Street View for the Milky Way

Humanity has gone a long way from the first scientific map of the universe created by Copernicus in 1543. Nowadays we have not only expanded our knowledge about ‘the starry sky above us’ but also improved our technologies to represent and visualize large amounts of data.

For the last 12 years, Carter Emmart, Director of Astrovisualization at American Museum of Natural History, has been coordinating efforts of scientists, artists and programmers to build a complete 3D visualization of the universe. In a recent TED talk he explained the latest results of his efforts and – at least a bit – the universe.

‘The Known Universe’ visualizes data from the Digital Universe Atlas, the most complete (and downloadable) 3D atlas of the universe. Ben R. Oppenheimer likens the atlas to Mercator’s invention of the globe: “It gave everyone a new perspective on where they live in relation to others, and we hope that the Digital Universe does the same on a grander, cosmic scale.” But do we really get beyond the horizon and understand our planet as a limited condition? There is still a long way to go, but better visualization may help.

Carter Emmart’s film was also part of a recent exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art.


The Comeback of Handwriting

In an earlier blog post I wrote that with new technology, literacy evolves.  I was questioning the need to teach penmanship in schools drawing analogies between Braille code for the blind and teaching new literacy.

However, when talking to a blind friend of mine I was quite impressed when he told me that he still prefers handwriting for personal communication and therefore bought a special device with rubber straps representing the top and bottom boarders of a line.

Indeed, handwriting is an important part of human identity and I understand why we still stick to it in the digital age. It makes us unique.

That is exactly the big idea behind a small web application called PilotHandwriting. This easy to use app allows you to turn your own handwriting into a digital font and to send emails to your friends in your own, unique, personal style.

Maybe this is the comeback of handwritten communication in the digital age.

Have a look and try out! www.pilothandwriting.com


A Picture Book and an App for the iPhone

Mobile Art Lab has developed a picture book for children in which the iPhone plays an important role. The phone is put into a children’s book. Readers turn the pages on the phone and in the book simultaneously. The iPhone adds interactive elements to the reading experience. In my opinion, this is not only a great idea but also a promising approach to show how electronic media and print media can coexist and create synergetic effects. The iPhone application can be downloaded for free from the App Store, the picture book is available for about $30 at Amazon in Japan.


The Japanese Super Mario School

As the BBC observed recently, sights and sounds of old-school video games have become an important part of popular music and culture. One beautiful example is the Japanese paper stop motion of Super Mario. This may be not the first time Super Mario comes to school but it is probably the most creative visit so far. The paper stop motion was produced within two weeks using sticky notes to reproduce the pixel graphics. Brilliant!