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Hubble photo showing Klingon Bird of Prey?

OK, is it just me, or does the Hubble image that NASA published today reveal a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey in our asteroid belt? Here is the close-up of what NASA calls a “suspected asteroid collision”:

t1larg

This is an excerpt from NASA’s press release today:

“NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed a mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that suggest a head-on collision between two asteroids. Astronomers have long thought the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never been seen before.

Asteroid collisions are energetic, with an average impact speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour, or five times faster than a rifle bullet. The comet-like object imaged by Hubble, called P/2010 A2, was first discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research, or LINEAR, program sky survey on Jan. 6. New Hubble images taken on Jan. 25 and 29 show a complex X-pattern of filamentary structures near the nucleus.

"This is quite different from the smooth dust envelopes of normal comets," said principal investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles. "The filaments are made of dust and gravel, presumably recently thrown out of the nucleus. Some are swept back by radiation pressure from sunlight to create straight dust streaks. Embedded in the filaments are co-moving blobs of dust that likely originated from tiny unseen parent bodies."

Hubble shows the main nucleus of P/2010 A2 lies outside its own halo of dust. This has never been seen before in a comet-like object. The nucleus is estimated to be 460 feet in diameter.”

Sounds plausible, but as a Star Trek fan I still see a Klingon Bird of Prey that is about to decloak. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture again, but this time look more closely:

NasaKlingonContact

Live long and prosper…

Taking the leap into the 3D world

As many other computer geeks, I’ve always been fascinated by 3D technology and admired the big Silicon Graphics 3D workstations of the early days and saw the early 3D movies with red/blue glasses or the next generation based on polarized glasses in the movie theatre.

This past fall I finally made the leap into the 3D world myself and equipped my computer at home with fully immersive stereoscopic 3D capabilities. I already had the benefit of having a PC equipped with an nVidia geForce-based graphic card, so all I had to do is get the goggles and upgrade my monitor to a model that is capable of 100Hz refresh frequency or more.

As you know, a 50Hz or 60Hz refresh frequency is necessary for a smooth monitor picture, and since the 3D goggles are basically shutter-glasses that alternatingly show one frame to the left eye and one frame to the right eye, you need a monitor capable of doing at least twice the 50Hz for a smooth 3D experience. After checking the 3D system requirements, I decided on the ViewSonic VX2265wm 22” monitor.

But I didn’t want to just watch pre-made 3D content – I wanted to create 3D content myself, so I purchased the Fuji FinePix Real 3D W1 camera that can shoot both 3D photos and make 3D videos.

So my complete 3D setup looks like this:

Since I also wanted to show the 3D photos off in our living room, I added the Fuji FinePix Real 3D V1 viewer (a 3D photo frame) and put it on a countertop to run a slide show of the latest 3D images.

So what can you do with such a 3D setup at home? Essentially there are three main uses:

  • 3D Photography: the Fuji 3D camera is as easy to use as any point&shoot digital camera with one exception – you have to constantly watch where you are putting your fingers, because the camera has two lenses in the front and it is very easy to get your finger showing in one of the two photos. The back of the camera has a 3D display so you can immediately correct for parallax problems if they occur (mostly in close-ups). Just like with any other digital camera you can record photos or movies and then transfer them to your computer. Photos are recorded in the MPO format, so for those of us who like to edit their photos in Photoshop this is presently a problem.
  • 3D Games: most of the modern PC-based games have you walk around in a virtual world as you drive fast cars, shoot zombies, or practice magical spells. As such a large majority of them already support 3D and you can just put on your 3D goggles, push a button, and you are suddenly inside the game in a much more immersive experience. I happen to play World of Warcraft myself, and it is just a lot more fun when my mage faces dragons like Onyxia in immersive stereoscopic 3D vision…
  • 3D Movies: Avatar was just the beginning. There is a whole bunch of movies coming out in 3D in 2010, including Alice in Wonderland, How to train your dragon, Toy Story 3, etc. While Sony and many other TV manufacturers are now gearing up for 3D TVs, I think I’d rather watch 3D movies on my PC…

Of course, one of the problems with 3D photography is that you cannot easily share the 3D photos you produce with other people, unless they have their own 3D display setup at home already. However, as an interim solution, there is a website called Start 3D that lets you turn 3D photos into pictures that wobble left/right to create the illusion of a 3D effect – and those can be embedded in websites or shown on web-based galleries.

As an example, here are just two 3D photos that I took recently and converted into the Start 3D format for inclusion in the blog. This is a meeting with my architects and the builder for our house restoration project:

And secondly we have a 3D photo of my son and wife on the balcony of the new carriage house posing for the special 3D effect:

If you’d like to see more 3D images of our construction site as well as some 3D family photos, those can be found on this 3D image gallery

Electric Armadillo at the VOR start

It’s been a little over a week since the Volvo Ocean Race started their leg 7 in Boston, and the boats have already arrived in Galway, Ireland, this past Saturday. Amazing to see them cross the Atlantic in just 7 days.

Here is a nice shot of our boat, Electric Armadillo, as we were in Boston harbor taking pictures at the VOR start of leg 7 last weekend:

ElectricArmadilloAtVOR

I received this photo from our friend Peter Nielsen, editor-in-chief of Sail Magazine. For more coverage on the VOR check out this story and these photos on their website.

Volvo Ocean Race – Start of Leg 7

Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race started in Boston today, and we took our boat into Boston harbor to watch the start of the race. What started out as a beautiful and sunny day quickly turned into pea soup at noon when the fog started to rolled in.

The Volvo Open 70 racing boats are, of course, spectacular to watch – especially when you can get a few photos up close.  Here is Puma:

And here is Ericsson 3:

The harbor was as busy as ever with over one hundred spectator boats watching both the race of the fleet inside Boston harbor and the departure of the fleet.

As we left the harbor and were already on our way back to Salem Sound, we encountered the last boat in the fleet, Green Dragon, as she disappeared into the fog on her way to Galway, Ireland.

More photos as well as high-res versions of the above images can be found on my personal photo website.

HD View from Microsoft Research

I've recently developed a liking for panorama photography, and already created quite a few panoramas for my other blog on our house restoration project. But the real problem with these panoramic views is that while they were created in Photoshop using several high-res source images, viewing them on a website isn't that exciting, because I needed to significantly reduce the image and add a simple scroll bar to make it even fit within the confines of a blog.

So I started experimenting with the HD View technology from Microsoft Research this weekend. Their new Beta 3 adds exciting features for HDR (which I described in a previous blog post) and fisheye lens effects. And being an XML Aficionado I am, of course, very excited that HD View images are described using an XML manifest document.

To create an HD View image you have several tools available, including a Photoshop plug-in. I used this approach to create a new panorama from 20 individual source photos shot in 10.1 megapixel using a Sony DSC T-700. Click on the following image to open a new window with the HD View browser plug-in (you may need to install the plug-in first - and it is available for IE and FireFox):

Click to open HD View

This is a view of the Atlantic ocean from Beach Bluff Park at Preston Beach - right at the border between Marblehead and Swampscott. The house on the left is our restoration project. The seawall on the right collapsed in a Northeaster in April 2007 and the Clifton Improvement Association is presently raising funds to rebuild it this spring.

The above panorama only had 55 mega-pixel of data, since it was created from just 20 images. But the HD View technology is scalable up to giga-pixel images created from thousands of individual shots. Take a look at these examples created by Bernhard Vogl in Austria...

Geo-coding your photos efficiently

I love to take photos and digital cameras have certainly become the norm since the turn of the century. A new gadget from Sony recently caught my attention, because it promises to provide geo-coded Lat and Lon information for digital photos through GPS logging.

It is called the GPS-CS1KA and works on a surprisingly straight-forward principle: you turn the device on as you are taking pictures and it simply records your GPS position every minute or so. It is powered by just one AA battery and can record up to 10 hours of position data on one charge. The device comes with a USB-cable and associated software that lets you transfer the GPS logs to your computer. Then, when you have downloaded your photos from your digital camera into your computer, the software will automatically match the GPS log to the digital photos based on the timestamp information in will add Lat and Lon data to the JPEG files. This is appended to the file as regular EXIF information in the same way that your camera uses to store its metadata (shutter speed, aperture, etc.).

And why does this XML aficionado care about EXIF data? Well, that is really quite simple: the well-known jhead utility allow you to extract EXIF data from JPEG images to automate the process of building and manipulating image collections, and a very popular patch for jhead does, of course, support XML output, which makes this ideal for creating galleries/archives/directories or doing any other kind of post-processing for Web 2.0 apps.

I recently tested the Sony GPS-CS1KA device during an afternoon sail in Nahant Bay on a friend's boat, and the operation was indeed very simple. Once I had merged the photos with the GPS information, I uploaded the photos to my photo sharing website, which provides direct linking with Google Maps to utilize the included position data. You can see the result by going to this photo gallery and then clicking on “show” underneath the word timeline and zooming out a bit – this will show our approximate track that day and each green marker represents one photo, which you can view by clicking on the marker.