Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bike Reflector Art

I took my brother and sister-in-law to see the building I work in, late at night after dinner. There's this artwork on one wall, about 10 feet wide and three very tall stories high, made of different colored bike reflectors. My brother, Handy MacGyver, had a flashlight/laser pointer readily at hand, and he quickly discovered that if you brace the flashlight on your forehead and walk back and forth across the atrium, you see shiny waves of light crossing the piece. Of course, everyone had to try it, including a baffled professor who discovered us staggering around in the lobby. Here's my blurry sister giving it a try:
Jung-eun appreciating art

Monday, September 10, 2007

Left and Right Brains

The LA Times reports on a study of brain differences between liberals and conservatives. They showed people an "M" or a "W", and they had to click a key only when an "M" showed up. M's were much more common than W's. Liberals did better on average than conservatives at holding back from clicking when a W appeared. The implication the Times draws is that conservatives are more prone to making decisions without considering new information.

If this is an accurate report, it makes me wonder how to find a game where conservatives would do better than liberals. My guess might be some test of field dependence, like the embedded figures test. If conservatives are more likely to wrongly fixate on a pattern when asked to look for exceptions, maybe they're more likely to correctly identify a pattern when distracted.

I'd rather this kind of research be used to figure out how people can broaden themselves, than to pigeonhole people or belittle their beliefs as poor brain functioning. Is it possible to train the brain to be more field-dependent or independent at will? Can we learn to adopt a liberal or conservative mindset when one or the other is advantageous? Maybe there's a scientific bias against studies asking people to "do" things mentally and observing the results; since internal "doing" is so hard to describe and to measure. But maybe improving brain scan technology will allow more exploration of the ways people can choose to change the way they go about thinking and emoting.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Taking night pictures with a cell phone camera

In my explorations of what you can do with a cellphone camera, the most interesting challenge is night pictures. I find brightly colored lights at night to be really beautiful, but the cell camera doesn't capture it well. Here's a snapshot of what was a brilliant traffic light my last night living in Denver:

white traffic signal

You can see some redness in the "don't walk" sign across the street, but the traffic signal just shows up white next to the streetlight. I think it was green at the time, but it's hard to tell here. Should I photoshop it to fix the color to what I remember seeing?

Here's a photo of the Man and the moon from Burning Man last week. The man was bright green -- here he shows up white. The green canopy under it shows up as green though. Must be something about intense green getting washed out more than other colors.

burning man and moon

Also the moon is a lot less dramatic. I took several moon pictures and they always look tiny. Why is that? Must be related to the effect that makes the moon look bigger on the horizon. I don't think I'll bother with moonshots any more without a telephoto lens.

Here are our water bottles: we put glow sticks in them so we can carry them around and not lose them and not get hit by bikes. The green looks fine here.

blue and green glowing water bottles

One final example: I tried to get a picture of the Thunderdome; this is a huge geodesic dome where the audience climbs on the outside and people fight inside hanging on bungee swings. I was trying to just get a straightforward snapshot of the fighters with audience in the fore- and background, but obviously the shutter speed had to be too slow for all the motion and my unsteady hand (snapping at arms length over my head). Plus my aim sucked. But I kinda like it anyway; it captures a sense of anarchy and chaos. I guess night photos with a cell phone have to be either still lifes or lomographic motion shots like this.


Sky-blue Mohawk

Andrew in the dome

I also got some good pictures last week of Andrew in his blue mohawk and dustpunk coiture. We had to scrunch up the fabric covering the dome to create larger openings, when a windstorm/dust-whiteout came up and the dome got blown about 10 feet. Opening up holes cut the wind resistance a little, but our stuff got incredibly dusty.

Andrew in white pants

He was frustrated with how quickly the blue hair faded in the sun, but I think it looked good that way.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The world from my window

sky through metal bars

I took some pictures at Burning man with my new camera phone. Most pictures come out crap with it, but occasionally I really like one. Andrew keeps telling me this should inspire me to get a better camera, but I really like the convenience of this one, and it seems like the fun part of art is to see what you can make with the medium you're working with, rather than obsessing about better equipment.

This is looking out at the sky from the doorway of our geodesic dome home.