On Gravity, 3D, and miscellaneous

Hello all,

Thought I’d make a brief post, since I wasn’t able to make my usual weekly update this past week, for a combination of reasons. First, went on a nice trip into the off-the-grid wilderness of Eastern Algonquin. Some beautiful territory:

http://youtu.be/rZN2PaJm9RA

Second, have been busy doing paperwork in preparation for a personal business registration and for starting a new job (hooray!)

Finally, my old Vista-era laptop’s hard drive decided to fail a few days short of the Windows 8.1 update. (R.I.P old soldier). I think every computer I’ve ever owned has died of a fried or mechanically damaged hard drive.

Anyway, had to go shopping for a new computer. Almost went with a slick little lightweight, touchscreen solid-state-only number from Samsung. Only 128 GB and no DVD drive, but who needs DVD and who needs more storage space what with SD cards, external HDDs, and the cloud. (Also, no moving parts = no potential for mechanical failure) Sadly, they were out of stock. THIS CLOSE to slipping to the dark side with an on sale MacBook Air, but was ultimately turned off by their proprietary connectors (and the expensive proprietary adapters that go with them).

So instead went with a nice, functional, moderately priced HP number. Cost the same as the last laptop purchased 4+ years ago, with significantly higher clock speed, twice the RAM, and 3 times the onboard memory. Go Moore’s Law.

So, computer set up, Windows 8.1 update downloaded and installed, and ready to go again.

I wanted to just make a quick post as a substitute for last week. Actually, kind of a follow-up to a previous post about the potential for Stereoscopic 3D in education. I want to comment a bit on the phenomenal hit 3D film Gravity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiTiKOy59o4

When I wrote the earlier post, I had been looking forward to seeing the film. I ended up getting out to see the film on the opening day on October 4th, and have to say it definitely lived up to expectations. This is one of those films that kind of have to be seen in the theatre to be truly appreciated, and one of those rare experiences where the steep surcharges for 3D IMAX are worth it.

This is an excellent example of 3D being used for something other than mere gimmick, to let you as a viewer viscerally experience a place where only a tiny handful of human beings have been so far been lucky enough to be able to go. The 3D gives a beautiful immersive sense of the vast distances in space, of the emptiness and isolation, of the sense of the altitude hundreds of kilometers above the earth’s surface, of the spectacular beauty of whole continents seen at a glance, and of the terrifying power of hyper-velocity collisions.  Here, 3D is used in an artful, highly effective way to immerse the viewer, make him feel a part of the situation, bring out the story and raise it to a level that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

This is largely to be expected, given the calibre of the director. Alfonso Cuaron is a truly world-class artistic filmmaker. He is probably best known before this for the dystopic sci-fi film Children of Men (Available for viewing on Netflix Canada and highly recommended).

Hopefully this spectacular film, bound to be nominated for just about everything, technical and artistic, at the next Academy Awards, will help to give a shot in the arm to more meaningful use of stereoscopic 3D in film and elsewhere. Stereoscopic 3D is a technology that holds such awesome potential to bridge the gap between ourselves and otherwise inaccessible locations and realities, to make them present and tangible.

And isn’t this, after all, what education is all about? To take the unfamiliar, and make it familiar? To take the inaccessible, and make it accessible? To take the far, and make it near?