Wednesday, May 02, 2018


Click on any image for a larger version

I'm a sucker for science. It probably dates from when there was a mercury (airgead beo) spill in the science lab in school. And don't forget how they took that idea up in Terminator 2 so many years later.

Then there was the RDS. I can't remember if it was the early days of the Young Scientist Exhibition or something earlier still. But the magic of playing Xs and Os against the computer on an illuminated wall panel was something else. And later finding that this awesome simulation of human intelligence could be reproduced with a score of lines of SpectrumBasic code on my new ZX computer - more magic but a little disillusion as well at how simple it was.

The Petit Palais in Paris was mind blowing for its hands-on physics and much later the Cité des Sciences for an early experiment in voice control commands.

Now we have the permanent presence of TCD's Science Gallery in Pearse Street. From its Makeshop in Lincoln Place, now departing on a national tour, to its regular exhibitions in the Gallery itself. I have blogged an earlier one of these and have now gone in to the current exhibition on faking it, from which the above alien head is taken.

You can wander through all the exhibits from this page whence I have borrowed some of the commentary below. That commentary is shown double indented and in italic font. The remaining normal text is my own. You can also see better photos of the exhibits from the linked page but I prefer to use my own in the body of the blog post for the intimacy and atmospherics (and maybe a bit of showing off).

The alien head is a fake (of course) which was used in an attempt to discredit a film of an alien autopsy which was itself proved to be a fake but at a much later date. The background to all this is the usual Roswell alien stuff.

This virtual reality thing is really weird. I know I started just sitting on a stool and when I looked around me I was in an empty version of the upstairs of the exhibition hall but the exhibition space was empty.

Then the bloody stool started to move - backwards. I began to feel a bit sick and as the stool approached the stairwell I had an almost irrestible urge to jump off. Two things stopped me: (i) I thought I might hurt myself, and (ii) I just managed to persuade myself, against all my instincts, that it was only a simulation and that I was still sitting where I started.

So down the stairs we went, me and the stool, and all along the ground floor area, until we came to a stop at Nefertiti's head (for which see below).

Then, just before I took off the viewer I remembered to ask the nice lady to take a photo and that's what you're looking at now. Thanks Alex.

The cuttlefish is normally used as the prime example of nature's camouflage and the cuttlefish's ability in this area is extraordinary. However, there are limits. Adaptability is limited to the natural world where the cuttlefish is well able to fake it. But what of the "unnatural" synthetic world?
The cuttlefish's adaptive coloration was triggered by replacing natural substrates (sand, mud, seaweed, etc.) with computer-generated images of major 20th century paintings, photographs and video documentations.

This is one extreme from the set of results shown above. Here the cuttlefish fails to adequately camouflage itself but might just get away with it against a visually challenged predator.

I'm told blue is a colour that rarely occurs in nature and against this background the cuttlefish has drawn a complete blank.

Is this perhaps a metaphor for humans outside their natural environment, living in a man-made world where adequate coping skills have not yet fully evolved?

Nicking Nefertiti: 3D printing is absolutely amazing particularly at high resolution. That's what you're looking at above, I have explained this in my Makeshop link. The reference below to "Kinect" is to an Xbox 3D scanner add-on. The story goes as follows;
The Nefertiti Bust is an ancient Egyptian sculpture discovered by a German archaeological team in 1912; it is currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin. In 2016, artists Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles secretly scanned the bust using a hacked Kinect as a portable scanner. The artists released their data from the scan during the Chaos Computer Congress 32C3, and it has since been downloaded and shared countless times. The artists also 3D-printed a version of the data and exhibited the printed bust in Cairo — and thus Nefertiti was shown for the first time in Egypt.

Shanzhai Archeology demonstrates that the real innovation in mobile telephony lies not in the latest iPhone model but rather in mini-factories in the Chinese hi-tech hub of Shenzhen (where iPhones are produced). Set up as a typical sales stand, Shanzhai Archeology presents the product range of these mini-companies, which fuse creativity, copy/piracy/remix-ventures and self-taught skills to develop new products in a matter of weeks. Although often derided for poor quality, the stylish, high-end devices on show pose a serious challenge to the West’s hyper-standardised approach to technology and to the built-in obsolescence paraded under the guise of innovation.

A mobile phone allowing a Buddhist to pray while waiting for the other end to answer or while on ("we value your call") eternal hold.

And one whose main function is to act as a power pack.

Vapour Meat responds to a growing uneasiness with meat. The negative effects of meat industries have resulted in the rise of veganism, vegetarianism, ethical omnivorism and technological solutions like lab-grown meat, a.k.a. ‘clean meat’. Yet these responses result in an increasing distance between ourselves and the animal Other. Vapour Meat uses this scenario to posit a future in which we reach for the technological in lieu of the real.

That's all very well but I got the impression that there is still some real meat behind the vapour, so, vegetarians and vegans beware.

This exhibit is really an exhortation to read the label. Mind you, reading the ingredients in advance can put you off a fair load of stuff. You might even come to agree with Voltaire in Candide that to be happy il faut cultiver son jardin but then there's the weedkiller and, oh well.

To get back to the cheese on the wall.
The products here can be referred to as ‘cheese’ because they contain a minimum 51% cheese. Along with the level of appropriate ingredients, the food industry is also allowed to label a product as ‘cheese’ if accompanied by other words like ‘product’ or ‘processed’. Here, the other 49% is made up of additives that control its melting point, colour and texture, aiming to mimic organic cheese through stretching its most artificial characteristics. The exhibit changes constantly, as the initially vibrant colours of the slices begin to fade as they react to natural light. As such, the exhibit resembles a painting that gets modified by time.
And I gather the only difference between white and red cheese these days is a bit of colouring. But don't get me started on suggestibility and food.

FAUX Foodmongers is a deli where you can sample and purchase a range of food that might be considered ‘fake’ by some eaters. From krab sticks to vegan cheese, a lot of the products humans consume are something other than what they say they are. Is there something worth celebrating in the gastronomic poetry of chefs, food scientists and inventors who create these edible metaphors?

This is where the FBI/CIA can produce video evidence of you saying whatever they want you to. A bit scary but the defendant might just be able to get an expert witness to spot the flaws. To the lay person it looks quite convincing.
a visual form of lip-syncing, with a neural network trained on many hours of past footage used to convert audio files of an individual’s speech into realistic mouth shapes, which are then grafted onto and blended with the head of that person from another existing video.

In 2013, American filmmaker Errol Morris ran a study with The New York Times to find what typeface is considered to be the most believable. Baskerville was considered the most reliable. A typeface can influence us when it comes to believing whether a sentence is true or false. Bastardville, the font shown in this exhibit, is a response to this. Broken down until only the remnants of the Baskerville typeface remain to reflect the truth being eroded in the post-truth era, Bastardville is not made to be easily legible but for the viewer to struggle to read the content.
As a former letterpress printer I had an interest in this but at the end of the day considered it pointless.

This exhibit showed a load of slides of people in different situations but it was only when it was pointed out to you that you realised that there was alcohol, or a suggestion of alcohol, in every one of them. The idea here was to reveal subliminal suggestibility. Nothing as crude as those cookery books which make you hungry at first glance.

I'm not sure if this has been configured properly or if the problem is in the concept. It is very slow, very very slow. You don't really see any action and traces of past action are sparse. As against that the exhibition has a whole month to go and you don't want the whole thing to collapse on day one.

The official description is:
The centerpiece of the series is a pyramid of champagne glasses, connected to a change machine that breaks mined cryptocurrency into ‘quarters’.
And the idea is that the structure represents the flawed international financial system. The pyamid is fed from the top with melting money, resembling mercury, which contains a corrosive element, This trickles down and eventually the whole thing shatters. The feeding mechanism varies in different versions of the structure, as illustrated below. This version heats the "coins" in synch with the mining of bitcoin (whatever that means).

If you arrive before the dies irae you'll just have to use your imagination.

Official photo, not this exhibition

Official photo, not this exhibition

collection of designer hearts using a technique known as decellularisation, a biomedical process in which an animal heart is stripped of its cellular contents. This translucent 3D protein scaffold becomes a white sterile frame for building a new, personalised heart, repopulated by healthy human stem cells. The process creates the potential for functioning hearts from discarded animal organs, tricking one’s own body into accepting a dead heart from another organism by masking it with the recipient’s living cells.

A study of reflection, this light sculpture confronts the viewer with the duality of who they are and how they perceive themselves. The same object displays differently in the mirror’s reflection, as life reflects unrealised desires of the heart, mind and soul.
A bit pretentious in my view.

I have covered about half the exhibits in this post so there is still a lot more to see if you can get in by the end of the month.

No comments: