flashy products failed to sell. The technology was too clunky and costly.
In 2012, the gaming industry saw a more successful run at immersive technology when Oculus VR raised $2.5 million on Kickstarter to develop a VR headset. Unlike previous headsets, the Oculus model offered a 90-degree field of view, was priced reasonably, and relied on a personal computer for processing power.
In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion, and the following years brought a wave of new VR products from companies like Sony, Valve, and HTC. The most recent market evolution has been toward standalone wireless VR headsets that don't require a computer, like the Oculus Quest 2, which last year received five times as many preorders as its predecessor did in 2019.
Also notable about the Oculus Quest 2 is its price: $299 — $100 cheaper than the first version. For years, market experts have said cost is the primary barrier to adoption of VR; the Valve Index headset, for example, starts at $999, and that price doesn't include the cost of games, which can cost $60 a piece. But as hardware gets better and prices get cheaper, immersive technology might become a staple in homes and industry.
Advancing XR technologies
Over the short term, it's unclear whether the recent wave of interest in XR technologies is just hype. But there's reason to think it's not. In addition to surging sales of VR devices and games, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook's heavy investments into XR suggests there's plenty of space into which these technologies could grow.
A report from The Information published in March found that roughly 20 percent of Facebook personnel work in the company's AR/VR division called Facebook Reality Labs, which is "developing all the technologies needed to enable breakthrough AR glasses and VR headsets, including optics and displays, computer vision, audio, graphics, brain-computer interface, haptic interaction."
What would "breakthroughs" in XR technologies look like? It's unclear exactly what Facebook has in mind, but there are some well-known points of friction that the industry is working to overcome. For example, locomotion is a longstanding problem in VR games. Sure, some advanced systems — that is, ones that cost far more than $300 — include treadmill-like devices on which you move through the virtual world by walking, running, or tilting your center of gravity.
But for the consumer-grade devices, the options are currently limited to using a joystick, walking in place, leaning forward, or pointing and teleporting. (There's also these electronic boots that keep you in place as you walk, for what it's worth.) These solutions usually work fine, but it produces an inherent sensory contradiction: Your avatar is moving through the virtual world but your body remains still. The locomotion problem is why most VR games don't require swift character movements and why designers often compensate by having the player sit in a cockpit or otherwise limiting the game environment to a confined space.
For AR, one key hurdle is fine-tuning the technology to ensure that the virtual content you see through, say, a pair of smart glasses is optically consistent with physical objects and spaces. Currently, AR often appears clunky, unrooted from the real world. Incorporating LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) into AR devices may do the trick. The futurist Bernard Marr elaborated on his blog:
"[LIDAR] is essentially used to create a 3D map of surroundings, which can seriously boost a device's AR capabilities. It can provide a sense of depth to AR creations — instead of them looking like a flat graphic. It also allows for occlusion, which is where any real physical object located in front of the AR object should, obviously, block the view of it — for example, people's legs blocking out a Pokémon GO character on the street."
Another broad technological upgrade to XR technologies, especially AR, is likely to be 5G, which will boost the transmission rate of wireless data over networks.
"The adoption of 5G will make a difference in terms of new types of content being able to be viewed by more people." Irena Cronin, CEO of Infinite Retina, a research and advisory firm that helps companies implement spatial computing technologies, said in a 2020 XR survey report. "5G is going to make a difference for more sophisticated, heavy content being viewed live when needed by businesses."
Beyond technological hurdles, the AR sector still has to answer some more abstract questions on the consumer side: From a comfort and style perspective, do people really want to walk around wearing smart glasses or other wearable AR tech? (The failure of Google Glass suggests people were not quite ready to in 2014.) What is the value proposition of AR for consumers? How will companies handle the ethical dilemmas associated with AR technology, such as data privacy, motion sickness, and the potential safety hazards created by tinkering with how users see, say, a busy intersection?
Despite the hurdles, it seems likely that the XR industry will steadily — if clumsily — continue to improve these technologies, weaving them into more aspects of our personal and professional lives. The proof is in your pocket: Smartphones can already run AR applications that let you see prehistoric creatures, true-to-size IKEA furniture in your living room, navigation directions overlaid on real streets, paintings at the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, and, of course, Pokémon. So, what's next?
The future of immersive experiences
When COVID-19 struck, it not only brought a surge in sales of XR devices and applications but also made a case for rethinking how workers interact in physical spaces. Zoom calls quickly became the norm for office jobs. But for some, prolonged video calls became annoying and exhausting; the term "Zoom fatigue" caught on and was even researched in a 2021 study published in Technology, Mind, and Behavior.
The VR company Spatial offered an alternative to Zoom. Instead of talking to 2D images of coworkers on a screen, Spatial virtually recreates office environments where workers — more specifically, their avatars — can talk and interact. The experience isn't perfect: your avatar, which is created by uploading a photo of yourself, looks a bit awkward, as do the body movements. But the experience is good enough to challenge the idea that working in a physical office is worth the trouble.
Cyberspace illustrationtampatra via Adobe Stock
That's probably the most relatable example of an immersive environment people may soon encounter. But the future is wide open. Immersive environments may also be used on a wide scale to:
- Conduct job interviews, potentially with gender- and race-neutral avatars to eliminate possibilities of discriminatory hiring practices
- Ease chronic pain
- Help people overcome phobias through exposure therapy
- Train surgeons to conduct complex procedures, which may be especially beneficial to doctors in nations with weaker healthcare systems
- Prepare inmates for release into society
- Educate students, particularly in ways that cut down on distractions
- Enable people to go on virtual dates
But the biggest transformation XR technologies are likely to bring us is a high-fidelity connection to the "mirror world." The mirror world is essentially a 1:1 digital map of our world, created by the fusion of all the data collected through satellite imagery, cameras, and other modeling techniques. It already exists in crude form. For example, if you were needing directions on the street, you could open Google Maps AR, point your camera in a certain direction, and your screen will show you that Main Street is 223 feet in front of you. But the mirror world will likely become far more sophisticated than that.
Through the looking glass of AR devices, the outside world could be transformed in any number of ways. Maybe you are hiking through the woods and you notice a rare flower; you could leave a digital note suspended in the air so the next passerby can check it out. Maybe you encounter something like an Amazon Echo in public and, instead of it looking like a cylindrical tube, it appears as an avatar. You could be touring Dresden in Germany and choose to see a flashback representation of how the city looked after the bombings of WWII. You might also run into your friends — in digital avatar form — at the local bar.
Of course, this future poses no shortage of troubling aspects, ranging from privacy, pollution from virtual advertisements, and the currently impossible-to-answer psychological consequences of creating such an immersive environment. But despite all the uncertainties, the foundations of the mirror world are being built today.
As for what may lie beyond it? Ivan Sutherland, the creator of The Sword of Damocles, once described his idea of an "ultimate" immersive display:
"...a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked."
Hospitals often deal with the aftermath of gun violence, but they can play a key role in preventing it.
- Approximately 41,000 people are killed each year due to gun violence. That's more lives lost to guns than to car accidents. So why do we devote more attention (and money) to car safety than we do gun safety?
- As Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling points out, the deaths are not the whole story. The physical, emotional, and psychological trauma reverberates through communities and the public at-large. "This is just not about guns," says Dowling," this is a serious public health issue and we've got to look at it that way.
- Hospitals often deal with the aftermath of gun violence, but they can play a key role in preventing it. Medical staff are trained to assess health risk factors. Dowling argues that a similar approach is needed for guns. "We have to be much more holistic in our approach."
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
Reality is far stranger than fiction.
- Black holes are stranger than fiction, especially when we explore the weird effects of watching someone or something fall into one.
- Rotating black holes may be traversable if the physics as we understand it holds.
- To discuss the physics, we explore a fictional tale with a grand ending.
What happens when someone falls into a black hole? If you are the unfortunate soul being gobbled up, things don't look too bad until they turn really bad. Unless, there is an outlet through a wormhole. And you are really lucky.
The fictional story below — an abridged version of one published in my 2002 book The Prophet and the Astronomer explains why. Since we now know that black holes exist and that even Jeff Bezos can fly into outer space, it is only a matter of time before humans fly into black holes — albeit a very, very long time from now: the nearest black hole to Earth (as of now) lies a "mere" 1,500 light-years away.
But first, a refresher. In his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein equated gravity with the curvature of space around a massive body. The effect is quite negligible for light masses but becomes important for massive stars and even more so for very compact massive objects such as neutron stars, whose gravity is 100,000 times stronger than at the sun's surface. Distortions of space caused by a larger mass (stars) will cause small moving masses (planets) to deviate from what Newtonian gravity predicts. Another remarkable consequence of Einstein's theory of gravity is the slowing down of clocks in strong gravitational fields: strong gravity bends space and slows down time.
Now, on with the story.
In my young days, I traveled from planet to planet looking for old spaceship parts. It was in one of my travels in search of a rare gyroscope for a 2180 Mars Lander that I found "Mr. Ström's Rocket Parts," an enormous hanger littered with mountains of space garbage. While I was consulting the store's virtual stock-scanning device to search for the gyroscope, Mr. Ström himself came to greet me. He was famous throughout the galaxy for claiming to have come closer than anyone to a black hole, a story that, to most, was just that — a story.
Like many before me, I asked Mr. Ström to tell me his story. After hesitating a while, he gave in.
"I was commander of a fleet built to explore the complex astrophysical X-ray source known as Cygnus X-1," he started. "Since the 1970s, over three millennia ago, this was suspected to be a binary star system 6,000 light-years from Earth. The two members of the binary system, thought to be a blue giant star about 20-30 solar masses and a black hole about 7-15 solar masses, orbited so close together that the black hole frantically sucked matter from his huge companion into a spiraling oblivion. This mad swirling heated the in-falling stellar matter to enormous temperatures, producing the X-rays astronomers on Earth observed. Even though the data indicated that the smaller object of the pair had a mass much larger than the maximum mass for neutron stars, it was still not clear if it was a black hole. Since other attempts to identify it had failed, the League of Planets decided that the only way to know for sure was to go there.
"The fleet consisted of three vessels, each under the command of a Ström, a great honor to my family. I led the vessel named CX1, my middle brother led CX2, and the youngest led CX3. I will spare you the details of how the mission was prepared, and how, after many problems with our hyper-relativistic plasma drive, we finally arrived to within one light-month of our destination. Through our telescopes we could see an enormous hot blue star being drained by an invisible hole in space.
"We were instructed to fly single file toward the black hole, keeping a very large distance from each other; my younger brother first, my mid-brother second, and me last. We knew that, from a large distance, a black hole behaves like any other massive object, as the differences general relativity predicted happen only fairly close to it. We also knew that every black hole has an imaginary limiting sphere around it known as the 'event horizon,' which marks the distance from which not even light could escape.
"My young brother's ship, the CX3, was to approach the hole, sending us periodic light flashes with a given frequency; we were to follow at a distance, measuring the frequency of the radiation emitted by my brother's ship as well as the time interval between the pulses, and then compare them with the theoretical predictions for gravitational redshift and time delay. The three vessels plunged to a distance of 10,000 kilometers from the hole; while CX1 and CX2 hovered at that distance, my brother closed in to 100 kilometers from the hole. He was instructed to send us infrared radiation, but we detected only radio waves. The gravitational redshift formula was indeed correct. Furthermore, the intervals between two pulses increased quite perceptibly; time was flowing slower for my brother, as viewed from our distant ships. He plunged to the dangerously close distance of ten kilometers from the hole, only seven from the event horizon; this was the closest distance the ship could stand, due to the enormous tidal forces around the hole, which stretch everything into spaghetti. (Numbers assume a one-solar-mass black hole.)
"From that close orbit, my brother was to send pulses of visible light, but all we detected were (invisible) radio waves; we could not see my brother's ship any longer, and I started to feel very uneasy. The theory was correct: a ship falling into a black hole will become invisible to a more distant ship (us) due to the red shifting of light. That also meant that we would never be able to see a star collapsing into a black hole, as it will become invisible before it meets its end. A related effect was the slowing of time. As my younger brother approached the black hole, the radiation pulses were arriving at increasingly long intervals. Thus, not only could we not see him, but we would also have to wait an enormous amount of time to receive any message from him. This confirmed the prediction that for a distant observer, the collapse of a star would take forever. Of course, for the unlucky traveler that freefalls into the black hole, nothing unusual with the passage of time would happen, as explained by the equivalence principle: gravity is neutralized in free fall. Unfortunately, his body would be horribly stretched.
"The turbulence and steady bombardment of matter swirling around the black hole caused my brother's spaceship to drift uncontrollably into the maelstrom. I had to try to rescue him. After all, this was a rotating black hole, and the theory predicted that instead of a crushing singularity at its center, there should be a wormhole connected to another point in the universe. A desperate maneuver to be sure.
"My mid-brother waited in a safe distant orbit around the black hole. As I plunged in, the whirling of space dragged me in as water into a drain. The combination of enormous gravitational pull and furious bombardment of radiation and particles took a toll on my ship; but its fuselage miraculously — what else could it be but a miracle? — survived, as I did, thanks to the once controversial anti-crunch shield. Outside, space seemed to convulse into infinitely many coexisting shapes. Inside a black hole, I realized, reality had no boundaries.
"I felt an enormous push, as if the spaceship was being coughed up by a giant. I must have remained unconscious for quite a while. When I looked into a mirror, I could hardly believe what I saw; my hair had turned completely white, and my face was covered with wrinkles I didn't have moments (moments?) ago. I checked my location in the computer and realized that, somehow, I re-emerged 2,000 light-years away from Cygnus X-1. The only possible explanation was that I traveled through a wormhole, which somehow was kept open inside the black hole and was tossed out by a white hole at a faraway point in space."
Apart from the sequence of facts inside the black hole — where we know very little — the rest is what we should expect from watching someone fall into a black hole. Reality, for these cosmic maelstroms, is definitely stranger than fiction.