VISUALIZING the FUTURE
VISUALIZING the FUTURE: Table of Contents
Snapshot: Preface to VISUALIZING the FUTURE
Wide Angle: Intro to VISUALIZING the FUTURE
Rough Cut: At First Sight
Zoom In: Seeing the Big Bang
Filter: What We Don‘t See
Pan: Capturing Life in the New Millennium
Close Up: Storytellers
Hollywood‘s Future: Sci-Fi vs. Science
ILM: Industrial Light and Magic
ILM‘s Technology Timeline
Pixar Animation Studios
SGI: Silicon Graphics
Hollywood and Science: A Love Story
Hollywood‘s Construction of Reality
Suspension of Disbelief
A Mixed View:
Sex, Money and Violence
Image: How Do I Look?
Electromagnetic Radiation: Light
Light as Energy
Organic Light-emitting Devices (OLED)
Optics in Everyday Life
Optics: The Science
Prisms and Beamsplitters
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT Scans)
Optics in Review
Photography: A Brief History
Digital Cameras/Digital Images: Pixels, Resolution, Formats
Mounting the Camera during a Shoot
Long Shots and Close-ups
The Boob Tube
Scientific Visualization: An Overview
Winter Simulation Conference
Sequel: What’s Next?
Seeing with Thought, Seeing with Feeling
Friends and Strangers: Seeing Eye to Eye
Behind Closed Doors
Appendix A: History of Computer Graphics (and a whole lot more)
1200 – 1959
Appendix B: A Sampling of CG Software Programs Used in Moviemaking
Appendix C: Special Effects Glossary (partial)
Appendix D: Famous Names in Optics (not a complete list)
Appendix E: Websites
Snap Shot: VISUALIZING the FUTURE
Visualizing the Future explores how humankind visually sees and interprets the universe.
Visualizing the Future "looks" at how a wide range of visualization methods used to
interpret and understand the universe and ourselves. The spectrum of visualization
methods ranges from primitive cave drawings to art, electron microscopy to telescopes,
photography to movies, dreams to the paranormal, and optics to CGI used in scientific
modeling and simulation.
How we visualize the universe spans across a wide spectrum of disciplines. The list
ranges from media (movies, TV, CD/DVD, games, the Internet, virtual reality) to science
(telescopes, microscopes, modeling, simulation, even astrology), to the arts (performance,
paintings, drawings, sculpture), to our views in politics, religion, education and
Visualizing the Future surveys the various analog and digital hardware, software,
methods and tools used by the various disciplines to produce images (and sounds). More
importantly, the articles investigate how these various disciplines use images to interpret,
understand, and ultimate persuade people to ―see‖ a certain way.
Exploration into the visual includes how we see ourselves--looking inside our minds--and
a look into the things we can‘t see (death, outerspace, the future).
Since antiquity, we‘ve used a number of devices and techniques to visualize the future,
from crystal balls and tarot cards to the latest virtual reality. Prophecy has played an
important role in human development, in everything from anticipating ―the coming of the
Lord‖ to wartime strategies to predicting stock market swings.
Virtual reality, 3D modeling and other Internet technologies allow us to create virtual
worlds and virtual communities. Through role playing, we can be someone other than
ourselves, offering a decidedly different perspective other than our own.
Mindreading, parallel universes, and the paranormal are other ways we try and see that
which we cannot see. These excursions into the world of seeing are not quite as
mathematical as the modeling and simulation software used in such areas as military
strategy, weather forecasting, space exploration, population analysis, ecological change
or even chaos and complexity. But, they are no less important.
A number of themes run throughout Visualizing the Future. These themes intersect and
diverge. These themes include storytelling in Hollywood, reality vs. fantasy, what we see
and what we don‘t see, science and art, and optics in everyday life. These themes
interweave in a kaleidoscope of color and light, influencing how we see ourselves and
how we see our future.
An important note: Much of the historical and technical information in Visualization the
Future is the result of online research. In some instances, information was extracted and
then rewritten and/or edited. Nearly all the websites are authoritative websites of
manufacturers, educational institutions and government organizations.
However, dates, in particular, do not always gel, as well as who invented what, when and
where. Consequently, information is accurate, up to a point. Visualizing the Future is
not meant to be the definitive source on the subjects covered. If there was a discrepancy
in the dates, a phrase like ―In the early 80s‖ or ―In the late 17th century‖ were used
The SIGGRAPH history of computer graphics doesn‘t reflect all the subjects covered in
the book, but does cover most media events, computer developments and some optics
milestones in addition to computer graphics. It‘s an inspirational timeline, nonetheless.
All the subjects covered in Visualizing the Future are complex enough to warrant their
own libraries, if not entire universities dedicated to research on any given subject. The
goal is to inspire.
Otherwise, the rest of Visualizing the Future is pure speculation. The ultimate purpose is
to inspire new ways of visualizing the future of human evolution and discover—or re-
discover—the maze of visualization tactics we use to communicate.
Profound credit is due to the numerous companies, organizations, websites, artists,
technicians and writers, dedicated to finding new ways to help better see the world, the
universe and ourselves…and make the world a better place.
Wide Angle: Intro to Visualizing the Future of Human Evolution
Shadows dance. Intense rays burn rock into dust. Cosmic radiation warps time and gives
stars their twinkle. Rainbows hide in prisms. A fire burns. A mirror breaks. A bulb
needs replacing. Even mystical lakes in fairytales reflect the sad face of a princess in
search of her long, lost love.
Light. We need it to see. Our eyes take light and convert the universe into a paradise of
image. Some even think God is light. Ancient Egyptians once worshiped the sun. Now,
in the New Millennium, scientists are working on turning light into power.
How we see the world ranges from microscopes to telescopes to what we see inside our
minds. And everyone sees things differently.
Light can play many tricks on our eyes...or is it our perceptions? The thrust behind
exploring the world of visualization is really an exploration in reality vs. fantasy. The
manipulation of reality is as easy as the manipulation of a photograph in Adobe‘s
Take the movie, Jurassic Park, for instance. We don‘t know what a dinosaur looks like,
obviously, because no one has ever seen one. We rely on our current natural world and
the insight of Paleontologists to give us the most likely scenario. After years of
reconstructing dinosaurs from bones and the age in which they lived, paleontologists,
archeologists, historians, and even philosophers and artists have done a pretty good job,
we assume, of painting an accurate picture.
Steven Spielberg consulted a number of scientists and academicians before bringing
dinosaurs to the screen. All along the route of recreation was a host of experts, writers,
and graphic artists who provided a constant check and balance against what could and
couldn‘t be. Common sense certainly played a role. Its unlikely dinosaurs were pink or
paisley, or ran upside down, or spoke a language. But then again, in Hollywood,
anything is possible. A talking pink dinosaur is not completely out of the question.
But seeing is far more subtle--and complex--than seeing a physical object or
representation of a physical object. How we ―see‖ the world is what we call our
―worldview.‖ When we look at the past or the future, some see triumph, others see
disaster. Some people have wildly vivid imaginations. Others see the world in terms of
black and white.
Some people look at the world through satellites floating in Outerspace. Others peer
through microscopes at things billionths of nanometers small. Some claim they‘ve seen
―the coming of the Messiah‖ while still others claim they see nothing but evil in the
What we can‘t see with our eyes we see with our imaginations. There is no more
powerful tool for visualization than the imagination. With imagination, we can see
events before they happen. We can practice doing something before actually doing it, so
we don‘t get hurt. Flight simulators serve this purpose. What we can‘t see, we can
model and simulate, like weather patterns or the universe expanding (or contracting). We
can also act out our sexual fantasies without breaking anyone‘s moral code.
Again, the overriding question is, ―Is the world what we see with our own eyes or is it
what we see in our minds?‖
In crime, lawyers, judges and juries rely on witness testimonies and evidence to
determine guilt or innocence. Sometimes witnesses lie; sometimes they are unsure of
what they saw. Evidence can be circumstantial. Abuse cases are particularly
troublesome since rarely does anyone ever see an abuser in action. Physical wounds can
heal before they are photographed. And emotional abuse can‘t be photographed.
In journalism, journalists strive to be objective. The information they provide must come
from reliable sources. But news organizations are well known for their ―slant,‖ often
depicted in terms of liberal or conservative. And everyone knows liberals and
conservatives most definitely do not see eye-to-eye. Some reporting agencies are biased,
and in many instances, under harsh scrutiny, are clearly prejudiced.
Cultural differences are the most problematic. It is within the realm of culture that
legends, myths and beliefs are the tools used to describe that which we cannot see...like
God. Terrorism in the name of religion is clearly an expression of how world cultures
see things differently. However, terrorism doesn‘t work. An act of terrorism does not
help us see the other side of an argument. In fact, it blinds us. We are not persuaded; we
We live in a media-saturated culture. Children are endlessly bombarded with images
ranging from depictions of Santa Claus to Daffy Duck getting his beak blown off in a
cartoon. Get a little older and cartoons turn into video games. Video games turn into
computer screens, TV and the movies. And anything channeled through a media device
is manipulated. It is not reality; it is a representation of reality, even with real life
documentaries and ―reality‖ TV shows.
Most urban environments are but a fragment of what was once indigenous. We have so
altered the landscape that many people have completely lost touch with what nature
really looks like. We‘ve turned deserts into resorts, removed mountains, and changed the
course of rivers. It‘s a wonder the sea isn‘t colored chartreuse.
The views of science are as intriguing and dramatic as anything Hollywood creates,
maybe even more so. What does a nanotube look like, something only billionths of a
meter long or high? Without an accurate measuring stick, it‘s impossible to see a ―meter‖
yet alone a ―nanometer.‖ Looking outward, no one knows what the ―Big Bang‖ looked
like. We don‘t even know what a meteor falling to earth looks like since it happens in
seconds and we could never be close enough to witness the impact.
And then there‘s intelligent design. God is almost always referred to as ―he.‖ Since no
one has ever seen God, then obviously ―he‖ is a projected image. Then again, some
people will say they see God in everything. Referring to God as ―she‖ is still considered
a joke in most circles, something only a comedian or irate feminist would say. God is
certainly not a transsexual, the suggestion of which would be considered an act of heresy
by many. God could also be black or white. The ―he‖ reference leaves so much to be
desired. Is ―he‖ a child, an old man, or does ―he‖ look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or
is God not a person at all, but a force; an invisible force we cannot see, but only imagine?
Some things in life happen too fast, too faraway, in the past or future, or behind rock so
thick not even Superman can see with X-ray vision. We send probes into Outerspace and
into the earth‘s crust to do our looking for us. We use time-lapse photography to show us
how things look as they change over time. Our vision is limited. We need pictures.
There are two myths this exploration into the visual realm will help destroy. First, there
is the belief that ―Every picture tells a story.‖ Two, ―A picture says 1000 words.‖ Sure,
pictures tell stories, but what stories? Anyone who has ever lighted a subject in a
photography studio or worked with a graphics program like Photoshop knows to what
extent pictures can be altered. When it comes to moving pictures, Hollywood has no
qualms about spending millions of dollars to shape a 30 second scene precisely according
to a director‘s ―vision.‖ When it comes to a 1000 words, in the news, it‘s not often what
the camera sees but what it doesn‘t that tells the ―real‖ story, or the ―other side‖ of the
In other words, how many of us are living in fantasy worlds and don‘t even know it?
A popular theme running through many college curriculums is the ―deconstruction of
reality.‖ In simpler terms, the theme is an attempt to cut through the ―hype.‖ But then,
just what is hype? How has the advertising community used imagery to influence us as
consumers? How have history books used words, pictures and drawings to portray
characters and events from the past? How do Whites see Blacks and Blacks see Whites?
Is the suicide bomber from Iraq a terrorist or freedom fighter?
There are other myths such as, ―I‘ll believe it when I see it,‖ or, ―I won‘t believe it until I
can hold it in my hands,‖ and ―Seeing is believing.‖ Few poets would argue that the
more people who can ―see with their hearts,‖ a better place the world would be.
The tools for visualization in the 21st century have become quite sophisticated. From
electron microscopes to camera probes on distant planets, from 3D architectural
rendering and war simulation software to digital art and webcams--it‘s safe to say, we
want to see everything.
Yet, the biggest question of all: How do we see the future? What does the future look
like to someone who‘s blind? How will the world look to a blind person fitted with
artificially-intelligent eyes? What exactly are we seeing or not seeing that determines a
positive or negative outlook? What blocks our vision? Is it intelligence? Is it hate? Is it
fear? Or is it alcohol and drugs? And, nothing obscures the vision more than when we
are hurting. Being free from pain allows us to see things more clearly, and if not, at least
Rough Cut: At First Sight
The world‘s oldest known cave paintings were discovered in the Fumane Cave in
northern Italy, near Verona, according to a BBC news article. The paintings are between
32,000 and 36,500 years old. In another article, an archeological team found pigments
and paint grinding equipment in a cave at Twin Rivers, near Lusaka, Zambia, believed to
be between 350,000 and 400,000 years old.
According to a University of California—Berkeley 2003 press release, the fossilized
skulls of two adults and one child were discovered in the Afar region of eastern Ethiopia,
dated at 160,000 years. The press release further claims the skulls as the oldest known
fossils of modern humans, or Homo sapiens.
Apparently paint outlasts bones, an eerie foreshadowing of humankind‘s current
obsession for documenting everything in site. Foreshadow begets irony. We now bury
deep within the earth‘s surface and send far into Outerspace, select items ―we‖ think will
best represent what human beings are or were like…you know, for aliens and other
people of the future.
Zoom In: Seeing the Big Bang
Contrast the archeological discoveries with the current scientific need to not only explain
the Big Bang, but to see it. Science—and just about anyone, for that matter—wants
desperately to see the past. The mission of the NASA Explorer project, the Wilkinson
Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), is to reveal conditions as they existed in the
early universe by measuring the properties of the cosmic microwave background
radiation over the full sky. WMAP data is allegedly accurate in telling the age of our
universe within a 1% margin of error. Keeping decimal places to a minimum, the answer
is: 13.7 billion years old.
What scientists and all their data fail to see, is that we—the masses—have a difficult time
―seeing‖ the big bang. What does cosmic microwave background radiation look like?
We hardly remember yesterday yet alone imagining life 13 plus billion years ago.
What‘s even worse is when the 3.7 billion number is misprinted. Would we really know
the difference between 3.7 and 4.7 billion?
Filter: What We Don’t See
Skulls that are 160,000 years old? Cave paintings 35,000 years old? Somehow a skull
just doesn‘t help visualize what the rest of the person looked like, and it certainly doesn‘t
tell us anything about personality, thoughts, dreams, jobs and love affairs. Well, they
really didn‘t have jobs back then, so they say. Back then humans spent most of the time
questing for fire and fighting dinosaurs…so they say.
Dinosaurs, by the way, date back 230 million years or so, give or take a day. They went
extinct about 65 million years ago. Theories abound, but the most popular explanation
for dinosaur extinction was a meteorite.
A meteorite so powerful it can knock out a whole range of species…now that‘s
something to see.
Prehistoric cave paintings are often enigmatic and subject to much interpretation. Some
drawings resemble four-legged beasts while others look like human figures with animal
heads. Is that what they really look like? Isn‘t it more like a Rorschach test?
The Rorschach test—now there‘s an interesting way to view the world around us.
Fast forward—a visualization technique in itself—we rip through the centuries to find
humankind becoming quite adept at capturing and reflecting the world visually. In
paintings and drawings, visual expression was static; there were no moving pictures.
Sculpture and architecture gave us a more dynamic 3D, if not 4th and 5th dimensional.
Ancient ruins scattered across the globe are treasures for anyone‘s eyes. What do they
tell us about the past? What hints do we glimpse of the future? We might see a moment
in time, but how do we see the passage of time?
Prehistoric bones and other broken relics of the past never tell the full story. Paintings—
as remarkable works of art though they might be—really don‘t fare much better in
storytelling. A painting of a queen tells us nothing of how she moved or talked. In
ruins—as remarkable works of art though they might be—tell us nothing of rooms,
tunnels and trap doors that may have existed, holding secrets no one will ever know. We
can‘t hear the countless conversations that took place on stoned benches or in gardens...or
behind closed doors.
Pan: Capturing Life in the New Millennium
It really wasn‘t until the 20th century we began developing techniques for permanently
archiving the past. Chemically treated paintings in temperature controlled rooms allow
countless works of fine art to last far beyond what nature intended. Nearly every photo,
graphic, drawing, blueprint and technical rendering is now digitized. Once digitized, it is
then backed up, maybe more than once. And now, nanotechnologically-coated buildings
will last eons.
Our system for preservation isn‘t perfect. In 2005, a hurricane like Katrina demonstrated
how everything can be wiped out in a matter of hours. The city of New Orleans was
never backed up. There is no replica. And very few companies or individuals were
savvy enough to backup their files in a distant location in the event of such a natural
Since the disaster, there are plenty of photos and movies enough so that we really don‘t
need to see the whole thing. We don‘t need to re-experience the whole thing to know
what it was like. But, a video capture of a corpse floating down the flooded streets of
New Orleans tells a different story than another video capture of an old woman being
rescued from a burning house by a heroic firefighter.
So whatever pictures, graphics, photos, films and other renderings we have, there still
remains the question of what exactly do they all represent? Do we get a visual of how the
world really is at a given moment, or is it how we interpret such reproductions?
Only the architect really knows how the building will look from a blueprint rendering.
Usually the architect builds a scaled model, so others can see what a structure will look
Architecture goes far beyond mere single structures. There are planned communities,
city expansion, highway networks and transcontinental optical and satellite networks. For
every one person who is capable of ―drawing‖ up such a vast plan, the rest of us sit back
So, most of the world around us is an expression of very few visionaries in contrast to the
masses. If asked, no doubt most of us would have an opinion on at least one place a road
should go or what color a particular building should be. But, seldom are most of us ever
asked about how we ―see‖ things.
Close Up: Storytellers
Whatever holes in history remain unfilled by ruins, paintings and chipped fossils, words
come to the rescue. Our world is deeply enriched by literature old and new. Whether it‘s
the Bible, Faust, Aesop’s Fables, Alice in Wonderland, War and Peace, To Kill a
Mockingbird or Harry Potter, wordsmiths have shaped our view of the world far beyond
the limits of our own imaginations.
The enduring question is: At what price has reality been sacrificed? We‘ve got cave
paintings, skulls, relics, broken architecture and now fanciful words to weave exotic tales.
But do we really see what was or what is?
In the Digital Age, it seems ironic illiteracy would be a major global issue. Poverty and
lack of resources explains most of the 3rd world illiteracy problems. But it‘s the media
that explains why so many people in the Industrial and Digital Age are unable to read
anything much beyond a newspaper headline. Well, that‘s the critical view.
Worldwide sales for the Harry Potter series of books—7 in total—has reached the 250
million mark. The seventh book, as of early 2006, has yet to be published. Of course,
J.K. Rowling‘s imaginative tales of a young wizard amounts to nothing short of a
phenomenon. Still, the publishing industry shows no signs of slowed growth. In fact,
thanks to the Internet, particularly websites like Amazon.com, book sales have increased,
eBooks are read on laptops and self-publishing has become a cottage industry.
Plus, the Google search engine claims to search over 4 billion web pages, most of which
are comprised of text.
When language began is a controversial debate. Some say it started from day one, in the
Garden of Eden. Others say 150,000 years ago, when humans were ape-like, beating
their chests and uttering animal sounds. Since we don‘t know, we can only imagine.
When we can‘t imagine, and when fragmented rocks, bits of bones and time-worn cave
paintings leave us wanting, it is the storyteller who paints the picture for us.
Ancient storytellers were once the only form of entertainment around. From African
witchdoctors to American Indian wise men, from Aesop to grandpa sitting around a
campfire, these word-of-mouth storytellers gave us an engaging way to remember past
events and pass them on to new generations. But, as we all know, storytellers have a
tendency to fib a little…you know, stretch the truth for dramatic purposes.
In the new millennium, storytelling is big business. New technologies like DVD, the
Internet, supercomputers, satellite/wireless and nanotechnology allow for the
transmission and storage of huge amounts of visual/audio data across a global network.
From digital film (an oxymoron) to computer simulations, from text descriptions to
mathematical formulas, we‘ve captured just about everything.
We can see the universe expanding. We can see a cell forming. We can look out across
millions of light-years and watch matter crash into anti-matter. We can see war, poverty,
disease and crime. We watch graphs that help us predict earthquakes and hurricanes. We
simulate battlefield scenarios during the development of new weapons.
The problem is that we humans just don‘t see eye-to-eye on certain things. Sometimes
we‘re not sure what we see. Was it a foggy night? Are you sure the license plate read
UFH-443 and not UFF-887? When you heard the shot, did it sound like it came from in
the house or the shed? Did you happen to take a picture of the ―thing‖ you saw flying
across the sky?
Hollywood’s Future: Sci-Fi vs. Science
Credit goes to Hollywood for influencing the way most people in the new millennium
view the future. Even when those visions are ―cheesy‖ (a reference usually to the old
―B‖ movies of the 50s and 60s) they still affected the imagination. In movies like The
Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), War of the Worlds (1953 George Pal version), and even
Abbot and Costello Go to Mars (1953), special effects capabilities were considerably
limited by today‘s standards. It was the days of flying plates with cups in the center and
bad actors covered in green paint. Well, it wasn‘t that bad.
At the time, some of these movies were not considered cheesy but innovative.
Filmmakers began to look at the future and the realm of sci-fi with relative seriousness.
War of the Worlds, directed by George Pal, won an Oscar for its special effects. George
Pal was to the 50s what Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and George Lukas are to the
70s and now (2006).
But, we need to go back farther than the 50s when it comes to sci-fi master visions of the
future. H.G. Well‘s, The Time Machine, was published in 1898. As much as we take his
novel for granted in the 21st century, it‘s important to realize just how ―visionary‖ Well‘s
was in a time of no cars and streets lit by gas lights, yet alone time machines.
Jules Verne preceded Wells in his 1864 novel, Voyage to the Center of the Earth, a year
before Lewis Carroll‘s, Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland is considered more
fantasy than sci-fi, although the line between the two genres is often a thin one. In The
Time Machine, we actually traveled into the future. But other sci-fi visions were more
imaginings of the time or no time in particular, rather than prophetic visions of the future.
It was a ―vision‖ of the way things could be now—now, being a relative term.
Of course, visions of the future are by no means solely credited to fiction writers and
moviemakers. Writers and movie makers were—and still are—more like ambassadors
for the scientists and innovators who plot and plan for a changing world. Leonardo da
Vinci was fooling around with flying machines in the 1400s. And long before that, Plato
was envisioning utopia in his imaginary city of Magnesia (Plato‘s, Republic, and other
works by Plato).
Now Hollywood has grown up, and the special effects (F/X) used in the New Millennium
rival the most advanced scientific technologies of the day. In fact Hollywood—or more
accurately the world of filmmaking—has been instrumental in the development of new
visualization techniques and tools. Director George Lukas‘s use of a full motion camera
in 1977 during the making of Star Wars was as innovative as stop motion animation was
in the early 1900s.
Willis O‘Brien was a stop motion pioneer as early as 1916, but it was his innovative work
in King Kong (1933) that put him on the F/X map. O‘Brien‘s work led to Ray
Harryhausen, who lifted stop motion to new levels in the film, Jason and the Argonauts
(1963). Of course, credit must also be given to Greek Mythology for the tales of Jason,
the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece.
Behind Hollywood movies is a technological backbone of immense strength and power.
Innovation comes from numerous companies like Disney and Stan Winston, to the 1000s
of artists and technicians that make things happen. Three companies that best represent
this backbone are Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Pixar Animation Studios, and
Silicon Graphics (SGI).
ILM: Industrial Light and Magic
Following a stream of lesser known successors and born out of the success of Star Wars,
George Lukas launched Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in the late 70s. ILM‘s
Computer Division is responsible for a slew of advances in digital imaging, electronic
editing, and interactivity.
Improving on the 3-D camera techniques of the 1950s and the 1960s, powerful tools were
needed. Lucas built the framework for computer animation and special effects (F/X), and
continues to push barriers through the new millennium. The success of Star Wars
changed movie history. Since its release, seldom is there a movie produced without some
kind of computer-generated F/X. Computers became not only integral to how films were
made and produced, but even conceived.
ILM’s Technology Timeline
Note: Not all technical achievements are listed.
Star Wars marked the first use of a motion control camera.
Lucas sets up ILM‘s Computer Division to explore new uses of computers for digital
imaging, electronic editing, and interactivity.
The ―Genesis sequence‖ for Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, marks the first completely
Lucasfilm pioneers disc-based computerized electronic nonlinear editing for picture and
sound and premiered EditDroid and SoundDroid at the National Association of
The first completely computer-generated character is created with the ―stained glass
man‖ in Young Sherlock Holmes.
Lucas sells off the rendering software portion of ILM‘s Computer Division. The spin-off
becomes the leading animation company in the world, Pixar Animation.
The first morphing sequence for motion pictures in created for the movie, Willow. ILM
wins technical achievement awards for the development of Morf, a computer-graphics
program allowing the fluid, onscreen transformation of one object to another.
The first computer generated three-dimensional character, ―pseudopod,‖ debuts in The
The first computer graphics generated lead character is created with the T-1000 in
Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Skywalker Sound introduces the first utilization of T-1 tie-lines for real-time digital audio
transmission to distant locations.
ILM wins its 12th Academy Award for computer graphics work on Death Becomes Her
and its fifth Academy Technical Achievement Award. The Award marks the first time
human skin texture is computer generated.
Avid Technology acquired the EditDroid and SoundDroid technologies and joined forces
with Lucasfilm to develop and produce the next generation of digital picture and sound
Lucas Digital Ltd. and Silicon Graphics formed an exclusive alliance to create JEDI, a
unique networked environment for digital production. JEDI is a beta test sight for Silicon
Graphics equipment and allows the artists and technicians at ILM to advise SGI on future
ILM wins its 13th Academy Award for work on the computer-generated dinosaurs for
Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park and its sixth Academy Technical Achievement Award
for pioneering work on film digitization. Digital technology is used for the first time to
create a living, breathing dinosaur with skin, muscles, texture, movement and personality.
ILM wins its 14th Academy Award for its breakthrough work on Forrest Gump. Forrest
Gump features a slew of breakthroughs such as the seamless integration of historical
documentary footage, computer-generated jets, helicopters, birds, crowds, and even ping-
pong balls bouncing back and forth during a playoff.
An Oscar nomination is won for the first photo-real cartoon character in The Mask. ILM
turns a human being into a cartoon character.
The first fully synthetic speaking characters with distinct personalities and emotions are
created for the movie, Casper. The ghost characters garnish more than 40 minutes of
The first computer-generated photo-realistic hair and fur are created for the digital lion
and monkeys in Jumanji. The stampede scene, featuring dozens of elephants, rhinos,
zebras and pelicans, were all computer-generated.
ILM wins another Technical Achievement Award for pioneering work in digital film
In Mission: Impossible, the first fully virtual set is used for the climactic action
sequence, requiring a computer-generated train speeding through a computer-generated
tunnel followed by a computer-generated helicopter. Actors were digitally composited
into the virtual set to complete the scene.
Twister‘s Digital tornadoes in Twister were entirely computer-generated using particle
systems animation software.
ILM‘s proprietary facial animation software gives life to the 3D digital character Draco
Two more Technical Achievement Awards are earned for the creation and development
of the Direct Input Device used by stop-motion animators and for the development of a
system to create and control computer-generated hair and fur.
ILM gets a Scientific and Engineering Award for the development of the Viewpaint 3D
Paint System. The system allows artists to color and texture details to computer-
generated effects. This is the 12th Scientific and Engineering award won by ILM.
Skywalker Sound installs the Capricorn, manufactured by AMS Neve, the largest digital
audio console at any audio post-production facility in the world.
Soundtrack mixes for Contact and Titanic earn Academy Award nominations for best
Utilizing more sound elements (including dialogue loops and sound effects) than any
feature film in history, Titanic wins an Oscar for best sound combined with best awards
from Motion Picture Sound Editors and Cinema Audio Society.
ILM secures two patents for proprietary techniques. One for ―hair, fur and feathers,‖
illustrated in the groundbreaking images of the computer-generated gorilla in Mighty Joe
Young. The other patent was awarded for the facial animation software initially
developed in 1995 for Casper. Newer versions were used in Men in Black and other
Saving Private Ryan earns Skywalker Sound two Academy Awards for best sound and
sound effects editing. It‘s the most realistic soundtrack ever used for a battle scene.
The facial animation software ―Caricature,‖ having already been awarded a patent, is
given a boost with ILM‘s latest Technical Achievement Award.
The award states: ―By integrating existing tools into a powerful interactive system, and
adding an expressive multi-target shape interpolation-based freeform animation system,
the Caricature system provided a degree of subtlety and refinement not possible with
ILM‘s camera department received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for pioneering work in motion-controlled,
The Mummy featured the most realistic digital human character ever seen in film.
90% of George Lucas‘s Star Wars: Episode I “The Phantom Menace” featured digital
effects shots. Synthetic environments, digital terrain generation, computer graphic lead
characters and 1000s of digital extras are completely computer-generated. ILM wins an
Academy Award nomination for best achievement in visual effects.
ILM wins a BAFTA Award for best special visual effects, and a nomination for an
Academy Award for best achievement in visual effects, for the digital waves and weather
created for the movie, The Perfect Storm.
ILM creates the first real-time interactive on-set visualization process allowing
filmmakers to place actors in virtual sets providing complete freedom with camera
moves. Steven Spielberg uses the same process in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. ILM
earns another Academy Award nomination for best achievement in visual effects.
Another nomination is given out for the attack scenes in Pearl Harbor, featuring digitally
manifested World War II era airplanes and ships together with the fire and smoke
generated from all the explosions.
Two more Technical Achievement Awards, numbers 15 and 16, are earned for the
creation and development of ILM‘s proprietary Motion and Structure Recovery System
(MARS) and ILM‘s Creature Dynamics System.
The release of Star Wars: Episode II “Attack of the Clones” marks the first major
motion picture to be shot completely on digital HD video.
With the release of The Hulk, ILM creates a digital human character with (green) skin,
hair, muscles, clothing, personality and emotions in the Hulk.
Pixar Animation Studios
Pixar started as the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group in 1979, which was reorganized
in 1983 to become Pixar and a games division. It focused on software development, but
also designed and developed hardware in house. The Pixar Image Computer, which was
intended for the high-end visualization markets such as medicine, was eventually sold.
The commercial group worked in the advertising area, and was discontinued in 1995.
Pixar was purchased by Steve Jobs from Lucasfilm in 1986. As part of the deal,
Lucasfilm retained rights to access to the Pixar technology. Software created by Pixar
includes REYES (Renders Everything You Ever Saw,) CAPS (with Disney), Marionette,
an animation software system that allows animators to model and animate characters and
add lighting effects, and Ringmaster, which is production management software that
schedules, coordinates, and tracks a computer animation project.
The applications development group worked to convert the REYES technology to the
RenderMan product, which was commercialized in 1989. It received Academy Technical
Awards in 1992 for CAPS (1992), RenderMan (1993), digital scanning technology
(1995), Marionette and digital painting (1997), and for laser film recording technology
Pixar is well known for a series of short film productions, including Luxo Jr. (1986),
Red’s Dream (1987), Tin Toy (1988), KnickKnack (1989), Geri’s Game (1997), and One
Man Band (2005). It won Oscars for Tin Toy in 1988 (Luxo Jr. was nominated in 1986)
and Geri’s Game in 1998. The company has won several Academy Technical
Achievement awards, Golden Globes, and Clio‘s, and been awarded a number of U.S
Pixar is especially well known for its animated feature-length films. In 1995, Pixar
created the immensely popular movie, Toy Story. In 1998 the animated feature, A Bug’s
Life, set box office records. Other major successes followed, like Toy Story 2 (1999),
Monsters, Inc. (2001), and Finding Nemo (2003), and the Incredibles (2004). The film
recording technology mastered by hardware guru David DeFrancisco is being
incorporated into a revolutionary new laser film recorder called PixarVision.
From December 14, 2005 to February 6, 2006, The Museum of Modern Art presented a
special exhibit, ―Pixar: 20 Years of Animation.‖ The major exhibit featured work by the
artists of Pixar Animation Studios that brought together all of Pixar‘s feature films and
shorts. Numerous other artists contributed paintings, sculptures and other works of art
using themes from Pixar films. Pixar artists work in traditional media-hand drawings,
painting, sculpture, and CGI to create their films.
The Museum of Modern Art has a long history of presenting exhibitions of animation art
and animation screening. The Department of Film and Media was founded in the 1930s,
starting with the exhibit, A Short History of Animation: The Cartoon 1879-1933.
Gallery exhibitions have included Walt Disney‘s Bambi: The Making of an Animated
Sound Film (1942), That‘s Not All Folks! Warner Bros. Animation (1985-86), and
Designing Magic: Disney Animation Art (1995). Most recently, MOMA presented the
animation film series, Anime!! (2005) and Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata: Masters
of Animation (2005).
SGI: Silicon Graphics
Silicon Graphics (SGI) is perhaps the leading maker of simulation, modeling and
animation software and hardware, combining high-performance computing and data
management technologies with advanced visualization capabilities. The world‘s leading
companies and institutions employ SGI technology. SGI caters to virtually every
SGI is best known for work done with Hollywood‘s special effects studios. Silicon
Graphics has a 20-year history in the entertainment and production markets, helping to
popularize 3D graphics and animation with advances in OpenGL and API-compliant
graphics hardware and in the power of personal desktop computers. Silicon Graphics
visualization systems provide editing, compositing, and film mastering and restoration
applications in media. These solutions are changing the way new films are made and
older titles are re-mastered.
The SGI Media Server for broadcast is designed with an understanding of the needs for
managing both video and data in a broadcast facility. Superior LAN/WAN media
distribution is a key element. Broadcast system integration services include customer
qualification, site planning assistance, hardware installation, network configuration,
connection of peripheral devices, software configuration, and integration with third-party
SGI is the best example of the convergence of science and entertainment. The
entertainment industry and scientific community use the same SGI applications.
Many diagnostic imaging devices and computer-aided surgical tools in use today are
powered by SGI computers, such as MRI, CT, Computer-guided surgery devices, and
surgery simulators. SGI products have delivered reliable performance in a multitude of
health care environments, from radiology departments to university research centers.
Security features (standard to the IRIX operating system) provide answers to the
requirements for healthcare information privacy.
A dedicated in-house team of medical industry experts, medical physicists, physicians,
and engineers coordinates the efforts of SGI in the medical market space. SGI focuses on
three areas: diagnostic imaging, medical image management and communications, and
computer-aided surgery and simulation. SGI has long-standing working relationships
with the medical industry‘s leading manufacturers and software providers.
Tools include scalable computational servers, high-performance storage, and advanced
3D visualization combined with robust and leading-edge application software. Research
centers and universities around the world use SGI technologies to store, process, and
interpret massive data sets.
Large data questions produce bigger data answers that strain the human ability to
understand the answer in order to ask the next question. SGI‘s comprehensive
visualization solutions allow researchers to see their data, understand it quickly, and
formulate new questions in a timely fashion. Visualization of data allows for unequalled
collaborative interpretation and decision making.
Solutions include SGI‘s proprietary Silicon Graphics Prism, Silicon Graphics Onyx4,
Universal access to advanced visualization with Visual Area Networking, and group
collaboration with SGI Reality Center.
SGI provides solutions for science centers, planetariums, and museums. Applications
allow people to explore the universe, cruise along a strand of DNA, stroll into a virtual
model of an Egyptian tomb, and examine minute details of priceless works of art--
interactively. There are many other ―virtual space‖ applications.
These compelling and educational applications, described as experiential computing, are
made possible by unique SGI visualization technology. Experiential computing is
defined as the combination of high-resolution imagery, real-time interactivity, and
SGI Reality Center Advanced Visualization Facilities deliver the highest realism and
performance possible for collaborative visualization. Reality Center facilities provide
real-time, highly interactive working solutions for design review and engineering,
complex data analysis, critical and/or hazardous training, sales and marketing, scientific
research and analysis, education and exploration, command and control operations, and
Collaborative and interactive solutions.
Visualization is the common language that allows people from different backgrounds,
training, and expertise to engage in an immediately productive working session. SGI
Reality Center facilities are powered by scalable visualization systems designed to drive
large-scale, immersive, and multi-projector environments. SGI scalable visualization
systems offer superior performance and unique features such as clip-mapping, texture
paging, volume rendering, multi-stream HDTV video manipulation, multichannel output,
and immersion support.
SGI derives a large source of its revenue from government applications by providing
scalable computing, collaborative visualization, and complex data management solutions.
Government applications cover ballistic missile defense, homeland security, weather and
climate forecasting, simulation-based acquisition, training systems, research and
development, command and control, and surveillance and reconnaissance. The largest
technical users are governments worldwide that are focused on applications of national
defense and intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security, health care and social
services, scientific research and education, transportation and communication, and energy
and the environment.
Other industries include manufacturing and energy in the automotive, aerospace,
electronics, and oil and gas sectors.
Hollywood and Science: A Love Story
The battle for envisioning the future between sci-fi and real science is really a ―which
came first, the chicken or egg‖ question. It‘s hard to say how many scientists were
influenced by Stanley Kubrick‘s, 2001: Space Odyssey, or how much Kubrick was
influenced by advances in computer technology and space exploration. The Internet was
born before the movie Matrix, but the Matrix has eerily prophesized where the Internet
might be headed so many decades into the future.
And the chicken or egg question is really a moot one. Let‘s call the relationship between
Hollywood and science a wonderfully symbiotic one, neither of which can do without the
other. Hollywood will continue to push the barrier, allowing us to see life on planets and
imaginary futuristic worlds that telescopes and scientific forecasting techniques can‘t
give us. Meanwhile, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and the building of biospheres
will inspire a whole new generation of films.
Hollywood’s Construction of Reality
Hollywood doesn‘t just create an image or even a vision. It creates entire universes with
unknown galaxies. It builds replicas of planets, spaceships, cities, ships and every
conceivable kind of building. Something most movie goers don‘t realize is the end
credits—when most everyone is walking out of a theater or ejecting a video/DVD—is a
list of names and job titles represent nothing short of a small if not mid-sized company.
The crews for many films number in the hundreds.
The image—the view—we get as movie watchers is the result of 100s of workers
building sets, designing costumes, setting lights, and planning camera angles. Each shot
is often planned with military precision. And what can‘t be done on a set is now done on
Big budget special effects (F/X) movies like Star Wars, the Lion King, Terminator,
Titanic and Day after Tomorrow, have become notorious for their whopping multi-
million dollar price tags. Price tags are not what are amazing. What‘s amazing is what
goes into creating what some call illusion, others call fantasy, and still others call a
glimpse of truth.
Constructing an image goes beyond the selection of a lens and camera, set designer,
costumer, production designer, stunt coordinator and actors. It‘s not just a construction
of an image but a re-construction of reality. 150 million dollar movies are now common
knowledge. But what these movies really are, are 150 million dollar images—visions of
a team of talent, crew and business who‘ve come together to present their collective view.
It is their telling of a story; their ―picture‖ of a much larger picture. In fact, it‘s not a
team. It‘s a company of 200-300 employees taking months if not years of planning to put
together a ―vision‖ that gets expressed in a two-hour movie.
Interesting in how some stories are ―timeless.‖ Few survivors and scattered accounts
exist to tell the story of the Titanic. No one was taking pictures at the time. No doubt by
today‘s standards, someone would have captured the horror on digital video.
Suspension of Disbelief
In the movie, Titanic, James Cameron came close to rebuilding the doomed ship. His
―replica‖ was built according to original blueprint specifications. In Jurassic Park,
paleontologists, along with Steven Spielberg‘s imagination, combined to give us the
closest we‘ve ever come to knowing what a dinosaur looks like.
Hollywood uses many tools and techniques to create images, which ultimately tell a
story: 3D Modeling, weather simulation, set building, blue-screen projection, sound
layering (F/X, music and dialog), animation, stunts, lights, acting, storyboards, puppets,
CGI, and all the ingredients of a screenplay: the blueprint of a movie.
The trick is to use drama to make the image seem real. But no matter what tricks
Hollywood uses, or how close it comes to something real, movie makers are entirely
dependent on an audience‘s willingness to temporarily suspend disbelief. People want to
believe dogs can talk, angels exist, and some regular Joe or Jane is going to save the
planet from an alien attack.
It‘s hard to say what effects giant sharks, evil fog, and robot wars have on movie goers,
yet alone a global audience. Most people know when something is ―only make believe‖.
But then, how many people could not go in the ocean after seeing Jaws? Do we think
twice about global warming after seeing The Day After Tomorrow? The visions of
Minority Report, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Matrix and the whole Star War series are
certainly plausible ones in terms of where technology is headed.
A popular image used to illustrate how far we‘ve come technologically is to show a
group of cave dwellers or a primitive tribe viewing a TV for the first time. Our
perspectives of fantasy and reality depend on what we have to use for comparisons.
Hollywood has been criticized for taking far too much liberty with historical fact. The
line of defense is poetic license, or enhancement for dramatic effect. Like ―Buyer
Beware‖ in product purchases, it‘s ―Viewer Beware‖ in media consumption.
It‘s a tough call in saying whether films educate or entertain. A story might not be
historically accurate, but it can bring attention to historical events that otherwise would
go unnoticed. The movie Braveheart is a good example, where only the most astute
students of history would know who William Wallace was.
What could be more exciting than a motorcycle chase through a herd of stampeding
dinosaurs? In movies, drama and action are used to enhance the image—make the image
come alive. Animators are performers, too. The goal of an animator is not only in
showing what a dinosaur looks like, but also how it moves, what it eats, and what it
sounds like. Ironically, it‘s the use of fantasy to create realism.
The criticism that Hollywood is all about special effects is not true. The heart of any
movie lies in its story…and there are many stories. There are heart-warming tales of
reunited fathers and sons, lovers meeting for the first time, best friends growing up, and
animals rescued from near death.
We get to see the humanity in others who otherwise go unnoticed in everyday life.
Spiderman isn‘t so much about the wish fulfillment of being a superhero as it is about an
average guy struggling with family and identity problems, meanwhile searching for love.
Rocky is not about a boxer winning a championship, but about an ordinary person
overcoming obstacles to finally find a way to believe in himself. Sigourney Weaver
demonstrates in Alien how a woman can boldly and bravely save the planet, even if it
means fighting a very ugly monster from outerspace.
Movie history is a fascinating one with very dramatic pivotal events. Screenwriters
weren‘t around when Thomas Edison first invented the motion picture camera. In the
silent era, a series of vignettes or action sequences was the best anyone could hope for in
terms of a telling a story without sound. Without sound, there‘s no dialog. Without
dialog, there‘s no character. Without character, there‘s no story.
However, there have been many interesting experiments done in telling stories visually
without dialog, or minimal use of dialog. Quest for Fire and 2001: A Space Odyssey are
two examples. Plus, since movies are a visual medium, it‘s the primary quest of a
moviemaker to tell a story visually. To be more accurate, everything serves to tell a
story, not the other way around. The score, sets, costumes, sound effects, camera angles,
and even the actors, are all story telling devices that when combined, tell a story.
As film technology developed, namely the addition of sound and color, writers from all
the worlds of literature, theater and journalism poured into Hollywood. During the 30s,
some of the world‘s most famous writers wrote Hollywood scripts, like William
Faulkner, Ring Lardner, Jr., F. Scott Fitzgerald, Berthold Brecht, and Thomas Mann.
This holds true today, although most movies based on well known novels use
screenwriters other than the original novelist to write the screenplay. Peter Benchley was
the source behind Jaws. Ian Fleming launched the James Bond series. John Grisham
gave us The Pelican Brief. Gene Rodenberry was behind Star Trek and J.K. Rowling is
behind-the-scenes, generating the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series.
Very few screenwriters are as well known as novelists, but that doesn‘t stop them from
making millions of dollars, in some cases. It wasn‘t always that way and very few
screenwriters command such high salaries. When scriptwriters aren‘t writing
screenplays, they‘re writing sitcoms for TV, an entirely different way of telling a story.
Writing for TV presents an entirely different way of telling a story largely due to two
reasons: shows are syndicated over time and are subjected to repeated commercial
advertising interruption. Throughout the history of radio and TV, it‘s hard to say if
programming served advertising, or if advertising rode on the back of programming.
With cable TV and subscription services, that all changed. Plus, now TV shows can be
downloaded from the Internet, completely free of commercial interruption.
Although writers remain behind the scenes, there is not one single Academy Award
winning actor or actress who would‘ve won without a powerful, moving story behind
them. An actor can spend weeks, months, sometimes even years, searching for the right
script to launch or re-launch a career.
The impact stories in movies have on culture and society is immeasurable. Box office
sales and DVD/video rentals are one way to measure in terms of business and commerce.
But the fact that many people know more about their favorite stars than they do about
their next door neighbors paints an entirely different picture.
Famous lines like ―Make my day‖ and ―Here‘s looking‘ at you, kid‖ become the
language of pop culture. Everyone dreams of being a famous Hollywood actor or actress;
it‘s the best life has to offer. But even more difficult to see, is the impact a story has,
without all the glitter and glamour attached to it. We are frightened. We cry. We laugh.
We are amazed. We are inspired. We identify.
Hollywood, and the stories behind it, has a negative side as well. From around 1947 to
1960, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee
began a vicious campaign against suspected Communists. Hollywood was one of his
main targets. Many writers, actors and other film personnel were blacklisted, often
forced to use fake names to continue working.
Today, filmmakers--and writers--work under the scrutiny of the Parental Advisory Board,
an organization dedicated to ensuring Hollywood stays on a good moral track. The
pornography world thrives in spite of any rating system. The rating system is essentially
one that rates content for violence and sex. Some movies become targets for attack by
other groups, like Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of Christ by Christian religious groups and
Philadelphia by gay groups.
Many scenes in movies manage to float just under the moral radar, and parents can‘t
watch their children all the time. In fact, some parents seldom adhere to restricting their
child‘s viewing of movies based on ratings. Movies like Halloween and I Know What
You Did Last Summer are filled with violence, and are openly targeted to those 18 and
Watching the credits at the end of a movie will reveal there are anywhere from a 100 to
200 people responsible for the movie coming to life. Both those are only the people
involved in the making of the movie. From there, movie critics, theater owners and a
vast marketing and distribution system work to make the movie a flop or a success.
Ultimately, a movie‘s success rests with the audience.
Why people love the movies goes beyond escapism or the need to simply be entertained.
True, movies are not like the documentaries we see in school, showing the lives of insects
and how trees grow. But movies are definitely educational, if not in a scholastic sense.
They teach us about ourselves. They increase our awareness about different cultures,
technological change and places we never knew existed.
The worlds of Hollywood, optics, photography, art and science collide in a frenzied race
to create a vision of the past, present and future.
A Mixed View:
Sex, Money and Violence
Image: How Do I Look?
NOTE: See Pixar in the Hollywood section for a short description of how the Museum of
Modern Art has provided numerous exhibits celebrating the merger of art, animation and
The history of art is vast, starting with those cave paintings mentioned in the beginning of
this article. And like those cave paintings, it‘s not always apparent what is being
depicted and what message is being sent in any given artistic expression.
―Is Mickey Mouse Art?‖ was a rousing battle cry through the 60s and 70s, an issue that
has since morphed into the same question regarding computer graphics. But more
importantly, it‘s not a question of what art is, but what artistic expression says about the
universe, and all the stuff in it.
Art history is far too vast a subject to be sufficiently covered in a series of articles, yet
alone a series of books. In fact, art is everywhere. Historically, there is prehistoric art,
ancient art (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Persia), middle ages (Jewish, early Christian,
Islamic, Gothic), the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Romanticism, Realism, Victorian,
Modernism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Art Nouveau, and into the 20th century with
Cubism, Futurism, Abstract, Art Deco, Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop Art, Kinetic Art, and a
host of other movements and styles.
Cultural differences are as vast as the mere mention of countries, from China to India, the
Americas to the Middle East, and the 200 +/- countries that belong to the United Nations.
Nor are cultures unified by geographical borders. In New York, for instance, sometimes
turning a corner can be as dramatically different as crossing the borders from China
through Europe into Italy.
Clearly, art is highly subjective, from both the creator and viewer perspective, where the
goal was never to capture reality, but to interpret it. Of course, realism became a
movement, where the goal of drawings and paintings was to capture something so
realistic as to be indistinguishable from photos. But photos are not living, breathing
representations of reality either. The quality of the film, the camera, the lighting and
development processing, are all factors that generate varying levels of realism.
Yet, some paintings are mesmerizing in their ability to transport a viewer into what
appears to be real. And with 3D computer modeling, some objects become even more
real than in real life. With 3D modeling, we can view an object in its entirety, including
what‘s inside. We can highlight aspects of the object that go unnoticed by the naked eye.
On a world scale, the differences in artistic expression are, well, so different, it‘s almost
hard to imagine we‘re all from the same planet. To appreciate art from countries other
than our own requires some understanding of our cultural differences, and how those
differences express entirely different worldviews from our own.
There is a movement--although it doesn‘t really have a name--designed to eradicate our
cultural differences. Nothing fuels this movement more than the desire to make English
the universal language. But it might not be as hegemonic as it first appears. The
movement could very well be a practical one. As technology moves us closer to a unified
world, we need to communicate in a language everyone understands. Language then, is a
However, the choice of English as the universal language is very telling in itself. First,
who is doing the choosing? Is there really a consensus amongst nations to head in this
direction? Globalization is not just about the quest for a universal language, but also the
Americanization or westernization of global cultures.
The practical necessities of everyday life are not conducive to cultural expression,
especially when such expression gets in the way of business. For instance, when a
country exposes another country to a new technological development, the ability to do so
is severely restricted by the time it takes to interpret one language into another. For that
reason alone, multi-lingual employees are favored to make the exchange more efficient
and less time consuming.
Differences in creativity span not only across geographical boundaries, but time as well.
Our world would seem bland and colorless without the richness of ancient Egyptian,
Greek, Asian and American Indian art. Plus, creativity is not confined merely to hobbies
and ways to pass the time. The line between creativity and innovation--with innovation
seemingly having a more practical value--is a thin one. Like the use of computers in
movie making and the use of graphics in science, the relationship between art and
innovation is a symbiotic one.
The old adage, ―Invention is the mother of necessity,‖ does not necessarily reveal where
artists and inventors get their inspiration. The desire to fly might not have come from the
need to transport the largest number of travelers in the shortest amount of time. The
inspiration could very well have come from a painting of birds in flight.
The view that art is something impractical fails to appreciate something inherent in all
human endeavors. Grecian urns were not just for carrying water. They had artistic shape
with elaborate paintings on the sides. Fast-forwarding to modern times, airplanes are not
pink or rainbow-colored. Why? Houses and cars certainly come in a variety of colors,
and most architecture is appreciated for looks even more so than function.
Entire empires and civilizations, past and current, are recognized for art, perhaps more so
than in terms of being advanced societies or possessing superior scientific capability. We
marvel at the beauty of pyramids, 100 foot ornate columns and cobble stone streets, with
disregard for any practical value. We place tremendous value on preserving the ―beauty‖
of the past, much in the same way we value nature untouched by human intervention.
When a real estate developer surveys an area of land motivated by a housing shortage, a
beautiful lake just gets in the way. But the practical value of beauty is something we
might not be able to articulate. To an environmentalist, the lake is beautiful because it is
the home to a variety of wildlife. Its beauty lies in ecological balance with the forests,
fields, mountains and deserts that surround it.
Globalization, westernization and modernization might be one and the same. Many
believe kids in America are much more preoccupied with Playstations and iPods than
with the mysteries of ancient Chinese drawings or the spiritual meaning behind African
pottery. Ironically, drawing and painting is a prevalent activity throughout American K-
12 schools, especially pre-school.
Pop culture is an entity all its own. Las Vegas is a good example of where culture is
meaningless, outside of being a gimmick to attract tourists. Las Vegas is a cultural soup
of pyramids and Eiffel Towers, pirate ships and Roman architecture, the streets of New
York and the canals of Venice, all thrown onto the same 20 mile stretch of Las Vegas
Boulevard. Visiting museum exhibits compete for tickets against world wrestling and
rodeo championships. Techno-dance pounds away in dozens of late night, erotically
charged clubs while retired ―snowbirds‖ from the Midwest take in a Wayne Newton
Vegas has nothing to do with preserving cultural heritage, global or American. It‘s a lure
for gambling. But Vegas is no different than any other tourist trap, where culture is the
primary calling card and means of making money. Is this bad? It‘s hard to say. But, it‘s
an ironic twist when Americans travel to other lands to see different cultures only to find
a McDonald‘s, a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger
everywhere they go.
Pop culture in America can get a little trashy. There is as much interest in the drug and
sex habits of Hollywood movie stars as there is in the latest roles they played. Movie
stars are technically actors and actresses. They are dramatic artists. America—especially
the media—loves to rate celebrities on scales of 1-10: Who‘s the hottest, sexiest, and
most beautiful? The magazine shelves in grocery stores abound with covers of beautiful
starlets, nearly all under the age of 30.
So where is the art? Can a painter make a living today? Or is there a new art—
technology art? We express ourselves through electronic gadgets, many of which,
ironically, are used to share photos. In some filmmaking circles, calling a movie an ―art
film‖ is an insult. There is such a thing as trying to be too artistic, apparently.
Advertising commercials are the new art. Auto manufacturers spend billions on design
alone, over and above safety and function. Gated communities are landscaped with
exotic plants and water fountains. MP3 players are sleek and pastel-colored. Designer
clothing says so much more than jeans and a pair of work boots. And in Hollywood,
space ship explosions, fast car chases and giant robot wars are the new art, far more
exciting than standing in a museum looking at a boring landscape or some old Queen
from who knows where.
In Tampa, Florida, water pumps are painted blue. Outside of Las Vegas, bridges over
interstate highways are painted by Native Americans. In Bemidji, Minnesota, huge
statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox have stood for decades. In Los Angeles
and New York, entire walls and buildings are dedicated to graffiti.
Again, art is everywhere.
Before the 17th century, the terms astrology and astronomy were often interchangeable.
Astronomy was considered more mathematical and astrology more philosophical. Sadly,
despite the popularity of astrological predictions found in magazines and newspaper,
astrology as a science has lost credibility. Events on earth are linked with events in the
sky, with all life regulated by the movements of the sun, moon, planets and other celestial
bodies. Both astronomy and astrology are based on these celestial occurrences.
Earthly events such as floods, droughts, seasons and the ocean‘s tides, linked with the
rotation of celestial bodies, are relatively easy to understand. The scientific correlations
have been proven time and again. But other events don‘t have such a strong correlation,
and could only be explained by religion and symbolic connections.
The Babylonians are generally credited with the birth of astrology, a mixture of
astronomy, mathematics, religion and mythology. Astrological charts were used to
predict seasonal change and various celestial events. Babylonian astrology was
introduced to the Greeks early in the 4th century B.C. and, through the studies of Plato,
Aristotle, and others, astrology came to be highly regarded as a science. It was soon
embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiac signs are still used today) and
the Arabs and later spread throughout the entire world.
Astrology attempts to bring order out of chaos. This is reflected in the astrological
musings found in popular magazines and newspapers, where advice given is predicated
on the belief a person‘s life is an unsolved puzzle. It is also a device used to predict the
In earlier centuries, it was used to predict weather patterns largely for agricultural
purposes. But eventually it broadened to include forecasts of natural disasters, war and
other events in the course of human affairs. The accuracy of these predictions or lack
there of, partly explains why astrology isn‘t taken seriously. There‘s no mathematical,
scientific basis for predicting human events, like there is for predicting physical events
that occur as regularly repeated patterns.
But, the inability of science to accurately predict social, cultural and personal change
explains why religion, myth and astrology are so popular.
The zodiac comes from the Greek word meaning ―circle of animals.‖ It is believed to
have developed in ancient Egypt, later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers
first learned about the twelve lunar cycles. Twelve constellations were then identified to
correspond with the lunar cycles.
The signs of the zodiac are subdivided into four groups:
Fire signs: Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
Water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Air sings: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
Earth signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Each of these four groups is inscribed in its own quadrant or ―house‖ on a circle. The
division of the twelve houses is based on the earth‘s daily rotation. Astrologers link these
divisions with human activity such as relationships, travel, finance and career path.
However, the division of the twelve signs of the zodiac is based on the earth‘s yearly
rotation around the sun and astrologers relate these divisions to character, such as Venus
and affection or Mercury with speech and writing. Each planet rules two signs and the
sun and moon rule one sign each.
A horoscope is a map of the zodiac circle with the earth at the center. The top of the
circle represents the sun at its highest point during the day and left and right of that are
the eastern and western horizons. A horoscope charts the relative positions of the sun,
moon, planets, and stars at a specific time and place, such as a birth date. Astrologers use
sidereal time (measured from the equinox), rather than clock time. Once the date and
time are selected and calculated as sidereal time and the location known and plotted, the
astrologer consults an ephemeris. An ephemeris is a table listing the angles and locations
of the sun, moon, planets, and constellations at any given time. From this, a chart is
Computer software programs are now used to construct charts, which can be
mathematically complex. However, the real art and science of astrology comes into play
in the attempt to interpret the charts. Some people are superstitious, while others derive
whatever meaning they can.
Astrology is often defined in dictionaries as ―the ancient art or science of divining the
fate and future of human beings from indications given by the position of stars and other
heavenly bodies.‖ In ancient times, it was once believed Gods—represented by celestial
bodies—determined fate. For instance, Mars was the God of war. There is a temptation
for those with Mars as their birth sign to believe they somehow possess war-like
qualities, like that of a soldier. In turn, Libra is symbolized by the scale, and it‘s easy to
believe that by symbol alone Librans search for balance and justice.
These myths from ancient times have survived through the centuries, and understandably
so. Science has proven there is no sun God or other Gods embodied in the shape of
celestial bodies. But, it has not disproved the existence of a God as the creator of life.
Astronomers surround themselves with fancy telescopes, supercomputers, build academic
departments devoted to the science, and spout forth exotic theories about space, time,
light and gravity. But the Big Bang theory has no more scientific basis than intelligent
design, a phrase currently popular in today‘s evolution vs. God debate.
It‘s not astrology‘s job to prove the existence of God. It‘s more mystical than that, as so
much of life is as well. Mysticism not only gives us meaning but also adds color and
even fun in our lives. Without denigrating the seriousness of astrology, astrology turns
the universe into somewhat of a celestial playground, where the human spirit is free to
see whatever it wants to see...until science proves otherwise.
Perhaps no area of scientific inquiry is least understood than the mysteries of dreams.
We can catalog black holes and electron orbits, turn light into energy and produce a slew
of devices based on a host of scientific principles, but dreams are just something you
wake up after and forget.
Dream interpretations were documented in clay tablets as far back as 3000-4000 B.C.
But that says little when we‘ve been dreaming since the first day humans walked the
earth. A number of primal, ancient and even current primitive societies don‘t distinguish
between the dream world and reality. In other words, dreams are real. What happens in
dreams really happens. If reality is used as a measuring stick for the interpretation of
dreams, then dreams cannot possibly be real. Dreams are then just the result of
Back in the Greek and Roman era, dream interpreters accompanied military leaders into
battle. So did astrologists. What affect this had on the fall and rise of such empires is a
question for historians. Dreams were often seen as messages from the Gods. They were
seen in a religious context and in Egypt, priests also acted as dream interpreters. The
Egyptians recorded their dreams in hieroglyphics. People with particular vivid and
significant dreams were believed to be blessed and were considered special. Just who
was deciding what dreams were blessed and special has its parallel in today‘s movie
People who had the power to interpret dreams were looked up to and seen as divinely
gifted. In the bible, there are hundreds of mentions concerning dreams. But priests and
pastors today are not good sources to go to for interpretation of dreams, unless there is a
desire to place all of what we dream in the context of divine intervention. Dreams are
frequently sexual, and morality could very well get in the way of what such dreams really
Dreams were also seen as prophetic, and still are. People often looked to their dreams for
signs of warning or advice. It was an oracle or omen from outside spirits, whether it was
a message from a deity, from the dead, or even the devil himself. Dreams were used as
tools by healers in understanding what was wrong with a dreamer.
We are no longer influenced by many Gods. Most religions today have reduced many to
just one. God is speaking to us through our dreams, but very few people have a grip on
just exactly what messages are being sent.
Dreams might be actual places our spirits visit every night. Sometimes we look forward
to these ―movies‖ in our head. Other times, dreams are nightmares. Psychologists say
dreams are a form of release. We can express our desires in dreams in ways we could
never do in reality. Sigmund Freud, in his Interpretation of Dreams, was extremely
influential in acknowledging the importance of dreams. But the world of dreams is far
too vast and mythological to be reduced to a clinical analysis, where dreams are an
expression or release of anxiety, neurosis, or even psychosis.
Dreams could be visions of the past, visions of the future, or the dead invading our
psyches to tell us things. Dreams are far too disjointed to make sense out of them in the
way we construct a movie, say, out of a screenplay that follows a logical plot line.
Dreams are linear, up to a point.
We follow along a progression of events, and then suddenly, a totally unrelated image
appears. We can‘t make sense out of it all. Cartoons get mixed with faces of people we
either might‘ve known, or have never known. We visit exotic landscapes, fight battles
with faceless creatures, read books upside down written in unexplainable languages, fly,
fall and scream, all without any apparent reason.
Dreams certainly don‘t follow any kind of natural progression from one night to the next.
It‘s sort of like going to the movies and whatever happens to be playing, that‘s what we
see. However, some dreams are recurring, even haunting. When dreams get in the way
of normal functioning, that‘s when they get attention.
The movies have explored the realm of dreams, either directly or indirectly. Frequently,
the story centers somewhere around fear of the dark and the inability to sleep because of
what might be under the bed. Examples include Nightmare on Elm Street, Deadzone, and
Flatline, and Field of Dreams.
However, Deadzone was more about clairvoyance—a man who has visions of the future
whenever he touches another persons hand. Flatline toyed more with the afterlife, or
near-afterlife, but since the characters did not actually die, the visions they had were more
the result of a deep sleep. Field of Dreams has dreams in the title, but the story is more
about wish fulfillment than an exploration of dreams. Dreams are often thought of as
expressions of wish fulfillment.
What is most puzzling is our inability to remember our dreams. Everyone has
experienced at one time or another difficulty in describing a dream to someone else. But
it might not be as painful as listening to someone else try in vain to tell us their dreams.
The descriptions are usually accompanied with distorted faces, puzzled by fractured
images, mystified by surreal. Inevitably, we then walk away with no more mention,
simply because we have no comprehension whatsoever of what the dream meant or the
significance of dreams in our lives.
It is sad that our culture or cultures blow off dreams as if they were the creations of a mad
The Paranormal: Things We See No One Else Sees
It's amazing what we see and how we see, but it's even more amazing what we see that
isn't there. Of course, numerous accounts of the weird, strange, unexplained and the
paranormal tell a different story. Maybe not everyone saw something, but someone did,
at least, that's what they claimed. In many cases there are photos to prove it.
Unfortunately, because of so many photographic process tricks, pictures become equally
Media has a long history of fascination with the occult, bizarre, strange, weird and
paranormal side of life, from radio‘s Only the Shadow Knows to Rod Serling‘s hugely
popular Twilight Zone, to movies like Ghost, Poltergeist, Hide and Seek, Signs and
It‘s important to understand that many movies that seem to be about the paranormal are
really about something else. The movie, Ghost, features, well, a ghost, but it‘s really a
love story. Poltergeist addresses head on what happens when people mess around with
graveyards, but it‘s really a story about greed. Although the little girl is trapped inside a
TV, there is the slight hint at virtual reality and the desire to enter into a TV show instead
of passively watching it. The movie, Pleasantville, does this directly, where characters
are sucked into a black and white 50s scenario and a world where color is taboo.
Mindreading is frequently dealt with humorously in the movies, such as Mel Gibson in
What Women Want and Bruce Willis is the talking baby movie, Look Who's Talking.
Animation techniques are sophisticated enough to make creatures of all types appear as
though they can talk, act and feel just like us normal folk. If all else fails, voice-over
narration picks up where animation leaves off.
In Ghost, we can hear the voice of a dead person because of two reasons: one is the
suspension of disbelief and the other is by allowing the audience to hear something other
characters in the movie don‘t hear. It takes Whopi Goldberg‘s character, with a peculiar
gift and special receptivity for hearing voices from the dead, to convey messages from
the dead person (----) to the living (Demi Moore).
In The Shining, Jack Nicholson‘s character hears voices from the dead, and because of it,
it ultimately drives him insane.
Sean Patrick Flanery's character in the movie, Powder, has the ability to bend forks and
make a hunter feel the pain and suffering of a dying deer just after it was brutally shot.
Near the end of the movie, it‘s revealed his powers come from a divine or cosmic source.
The goal of the story is to connect us with something larger than ourselves and that when
we hurt something or someone, it affects the universe. It‘s a bit of a twist on chaos
Religion and the Paranormal
No area generates more controversy in the unseeable than religion. From burning
witches at the stake to modern day chants, "I've seen the glory of God," believers make
astounding claims of seeing things that can't be seen.
Statues and drawings of Jesus are known to bleed. Rising from the grave is not a Jesus
exclusive. Night of the Living Dead is but one of tons of movies where the dead rise from
murky shallow graves to haunt the living.
The quest for the Shroud of Turin, Noah's Ark and the Holy Grail is a lifelong ambition
In Hollywood, no film struck terror in religious hearts more than The Exorcist (1973).
Linda Blair's head turning a full 360 degrees and vomiting streams of green gob was
enough to frighten anyone.
Besides great special F/X that scared the hell out of everyone--pun intended--what was
the religious message of The Exorcist? The devil embodies evil and anything evil is the
devil. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
The sheer belief that God speaks to us is bound to conjure up a slew of voices...and
images. However, no actor in his/her right mind would ever play the role of God. After
all, what does God sound like? Well, that's not true. Only one of the funniest comedians
of all time, George Burns, would dare embody the spirit of the Lord and smoke a cigar at
the same time.
The fact that many see Jesus as white and handsome has generated enough controversy as
it is. In The Exorcist, the devil allegedly spoke in many tongues, but what audiences
heard was primarily a deep, ominous male voice.
Once again, both God and Devil are men. Where are women in this charade?
The devil wears many a disguise, but most people peg him as a male--red, with horns,
carrying a three-pronged fork. Interestingly, the issue of whether God or the Devil is a
woman is one repeatedly ignored. Occasionally there is a reference to women, such as
the band INXS and their song, "Every Single Woman Has The Devil Inside," or maybe
the movie classics, The Devil In Ms. Jones, which took form as both a 1940s thriller and a
1970s classic porno film.
There's an angel on every shoulder. Usually it's a classic angel on one shoulder and the
devil on the other. How many people actually see these angels is a scary thought. But
thanks to Hollywood and animation, we can put an angel on a shoulder and actually have
some very fun conversations.
Angels have wings and many people believe in their existence as much as they believe
God is a man or Jesus had a beard. Angels aren't the only creatures that can fly. Fairies,
Pegasus, various Gods and of course most ghosts can not only fly but move through
walls. There are even a few flying pigs and elephants floating around out there in
The key point here is not so much what we see that others don't see, but that we can see
anything we want in our mind's eye. We don't just believe something; there's almost
always a visual to go with it...plus sound F/X.
The bible--and its many versions--is filled with astounding tales as common as Santa
Claus and the Easter Bunny. Water turns to wine. A man lives in a whale. A sea is
parted. Angels fall from grace. A snake talks to Adam, and a woman is born from his rib.
Artists have plenty of work as long as people keep imagining such tales. The Bible was
never illustrated. Yet, every priest and pastor has a picture of Jesus on the wall in their
And what is not visualized by something resembling real life, it is represented by a
Symbolism is especially important in terms of what we see. There can be no greater
examples than the cross and the flag.
Every major--and in most cases, minor--corporation has an identifiable logo as easily
recognizable as the faces of our own mothers. Some people might confuse McDonald's
Golden Arches with the Gates of Heaven.
But religion goes way back to a time when there were many Gods, not just one. The
Greeks had their Gods. The Egyptians had theirs. And the Chinese, East Indians and
Aztecs each had their own cast of Gods.
There was a God for everything and they did some very crazy things: the God of
Thunder, the God of Wine, the God of War, the Goddess of Love and the Goddess of
Fertility. Finally, women had roles to play. They were one big family with a
considerable amount of dysfunction.
Did people actually see these Gods, beyond mere representations in cloud formations?
And what was the embarrassing moment when people finally realized that, well, we
really can't see Gods? But then, ironically, as much as we make fun of multiple Gods, it
sure doesn't stop us from seeing a single God.
If you don't know what something looks like--like a God--then how would you know
how to react? For instance, "The Gods will get you," must've conjured up the worst
images and fears for a hapless peasant in ancient Rome. And the shift from many Gods
to one God must've been--and still is--a most difficult transition since the believer must
prove there is only one God...without any photos as evidence.
The paradox becomes even more complex when a Muslim God takes on an entirely
different appearance than a Christian one.
Perhaps no pair of images captures the imagination more than that of Heaven and Hell.
How we see what isn't there is even amazingly still captured in color. The devil is red,
not green or yellow. Hell is also red, being full of fire. Heaven is white, floating on a
soft pillow of air.
Both places have the eternity tag attached to them, a very persuasive means of instilling
fear one way or the other. If whatever happens after death is going to happen forever,
well, that just makes the images much more vivid...and scary.
Heaven is above and hell is below. Hell is someplace in the center of our planet and
Heaven is somewhere up in the stars. Most assuredly, we've proven that there is no place
in the core of our planet where people dwell. It's really just a swirl of molten rock.
Perhaps that's hell enough.
In fact, even the most vehement believers confess to knowing Heaven and Hell are not
real places, but more a state of mind. But just what is a state of mind? What do people
see when they see heaven and hell?
This might be a key to understanding the power of religion. Actual pictures are not
needed in the game of persuasion. Religious leaders count on the fact that most believers
and believers-to-be have over-active imaginations. Say the word "hell" and watch them
shudder. Say the word "heaven" and watch them put their hands together in prayer.
Heaven or hell is the best we have to offer so far when it comes to seeing the afterlife.
Ask anyone what they "see" when they try to imagine life after death, and most likely the
images will be some variation of heaven or hell.
What else IS there? Do we just float around in the stars, become part of the
electromagnetic wave, or turn into living photons?
How much ghosts are the result of religious beliefs is a subject for historical research.
The point is, people see ghosts all the time, religious or not.
Ghosts are a way to bring the dead back to life. Somehow, it just doesn't make sense that
someone we saw yesterday we can't see tomorrow because they've, well, they've
Where do dead people go? This complex question has spawned enough Hollywood
movies to fill libraries. The Horror genre has given us such classics as Alfred
Hitchcock's, The Birds, the film version of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, and superstars
Bella Lugosi as Dracula and Lon Chaney as the Werewolf. The cheesy Night of the
Living Dead is a cult classic. The movie, Halloween, which was originally released in
1978, has at least 7 sequels to its credit.
Symbolism plays an important role in visions of werewolves and vampires. They come
out at night. The night is scary. The day is safe. Full moons are particularly mysterious,
especially with eerie clouds floating through the light and the wind is howling. Dracula
wears a black silk cape with red interior. That's quite a fashion statement. The werewolf
is, well, a man that looks like a wolf. Are there female werewolves, or is this just a guy
thing? Female vampires, strangely enough, are well known for their sexuality.
Ghosts don't generally hang around new places, even if people died in them. Ghosts
dwell in old places, like Victorian houses and Egyptian tombs. No one in a modern day
office is going to suddenly announce to their boss they've just seen a ghost under their
desk. Such a truism is indicative of how most people don't believe in such fantasies; that
ghosts are just "figments of your imagination."
Even inanimate objects are known to possess--with a strong emphasis on the word
possess--human characteristics. Houses moan while two windows look like eyes and the
door is the mouth. Trees have arms and fog searches the land for victims. Now that
artificial intelligence is becoming mainstream, there's no reason to believe a computer
crash is not the result of an attitude problem. It even gets silly, like happy flying
Volkswagens (Disney‘s, The Love Bug).
In America and a few other countries, there is no more fun time than Halloween,
especially if there's a haunted house to visit.
Ghosts love Halloween, since its the one time of year they have they opportunity to scare
non-believers. But then, Halloween is more about giving out free candy and going to fun
parties than it is a shared exploration of things we don't see.
Halloween dates back 2000 years. The Celts believed that on the night before the New
Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.
Halloween is a major exercise in seeing the unseeable. Virtually every imaginary
character is represented on the night of October 31st. The list is far-ranging: Comic
book heroes and heroines, past Presidents, Greek Gods, werewolves and other monsters,
Hollywood and music superstars, Disney cartoon characters. There's always a contest to
see who can come up with the most creative costume.
Mediums make their living off of conjured spirits. Most people who ever participate in a
séance are going to see and hear something, the reason being, they want to. The guy who
didn't see or hear anything and snubs his nose in disbelief will most certainly never get
invited back to the next one.
Crystal balls, tarot cards and tea leaves each have their share of believers and
practitioners. Palm readers are also popular.
But just exactly what does a palm reader see in the hand we don't? Does the palm reader
have some kind of specialized visual translation software installed in their minds?
If crystal balls really worked, wouldn't everyone have one? Or does it require specialized
training to look into a glass ball and see the future or past? Maybe it's a talent. The trick
is, is that we must believe what the "gypsy" sees, since we can't see it ourselves.
Most people suspect that fortune tellers see what they think we want them to see. They
are excellent judges of character, and of course, a positive vision always uplifts the spirit.
Fortune telling has little scientific validity, if any. But perhaps more importantly, is that
maybe some people don't want to see the future, for fear that what they might see will not
necessarily be that positive.
Go into any decent size book store into the Children's book section, and a world full of
fantasy opens up far beyond the classics. We all know Goldilocks and the Three Bears,
Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood don't exist, but children don't. What's
most popular with kids, from books to Disney movies and cartoons, is talking animals.
In America, the two party systems of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and
conservatives, are as split down the middle as black and white, no pun intended. Civil
debate is supposed to be the cornerstone of democracy, but anyone with even the slightest
clue about politics knows politics is about power. The two parties are two indelibly
distinct "views" of the world--frequently at blaringly opposite ends of the spectrum.
What the images or icons of the donkey and the elephant have come to mean is so strong,
that voting on issues is frequently split down party lines, regardless of the issue. It's two
parties like two football teams, and the goal is to win the game. Sacrificing individual
beliefs for party beliefs is subject to severe party pressure.
The world is jam-packed full of thrilling and controversial yet unexplained events and
locations. Stonehenge and the Isle of Wight have as many theories about why they exist
and the magic they conjure as there are tourists that visit these sites annually.
Strange geometric patterns are cut out of corn fields, frequently explained as the work of
aliens. Mother Nature is full of freakish rock carvings and it's anyone's guess if humans
or aliens played a role, or if it's just the playground for the sun and wind.
Mirrors and ponds and lakes reflect back faces other than the person looking into them.
Who can't see a face or object in the clouds as they roll by?
Today's Gods and Goddesses exist in the form of Hollywood, pop music and other
celebrities and stars. Many of these stars have reached such mythical proportions they no
longer seem human. In Las Vegas, there's an Elvis on every corner. Marilyn Monroe
still reigns as the sexiest woman ever.
Who these people are is nothing compared to what people see them as. Even paparazzi,
gossip columnists and "inside entertainment" shows fail to humanize them, such as when
they punch a photographer or are captured without any makeup on.
Michael Jackson has become a true mythical character that not even years of court cases
and plastic surgery can erase. But Michael is by no means alone. Willie Nelson is
America's number one modern day rebel. Dolly Parton's breasts seem to grow with each
passing year, unfortunately masking her phenomenal talent as a songwriter, singer and
performer. Babe Ruth baseball cards are worth 1000s, maybe even millions.
Clearly, the inability or desire to not want to accept the finality of death explains to a
large degree the existence of the paranormal. Some people we don't want to ever die.
Others we want dead, but their evil ways continue to haunt us long after they've been
Cartoons give us talking animals, a fantasy that dates back to fantasy novels like Alice in
Wonderland. Whether it‘s a cartoon character talking or voice-over narration, it‘s a
dramatic device for exploring the inner thoughts of others, and the thoughts and feelings
Walt Disney, and the company he built, has become an American institution. The
cultural and social impact of Disney, Warner and other independently produced cartoon
series and movies defies measurement.
We grow up with animals as our friends, meanwhile consuming them as a primary food
source. Some animals we eat, some we don‘t. But even the ones we eat have found a
mythical life like Elsie the Cow or Red the Rooster. Wiley E. Fox is an endangered
species, and Pepe LePew the skunk, is considered by many to be a pesky, smelly rodent.
All told, this creates a moral dilemma between protecting the environment and the human
need for survival. It‘s more confusing where children are concerned, since young
children think all animals are their friends. Children‘s stories and our education system
share the burden of responsibility of children‘s perceptions of the world, along with the
creator‘s of cartoons.
Animation has become quite sophisticated, so much so, that in many movies, it‘s hard to
tell where animation begins and reality ends. Films like the Matrix, Lord of the Rings
and Harry Potter (and all the sequels) are just shy of being full fledged cartoons—
realistic cartoons, if you will. These movies fall more into the fantasy and sci-fi
categories than the animated film category, but the line is thin.
Ironically, as we get older, we seem to forget about cartoons. It seems unimaginable for
a person in their 30s, 40s and on up, to be caught sitting around watching cartoons.
What‘s even more ironic is that much of the dialog and even action in cartoons is
incomprehensible to the age group that does watch them.
Animated films like Shrek, It’s a Bug’s Life and Toy Story, continue to hold audiences
imaginations well into adulthood. Animation is used prolifically in the sciences. But
watching a nanorobot steering a course through the bloodstream or an animated
documentary on DNA chains can hardly be called cartoons.
Sex, Money and Violence
Of the three areas most controversial in society and culture—sex, money, and violence—
sex is the most controversial. The alleged accidental exposure of Janet Jackson‘s breast
during the Super Bowl in 2004 created more of a stir than all the violent video games, TV
shows and movies put together that year. The sex taboo has spawned a multi-billion
dollar pornography industry, an industry that showed Wall Street how to make money on
Movies are rated. Channel blocking devices are installed in TVs. Parental control
software is installed on computers. Obviously, the most apparent reason is to protect
children. But the fear goes far beyond the fear of molesters. It‘s a fear of sex itself.
Violence is rampant in the media. Some of the most well known actors are known for
their ability to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time, using every
conceivable weapon known to humankind. Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s success in politics
is largely because he‘s the Terminator, and terminators get the job done. We admire
public figures, especially politicians, who have the ―killer instinct,‖ not the ―sexual
instinct.‖ And it certainly helps to have a military background, which is why former
President Bill Clinton was perceived by conservatives as weak.
Kids spend hours if not days killing aliens, robots and monsters of various types while
playing video games. Murder mysteries and thrillers dominate the media landscape,
ranging from film versions of Agatha Christie novels to movies like Silence of the Lambs
and TV shows like CSI. TV news and newspaper headlines are rife with violence,
whether in the form of war or crime.
The lust for money is equally popular, from robbing casinos in Ocean’s 11 to the
celebration of greed in Wall Street. Suitcases full of money, huge inheritances, winning
the lotto, high tech jewelry heists, all serve as inspiration for a slew of movies.
Characters like Jesse James (numerous movies), who would be serving life by today‘s
criminal standards, and Al Pacino in Scarface, a ruthless drug dealer, become celebrated
folk heroes, despite their crimes.
As for sex, shows like Queer Folks for a Straight Guy and L Word use the freedom of
cable TV to cut through the barriers of regular broadcasting. However, regular TV is full
of hypocrisy, from bouncing female lifeguards in Baywatch to bouncing girls on
trampolines featured regularly on The Man Show. TV history is riddled with gorgeous
women flaunting their assets, from I Dream of Genie and Gilligan’s Island to Friends,
Dallas and the Nanny.
The movie Kinsey was an intelligently written biopic not only focusing on one of the 21st
centuries greatest scientists, but also the obstacles he faced in a society saturated with
denial, hypocrisy and guilt because of sex. Still, what ever liberties the movie took in
discussing sex openly, there was still no nudity.
We can go to the beach and see bikini-clad women and men strutting their stuff. We can
view lingerie ads in fashion magazines as long as they are ―tastefully‖ photographed, and
frequently in black and white. We can watch dozens of love scenes in movies, many of
which are some of the most treasured scenes in all movie history. We can even play
around with lesbian themes on TV like in Zena: Princess Warrior. However we cut the
moral cake, what we can‘t see is nudity.
Image: How Do I Look?
Looks are everything—so they say. Some companies and occupations--even entire
industry sectors--are devoted entirely to making something or someone look good. In all
areas of corporate endeavor, marketing, advertising and promotion departments have the
biggest budgets. With the media on the front line, the goal is to persuade consumers buy
things and services they may or may not need. And the competition is fierce.
The reference to consumer as opposed to people is a deliberate one. It demonstrates how
we see each other, and reducing flesh and blood, feelings and thoughts, into mindless
automatons with expendable cash flow is not helping us to see who we really are.
Looks and style is often more important than substance. Ironically, the reasoning is often
practical. In a media saturated culture, competition centers on attention spans, and image
makers have less than a second to capture a consumer‘s or audience‘s imagination.
It‘s not a question of having choices; it‘s a question of too many choices. Too many
choices can apply equally to stars, politicians and religious leaders as it does to cars, MP3
players, and stock investments.
The fashion industry is on call 24/7, ready to embark on an image making mission no less
efficient than a military strike. The mission could be a star‘s gown at an awards
ceremony, the President‘s tie during a State of the Union address, or a 13-girl trying to fit
in a new school. Hair styles range from pig-tails to crew cuts. Makeup can be a touch of
rouge lipstick to a strategically placed tattoo. Jewelry can be a pierced ear to a diamond-
studded necklace. Clothing knows no bounds, from jeans to designer gowns, from tennis
shoes to lingerie.
Every fashion detail is meticulously attended to. Red might be too bold. A curl on the
forehead might be too sexy. A nose ring automatically defines rebellion. With products,
bright pastels suggest teens, curvy shapes are erotic, and devices with lots of knobs,
buttons and fancy LCDs represent sophistication and high-tech.
Image is not necessarily always visible. Politicians use smear campaigns to make a rival
―look‖ bad. Paparazzi seek out the immoral, especially if they happen to be ―the
beautiful people.‖ Supreme Court justices are put through grueling Senate inquiries to
ensure there are no skeletons in the closet.
Electromagnetic Radiation: Light
Electromagnetic radiation (waves) is simply another term for light. Light waves are
fluctuations of electric and magnetic fields in space. Radiation is energy emitted in the
form of waves (light) or particles (photons).
It‘s not easy defining electromagnetic radiation, especially in simple terms. It‘s even
become more difficult to say electromagnetic radiation consists of waves or particles,
since many authoritative sources argue for one or the other, or both. In fact, the argument
goes back to ancient times and continues to this day.
Historically, scientists who subscribed to the wave theory centered their arguments on the
discoveries of Dutchman Christiaan Huygens. Wave proponents envisions light as wave-
like in nature, producing energy that traverses through space in a manner similar to the
ripples spreading across the surface of a still pond after being disturbed by a dropped
Those who subscribe to particle theory cite Sir Isaac Newton‘s prism experiments as
proof that light travels as a shower of particles, each proceeding in a straight line until it
is refracted, absorbed, reflected, diffracted or disturbed. Particle proponents hold that
light is composed of a steady stream of particles, like droplets of water sprayed from a
garden hose nozzle.
Alfred Einstein, Max Planck, Neils Bohr and others attempted to explain how
electromagnetic radiation can display what is now called ―wave-particle duality.‖ For
instance, low frequency electromagnetic radiation tends to act more like a wave than a
particle; high frequency electromagnetic radiation tends to act more like a particle than a
Visible light is electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths which the human eye can see.
We perceive this radiation as colors. Light broken up into its component colors is called
the light spectrum. The rainbow (or a light passing through a prism) reflects this
spectrum, consisting of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The different
colors of light correspond to the different energies of the light waves.
Visible light is based on a simple model of propagating rays and wave fronts, a concept
first proposed in the late 1600s by Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens. The way visible
light is emitted or absorbed by substances, and how it predictably reacts under varying
conditions as it travels through space and the atmosphere, forms the basis of color. Isaac
Newton discovered white light is made up of all the colors of the visible spectrum.
The electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is a name that scientists give to varying types of
radiation as a group. Radiation is energy that travels and spreads out as it goes, such as
visible light that comes from a lamp or radio waves that come from a radio station. The
electromagnetic spectrum is the full range of electromagnetic radiation, consisting of
gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, visible light (optical), infrared, microwaves, and
Many sources emit electromagnetic radiation, and are generally categorized according to
the specific spectrum of wavelengths generated by the source. Long radio waves are
produced by electrical current flowing through huge broadcast antennas, while shorter
visible light waves are produced by the energy state fluctuations of negatively charged
electrons within atoms. The shortest form of electromagnetic radiation, gamma waves,
results from decay of nuclear components at the center of the atom.
Hotter, more energetic objects and events create higher energy radiation than cool
objects. Only extremely hot objects or particles moving at very high velocities can create
high-energy radiation like X-rays and gamma-rays.
Electromagnetic radiation can be described in terms of a stream of photons, which are
massless particles traveling in a wave-like pattern and moving at the speed of light. A
photon is the smallest (quantum) unit of light/electromagnetic energy. Photons are
generally regarded as particles with zero mass and no electric charge.
After more than 300 years of measuring the speed of light, the Seventeenth General
Congress on Weights and Measures defined the speed of light at 299,792.458 kilometers
per second. Consequently, the meter is defined as the distance light travels through a
vacuum in 1/299,792,458 seconds. The speed of light is frequently rounded to 300,000
kilometers (or 186,000 miles) per second.
Light traveling in a uniform substance, or medium, propagates in a straight line at a
relatively constant speed, unless it is refracted, reflected, diffracted, or disturbed in some
manner. This was understood and described as far back as 350 BC by the ancient Greek
scholar, Euclid, in his landmark treatise Optica.
Light waves come in many frequencies. The frequency is the number of waves that pass
a point in space during any time interval, usually one second. It is measured in units of
cycles (waves) per second, or Hertz (Hz). The frequency of visible light is referred to as
color, and ranges from 430 trillion Hz, seen as red, to 750 trillion Hz, seen as violet. The
full range of frequencies extends beyond the visible spectrum, from less than one billion
Hz, as in radio waves, to greater than 3 billion billion Hz, as in gamma rays.
Light not only vibrates at different frequencies, it also travels at different speeds. Light
waves move through a vacuum at their maximum speed, 300,000 kilometers per second
or 186,000 miles per second, which makes light the fastest phenomenon in the universe.
Light waves slow down when they travel inside substances, such as air, water, glass or a
diamond. The way different substances affect the speed at which light travels is key to
understanding the bending of light, or refraction.
The amount of energy in a light wave is proportionally related to its frequency: High
frequency light has high energy; low frequency light has low energy. Gamma rays have
the most energy, and radio waves have the least. Of visible light, violet has the most
energy and red the least.
By the late 1960s, lasers were becoming stable research tools with highly defined
frequencies and wavelengths. It quickly became obvious that a simultaneous
measurement of frequency and wavelength would yield a very accurate value for the
speed of light, similar to an experimental approach carried out by Keith Davy Froome
using microwaves in 1958.
Several research groups in the United States and in other countries measured the
frequency of the 633-nanometer line from an iodine-stabilized helium-neon laser and
obtained highly accurate results. In 1972, the National Institute of Standards and
Technology employed the laser technology to measure the speed at 299,792,458 meters
per second (186,282 miles per second), which ultimately resulted in the redefinition of
the meter through a highly accurate estimate for the speed of light.
This was confirmed later in 1983 by the Seventeenth General Congress on Weights and
Measures. Thus, the meter is defined as the distance light travels through a vacuum
during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 seconds. In general, however, (even in many
scientific calculations) the speed of light is rounded to 300,000 kilometers (or 186,000
miles) per second.
Arriving at a standard value for the speed of light was important for establishing an
international system of units that would enable scientists from around the world to
compare their data and calculations.
Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity implies that nothing can go faster than the speed of light.
All light—natural and artificial—is made up of a collection of one or more photons
propagating through space as electromagnetic waves. For example, a light source in a
room produces photons and objects in the room reflect those photons. The eyes absorb
the photons and that is how we see.
The mechanism involved in producing photons is the energizing of electrons orbiting
each atom‘s nucleus. Electrons circle the nucleus in fixed orbits, the way satellites orbit
the Earth. An electron has a natural orbit that it occupies. When an atom is energized, its
electrons move to higher orbits.
A photon of light is produced whenever an electron in a high orbit falls back to its normal
orbit. During the fall from high energy to normal energy, the electron emits a photon (a
packet of energy) with very specific characteristics. The photon has a frequency, or color,
that exactly matches the distance the electron falls.
As an example, sodium vapor lights, the kind seen in parking lots, are yellow. A sodium
vapor light energizes sodium atoms to generate photons. The energy packets generated
by the falling sodium electrons fall at a wavelength that corresponds to yellow light.
The most common way to energize atoms is with heat, the basis of incandescence. A
normal 75-watt incandescent bulb (or any wattage) is generating light by using electricity
to create heat.
Halogen lamps use electricity to generate heat, but contain a filament that runs hotter than
incandescent bulbs. Gas lanterns use natural gas or kerosene as the source of heat.
Fluorescent lights use electricity to directly energize atoms rather than requiring heat. In
Indiglo watches, voltage energizes phosphor atoms. Fireflies use a chemical reaction to
Each photon contains a certain amount (or bundle) of energy, and all electromagnetic
radiation consists of these photons. The only difference between the various types of
electromagnetic radiation is the amount of energy found in the photons. Radio waves
have photons with low energies, microwaves have a little more energy than radio waves,
infrared has still more, then visible, ultraviolet, X-rays, and the most energetic of all are
Whether it‘s a signal transmitted to a radio from a broadcast station, heat radiating from a
fireplace, X-rays producing images of teeth, or the visible and ultraviolet light emanating
from the sun, the various categories of electromagnetic radiation all share identical and
fundamental wave-like properties.
What light is and the properties it contains will continue to be one of the most fascinating
subjects of scientific inquiry in the future.
Why humans have two eyes and not one or three is not understood despite hundreds of
years of scientific inquiry. But then again, there‘s much science doesn‘t understand. We
do know that vision involves the nearly simultaneous interaction of the two eyes and the
brain through a network of neurons, receptors, and other specialized cells.
The first steps in this sensory process are the stimulation of light receptors in the eyes,
conversion of the light stimuli or images into signals, and transmission of electrical
signals containing the vision information from each eye to the brain through the optic
The human eye is equipped with a variety of optical components including the cornea,
iris, pupil, aqueous and vitreous humors, a variable-focus lens, and the retina. Together,
these elements work to form images of the objects that fall into the field of view for each
When an object is observed, it is first focused through the convex cornea and lens
elements, forming an inverted image on the surface of the retina, a multi-layered
membrane that contains millions of light-sensitive cells.
In order to reach the retina, light rays focused by the cornea must successively traverse
the aqueous humor (in the anterior chamber), the crystalline lens, the gelatinous vitreous
body, and the vascular and neuronal layers of the retina before they reach the
photosensitive outer segments of the cone and rod cells. These photo sensory cells detect
the image and translate it into a series of electrical signals for transmission to the brain.
Color blindness, a disruption in the normal functioning of human photopic vision, can be
caused by host of conditions, including those derived from genetics, biochemistry,
physical damage, and diseases. Partial color blindness, a condition where the individual
has difficulty discriminating between specific colors, is far more common than total color
blindness where only shades of gray are recognized.
The human eye is sensitive to the narrow band of electromagnetic radiation called the
visible light spectrum, the source of color. The visible light of the sun appears to be
colorless, or white. White light is not the light of a single color, or frequency. It is made
up of many color frequencies.
Isaac Newton demonstrated how white light works. Newton passed sunlight through a
glass prism to separate the colors into a rainbow spectrum. He then passed sunlight
through a second glass prism and combined the two rainbows. The combination produced
Red, green, and blue are the primary colors. An equal mix of all three creates white light,
while a mix of varying degrees creates virtually any color. When mixed in equal
proportions, red and blue produce magenta, red and green produce yellow, and green and
blue produce cyan.
Cyan, yellow and magenta are called the complementary colors. They are also called the
primary subtractive colors because each can be formed by subtracting one of the primary
additives (red, green, and blue) from white light. For example, yellow light is produced
when blue light is removed from white light, magenta is produced when green is
removed, and cyan is produced when red is removed. The color observed by subtracting
a primary color from white light results because the brain adds together the colors that are
left to produce the respective complementary or subtractive color.
White light can be made by other combinations other than mixing all colors together,
such as yellow with blue, magenta with green, cyan with red, and by mixing all of the
colors together. Computer monitors are often called RGB monitors because they produce
colors by mixing various combinations of red, green and blue. The printing industry
relies on a 4-color separation process using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black dyes to
reproduce artwork and photographs.
Colors are also created when some of the frequencies of light are absorbed. The absorbed
colors are the ones not seen. The colors seen are the ones that are reflected back to the
eye. Absorption is how paints and dies work. The paint or dye molecules absorb specific
frequencies reflect other frequencies. The reflected frequency (or frequencies) is
perceived as the color of the object. Another example is the color of leaves. The leaves
of green plants contain a pigment called chlorophyll, which absorbs the blue and red
colors of the spectrum and reflects the green.
Pigments and dyes are responsible for most of the color humans see. Eyes, skin, and hair
contain natural protein pigments that reflect colors (including colors used in facial
makeup and hair dyes). Books, magazines, signs, and billboards are printed with colored
inks that create colors through the process of color subtraction.
Cars, airplanes and houses are coated with paints containing a variety of pigments. The
concept of color subtraction is responsible for most of the color produced by the objects
just described. For many years, artists and printers have searched for substances
containing dyes and pigments that are particularly good at subtracting specific colors.
When a light wave hits an object, what happens to it depends on the energy of the light
wave, the natural frequency at which electrons vibrate in the material and the strength
with which the atoms in the material hold on to their electrons. The waves can be
reflected, scattered, absorbed, refracted, or pass through an object. More than one of
these possibilities can happen at once.
If the frequency or energy of the incoming light wave is much higher or much lower than
the frequency needed to make the electrons in the material vibrate, then the electrons will
not capture the energy of the light. The wave will pass through the material unchanged.
As a result, the material will be transparent to that frequency of light. Most materials are
transparent to some frequencies, but not to others. High frequency light, such as gamma
rays and X-rays, will pass through ordinary glass, but lower frequency ultraviolet and
infrared light will not.
In absorption, the frequency of the incoming light wave is at or near the vibration
frequency of the electrons in the material. The electrons take in the energy of the light
wave and start to vibrate. What happens next depends upon how tightly the atoms hold
on to their electrons.
Absorption occurs when the electrons are held tightly, and they pass the vibrations along
to the nuclei of the atoms. This makes the atoms speed up, collide with other atoms in
the material, and then give up as heat the energy they acquired from the vibrations. The
absorption of light makes an object dark or opaque to the frequency of the incoming
wave. Wood is opaque to visible light. Some materials are opaque to some frequencies
of light, but transparent to others. Glass is opaque to ultraviolet light, but transparent to
The atoms in some materials hold on to their electrons loosely. In other words, the
materials contain many free electrons that can jump readily from one atom to another
within the material. When the electrons in this type of material absorb energy from an
incoming light wave, they do not pass that energy on to other atoms.
The energized electrons merely vibrate and then send the energy back out of the object as
a light wave with the same frequency as the incoming wave. The overall effect is that the
light wave does not penetrate deeply into the material. In most metals, electrons are held
loosely, and are free to move around, so these metals reflect visible light and appear to be
shiny. The electrons in glass have some freedom, though not as much as in metals. To a
lesser degree, glass reflects light and appears to be shiny, as well.
A reflected wave always comes off the surface of a material at an angle equal to the angle
at which the incoming wave hit the surface. In physics, this is called the Law of
Reflectance. The Law of Reflectance states: ―the angle of incidence equals the angle of
reflection.‖ A mirror demonstrates this law. For instance, when a person looks at their
image in a mirror, the colors in a mirror are the same as the colors on the person.
When light hits a rough surface, it scatters. Incoming light waves get reflected at all sorts
of angles. The earth‘s atmosphere acts as a rough surface. It contains molecules of many
different sizes, including nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, dust and a variety of pollutants.
The mix of molecules scatters the higher energy light waves like blue light and, in part,
explains why the sky is blue. Of course, the colors we see are also a function of the
sensitivity of our eyes and how our brain processes color.
Refraction occurs when the energy of an incoming light wave matches the natural
vibration frequency of the electrons in a material. The light wave penetrates deeply into
the material, and causes small vibrations in the electrons. The electrons pass these
vibrations on to the atoms in the material, and they send out light waves of the same
frequency as the incoming wave.
The part of the wave inside the material slows down, while the part of the wave outside
the object maintains its original frequency and speed. This has the effect of bending the
portion of the wave inside the object toward what is called the normal line, an imaginary
straight line that runs perpendicular to the surface of the object. The deviation from the
normal line of the light inside the object will be less than the deviation of the light before
it entered the object. The amount of bending, or angle of refraction, of the light wave
depends on how much the material slows down the light.
Diamonds glitter because of how much they slow down incoming light. Light of
different frequencies, or energies, will bend at slightly different angles. For example, in
comparing violet light and red light when they enter a glass prism, violet light has more
energy so it takes longer to interact with the prism. Because it is slowed down more than
a wave of red light, it will bend more. Refraction explains the order of colors in a
rainbow. It also explains why rainbows can be seen in diamonds. Soap bubbles and oil
spills also produce rainbows.
When light waves pass through an object with two reflective surfaces, parts of the light
waves are reflected from the top surface, while other parts of the light pass through the
film and are reflected from the bottom surface. Because the parts of the waves that
penetrate the film interact with the film longer, they get knocked out of sync with the
parts of the waves reflected by the top surface. This is called being out of phase.
When the two sets of waves strike the photoreceptors in the eyes, they interfere with each
other. Interference occurs when waves add together or subtract from each other and so
form a new wave of a different frequency (color). When white light shines on a film with
two reflective surfaces, the various reflected waves interfere with each other to form
rainbow fringes. The fringes change colors when the angle of sight changes.
An object can directly emit light waves in the frequency of the observed color, or an
object can absorb all other frequencies, reflecting back only the light wave, or
combination of light waves, that appears as the observed color.
To see a yellow object, either the object is directly emitting light waves in the yellow
frequency, or it is absorbing the blue part of the spectrum and reflecting red and green.
When combined, red and green are perceived as yellow.
There are natural sources of light, like the sun, moon and stars, and artificial light born
from such sources as room lights, flashlights, and car headlights. These sources of light
utilize a wide wavelength spectrum. To narrow the wavelength range for specific
applications that require a selected region of color or frequency, specialized filters are
used that transmit some wavelengths and selectively absorb, reflect, refract, or diffract
The concept of color temperature is of critical importance in photography and digital
imaging, regardless of whether the image capture device is a camera, microscope, or
telescope. A lack of proper color temperature balance between the microscope light
source and the film emulsion or image sensor is the most common reason for unexpected
color shifts in photomicrography and digital imaging.
If the color temperature of the light source is too low for the film, photomicrographs will
have an overall yellowish or reddish cast and will appear warm. On the other hand, when
the color temperature of the light source is too high for the film, photomicrographs will
have a blue cast and will appear cool. The degree of mismatch will determine the extent
of these color shifts, with large discrepancies leading to extremes in color variations.
Perhaps the best example is daylight film used in a microscope equipped with a tungsten-
halogen illumination source without the benefit of color balancing filters. In this case,
the photomicrographs will have a quite large color shift towards warmer reddish and
yellowish hues. As problematic as these color shifts may seem, they are always easily
corrected by the proper use of conversion and light balancing filters.
The color temperature model is based on the relationship between the temperature of a
theoretical standardized material, known as a black body radiator, and the energy
distribution of its emitted light as the radiator is brought from absolute zero to
increasingly higher temperatures.
As the name implies, black body radiators completely absorb all radiation, without any
transmission or reflection, and then re-emit all incident energy in the form of a
continuous spectrum of light representing all frequencies in the electromagnetic
spectrum. Although the black body radiator does not actually exist, many metals behave
in a manner very similar to a theoretical radiator.
The overall color of a digital image captured with an optical microscope is dependent not
only upon the spectrum of visible light wavelengths transmitted through or reflected by
the specimen, but also on the spectral content of the illuminator. In color digital camera
systems that employ either charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal oxide
semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors, white and/or black balance (baseline) adjustment
is often necessary in order to produce acceptable color quality in digital images.
A majority of the common natural and artificial light sources emit a broad range of
wavelengths that cover the entire visible light spectrum, with some extending into the
ultraviolet and infrared regions as well. For simple lighting applications, such as interior
room lights, flashlights, spot and automobile headlights, and a host of other consumer,
business, and technical applications, the wide wavelength spectrum is acceptable and
However, in many cases it is desirable to narrow the wavelength range of light for
specific applications that require a selected region of color or frequency. This task can be
easily accomplished through the use of specialized filters that transmit some wavelengths
and selectively absorb, reflect, refract, or diffract unwanted wavelengths.
Filters are constructed in a wide variety of shapes and physical dimensions, and can be
employed to remove or pass wavelength bands ranging in size from hundreds of
nanometers down to a single wavelength. In other words, the amount of light excluded or
limited by filters can be as narrow as a small band of wavelengths or as wide as the entire
Many filters work by absorbing light, while others reflect unwanted light, but pass a
selected region of wavelengths. The color temperature of light can be fine-tuned with
filters to produce a spectrum of light having the characteristics of bright daylight, the
evening sky, indoor tungsten illumination, or some variation in between.
Filters are useful for adjusting the contrast of colored regions as they are represented in
black and white photography or to add special effects in color photography. Specialized
dichroic filters can be used to polarize light, while heat-absorbing filters can limit
infrared wavelengths (and heat), allowing only visible light to pass through.
Harmful ultraviolet rays can be exclusively removed from visible light by filters, or the
intensity of all wavelengths (ultraviolet, visible, and infrared) can be reduced to specific
ranges by neutral density filters. The most sophisticated filters operate by the principles
of interference and can be adjusted to pass narrow bands (or even a single wavelength) of
light while reflecting all others in a specific direction.
Photography through the microscope is complicated by a wide spectrum of unexpected
color shifts and changes that affect how the image is rendered on the film emulsion or
electronic image capturing device. These unexpected imaging results are caused by a
number of factors ranging from incorrect color balance between the light source and the
film emulsion to optical artifacts such as aberration and lamp voltage fluctuations.
A wide spectrum of filters is available to assist the microscopist in achieving the highest
quality images in terms of color balance and saturation. These include color
compensating and conversion filters, neutral density filters, didymium filters, filters to
block ultraviolet light, and heat-absorbing filters.
In black and white photography through the microscope, filters are used primarily to
control contrast in the final image captured either on film or with a CCD digital camera
system. Specimens that are highly differentiated with respect to colored elements from
biological stains are translated into shades of gray on black & white film and will often
appear to have equal brightness. When this occurs, important specimen details may be
lost through a lack of contrast. Filtration techniques for black and white film are
significantly different from those employed in color photomicrography.
A wide variety of synthetic and naturally occurring biological dyes are available to the
microscopist for selective staining of intracellular organelles in cells and tissues.
Biological stains dramatically improve specimen contrast in brightfield illumination, and
have been utilized for many years in histological preparations targeted at studies in
anatomy, pathology, physiology, and similar disciplines.
Photonics, also known as fiber optics and optoelectronics, is the control, manipulation,
transfer and storage of information using photons, the fundamental particles of light. It
incorporates optics, laser technology, biological and chemical sensing, electrical
engineering, materials science, and information storage and processing.
Photonics began in the 60s with the invention of the laser followed in the 70s with optical
fiber as a medium for transmitting information using light beams. A tremendous amount
of information can be transmitted using optical fiber, so much so, it serves as the
infrastructure for the Internet. So, we use light not only to see but also to communicate.
Light as Energy
All life is dependent on the energy from the sun‘s light for heat, cooking, drying cloths,
and many other uses, as well as providing the basic necessities of food, water and air.
The power of solar energy has been known for centuries and will inevitably replace
current energy sources in the future. It‘s a question of harnessing the sun‘s energy as
efficiently as we do oil and gas.
The amount of energy falling on the Earth‘s surface from the sun is approximately 5.6
billion billion (quintillion) megajoules per year. Averaged over the entire Earth‘s
surface, this translates into about 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter every day. The
energy input from the sun in a single day could supply the needs for all of the Earth‘s
inhabitants for a period of about 3 decades.
Only in the last few decades has mankind begun to search for mechanisms to harness the
tremendous potential of solar energy. This intense concern has resulted from a
continuing increase in energy consumption, growing environmental problems from the
fuels that are now consumed, and an ever-present awareness about the inevitable
depletion of fossil fuel.
Related topics include photosynthesis, the photoelectric effect, solar cells, charge-coupled
devices, fuel cells, and nuclear fusion.
Green plants absorb water and carbon dioxide from the environment, and utilizing energy
from the sun, turn these simple substances into glucose and oxygen. With glucose as a
basic building block, plants synthesize a number of complex carbon-based biochemicals
used to grow and sustain life. This process is termed photosynthesis, and is the
cornerstone of life on Earth.
Solar cells convert light energy into electrical energy either indirectly by first converting
it into heat, or through a direct process known as the photovoltaic effect. The most
common types of solar cells are based on the photovoltaic effect, which occurs when
light falling on a two-layer semiconductor material produces a potential difference, or
voltage, between the two layers.
The voltage produced in the cell is capable of driving a current through an external
electrical circuit that can be utilized to power electrical devices.
Fuel cells (hydrogen) are designed to utilize a catalyst, such as platinum, to convert a
mixture of hydrogen and oxygen into water. An important byproduct of this chemical
reaction is the electricity generated when hydrogen molecules interact (through
oxidation) with the anode to produce protons and electrons.
Power over optical fiber will replace electrical copper wires, such as those that connect
sensors to monitor fuel tanks on airplanes, eliminating the fear of short circuits and
sparks. Fiber optic systems are being designed to use a laser for injecting power in the
form of light into a fiber-optic cable and a photovoltaic (PV) array to convert the light
back into electricity for powering devices. Photonic power devices are scheduled to
replace electrical transformers now currently used in power grids.
Current transformers are large, expensive to maintain, and heat up. To prevent
temperatures from rising to dangerous levels and to reduce power leaks, oil and gas are
used as insulators. But oil is flammable and can make transformers explode at high
temperatures. Photonic Power offers the option of measuring high currents by placing a
transducer directly on the line, eliminating the use of transformers to overcome voltage
differences. The power-over-fiber system converts electricity directly to light.
Of all the superpowers possessed by Superman, other than flying, perhaps the most
envied power is the ability to see through objects. The inability to see through things is
very telling in itself about the limits of human vision, and the reflective properties of
objects. It would, indeed, be a very difficult world to navigate is objects were all opaque.
But the desire to see inside things won‘t go away, and no doubt x-ray glasses are just
around the technological corner.
It isn‘t just the ability to see through objects that fascinates us. More so, it‘s the ability to
see inside other people‘s minds that holds the most adventure. There is also a strong
sexual component since, in this age of morality, there is the hidden desire to see through
clothing. Allegedly, such devices are already in existence.
In 1895, a German physicist named Wilhelm Roentgen made the discovery while
experimenting with electron beams in a gas discharge tube. Roentgen noticed that a
fluorescent screen in his lab started to glow when the electron beam was turned on. This
response in itself wasn‘t so surprising -- fluorescent material normally glows in reaction
to electromagnetic radiation -- but Roentgen‘s tube was surrounded by heavy black
cardboard. Roentgen assumed this would have blocked most of the radiation.
Roentgen placed various objects between the tube and the screen, and the screen still
glowed. Finally, he put his hand in front of the tube, and saw the silhouette of his bones
projected onto the fluorescent screen. Immediately after discovering X-rays, he had
discovered their most beneficial application.
Roentgen‘s remarkable discovery precipitated one of the most important medical
advancements in human history. X-ray technology lets doctors see straight through
human tissue to examine broken bones, cavities and swallowed objects with
extraordinary ease. Modified X-ray procedures can be used to examine softer tissue,
such as the lungs, blood vessels or the intestines.
X-rays are basically the same thing as visible light rays. Both are wavelike forms of
electromagnetic energy carried by particles called photons. The difference between X-
rays and visible light rays is the energy level of the individual photons. This is also
expressed as the wavelength of the rays.
Our eyes are sensitive to the particular wavelength of visible light, but not to the shorter
wavelength of higher energy X-ray waves or the longer wavelength of the lower energy
Visible light photons and X-ray photons are both produced by the movement of electrons
in atoms. Electrons occupy different energy levels, or orbitals, around an atom‘s nucleus.
When an electron drops to a lower orbital, it needs to release some energy -- it releases
the extra energy in the form of a photon. The energy level of the photon depends on how
far the electron dropped between orbitals.
When a photon collides with another atom, the atom may absorb the photon‘s energy by
boosting an electron to a higher level. For this to happen, the energy level of the photon
has to match the energy difference between the two electron positions. If not, the photon
can‘t shift electrons between orbitals.
The atoms that make up body tissue absorb visible light photons very well. The energy
level of the photon fits with various energy differences between electron positions. Radio
waves don‘t have enough energy to move electrons between orbitals in larger atoms, so
they pass through most stuff. X-ray photons also pass through most things, but for the
opposite reason: They have too much energy.
They can, however, knock an electron away from an atom altogether. Some of the
energy from the X-ray photon works to separate the electron from the atom, and the rest
sends the electron flying through space. A larger atom is more likely to absorb an X-ray
photon in this way, because larger atoms have greater energy differences between orbitals
-- the energy level more closely matches the energy of the photon. Smaller atoms, where
the electron orbitals are separated by relatively low jumps in energy, are less likely to
absorb X-ray photons.
The soft tissue in the body is composed of smaller atoms, and so does not absorb X-ray
photons particularly well. The calcium atoms that make up the bones are much larger, so
they are better at absorbing X-ray photons.
The most important contributions of X-ray technology have been in the world of
medicine, but X-rays have played a crucial role in a number of other areas as well. X-
rays have been pivotal in research involving quantum mechanics theory, crystallography
and cosmology. In the industrial world, X-ray scanners are often used to detect minute
flaws in heavy metal equipment. And X-ray scanners have become standard equipment in
The heart of an X-ray machine is an electrode pair--a cathode and an anode--that sits
inside a glass vacuum tube. The cathode is a heated filament, like you might find in an
older fluorescent lamp. The machine passes current through the filament, heating it up.
The heat sputters electrons off of the filament surface. The positively-charged anode, a
flat disc made of tungsten, draws the electrons across the tube.
The voltage difference between the cathode and anode is extremely high, so the electrons
fly through the tube with a great deal of force. When a speeding electron collides with a
tungsten atom, it knocks loose an electron in one of the atom‘s lower orbitals. An
electron in a higher orbital immediately falls to the lower energy level, releasing its extra
energy in the form of a photon. Because it‘s a big drop, the photon has a high energy
level. It‘s an X-ray photon.
The high-impact collisions involved in X-ray production generate a lot of heat. A motor
rotates the anode to keep it from melting (the electron beam isn‘t always focused on the
same area). A cool oil bath surrounding the envelope also absorbs heat.
The entire mechanism is surrounded by a thick lead shield. This keeps the X-rays from
escaping in all directions. A small window in the shield lets some of the X-ray photons
escape in a narrow beam. The beam passes through a series of filters on its way to the
A camera on the other side of the patient records the pattern of X-ray light that passes all
the way through the patient‘s body. The X-ray camera uses the same film technology as
an ordinary camera, but X-ray light sets off the chemical reaction instead of visible light.
Generally, doctors keep the film image as a negative. That is, the areas that are exposed
to more light appear darker and the areas that are exposed to less light appear lighter.
Hard material, such as bone, appears white, and softer material appears black or gray.
Doctors can bring different materials into focus by varying the intensity of the X-ray
In a normal X-ray picture, most soft tissue doesn‘t show up clearly. To focus in on
organs, or to examine the blood vessels that make up the circulatory system, doctors must
introduce contrast media into the body. Contrast media are liquids that absorb X-rays
more effectively than the surrounding tissue.
To bring organs in the digestive and endocrine systems into focus, a patient will swallow
a contrast media mixture, typically a barium compound. If the doctors want to examine
blood vessels or other elements in the circulatory system, they will inject contrast media
into the patient‘s bloodstream.
Contrast media are often used in conjunction with a fluoroscope. In fluoroscopy, the X-
rays pass through the body onto a fluorescent screen, creating a moving X-ray image.
Doctors may use fluoroscopy to trace the passage of contrast media through the body.
Doctors can also record the moving X-ray images on film or video.
X-rays can also be harmful. In the early days of X-ray science, a lot of doctors would
expose patients and themselves to the beams for long periods of time. Eventually,
doctors and patients started developing radiation sickness.
X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation. When normal light hits an atom, it can‘t change
the atom in any significant way. But when an X-ray hits an atom, it can knock electrons
off the atom to create an ion, an electrically-charged atom. Free electrons then collide
with other atoms to create more ions.
An ion‘s electrical charge can lead to unnatural chemical reactions inside cells. Among
other things, the charge can break DNA chains. A cell with a broken strand of DNA will
either die or the DNA will develop a mutation. If a lot of cells die, the body can develop
various diseases. If the DNA mutates, a cell may become cancerous, and this cancer may
spread. If the mutation is in a sperm or an egg cell, it may lead to birth defects. Because
of all these risks, doctors use X-rays sparingly today.
Even with these risks, X-ray scanning is still a safer option than surgery.
Dr. Charles H. Townes (PhD in Physics, California Institute of Technology) started
working for Bell Telephone Labs, designing radar bombing systems during WWII. He
turned his attention to applying the microwave technique of wartime radar research to
spectroscopy, a powerful new tool for the study of the structure of atoms and molecules
and as a potential new basis for controlling electromagnetic waves.
More research followed in microwave physics, particularly studying the interactions
between microwaves, molecules, and atoms. In the early 50s he invented the ―maser,‖ a
device and an acronym for ―microwave amplification by stimulated emission of
radiation.‖ A few years later with his brother-in-law, Dr. A.L. Schavlow (Stanford), he
showed theoretically that masers could operate in the optical and infrared regions. The
laser was born. Laser stands for ―light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.
Ordinary natural and artificial light is released by energy changes on the atomic and
molecular level that occur without any outside intervention. A second type of light
exists, however, and occurs when an atom or molecule retains its excess energy until
stimulated to emit the energy in the form of light.
Lasers are designed to produce and amplify this stimulated form of light into intense and
focused beams. The special nature of laser light has made laser technology a vital tool in
nearly every aspect of everyday life including communications, entertainment,
manufacturing, and medicine. Laser surgery used for correcting vision problems has
become routine, if not big business.
The lasers commonly employed in optical microscopy are high-intensity monochromatic
light sources, which are useful as tools for a variety of techniques including optical
trapping, lifetime imaging studies, photobleaching recovery, and total internal reflection
fluorescence. In addition, lasers are also the most common light source for scanning
confocal fluorescence microscopy, and have been utilized, although less frequently, in
conventional widefield fluorescence investigations.
In a few decades since the 1960s, the laser has gone from being a science fiction fantasy,
to a laboratory research curiosity, to an expensive but valuable tool in esoteric scientific
applications, to its current role as an integral part of everyday tasks as mundane as
reading grocery prices or measuring a room for wallpaper.
Any substantial list of the major technological achievements of the twentieth century
would include the laser near the top. The pervasiveness of the laser in all areas of current
life can be best appreciated by the range of applications that utilize laser technology.
At the spectacular end of this range are military applications, which include using lasers
as weapons to possibly defend against missile attack, and at the other end are daily
activities such as playing music on compact disks and printing or copying paper
Somewhere in between are numerous scientific and industrial applications, including
microscopy, astronomy, spectroscopy, surgery, integrated circuit fabrication, surveying,
The two major concerns in safe laser operation are exposure to the beam and the
electrical hazards associated with high voltages within the laser and its power supply.
While there are no known cases of a laser beam contributing to a person‘s death, there
have been several instances of deaths attributable to contact with high voltage laser-
Beams of sufficiently high power can burn the skin, or in some cases create a hazard by
burning or damaging other materials, but the primary concern with regard to the laser
beam is potential damage to the eyes, which are the part of the body most sensitive to
A pre-recorded compact disk is read by tracking a finely focused laser across the spiral
pattern of lands and pits stamped into the disk by a master diskette. The laser beam is
focused onto the surface of a spinning compact disk, and variations between the height of
pits and lands determine whether the light is scattered by the disk surface or reflected
back into a detector.
There are many other kinds of lasers, like ion lasers, argon-ion lasers, diode lasers,
helium-neon lasers, Ti:Sapphire Mode-Locked Lasers, and Nd:YLF Mode-Locked Pulsed
Lasers (neodymium: yttrium lithium fluoride).
In 2005, two Americans and a German won the Nobel Prize in Physics for Laser
Research. Roy J. Glauber of Harvard University was honored for work applying
quantum theory to light emitted by lasers. His work allegedly will help explain a major
scientific paradox: the dual nature of light behaving like both a particle and a wave.
John L. Hall, JILA Institute, University of Colorado (Boulder), and Theodore W. Hansch,
Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich will share the Prize for their development of
techniques to precisely control the frequency of lasers, allowing measurement of physical
properties not only of atoms, but of space and time, with unprecedented accuracy.
Before the laser, researchers used classical 19th century optics theory to explain the
behavior of light. Many researchers believed that quantum theory, which had proved
successful in describing the behavior of matter, could not be applied to light.
The development of lasers operating at single frequencies made advances in the study of
atoms and molecules possible. But those studies were limited by the inability to lock a
laser onto a specific frequency. The goal was to stabilize a laser so its frequency doesn‘t
change, thereby allowing a practical way to measure the frequency of light.
Such accurate measurement will increase the accuracy of atomic clocks from the current
10 digit to 15 digit accuracy. This kind of precision will not only enhance the accuracy of
clocks but also the global positioning system, improve the navigation of long
spaceflights, and help in the pointing of space telescopes.
Holography was invented in 1948 by Hungarian physicist Dennis Gabor. He received the
Nobel Prize in physics in 1971. The discovery was a result of research involving electron
microscopes, but it was the laser that ultimately made holography possible. Holography is
the science of producing 3-dimensional images called holograms. Holography is also
used to optically store and retrieve information. Holograms gained popularity in such
movies as Star Wars, Star Trek and AI: Artificial Intelligence.
Optics in Everyday Life
An FBI surveillance agent plants a lipstick camera in an overhead ceiling light in the
hotel room of a suspected terrorist.
Meanwhile, an airport security advisor doesn‘t think traditional x-ray scanners are
sufficient anymore, and decides to install a portable detection device that employs
resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization (REMPI) to ionize specific ―target‖
molecules given off by explosives and drugs. The detection method uses a laser beam to
ionize the vapor from the explosive.
Someone is always losing their glasses, and nothing could be worse than when a contact
lens falls into a field of grass or mud puddle. In the movie Nerds, those who are
stereotyped as nerds almost always wear glasses--oversized ones at that. And, they are
usually scientists or into science, always peering through microscopes and telescopes.
Cool people certainly don‘t wear glasses and never look through microscopes at creepy,
Both grandma and grandpa claim they don‘t see so well anymore, but watch out, because
it could be a trick. Old folks see more than they let on.
Blue eyes get the most attention in popular songs, although ―Don‘t It Make My Brown
Eyes Blue,‖ ―Brown-Eyed Girl,‖ and ―Green-Eyed Lady‖ speak otherwise.
The eyes get blurry when a dust particle invades them. We can‘t see at night without
night vision goggles. And nothing will make a person go blind quicker than staring at a
computer screen all day.
A forest ranger scans miles of forest with binoculars, looking for the slightest hint of
smoke. A 12-year girl doesn‘t appreciate very much the boy sitting behind her in class,
trying to look at her hair through a magnifying glass.
Most anyone remembers their first car and getting pulled over by a cop because of broken
headlight. In really heavy fog, not even low beams can cut through the density. It‘s best
to just pull over. Some cars have tinted windows, especially limousines, to give the
illusion that whoever is inside the car is either an important politician, a famous movie
star, or works for the CIA.
Tourists buy millions of instamatic cameras with one-hour photo services available on
every corner. Why anyone needs their photos that fast can only be explained by the need
for instant gratification. Journalists might need photos ASAP when covering a breaking
news story. But journalists don‘t use instamatics. With digital photography, photos are
available instantly. However, it still takes time to print them so we‘re back to the waiting
game…unless the photos are uploaded to the Internet.
An amateur astronomer discovers another meteor, like so many amateurs have done
before, and names it after his wife, Gertrude.
In the movie Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson‘s character claimed he was one of a hand full
of guys in the Vietnam War who could take out an enemy at 1000 yards. It takes good
vision and the right kind of scope to do that.
In many households, TVs are on 24 hours a day, whether someone is watching it or not.
Some say TVs rot the brain. A large screen TV rests in the living room, with smaller
ones positioned in the kitchen, all the bedrooms, the bathroom and in some cases, one in
the garage. Now, TV junkies can watch favorite programs on their iPods or in their car.
During the Iraqi War, infrared photos of a variety of Iraqi targets (bunkers, buildings,
training camps, etc.), are broadcast back to the States. TV viewers watch disinterestedly,
when there‘s nothing else on 200 other plus channels. The targets are destroyed by
precision-guided bombs, with targets pin-pointed through the crosshairs of an aircraft
high-tech laser targeting system. Next, U.S. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf describes
the purpose of the attack, followed by a quick blurb featuring a U.S. Marine sitting on top
of tank, wishing he could be home.
From there, Hollywood picks up on the news story and a new movie is released. The
techno-thriller, i, Fighter Jet (Jamie Foxx), is a story seemingly ripped right from the
headlines. In the story, an elite trio of U.S. Navy pilots are picked to fly highly classified
stealth fighter jets, called Talons. A fourth, virtual wingman--an artificially intelligent
based Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, or UCAV--is added to one of their flight
missions. The pilots face being replaced and envision a new world where war is fought
by androids. But then, ever since Star Wars, robot wars have become a staple of sci-fi
Following the movie, a slew of high resolution video games hit the streets, featuring
laser-shooting super jets fighting a host of enemies, from aliens to artificially intelligent
super soldiers. Video games also rot the brain, so they say. But video game technology
is largely responsible for the high end graphics cards now used in most computers.
Speaking of aliens, the Hubble Space Telescope is really a glorified instamatic
camera...sort‘a. It takes pictures of things we can‘t see, like black holes. But one can‘t
help wonder how a telescope can see a black hole if it‘s black. Science does have a sense
Breaking a mirror allegedly results in 7 years of bad luck, but then, is there anyone who
has actually documented 7 years of bad luck, with good luck coming in the 8th year?
A major selling point of Smartphones and iPods is the ability to download/upload photos
from the Internet and view them on the go. Portable media devices, ranging from laptops
to Microsoft‘s Media Center to the Palm Pilot, can store 1000s of photos. The family
photo album goes digital. Digital cameras eliminate the need for film and can plug
directly into a computer via a USB port.
A brutal beating during a riot is captured on a digital camcorder and uploaded to the
Internet. Smaller digital cameras capture speeders and red light runners on unsuspecting
street corners. A scientist explores nanotubes using a scanning tunneling microscope.
Nanorobots are injected into the human blood stream and flash back photos of bad cancer
cells on a monitor viewed by a doctor 100s of miles away. Well, not yet, anyway.
All of the above vignettes illustrate the wide range of areas and applications influenced
by the science of optics.
From the study of electromagnetic radiation to distant galaxies, optics has given humans
the ability to see far beyond normal vision. And, it can all be captured on film...or
But it‘s not just a lot of fun gadgets. Electron microscopes are the key to understanding
disease. Surveillance cameras question the issue of privacy. Media--meaning movies,
TV, print and the Internet--bombard us with a tremendous array of images that can
deeply affect our daily lives. Understanding how light works gave us the light bulb,
perhaps the single most important device in the history of modernization. Some might
argue the car or the telephone. But even cars and telephones are optically influenced,
whether it‘s headlights and glare-proof windows or sending millions of telephone
messages across fiber optic cable.
Eyeglasses, contact lenses and laser surgery gave a whole new slant to the meaning of
natural selection. Those who would‘ve gone blind can now see far into the future.
But, seeing into the future takes more than glasses. It takes imagination. It takes vision
of another kind. Then again, with telescopes mounted on space probes capturing images
of what might be the big bang, who knows what this will tell us about the history of the
universe...and its future. We may yet design artificial eyeballs. Someone just might
figure out a way to project our dreams onto a screen.
As the crowd roars, dazzled by the performance of a new and upcoming singer/dancer,
the performer screams back, ―You ain‘t seen nothin‘ yet!‖
Optics: The Science
Optics is the branch of physics that studies the origin, propagation, and physical
properties of both visible and invisible light. Physical optics is concerned with the nature
and properties of light. Geometrical optics deals with the principles governing image-
forming properties of lenses, mirrors, and other devices, such as optical data processors.
Optics covers a wide range of subjects, starting with electromagnetic radiation. From
there, it moves into such areas as optical microscopy, digital imaging, photomicrography,
stereomicroscopy, refraction, reflection, diffraction, interference, birefringence,
polarization, primary colors, human vision, mirrors, prisms, beamsplitters, laser systems,
geometrical optics, filtration, color temperature, speed of light, magnification, image
formation, objective specifications, Köhler illumination, optical aberrations, immersion
media, light sources, eyepieces, condensers, ergonomics, Hoffman modulation, oblique
illumination, fluorescence microscopy, differential interference contrast, phase contrast
and many other techniques, devices and processes.
Humankind‘s introduction to light obviously began with natural sources, like the sun,
moon, stars, lightning and fire.
Greek and Arab scholars formulated theories on light: how it is propagated, how it can
be reflected and refracted, and how it is perceived by the eyes. From around 1000 A.D.
to the 1600s, Arab and Chinese scholars began experimenting with light, lenses. Science
was beginning to take shape, with such discoveries as the world not being flat and that
the earth revolved around the sun.
Microscopes and telescopes appeared in the 1600s and Isaac Newton published his
Principia followed in the early 1700s by Opticks, discussing his corpuscular theory of
light. Around this time planets were being discovered and electricity lighted a spark. In
the early 1800s Newton‘s corpuscular theory of light is contradicted by the wave theory
of light. Scientists discover ―invisible‖ infrared and ultraviolet light. The first
photograph is taken.
Photography underwent continued development and the 19th century wore on. The speed
of light is measured, spectroscopy is introduced, and light is revealed as a type of
The inventions of radio and photographic film move the world into the 20th century.
Light becomes both a wave and a particle, the theory of relativity is born, and TV grips
the public‘s imagination. Through the 1960s a stream of new technologies dot the
landscape, including the laser, holography, fiber optics, and computers. Space exploration
lands a man on the moon.
The number of patents that follow into the New Millennium grows exponentially,
including video games, iPods, telescopes and digital graphic workstations powered by
super computers, cable TV and Tivo, laser eye surgery, and nanotechnology.
Cyberspace...becomes a way of life.
The first light microscopes were developed in the late 1500s by Robert Hooke, Antoni
van Leeuwenhoek, and others. Since then, the light microscope has evolved to include a
variety of special techniques and optics used in biomedical research, medical diagnostics
and materials science.
Microscopes are instruments designed to produce magnified visual or photographic
images of objects too small to be seen with the naked eye. A microscope magnifies an
image (whatever is being used as a specimen) and makes details visible to the eye or a
camera. How lens work is based on the principles of refraction and reflection.
Light microscopes can magnify objects up to 1,000 times. Electron microscopes go up to
10,000 times with some transmission and scanning electron microscopes ranging in the
Microscopes range from ancient sixteenth-century single-lens Dutch models to modern
microprocessor-powered research microscopes. Very simply, microscope plus optics
equals optical microscopy. Some microscopes are multiple-lens (compound
microscopes) with objectives and condensers. Others are simple single lens instruments
(includes the magnifying glass). Many microscopes now use charge-coupled devices
(CCDs) and digital cameras to capture images.
Modern compound microscopes feature a two-stage magnifying design built around
separate lens systems, the objective and the eyepiece (called an ocular), mounted at
opposite ends of a tube, known as the body tube. The objective is composed of several
lens elements that together form a magnified real image (the intermediate image).
The intermediate image is further magnified by the eyepiece. The viewer is able to see an
enlarged virtual image through the eyepieces. Total magnification is the combination of
the objective and eyepiece. By combining a number of lenses a microscope can produce
extreme magnification, and microscopic levels can reach the atomic and sub-atomic
Microscopes are designed with a great deal of precision. They must be mounted solidly,
with precise centering and adjustment capability. Specimens are placed on a glass slide
with a cover, and like the various lenses, can be subject to aberration. Illumination needs
to be bright, no glare, and evenly dispersed. Apertures with numbers are used to make
adjustments like brightness and magnification level. There is a wide range of accessories
for an equally wide range of microscopes to help fine tune or provide different
Precision and variety in design is critical since microscopes are used to view a wide range
of specimens in different contexts, such as living cells immersed in water, or
semiconductors, ceramics, metals, and polymers under varying conditions.
The first reported measurements performed with an optical microscope took place in the
late 1600s by the Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who used fine grains of
sand as a gauge to determine the size of human erythrocytes. Now, various micrometry
techniques are used to make more precise measurements.
In photomicrography, the primary medium was film until the past decade when
improvements in electronic cameras and computer technology made digital imaging
cheaper and easier to use than conventional photography. In digital imaging, digitizing a
video or electronic image captured through an optical microscope allows a significant
increase in the ability to enhance features, extract information, or modify the image.
A light microscope is similar to a refracting telescope. A telescope gathers large amounts
of light from a dim, distant object, and uses a large objective lens to gather as much light
as possible and bring it to a bright focus. Because the objective lens is large, it brings the
image of the object to a focus at some distance away, which is why telescopes are much
longer than microscopes. The eyepiece of the telescope then magnifies that image as it
brings it to your eye.
A microscope gathers light from a tiny area of a thin, well-illuminated specimen that is
close-by. So the microscope does not need a large objective lens. Instead, the objective
lens of a microscope is small and spherical, which means that it has a much shorter focal
length on either side. It brings the image of the object into focus at a short distance
within the microscope‘s tube. The image is then magnified by a second lens, called an
ocular lens or eyepiece.
A microscope has a light source and a condenser. The condenser is a lens system that
focuses the light from the source onto a tiny, bright spot of the specimen, which is the
same area that the objective lens examines. A telescope has a fixed objective lens and
Microscopes have interchangeable objective lenses and fixed eyepieces. By changing the
objective lenses (going from relatively flat, low-magnification objectives to rounder,
high-magnification objectives), a microscope can bring increasingly smaller areas into
view. Light gathering is not the primary task of a microscope‘s objective lens, like it is
with a telescope.
A simple way to demonstrate how a microscope works is to use two magnifying glasses
and printed words on paper. One magnifying glass makes the print look larger. When a
second magnifying glass is held between the eye and the first magnifying glass, moving
the first magnifier brings the print into focus and makes the print even larger than just one
Image Quality is based on brightness, focus, resolution and contrast. Brightness is how
light and dark an image is. Brightness is related to the illumination system and can be
changed by changing the voltage to the lamp (rheostat) and adjusting the condenser and
diaphragm/pinhole apertures. Brightness is also related to the numerical aperture of the
objective lens (the larger the numerical aperture, the brighter the image).
Focus is how blurred or detailed an image is. Focus is related to focal length and can be
controlled with the focus knobs. The thickness of the cover glass on the specimen slide
can also affect focus. Resolution is how close two points can be in the image before they
are no longer seen as two separate points.
Resolution is related to the numerical aperture of the objective lens (the higher the
numerical aperture, the better the resolution) and the wavelength of light passing through
the lens (the shorter the wavelength, the better the resolution). Contrast is the difference
in lighting between adjacent areas of the specimen. Contrast is related to the illumination
system and can be adjusted by changing the intensity of the light and the
diaphragm/pinhole aperture. Chemical stains are applied to a specimen to enhance
Most light microscopes feature the same components although can vary from
manufacturer to manufacturer, with some microscopes designed for specific purposes.
Light microscopes can reveal the structures of living cells and non-living specimens such
as rocks and semiconductors.
Microscopes come in two basic configurations: upright and inverted. An upright
microscope has the illumination system below the stage and the lens system above the
stage. An inverted microscope has the illumination system above the stage and the lens
system below the stage. Inverted microscopes are better for looking through thick
specimens, such as dishes of cultured cells, because the lenses can get closer to the
bottom of the dish, where the cells grow.
The stage is a platform where the specimen rests. Clips hold the specimen still on the
stage. Various lenses form the image, while objective lenses gather light from the
specimen. The eyepiece transmits and magnifies the image from the objective lens to the
eye. The nosepiece rotating mount can hold several objective lenses.
The tube holds the eyepiece at the proper distance from the objective lens and blocks out
stray light. The tube is also connected to the arm of the microscope with a rack and
pinion gear. It allows refocusing when changing lens, observers or specimens. The arm
is a curved piece that that aligns and holds all of the optical parts at a fixed distance.
Focus is achieved when the objective lens is positioned at a distance from the specimen
that produces the clearest image.
Microscopes are sensitive and must be sturdy since even the smallest movement of a
specimen can throw an image out of focus. The base supports the microscope. Further
adjustments are made with course and fine tuning knobs. A micromanipulator is a device
that allows moving the specimen in controlled, small increments along the x and y axes,
such as in for scanning a slide.
A simple illumination system is a mirror reflecting room light up through the specimen.
Lamps are usually tungsten-filament light bulbs. For specialized applications, mercury or
xenon lamps may be used to produce ultraviolet light while other microscopes use lasers
to scan a specimen.
The rheostat alters the current applied to the lamp to control light intensity and the
condenser aligns and focuses the light from the lamp onto the specimen. Diaphragms or
pinhole apertures are placed in the light path to alter the amount of light that reaches the
condenser (for enhancing contrast in the image.
The depth of field is the vertical distance from above to below the focal plane that yields
an acceptable image. The field of view is the area of the specimen that can be seen
through the microscope with an objective lens. The focal length is the distance required
for a lens to bring the light to a focus (measured in microns). The focal point is where the
light from a lens comes together to form an image.
Magnification is generated by the magnifying powers of the objective and eyepiece
lenses. A numerical aperture measures the light-collecting ability of the lens. Resolution
is the closest two objects can be before they‘re no longer detected as separate objects
(usually measured in nanometers.
When looking at a specimen with transmitted light, the light must pass through the
specimen in order to form an image. The thicker the specimen, the less light passes
through. The less light that passes through, the darker the image. Consequently,
specimens must be thin, in the 0.1 to 0.5 mm range. Many living specimens must be cut
into thin sections before observation. Specimens of rock or semiconductors are too thick
to be sectioned and observed by transmitted light, so they are observed by the light
reflected from their surfaces.
A major problem in observing specimens under a microscope is that their images do not
have much contrast. This is especially true of living things (such as cells), although
natural pigments, such as the green in leaves, can provide good contrast. One way to
improve contrast is to treat the specimen with colored pigments or dyes that bind to
specific structures within the specimen.
Different types of microscopy have been developed to improve the contrast in
specimens. The specializations are mainly in the illumination systems and the types of
light passed through the specimen. For example, a darkfield microscope uses a special
condenser to block out most of the bright light and illuminate the specimen with oblique
light, much like the moon blocks the light from the sun in a solar eclipse. This optical
set-up provides a totally dark background and enhances the contrast of the image to bring
out fine details (bright areas at boundaries within the specimen).
The basic idea involves splitting the light beam into two pathways that illuminate the
specimen. Light waves that pass through dense structures within the specimen slow
down compared to those that pass through less-dense structures. As all of the light waves
are collected and transmitted to the eyepiece, they are recombined, causing interference.
The interference patterns provide contrast. Some patterns will show dark areas (more
dense) on a light background (less dense), or create a type of false three-dimensional (3-
Brightfield is a basic microscope and technique that has very little contrast. Contrast is
usually achieved by staining the specimens. In turn, the Darkfield technique enhances
contrast. Rheinberg illumination is similar to darkfield, but uses a series of filters to
produce an ―optical staining‖ of the specimen. Phase contrast is best for looking at living
specimens, such as cultured cells.
In a phase-contrast microscope, the annular rings in the objective lens and the condenser
separate the light. The light that passes through the central part of the light path is
recombined with the light that travels around the periphery of the specimen. The
interference produced by these two paths produces images in which the dense structures
appear darker than the background.
Differential interference contrast (DIC) uses polarizing filters and prisms to separate and
recombine the light paths, giving a 3-D appearance to the specimen (DIC is also called
Nomarski after the man who invented it). Hoffman modulation contrast is similar to DIC
except that it uses plates with small slits in both the axis and the off-axis of the light path
to produce two sets of light waves passing through the specimen, producing a 3-D image.
A polarized-light microscope uses two polarizers, one on either side of the specimen,
positioned perpendicular to each other so that only light that passes through the specimen
reaches the eyepiece. Light is polarized in one plane as it passes through the first filter
and reaches the specimen. Regularly-spaced, patterned or crystalline portions of the
specimen rotate the light that passes through. Some of this rotated light passes through
the second polarizing filter, so these regularly spaced areas show up bright against a
A fluorescence microscope uses high-energy, short-wavelength light (usually ultraviolet)
to excite electrons within certain molecules inside a specimen, causing those electrons to
shift to higher orbits. When they fall back to their original energy levels, they emit
lower-energy, longer-wavelength light (usually in the visible spectrum), which forms the
The term lens is the common name given to a component of glass or transparent plastic
material, usually circular in design, with two primary surfaces ground and polished in a
specific manner designed to produce either a convergence or divergence of light. Lenses
operate according to the principles of refraction and reflection.
A microscope forms an image of a specimen placed on the stage (specimen mounting
area) by passing light from the illuminator through a series of glass lenses and focusing
this light either into the eyepieces, on the film plane in a traditional camera system, or
onto the surface of a digital image sensor. Errors in the lens are called aberrations, and
are found throughout all microscopes and other optical devices.
A simple thin lens has two focal planes that are defined by the geometry of the lens and
the relationship between the lens and the focused image. Light rays passing through the
lens will intersect and are physically combined at the focal plane. Extensions of the rays
passing through the lens will intersect with the rays emerging from the lens at the
The focal length of a lens is defined as the distance between the principal plane and the
focal plane, and every lens has a set of these planes on each side (front and rear).
A magnifying glass consists of a single thin bi-convex lens that produces a modest
magnification useful for reading or viewing things enlarged to a magnification level
similar to making words bigger. Single lenses like the bi-convex lens are useful for
simple magnification commonly found in magnifying glasses, eyeglasses, single-lens
cameras, loupes, viewfinders, and contact lenses.
Positive, or converging, thin lenses unite incident light rays that are parallel to the optical
axis and focus them at the focal plane to form a real image. Negative lenses diverge
parallel incident light rays and form a virtual image by extending traces of the light rays
passing through the lens to a focal point behind the lens. In general, these lenses have at
least one concave surface and are thinner in the center than at the edges.
In addition to being used in microscope illumination systems, mirrors are found
everywhere, from fun houses to bathrooms to portable make-up kits. They vary widely in
design, construction and reflectivity. Some mirrors magnify, like make-up kits. Others
are highly polished, coated with metals that reflect both visible and infrared wavelengths.
Reflection of light is an inherent and important fundamental property of mirrors, and is
quantitatively gauged by the ratio between the amount of light reflected from the surface
and that incident upon the surface, a term known as reflectivity.
The images formed by a mirror are either real or virtual, depending upon the proximity of
the object to the mirror, and can be accurately predicted with respect to size and location
from calculations based on the geometry of any particular mirror. Real images are formed
when the incident and reflected rays intersect in front of the mirror, whereas virtual
images occur at points where extensions from incident and reflected rays converge
behind the mirror. Planar (flat) mirrors produce virtual images because the focal point, at
which extensions from all incident light rays intersect, is positioned behind the reflective
In order to reflect light waves with high efficiency, the surface of a mirror must be
perfectly smooth over a long range, with imperfections that are much smaller than the
wavelength of light being reflected. This requirement applies regardless of the shape of
the mirror, which can be irregular or curved, in addition to the planar mirror surfaces
commonly seen in households.
Curved mirrors are roughly divided into two categories, concave and convex, terms that
are also used to describe the geometry of simple thin lenses. With mirrors, the curved
surface is referred to as either concave or convex depending upon whether the center of
curvature occurs on the side of the reflecting surface or the opposite side.
Concave mirrors have a curved surface with a center of curvature equidistant from every
point on the mirror‘s surface. An object beyond the center of curvature forms a real and
inverted image between the focal point and the center of curvature. Moving the object
farther away from the center of curvature affects the size of the real image formed by the
Regardless of the position of the object reflected by a convex mirror, the image formed is
always virtual, upright, and reduced in size.
Beamsplitters and Prisms
Beamsplitters and prisms are not only found in a wide variety of common optical
instruments, such as cameras, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, periscopes, range
finders, and surveying equipment, but also in many sophisticated scientific instruments
including interferometers, spectrophotometers, and fluorimeters. Both of these important
optical tools are critical for laser applications that require tight control of beam direction
to precise tolerances with a minimum of light loss due to scatter or unwanted reflections.
Binocular microscopes use prisms and beamsplitters. In order to divert light collected by
the objective into both eyepieces, it is first divided by a beamsplitter and then channeled
through reflecting prisms into parallel cylindrical optical light pipes. Thus, the binocular
observation tube utilizes both prism and beamsplitter technology to direct beams of light
having equal intensity into the eyepieces.
Prisms and beamsplitters are essential components that bend, split, reflect, and fold light
through the pathways of both simple and sophisticated optical systems. Prisms are
polished blocks of glass or other transparent materials cut and ground to specific
tolerances and exact angles. They are used to deflect a light beam, rotate or invert an
image, separate polarization states, or disperse light into its component wavelengths.
A beamsplitter is a common optical component that partially transmits and partially
reflects an incident light beam, usually in unequal proportions. In addition to the task of
dividing light, beamsplitters can be employed to recombine two separate light beams or
images into a single path.
There are many different kinds of prisms and beamsplitters, such as reflecting prisms,
right-angle prisms, equilateral prisms, dielectric plate beamsplitters, circular prisms,
wedge prisms, birefringent polarizing prisms and others.
Modern microscopes usually have an integral light source that can be controlled to a
relatively high degree. The most common source for today‘s microscopes is an
incandescent tungsten-halogen bulb positioned in a reflective housing that projects light
through the collector lens and into the substage condenser. Other sources include arc-
discharge lamps, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and lasers.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) (miniature semiconductor devices) could conceivably
replace the light bulb. This is revolutionary, considering the light bulb might single-
handedly be responsible for modern society. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are a general
source of continuous light with high luminescence efficiency, and are based on the
general properties of a simple twin-element semiconductor diode encased in a clear
epoxy dome that acts as a lens.
In order to generate enough excitation light intensity to furnish secondary fluorescence
emission capable of detection, powerful light sources are needed. These are usually
either mercury or xenon arc (burner) lamps, which produce high-intensity illumination
powerful enough to image faintly visible fluorescence specimens. Mercury and xenon
arc lamps are now widely in fluorescence microscopy.
Nearly every source of light depends, at the fundamental level, on the release of energy
from atoms that have been excited in some manner. Standard incandescent lamps,
derived directly from the early models of the 1800s, now commonly utilize a tungsten
filament in an inert gas atmosphere, and produce light through the resistive effect that
occurs when the filament temperature increases as electrical current is passed through
(see Color Temperature).
In the mid-19th century, British scientist Sir George G. Stokes made the observation that
the mineral fluorspar exhibits fluorescence when illuminated with ultraviolet light.
Fluorescence microscopy is an excellent method of studying material that can be made to
fluoresce, either in its natural form (termed primary or auto fluorescence) or when treated
with chemicals capable of fluorescing (known as secondary fluorescence). The
fluorescence microscope came into being during the early 20th century through the work
of August Kohler, Carl Reichert, Heinrich Lehmann, and others. Fluorescence
microscopy is now used extensively in cellular biology.
Epifluorescence is an optical set-up for a fluorescence microscope in which the objective
lens is used both to focus ultraviolet light on the specimen and collect fluorescent light
from the specimen. Epifluorescence is more efficient than transmitted fluorescence, in
which a separate lens or condenser is used to focus ultraviolet light on the specimen.
Epifluorescence also allows fluorescence microscopy to be combined with another type
on the same microscope.
A fluorescence microscope uses a mercury or xenon lamp to produce ultraviolet light.
The light comes into the microscope and hits a dichroic mirror, which is a mirror that
reflects one range of wavelengths and allows another range to pass through. The dichroic
mirror reflects the ultraviolet light up to the specimen. The ultraviolet light excites
fluorescence within molecules in the specimen. The objective lens collects the
fluorescent-wavelength light produced. This fluorescent light passes through the dichroic
mirror and a barrier filter (that eliminates wavelengths other than fluorescent), making it
to the eyepiece to form the image.
Fluorescence-microscopy techniques are useful for seeing structures and measuring
physiological and biochemical events in living cells. Various fluorescent indicators are
available to study many physiologically important chemicals such as DNA, calcium,
magnesium, sodium, pH and enzymes. In addition, antibodies that are specific to various
biological molecules can be chemically bound to fluorescent molecules and used to stain
specific structures within cells.
Under an electron microscope, the infinitesimal begins to look like sweeping
geographical landscapes. Blood clots look like UFO‘s caught in an extraterrestrial traffic
jam. Micro-minerals give the appearance of vast landscapes dotted with buttes and
canyons. Synthetic kidney stone crystals look like falling snowflakes. The shells of
microscopic plants stand out like Christmas tree ornaments. Nylon looks like a plate of
spaghetti. Bugs look like monsters.
The world of a grain of sand was once as far as the human eye could go. Now, using
electron microscopes, a grain of sand is like the universe, filled with untold galaxies,
planetary systems and maybe even a few black holes. At the organic level, humans are
learning how to Mother Nature builds life, one atom at a time.
Conventional microscopes use particles of light, or photons, to look directly at small
objects, employing glass lenses to magnify things several thousand times. The SEM
opens the door to an even tinier level by using electrons, which are much smaller than
The process is the same for all electron microscopes, where a stream of electrons is
formed (by the Electron Source) and accelerated toward the specimen using a positive
electrical potential. This stream is confined and focused using metal apertures and
magnetic lenses into a thin, focused, monochromatic beam. This beam is focused onto
the sample using a magnetic lens. Interactions occur inside the irradiated sample,
affecting the electron beam. These interactions and effects are detected and transformed
into an image.
Electron microscopes provide morphological, compositional and crystallographic
information at the atomic level (nanometers). Topography is the surface features of an
object or ―how it looks.‖ Texture is the direct relation between these features and
materials properties (hardness, reflectivity). Morphology is the shape, size and
relationship of the particles making up the object (ductility, strength, reactivity).
Composition explains the relative amounts of elements and compounds that the object is
composed of (melting point, reactivity, hardness). Crystallographic Information
determines how the atoms are arranged in the object and their relationships with other
properties (conductivity, electrical properties, strength).
To create the images, a filament inside an electron ―gun‖ shoots a stream of electrons
through a stack of electromagnetic lenses, which focus the electrons into a beam. The
beam is directed to a fine point on the specimen, and scans across it rapidly. The sample
responds by emitting electrons that are picked up by a detector inside the sample
chamber, beginning an electronic process that results in an image that can be displayed
on a TV screen.
The Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), developed by Max Knoll and Ernst
Ruska in Germany in 1931, was the first type of Electron Microscope and is patterned
exactly on the Light Transmission Microscope except that a focused beam of electrons is
used instead of light to ―see through‖ the specimen.
The first Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) appeared in 1942 with the first
commercial instruments around 1965. A TEM works much like a slide projector. A
projector shines a beam of light through (transmits) the slide, as the light passes through
it is affected by the structures and objects on the slide. These effects result in only certain
parts of the light beam being transmitted through certain parts of the slide. This
transmitted beam is then projected onto the viewing screen, forming an enlarged image of
Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) are patterned after Reflecting Light Microscopes
and yield similar information as TEMs. Unlike the TEM, where electrons are detected by
beam transmission, the SEM produces images by detecting secondary electrons which are
emitted from the surface due to excitation by the primary electron beam. In the SEM, the
electron beam is rastered across the sample, with detectors building up an image by
mapping the detected signals with beam position.
Scientists have used the SEM to identify micro-plankton in ocean sediments, fossilized
remains found in underwater canyons, the structure of earthquake-induced micro-
fractures in rocks and micro-minerals, the microstructure of wires, dental implants, cells
damaged from infectious diseases, and even the teeth of microscopic prehistoric
There are other types of electron microscopes. A Scanning Transmission Electron
Microscope (STEM) is a specific sort of TEM, where the electrons still pass through the
specimen, but, as in SEM, the sample is scanned in a raster fashion. A Reflection
Electron Microscope (REM), like the TEM, uses a technique involving electron beams
incident on a surface, but instead of using the transmission (TEM) or secondary electrons
(SEM), the reflected beam is detected.
Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) is a type of microscopy where a sub-
wavelength light source is used as a scanning probe. The probe is scanned over a surface
at a height above the surface of a few nanometers.
A Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) can be considered a type of electron
microscope, but it is a type of Scanning probe microscopy and it is non-optical. The
STM employs principles of quantum mechanics to determine the height of a surface. An
atomically sharp probe (the tip) is moved over the surface of the material under study,
and a voltage is applied between probe and the surface.
Depending on the voltage electrons will tunnel or jump from the tip to the surface (or
vice-versa depending on the polarity), resulting in a weak electric current. The size of
this current is exponentially dependent on the distance between probe and the surface.
The STM was invented by scientists at IBM‘s Zurich Research Laboratory. The STM
could image some types of individual atoms on electrically conducting surfaces. For this,
the inventors won a Nobel Prize.
Radiation therapy for cancer and PET scans fall in the realm of nuclear medicine.
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive substances to image the body and treat disease.
Nuclear medicine looks at both the physiology (functioning) and the anatomy of the body
in establishing diagnosis and treatment.
The techniques combine the use of computers, detectors, and radioactive substances.
Techniques include Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Single Photon Emission
Computed Tomography (SPECT), cardiovascular imaging, and bone scanning. These
techniques can detect tumors, aneurysms (weak spots in blood vessel walls), bad blood
flow to various tissues, blood cell disorders, dysfunctional organs, and other diseases and
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
PET produces images of the body by detecting the radiation emitted from radioactive
substances. These substances are injected into the body, and are usually tagged with a
radioactive atom, such as Carbon-11, Fluorine-18, Oxygen-15, or Nitrogen-13, that has a
short decay time.
These radioactive atoms are formed by bombarding normal chemicals with neutrons to
create short-lived radioactive isotopes. PET detects the gamma rays given off at the site
where a positron emitted from the radioactive substance collides with an electron in the
In a PET scan, the patient is injected with a radioactive substance and placed on a flat
table that moves in increments through a donut-shaped housing, similar to a CAT scan.
This housing contains the circular gamma ray detector array, which has a series of
scintillation crystals, each connected to a photomultiplier tube. The crystals convert the
gamma rays, emitted from the patient, to photons of light, and the photomultiplier tubes
convert and amplify the photons to electrical signals. These electrical signals are then
processed by the computer to generate images.
Again, like CAT scans, the table moves and the process is repeated, resulting in a series
of thin slice images of the body. The images are assembled into a 3-D model. PET
provides images of blood flow or other biochemical functions, depending upon the type
of molecule that is radioactively tagged. PET scans can show images of glucose
metabolism in the brain or rapid changes in activity in various areas of the body. There
are few PET centers because they must be located near a particle accelerator device that
produces the short-lived radioisotopes used in the technique.
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)
SPECT is similar to PET, but the radioactive substances used in SPECT (Xenon-133,
Technetium-99, Iodine-123) have longer decay times, and emit single instead of double
gamma rays. SPECT can provide information about blood flow and the distribution of
radioactive substances in the body. The images are less sensitive and detailed than PET
images. However, SPECT is cheaper and do not have to be located near a particle
Cardiovascular imaging techniques use radioactive substances to chart the flow of blood
through the heart and blood vessels. One example of a cardiovascular imaging technique
is a stress thallium test, in which the patient is injected with a radioactive thallium
compound, exercised on a treadmill, and imaged with a gamma ray camera. After a
period of rest, the study is repeated without the exercise. The images before and after
exercising are compared to reveal changes in blood flow and are useful in detecting
blocked arteries and other anomalies.
Bone scanning detects radiation from a radioactive substance (technetium-pp
methyldiphosphate) that when injected into the body, collects in bone tissue. Bone tissue
is good at accumulating phosphorus compounds. The substance accumulates in areas of
high metabolic activity, and so the image shows ―bright spots‖ of high activity and ―dark
spots‖ of low activity. Bone scanning is useful for detecting tumors, which generally
have high metabolic activity.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
In 1977, the first MRI exam ever performed on a human being took place. It took almost
five hours to produce one image, and the image quality was poor. The machine that
performed the exam is now in the Smithsonian Museum. By the early 80s, there were a
handful of MRI scanners. Now, in the new millennium, there are 1000s, with images
produced in seconds, not hours.
The basic design used in most is a giant cube. The cube in a typical system might be 7
feet tall by 7 feet wide by 10 feet long. Newer models are getting smaller. There is a
horizontal tube running through the magnet from front to back. This tube is known as the
bore of the magnet. The patient slides into the bore on a special table. Once the body or
body part to be scanned is in the exact center or isocenter of the magnetic field, the scan
In conjunction with radio wave pulses of energy, the MRI scanner can pick out a very
small point inside the patient‘s body and determine tissue type. The MRI system goes
through the patient‘s body point by point, building up a 2-D or 3-D map of tissue types.
It then integrates all of this information together to create 2-D images or 3-D models.
MRI provides an unparalleled view inside the human body. The level of detail is
extraordinary compared with any other imaging technique. MRI is the method of choice
for the diagnosis of many types of injuries and conditions because of the incredible
ability to tailor the exam to the particular medical question being asked. MRI systems
can also image flowing blood in any part of the body.
The MRI machine applies an RF (radio frequency) pulse that is specific only to
hydrogen. The system directs the pulse toward the area of the body being examined. The
pulse causes the protons in that area to absorb the energy required, making them spin in a
different direction. This is the ―resonance‖ part of MRI.
The RF pulse forces the protons to spin at a particular frequency, in a particular direction.
When the RF pulse is turned off, the hydrogen protons begin to slowly (relatively
speaking) return to their natural alignment within the magnetic field and release their
excess stored energy. When they do this, they give off a signal that the coil now picks up
and sends to the computer system. What the system receives is mathematical data that is
converted into a picture that can be put on film. This is the ―imaging‖ part of MRI.
Most imaging techniques use injectable contrast, or dyes, for certain procedures. So does
MRI. These agents work by blocking the X-ray photons from passing through the area
where they are located and reaching the X-ray film. This results in differing levels of
density on the X-ray film. The dyes have no physiologic impact on the tissue in the
MRI contrast works by altering the local magnetic field in the tissue being examined.
Normal and abnormal tissue will respond differently to this slight alteration, giving
differing signals. These varied signals are converted into images, allowing the
visualization of many different types of tissue abnormalities and disease processes.
Before MRI and other imaging techniques, the only way to see inside the body was to cut
it open. MRI is used for a variety of diagnoses, such as multiple sclerosis, tumors,
infections in the brain, spine or joints, seeing torn ligaments, tendonitis, cysts, herniated
discs, strokes, and much more. MRI systems do not use ionizing radiation or contrast
materials that produce side effects.
MRIs can image in any plane. They have a very low incidence of side effects. Another
major advantage of MRI is its ability to image in any plane or cross-section. The patient
doesn‘t have to move as is required in x-ray analysis. The magnets used in the MRI
system control exactly where in the body images are to be taken.
Some people are too big to fit into an MRI scanner. Pacemakers prevent MRI analysis as
well. MRI machines make a lot of noise and can be claustrophobic. Patients don‘t have
to move, but they do have to lie very still for long periods of time. The slightest
movement can cause distorted images. Artificial joints and other metallic devices in the
body can cause distorted images. The machines are very expensive and so are the exams.
Very small scanners for imaging specific body parts are being developed. Another
development is functional brain mapping--scanning a person‘s brain while performing a
physical task. New research will image the ventilation dynamics of the lungs and
produce new ways to image strokes.
Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT Scans)
Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan machines produce X-rays. X-ray photons
are basically the same thing as visible light photons, but have much more energy. This
higher energy level allows X-ray beams to pass straight through most of the soft material
in the human body.
A conventional X-ray image is basically a shadow where light is shined on one side of
the body and film on the other side captures the silhouette of bones. Shadows provide an
incomplete picture of an object‘s shape. If a larger bone is directly between the X-ray
machine and a smaller bone, the larger bone may cover the smaller bone on the film. In
order to see the smaller bone, the body has to turn.
In a CAT scan machine, the X-ray beam moves all around the patient, scanning from
hundreds of different angles. The computer takes all this information and puts together a
3-D image of the body. A CAT machine looks like a giant donut tipped on its side. The
patient lies down on a platform, which slowly moves through the hole in the machine.
The X-ray tube is mounted on a movable ring around the edges of the hole. The ring
supports an array of X-ray detectors directly opposite the X-ray tube. A motor turns the
ring so that the X-ray tube and the X-ray detectors revolve around the body. Another
kind of design is where the tube remains stationary and the X-ray beam is bounced off a
Each full revolution scans a narrow, horizontal ―slice‖ of the body. The control system
moves the platform farther into the hole so the tube and detectors can scan the next slice.
The machine records X-ray slices across the body in a spiral motion. The computer
varies the intensity of the X-rays in order to scan each type of tissue with the optimum
After the patient passes through the machine, the computer combines all the information
from each scan to form a detailed image of the body. Usually only part of the body is
scanned. Doctors usually operate CAT scan machines from a separate room so they
aren‘t repeatedly exposed to radiation. Since they examine the body slice by slice, from
all angles, CAT scans are much more comprehensive than conventional X-rays. CAT
scans are used to diagnose and treat a wide variety of ailments, including head trauma,
cancer and osteoporosis.
Contact lenses are thin transparent plastic discs that sit on the cornea. Just like eyeglasses,
they correct refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia
(farsightedness). With these conditions, the eye doesn‘t focus light directly on the retina
as it should, leading to blurry vision. Contact lenses are shaped based on the vision
problem to help the eye focus light directly on the retina.
Contact lenses are closer to natural sight than eyeglasses. They move with the eye/
Normal glasses can get in the way of the line of sight. Contact lenses don‘t. They can be
worn several days at a time.
Contact lenses stay in place by sticking to the layer of tear fluid that floats on the surface
of the eye and by eyelid pressure. The eyes provide natural lubrication and help flush
away any impurities that may become stuck to the lens.
Originally, all contact lenses were made of a hard plastic called polymethyl methacrylate
(PMMA). This is the same plastic used to make Plexiglas. But hard lenses don‘t absorb
water, which is needed to help oxygen pass through the lens and into the cornea. Because
the eye needs oxygen to stay healthy, hard lenses can cause irritation and discomfort.
However, they are easy to clean.
Soft contact lenses are more pliable and easier to wear because they‘re made of a soft,
gel-like plastic. Soft lenses are hydrophilic, or ―water loving,‖ and absorb water. This
allows oxygen to flow to the eye and makes the lens flexible and more comfortable.
More oxygen to the eye means soft contact lenses can be worn for long periods with less
Daily-wear lenses are the type of contacts removed every night before going to bed (or
whenever someone decides to sleep). Extended-wear lenses are worn for several days
without removal. Disposable lenses are just what the name implies: they are worn for a
certain period of time and then thrown away. Cosmetic lenses change the color of a
person‘s eyes. Ultraviolet (UV) protection lenses act as sunglasses, protecting the eyes
against harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Corneal reshaping lenses are worn to reshape the cornea and correct vision. Rigid, gas-
permeable lenses have both hard and soft contact lens features. They are more durable
than soft lenses but still allow oxygen to pass through to the eye. They don‘t contain
water, so are less likely to develop bacteria and cause infection than soft lenses. They are
also hard enough to provide clear vision.
Contact lenses are frequently customized for athletes, computer operators and other
applications. Many contacts don‘t just correct vision problems but improve it.
Sunglasses provide protection from harmful ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Some sunglasses
filter out UV light completely. They also provide protection from intense light or glare,
like the light reflected off snow or water on a bright day. Glare can be blinding, with
distracting bright spots hiding otherwise visible objects. Good sunglasses can completely
eliminate glare using polarization.
Sunglasses have become a cultural phenomenon. In the fashion world, designer
sunglasses make people look ―cool,‖ or mysterious. They can also be ominous, such as
the mirrored sunglasses worn by roughneck bikers and burly state troopers.
Cheap sunglasses are risky because although they are tinted and block some of the light,
they don‘t necessarily block out UV light. Cheap sunglasses are made out of ordinary
plastic with a thin tinted coating on them.
There are several types of lens material, such as CR-39, a plastic made from hard resin,
or polycarbonate, a synthetic plastic that has great strength and is very lightweight. These
kinds of lens are usually lighter, more durable, and scratch-resistant. Optical-quality
polycarbonate and glass lenses are generally free from distortions, such as blemishes or
waves. The color is evenly distributed. Some sunglasses are very dark and can block up
to 97 percent of light.
More expensive sunglasses use special technologies to achieve increased clarity, better
protection, and higher contrast or to block certain types of light. Normal frames similar
to prescription eyeglasses filter light but sometimes offer little protection from ambient
light, direct light and glare. Wrap-around frames, larger lenses and special attachments
can compensate for these weaknesses. Most cheap sunglasses use simple plastic or wire
frames, while more expensive brands use high-strength, light-weight composite or metal
The brightness or intensity of light is measured in lumens. Indoors, most artificial light is
around 400 to 600 lumens. Outside on a sunny day, the brightness ranges from about
1,000 lumens in the shade to more than 6,000 lumens from bright light reflected off of
hard surfaces, like concrete or highways.
Comfort levels are around 3,500 lumens. Brightness above this level produces glare.
Squinting is the natural way to filter such light. In the 10,000 lumens range, prolonged
exposure to light of such intensity can cause temporary or even permanent blindness. A
large snowfield, for instance, can produce more than 12,000 lumens, resulting in what is
commonly called, ―snowblind.‖
Three kinds of light are associated with sunglasses: direct, reflected, and ambient. Direct
light is light that goes straight from the light source (like the sun) to the eyes. Too much
direct light can wash out details and even cause pain. Reflected light (glare) is light that
has bounced off a reflective object to enter the eyes. Strong reflected light can be equally
as damaging as direct light, such as light reflected from snow, water, glass, white sand
Ambient light is light that has bounced and scattered in many directions so that it is does
not seem to have a specific source, such as the glow in the sky around a major city. Good
sunglasses can compensate for all three forms of light.
Sunglasses use a variety of technologies to eliminate problems with light: tinting,
polarization, photochromic lenses, mirroring, scratch-resistant coating, anti-reflective
coating, and UV coating.
The color of the tint determines the parts of the light spectrum that are absorbed by the
lenses. Gray tints are great all-purpose tints that reduce the overall amount of brightness
with the least amount of color distortion. Gray lenses offer good protection against glare.
Yellow or gold tints reduce the amount of blue light while allowing a larger percentage of
other frequencies through.
Blue light tends to bounce and scatter off a lot of things; it can create a kind of glare
known as blue haze. The yellow tint eliminates the blue part of the spectrum and has the
effect of making everything bright and sharp. Snow glasses are usually yellow. Tinting
distorts color perception are tinted glasses are not very useful with there is a need to
accurately see color. Other colors include amber, green, purple and rose, all of which
filter out certain colors of the light spectrum.
Light waves from the sun or even from an artificial light source such as a light bulb,
vibrate and radiate outward in all directions. Whether the light is transmitted, reflected,
scattered or refracted, when its vibrations are aligned into one or more planes of
direction, the light is said to be polarized.
Polarization can occur naturally or artificially. On a lake, for instance, natural
polarization is the reflected glare off the surface is the light that does not make it through
the ―filter‖ of the water. This explains why part of a lake looks shiny and another part
looks rough (like waves). It‘s also why nothing can be seen below the surface, even
when the water is very clear.
Polarized filters are most commonly made of a chemical film applied to a transparent
plastic or glass surface. The chemical compound used will typically be composed of
molecules that naturally align in parallel relation to one another. When applied uniformly
to the lens, the molecules create a microscopic filter that absorbs any light matching their
alignment. When light strikes a surface, the reflected waves are polarized to match the
angle of that surface. So, a highly reflective horizontal surface, such as a lake, will
produce a lot of horizontally polarized light. Polarized lenses in sunglasses are fixed at
an angle that only allows vertically polarized light to enter.
Sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses that darken when exposed to the sun are called
photochromic, or sometimes photochromatic. Because photochromic lenses react to UV
light and not to visible light, there are circumstances under which the darkening will not
A good example is in the car. As the windshield blocks out most of the UV light,
photochromic lenses will not darken inside the car. Consequently, many photochromic
sunglasses are tinted. Photochromic lenses have millions of molecules of substances,
such as silver chloride or silver halide, embedded in them. The molecules are transparent
to visible light in the absence of UV light, which is the normal makeup of artificial
lighting. But when exposed to UV rays in sunlight, the molecules undergo a chemical
process that causes them to change shape.
The new molecular structure absorbs portions of the visible light, causing the lenses to
darken. Indoors, out of the UV light, a reverse chemical reaction takes place. The
sudden absence of UV radiation causes the molecules to ―snap back‖ to their original
shape, resulting in the loss of their light absorbing properties.
With some prescription glasses, different parts of the lens can vary in thickness. The
thicker parts can appear darker than the thinner areas. By immersing plastic lenses in a
chemical bath, the photochromic molecules are actually absorbed to a depth of about 150
microns into the plastic. This depth of absorption is much better than a simple coating,
which is only about 5 microns thick and not enough to make glass lenses sufficiently
Surveillance is an extremely popular subject in movies, starting with the James Bond
series. The Bond movies have introduced the public to a slew of gadgets used by spies,
everything from the pen camera to computer simulations of advanced weapons systems.
Video surveillance is particularly controversial, and the subject has even been labeled
―Big Brother.‖ It seems video cameras are mounted everywhere, in banks, casinos,
grocery stores, shopping malls, train stations, airplanes and airports and even on street
The private detective is a popular character in movies, using a variety of surveillance
devices to spy on cheating spouses, shady deals, and murder plots.
Video surveillance began with simple closed circuit television monitoring. As early as
1965, there were press reports in the United States suggesting police use of surveillance
cameras in public places. By the 70s, closed circuit television (CCTV) systems were
watched by officers at all times.
Video cassette recorders revolutionized the surveillance industry. Analog technology
using taped video cassette recordings meant surveillance could be preserved on tape as
Video surveillance systems are used to monitor traffic flow as well as a means of
capturing traffic offenders. Through the 80s and 90s, more businesses began installing
systems, from corporate offices to mini-marts. TV shows like Cops and FBI‘s Most
Wanted continuously replay crimes and criminals captured on tape, or digitally.
The Rodney King beating became controversial largely because it was captured on film,
even though it was not a true act of surveillance.
The insurance industry found video surveillance very useful in worker‘s compensation
fraud, bogus accident claims and a variety of other insurance fraud cases. Fraudulent
types claiming disability think twice now that video cameras can capture them living life
as usual, such as the loss of using one‘s legs, meanwhile captured on film dancing at a
Video provides more compelling evidence in marital affair and abuse cases than still
photos. Videos can show a sequence of events clearly tied together, whereas still photos
are more subject to interpretation. For instance, in an abuse case, a still photo might
capture an enraged father with his arm stretched out and fist clenched. But without
evidence of victim and the victim being struck by the abuser, it‘s left to a jury to decide
There still remains the problem of owners and employees of various businesses forgetting
to replace tapes on a daily basis, or reusing tapes and erasing what might have proved to
be damaging evidence in a criminal trial. Some poor quality systems also produce poor
quality film, where it‘s hard to tell just exactly what is going on.
The Charged Coupled Device camera (CCD), which uses microchip computer
technology, is one way to solve the problem. Surveillance is possible in low light and at
Digital Multiplexing units enable enabling recording on several cameras at once (more
than a dozen at time in some cases. Digital multiplex also adds features like time-lapse
and motion-only recording, which saves a great deal of wasted videotape.
Credit card theft is so rampant, video cameras are now installed at nearly every ATM
across the United States and in most parts of the world.
Because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, surveillance has become a national priority. The
downside is the issues of the use of illegal wiretaps and other surveillance tactics and the
invasion of privacy. CCTV or video taped surveillance systems are now used to cover
major sporting and other events that could be potential targets for terrorist attacks.
Digital video surveillance is fast replacing analog. Much longer periods of time can be
recorded on a single hard drive, with image resolution much clearer. Digital images can
also be manipulated easier, like adding light, enhancing the image, or zooming in on
Video (analog and digital) surveillance cameras are increasingly being installed in public
buildings, housing projects, and parks and street corners to curb crime, particularly drug
selling and prostitution. Political rallies, parades and other festivals are also targets for
Surveillance became personal with recent stories about abusive or negligent nannies,
baby sitters and housekeepers. Digital cameras and webcams are now so small they can
be hidden anywhere.
Software developers have refined programs that enhance video surveillance, like facial
recognition programs that compare various key facial feature points to mug shots or
photographs of terrorists or criminals. Face recognition software installed on video
surveillance camera systems are increasingly being installed in such places as the Statue
of Liberty and throughout all the casino/resorts in Vegas.
The Sydney International Airport in Australia is one of the first airports to install
SmartGate, an automated border crossing system used for all airline crew members.
Using photo biometrics, the video surveillance systems scans the crew member‘s face
and compares it to the passport photo, confirming a match in less than ten seconds.
Schools are increasingly installing face recognition video surveillance for tracking
missing children and registered sex offenders, but not without controversial right to
The internet has enabled video surveillance to be installed virtually anywhere and be
watched from anywhere in the world. Satellites enable images to be viewed on laptops.
The eye in the sky is a reality with digital streaming video.
Morality aside, technology used in current surveillance systems is the same technology
used in webcams used by amateur pornographers. Webcams are set up to watch an
individual engaged in every activity from brushing teeth to having sex.
Because of the Internet and digital technology, cameras can stream video 24/7 and be
monitored via remote.
The speed of new photo-capture devices is taking surveillance to a new level. With a
Smartphone, pictures can be taken and then sent to the police, all within seconds. Nearly
everyone has a cell phone, and cell phones are fast morphing into all-in-one-devices.
Law enforcement agencies are especially interested in integrated devices where still and
motion imagery can immediately be matched against face recognition software.
Another downside of digital surveillance capability is that whatever technology is
available to law enforcement agencies is also available to criminals and terrorists. How
these devices are used depends on the ingeniousness of criminals, and many criminals are
increasingly becoming quite tech-savvy.
The FBI falls under closer scrutiny than other law enforcement agencies, largely because
of their aggressiveness and willingness to break into homes, offices, hotel rooms and
vehicles. Computer files get copied. Hidden cameras are installed. Microphones record
conversations meant to only take place in the bedroom. Agents are known to have pried
into safe deposit boxes, watched from afar with video cameras and binoculars and
intercepted e-mails. The question is: who exactly is under surveillance?
Paparazzi don‘t behave much differently, except they are after sensationalism and not
Sometimes the FBI is backed by the courts, sometimes it isn‘t. The secretive nature of
the FBI--and the CIA--is certainly the subject of numerous spy and crime novels and
movies. One of the most popular authors in the 21st century is John Grisham, who
claims in a Forward in one of his books that he knows nothing about the spy business.
Continued public outcry against improper or illegal invasion of privacy is not helping the
FBI much in pursuing suspected criminals and terrorists. Stories abound of average
citizens being spied on for no apparent reason. Myth or fact, the stories do well to
generate suspicion and fear.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enacted in 1978 and revised after 7/11 by the
Patriot Act, has given investigators a potent arsenal against ―agents of a foreign power.‖
The now current President Bush (as of 2006) is under attack for allowing such
investigations to go too far.
The right to privacy of communications from electronic surveillance (such as bugging
and wiretapping) is protected by several federal and state statutes and by the Fourth
Amendment to the Constitution. But like all other matters of law, surveillance cases are
subject to interpretation. With technology becoming more advanced and accessible, what
constitutes surveillance is questionable.
There is no end to the use of surveillance. Nations spy on other nations. Governments
spy on their citizenry. Law enforcement agencies spy on criminals. Criminals spy on
their victims. Paparazzi spy on celebrities. Private detectives spy on cheating spouses.
Corporations and businesses spy on employees. Schools spy on children while
administrators spy on teachers. Parents spy on their children and the next door neighbor.
The use of surveillance--possible because of optics technology-based devices--is as much
of a past time now as a baseball game on Saturday. We spy on each other not necessarily
because we are looking for any wrong-doing, but just because we like to watch each
Without telescopes, the stars in the sky we see every night would just be twinkling little
lights. Hard to imagine what people in pre-telescope times thought these twinkling lights
were. For some it must‘ve been frightening. For others, it was awe-inspiring.
It began with optics; the lens. Spectacles were being worn in Italy as early as 1300. In
the one-thing-leads-to-another theory, no doubt the ability to see better led to the desire to
see farther. Three hundred years later, a Dutch spectacle maker named Hans Lippershey,
put two lens together and achieved magnification. But he also discovered quite a number
of other experimenters made the same discovery when he tried to sell the idea.
Also in the 1600s, Galileo, an instrument maker in Venice, started working on a device
that many thought had little use other than creating optical illusions (although they
weren‘t called that at the time). In 1610 he published a description of his night sky
observations in a small paper called, Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius).
He reported that the moon was not smooth, as many had believed. It was rough and
covered with craters. He also proposed the ―Milky Way‖ was composed of millions of
stars and Jupiter had four moons. He also overturned the geocentric view of the world
system--the universe revolves around the Earth--with the heliocentric view--the solar
system revolves around the Sun, a notion proposed around 50 years earlier by
Copernicus. The device he invented to make these discoveries came to be known as the
The telescope was a long thin tube where light passes in a straight line from the aperture
(the front objective lens) to the eyepiece at the opposite end of the tube. Galileo‘s earlier
device was the forerunner of what are now called refractive telescopes, because the
objective lens bends, or refracts, light.
NASA now controls four observatories, a series of space telescopes designed to give the
most complete picture of objects across many different wavelengths. Each observatory
studies a particular wavelength region in detail.
The telescopes in order of launch are: the Hubble Space Telescope (1990), Compton
Gamma Ray Observatory (1991), Chandra X-ray Observatory (1999), and the Spitzer
Space Telescope (2003).
Sometimes several of the observatories are used to look at the same object. Astronomers
can analyze an object thoroughly by studying it in many different kinds of light. An
object will look different in X-ray, visible, and infrared light.
Recent experiments with color explored the way a prism refracts white light into a array
of colors. A circular prism separating colors of visible light is known as chromatic
aberration, but the process limits the effectiveness of existing telescopes. A new
telescope design using a parabolic mirror to collect light and concentrate the image
before it was presented to the eyepiece. This resulted in the Reflective Telescope.
Reflective Telescopes are constructed with giant mirrors--or lenses--and collect more
light than can be seen by the human eye in order to see objects that are too faint and far
Solar Telescopes, designed to see the Sun, have the opposite problem: the target emits
too much light. Because of the sun‘s brightness, astronomers must filter out much of the
light to study it. Solar telescopes are ordinary reflecting telescopes with some important
Because the Sun is so bright, solar telescopes don‘t need huge mirrors that capture as
much light as possible. The mirrors only have to be large enough to provide good
resolution. Instead of light-gathering power, solar telescopes are built to have high
magnification. Magnification depends on focal length. The longer the focal length, the
higher the magnification, so solar telescopes are usually built to be quite long.
Since the telescopes are so long, the air in the tube becomes a problem. As the
temperature of the air changes, the air moves. This causes the telescope to create blurry
images. Originally, scientists tried to keep the air inside the telescope at a steady
temperature by painting solar telescopes white to reduce heating. White surfaces reflect
more light and absorb less heat. Today the air is simply pumped out of the solar
telescopes‘ tubes, creating a vacuum.
Because it‘s so necessary to control the air inside the telescope and the important
instruments are large and bulky, solar telescopes are designed not to move. They stay in
one place, while a moveable mirror located at the end of the telescope, called a tracking
mirror, follows the Sun and reflects its light into the tube. To minimize the effects of
heating, these mirrors are mounted high above the ground.
Astronomers have studied the Sun for a long time. Galileo, among others, had examined
sunspots. Other early astronomers investigated the outer area of the Sun, called the
corona, which was only visible during solar eclipses.
Before the telescope, other instruments were used to study the Sun. The spectroscope, a
device invented in 1815 by the German optician Joseph von Fraunhofer, spread sunlight
into colors and helps astronomers figure out what elements stars contain. Scientists used
a spectrum of the Sun to discover the element helium, named after the Greek word for
In the 1890s, when the American astronomer George Ellery Hale combined the
technology of spectroscopy and photography and came up with a new and better way to
study the Sun. Hale called his device the ―spectroheliograph.‖
The spectroheliograph allowed astronomers to choose a certain type of light to analyze.
For example, they could take a picture of the Sun using only the kind of light produced
by calcium atoms. Some types of light make it easier to see details such as sunspots and
In 1930, the French astronomer Bernard Lyot came up with another device that helped
scientists study both the Sun and objects nearby. The coronagraph uses a disk to block
much of the light from the Sun, revealing features that would otherwise be erased by the
bright glare. Close observations of the Sun‘s corona, certain comets, and other details
and objects are made possible by the coronagraph. Coronagraphs also allow scientists to
study features like solar flares and the Sun‘s magnetic field.
Today, more technologically advanced versions of the spectroheliograph and
coronagraph are used to study the Sun. The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope on Kitt
Peak in Arizona is the world‘s largest solar telescope. The Solar and Heliospheric
Observatory project is a solar telescope in space that studies the Sun‘s interior and
corona, and solar wind, in ultraviolet and X-rays as well as visible light. Astronomers
also use a technique called helioseismology, a kind of spectroscopy that studies sound
waves in the Sun, to examine the Sun down to its core.
Basic telescope terms:
Concave - lens or mirror that causes light to spread out.
Convex - lens or mirror that causes light to come together to a focal point.
Field of view - area of the sky that can be seen through the telescope with a given
Focal length - distance required by a lens or mirror to bring the light to a focus.
Focal point or focus - point at which light from a lens or mirror comes together.
Magnification (power) - telescope‘s focal length divided by the eyepiece‘s focal
Resolution - how close two objects can be and yet still be detected as separate
objects, usually measured in arc-seconds (this is important for revealing fine
details of an object, and is related to the telescope‘s aperture).
Telescopes come in all shapes and sizes, from a little plastic tube bought at a toy store for
$2, to the Hubble Space Telescope weighing several tons. Amateur telescopes fit
somewhere in between. Even though they are not nearly as powerful as the Hubble, they
can do some incredible things. For example, a small 6-inch (15 centimeter) scope can
read the writing on a dime from 150 feet (55 meters) away.
Most telescopes come in two forms: the refractor and reflector telescope. The refractor
telescope uses glass lenses. The reflector telescope uses mirrors instead of the lenses.
They both try to accomplish the same thing but in different ways.
Telescopes are metaphorically giant eyes. The reason our eyes can‘t see the printing on a
dime 150 feet away is because they are simply too small. The eyes, obviously, have
limits. A bigger eye would collect more light from an object and create a brighter image.
The objective lens (in refractors) or primary mirror (in reflectors) collects light from a
distant object and brings that light, or image, to a point or focus. An eyepiece lens takes
the bright light from the focus of the objective lens or primary mirror and ―spreads it out‖
(magnifies it) to take up a large portion of the retina. This is the same principle that a
magnifying glass (lens) uses. A magnifying glass takes a small image on a sheet of
paper, for instance, and spreads it out over the retina of the eye so that it looks big.
When the objective lens or primary mirror is combined with the eyepiece, it makes a
telescope. The basic idea is to collect light to form a bright image inside the telescope,
then magnifying that image. Therefore, the simplest telescope design is a big lens that
gathers the light and directs it to a focal point with a small lens used to bring the image to
a person‘s eye.
A telescope‘s ability to collect light is directly related to the diameter of the lens or mirror
(the aperture) used to gather light. Generally, the larger the aperture, the more light the
telescope collects and brings to focus, and the brighter the final image. The telescope‘s
magnification, its ability to enlarge an image, depends on the combination of lenses used.
The eyepiece performs the magnification. Magnification can be achieved by almost any
telescope using different eyepieces.
Hans Lippershey, living in Holland, is credited with inventing the refractor in 1608. It
was first used by the military. Galileo was the first to use it in astronomy. Both
Lippershey‘s and Galileo‘s designs used a combination of convex and concave lenses.
Around 1611, Kepler improved the design to have two convex lenses, which made the
image upside-down. Kepler‘s design is still the major design of refractors today, with a
few later improvements in the lenses and in the glass used to make the lenses.
Refractors have a long tube, made of metal, plastic, or wood, a glass combination lens at
the front end (objective lens), and a second glass combination lens (eyepiece). The tube
holds the lenses in place at the correct distance from one another. The tube also helps to
keeps out dust, moisture and light that would interfere with forming a good image. The
objective lens gathers the light, and bends or refracts it to a focus near the back of the
tube. The eyepiece brings the image to the eye, and magnifies the image. Eyepieces
have much shorter focal lengths than objective lenses.
Achromatic refractors use lenses that are not extensively corrected to prevent chromatic
aberration, which is a rainbow halo that sometimes appears around images seen through a
refractor. Instead, they usually have ―coated‖ lenses to reduce this problem.
Apochromatic refractors use either multiple-lens designs or lenses made of other types of
glass (such as fluorite) to prevent chromatic aberration. Apochromatic refractors are
much more expensive than achromatic refractors.
Refractors have good resolution, high enough to see details in planets and binary stars.
However, it is difficult to make large objective lenses (greater than 4 inches or 10
centimeters) for refractors. Refractors are relatively expensive. Because the aperture is
limited, a refractor is less useful for observing faint, deep-sky objects, like galaxies and
nebulae, than other types of telescopes.
Isaac Newton developed the reflector telescope around 1680, in response to the chromatic
aberration (rainbow halo) problem that plagued refractors during his time. Instead of
using a lens to gather light, Newton used a curved, metal mirror (primary mirror) to
collect the light and reflect it to a focus. Mirrors do not have the chromatic aberration
problems that lenses do. Newton placed the primary mirror in the back of the tube.
Because the mirror reflected light back into the tube, he had to use a small, flat mirror
(secondary mirror) in the focal path of the primary mirror to deflect the image out
through the side of the tube, to the eyepiece; the reason being his head would get in the
way of incoming light. Because the secondary mirror is so small, it does not block the
image gathered by the primary mirror.
The Newtonian reflector remains one of the most popular telescope designs in use today.
Rich-field (or wide-field) reflectors are a type of Newtonian reflector with short focal
ratios and low magnification. The focal ratio, or f/number, is the focal length divided by
the aperture, and relates to the brightness of the image. They offer wider fields of view
than longer focal ratio telescopes, and provide bright, panoramic views of comets and
deep-sky objects like nebulae, galaxies and star clusters.
Dobsonian telescopes are a type of Newtonian reflector with a simple tube and alt-
azimuth mounting. They are relatively inexpensive because they are made of plastic,
fiberglass or plywood. Dobsonians can have large apertures (6 to 17 inches, 15 to 43
centimeters). Because of their large apertures and low price, Dobsonians are well-suited
to observing deep-sky objects.
Reflector telescopes have problems. Spherical aberration is when light reflected from the
mirror‘s edge gets focused to a slightly different point than light reflected from the
center. Astigmatism is when the mirror is not ground symmetrically about its center.
Consequently, images of stars focus to crosses rather than to points. Coma is when stars
near the edge of the field look elongated, like comets, while those in the center are sharp
points of light. All reflector telescopes experience some loss of light. The secondary
mirror obstructs some of the light coming into the telescope and the reflective coating for
a mirror returns up to 90 percent of incoming light.
Compound or catadioptric telescopes are hybrid telescopes that have a mix of refractor
and reflector elements in the design. The first compound telescope was made by German
astronomer Bernhard Schmidt in 1930. The Schmidt telescope had a primary mirror at
the back of the telescope, and a glass corrector plate in the front of the telescope to
remove spherical aberration. The telescope was used primarily for photography, because
it had no secondary mirror or eyepieces. Photographic film is placed at the prime focus of
the primary mirror. Today, the Schmidt-Cassegrain design, which was invented in the
1960s, is the most popular type of telescope. It uses a secondary mirror that bounces
light through a hole in the primary mirror to an eyepiece.
The second type of compound telescope was invented by Russian astronomer, D.
Maksutov, although a Dutch astronomer, A. Bouwers, came up with a similar design in
1941, before Maksutov. The Maksutov telescope is similar to the Schmidt design, but
uses a more spherical corrector lens. The Maksutov-Cassegrain design is similar to the
Schmidt Cassegrain design.
Telescope Mounts are another important feature of telescopes. The alt-azimuth is a type
of telescope mount, similar to a camera tripod, that uses a vertical (altitude) and a
horizontal (azimuth) axis to locate an object. An equatorial mount uses two axes (right
ascension, or polar, and declination) aligned with the poles to track the motion of an
object across the sky.
The telescope mount keep the telescope steady, points the telescope at whatever object is
being viewed, and adjusts the telescope for the movement of the stars caused by the
Earth‘s rotation. Hands need to be free to focus, change eyepieces, and other activities.
The alt-azimuth mount has two axes of rotation, a horizontal axis and a vertical axis. To
point the telescope at an object, the mount is rotated along the horizon (azimuth axis) to
the object‘s horizontal position. Then, it tilts the telescope, along the altitude axis, to the
object‘s vertical position. This type of mount is simple to use, and is most common in
There are two variations of the alt-azimuth mount. The ball and socket is used in
inexpensive rich-field telescopes. It has a ball shaped end that can rotate freely in the
socket mount. The rocker box is a low center-of-gravity box mount, usually made of
plywood, with a horizontal circular base (azimuth axis) and Teflon bearings for the
altitude axis. This mount is usually used on Dobsonian telescopes. It provides good
support for a heavy telescope, as well as smooth, frictionless motion.
Although the alt-azimuth mount is simple and easy to use, it does not properly track the
motion of the stars. In trying to follow the motion of a star, the mount produces a
―zigzag‖ motion, instead of a smooth arc across the sky. This makes this type of mount
useless for taking photographs of the stars.
The equatorial mount also has two perpendicular axes of rotation: right ascension and
declination. However, instead of being oriented up and down, it is tilted at the same
angle as the Earth‘s axis of rotation. The equatorial mount also comes in two variations.
The German equatorial mount is shaped like a ―T.‖ The long axis of the ―T‖ is aligned
with the Earth‘s pole. The Fork mount is a two-pronged fork that sits on a wedge that is
aligned with the Earth‘s pole. The base of the fork is one axis of rotation and the prongs
are the other.
When properly aligned with the Earth‘s poles, equatorial mounts can allow the telescope
to follow the smooth, arc-like motion of a star across the sky. They can also be equipped
with ―setting circles,‖ which allow easy location of a star by its celestial coordinates
(right ascension, declination). Motorized drives allow a computer (laptop, desktop or
PDA) to continuously drive the telescope to track a star. Equatorial mounts are used for
An eyepiece is the second lens in a refractor, or the only lens in a reflector. Eyepieces
come in many optical designs, and consist of one or more lenses in combination,
functioning almost like mini-telescopes. The purposes of the eyepiece are to produce and
allow changing the telescope‘s magnification, produce a sharp image, provide
comfortable eye relief (the distance between the eye and the eyepiece when the image is
in focus), and determine the telescope‘s field of view.
Field of view is ―apparent,‖ or, how much of the sky, in degrees, is seen edge-to-edge
through the eyepiece alone (specified on the eyepiece). ―True or real‖ is how much of
the sky can be seen when that eyepiece is placed in the telescope (true field = apparent
There are many types of eyepiece designs: Huygens, Ramsden, Orthoscopic, Kellner and
RKE, Erfle, Plossl, Nagler, and Barlow (used in combination with another eyepiece to
increase magnification 2 to 3 times). All eyepieces have problems and are designed to fit
Eyepieces with illuminated reticules are used exclusively for astrophotography. They aid
in guiding the telescope to track an object during a film exposure, which can take
anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.
Finders are devices used to help aim the telescope at its target, similar to the sights on a
rifle. Finders come in three basic types. Peep sights are notches or circles that allow
alignment with the target. Reflex sights use a mirror box that shows the sky and
illuminates the target with a red LED diode spot, similar to a laser sight on a gun. A
telescope sight is a small, low magnification (5x to 10x) telescope mounted on the side
with a cross hair reticule, like a telescopic sight on a rifle.
Filters are pieces of glass or plastic placed in the barrel of an eyepiece to restrict the
wavelengths of light that come through in the image. Filters are used to enhance the
viewing of faint sky objects in light-polluted skies, enhance the contrast of fine features
and details on the moon and planets, and safely view the sun. The filter screws into the
barrel of the eyepiece.
Another add-on component is a dew shield, which prevents moisture condensation. For
taking photographs, conventional lens and film cameras or CCD devices/digital cameras
are used. Some astronomers use telescopes to make scientific measurements with
photometers (devices to measure the intensity of light) or spectroscopes (devices to
measure the wavelengths and intensities of light from an object).
Optics in Review
It‘s ironic that optics is not a more common subject or theme in Hollywood movies,
considering that movies are in many ways the result of optics. There are a few
exceptions. AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Minority Report feature virtual reality.
Numerous military-based movies draw attention to laser fighting jets and rifles with
Close up shots and sound effects bring out the drama of these high tech devices. Of
course, Star Wars made the laser popular for kids. The sound of camera shutters is
another dramatic device used to heighten action in a story, especially where surveillance
is involved in the plot, or a serial killer uses a camera to take photos of his victims.
Cameras are featured in many films, but usually as props for characters like journalists
and cops when a crime scene is being photographed. Many characters wear glasses and
sunglasses, which can play a pivotal role in characterization.
The prison guard in Cool Hand Luke wore mirrored sunglasses, dramatically emphasizing
his cold demeanor when it came time to shooting a prisoner. Sylvester Stallone wore
them in Cobra because, well, it made him look cool. In other movies, the audience
follows the camera straight into an eye of a character. With the help of special effects,
we journey straight into the brain and can see what a character sees inside their mind.
Still, there aren‘t a lot of movies about microscopes and telescopes.
Electron microscopy is a highly specialized field with applications and techniques
dazzling in their sophistication. Science is kept out of the public eye, probably because
no one understands it, except a select few.
Most people barely know what an electron is yet alone such things as apoptosis,
intracellular signaling, pathology, anaphase A and anaphase B during mitosis,
quantification and characterization of DNA in chloroplasts and mitochondria,
characterization of nuclear structure and nuclear pore complexes, cytoskeletal
organization in parasites, DNA repair, materials analysis of additives in weaponized
A ton of new fields have sprung up in the last decade or so, either as a result of electron
microscopy or the need for it. For instance, specialized branches in forensic analysis,
chemical and biological weapon detection, lithography, nanomaterials and nanodevices,
structure and chemistry of nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanobelt and nanowires, polymers,
clean environments, crystallography, hydrocarbon catalysis, production and storage of
energy, climate control and surface modifications for sensors, pollution and auto exhaust
emission control, photocatalysis, biocatalysis, surface engineering, advanced fuel cells,
alternative energy sources, and quantitative x-ray microanalysis of terrestrial and
As widespread as science is in our world, from medicine to auto design, from energy to
building construction, it‘s a secretive world requiring a big dictionary. Science invades
everyday life, in fact, it created it. But we turn the lights off in our houses, hop in our
cars and turn on our MP3 players without any awareness of how such processes,
techniques and devices came into being. Einstein is just some gray-haired bearded genius
who knew a lot of math.
Now we live in a world of language that includes nano-electronics, nano-photonics,
micromechanical devices (MEMS) and Bio-MEMs, Cryo-Preparation, Cryo-Sectioning,
and Cryo-Approaches Using TEM, SEM, Cryo-examination of frozen hydrated
biological samples, Focused ion beam instruments, scanning transmission electron
microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, x-ray mapping, Low voltage microscopy,
Scanning cathodoluminescence microscopy, and other terms and concepts that require an
advanced degree just to learn how to pronounce them.
It must be difficult for those who do understand advanced science, not being able to sit
down and chat with others as easily as ―regular folk‖ discuss the latest football scores or
Washington political scandals, so prevalent in the news.
From chemistry to biology, geology to math, science has never really been comfortable in
the cultural mainstream. It‘s ironic, since much of what we call culture, like movies, TV
and music, is driven by advanced science. We take pictures with digital cameras without
any concern for optics. We listen to CDs without any knowledge of lithography.
Electron microscopy is complex enough, but it‘s even more complex with sub-divided
into High-Resolution Electron Microscopy (HREM), Analytical Electron Microscopy
(AEM), Electron Energy-Loss Spectroscopy (EELS), Convergent Beam Electron
Diffraction (CBED), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Low-voltage SEM, Variable
Pressure SEM (VPSEM/ESEM), Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD), X-ray
Spectrometry, Quantitative X-ray Microanalysis, Spectral Imaging, X-ray Imaging,
Diffraction and Spectroscopy, Crystallography, Scanned Probe Microscopy (SPM),
Confocal Microscopy, Multi Photon Excitation Microscopy, Optical Fluorescence
Microscopy, Infrared and Raman Microscopy and Microanalysis, Molecular
Spectroscopy and Cryogenic Techniques and Methods.
In the future, ordinary silicon chips will move data using light rather than electrons,
unleashing nearly limitless bandwidth and revolutionizing the world of computers. And
to think, we‘ve hardly tuned into the digital revolution that already took place.
Within the next decade, the circuitry found in today‘s servers will be able to process
billions of bits of data per second, fitting neatly on a silicon chip half the size of a postage
stamp. Copper connections currently used in computers and servers will prove
inadequate to handle such vast amounts of data.
At data rates approaching 10 billion bits per second, microscopic imperfections in the
copper or irregularities in a printed-circuit board begin to weaken and distort the signals.
One way to solve the problem is to replace copper with optical fiber and the electrons
with photons. Integrated onto a silicon chip, an optical transceiver could send and
receive data at 10 billion or even 100 billion bits per second. Movies will download in
seconds rather than hours. Multiple simultaneous streams of video will open up new
applications in remote monitoring and surveillance, teleconferencing, and entertainment.
Organic semiconductors are strong candidates for creating flexible, full-color displays
and circuits on plastic. Using organic light-emitting devices (OLEDs), organic full-color
displays are set to replace liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) for use with laptop and desktop
computers. Such displays can be deposited on flexible plastic foils, eliminating the
fragile and heavy glass substrates used in LCDs, and can emit bright light without the
pronounced directionality inherent in LCD viewing.
Organic electronics have already entered the commercial world. Multicolor automobile
stereo displays are now available. Future plans include OLED backlights to be used in
LCDs and organic integrated circuits, film-thin solar cells, and portable, lightweight roll-
up OLED displays (projected on a wall) designed to replace conventional TVs.
Organic circuitry is expected to exceed or replace silicon electronics. Organic
semiconductors attracted industrial interest when it was recognized that many of them are
photoconductive under visible light. This discovery led to their use in
electrophotography (or xerography) and as light valves in LCDs.
The day will most likely come when every home has a particle accelerator, an electron
microscope and miniature Hubble space probe as common as TVs, refrigerators and light
bulbs. But then, they‘ll just be the ―new‖ devices. Refrigerator doors are opened without
any understanding of food processing. Few people know where TV images come from,
beyond knowing they are either sexy or violent. And light is simply the flick of a
switch...or the clap of hands.
Maybe it‘s the way things should be, so we can get on with the business of living and
leave the how and why to others. But in doing so, we inadvertently create power shifts.
If knowledge is power, then specialized scientific knowledge is near God-like.
However, business people are shrewd and politicians are manipulative in ways they can
control society, if not the world, without knowing what E=Mc2 means. Car dealers sell
millions of cars without the slightest clue about pollution analysis or surface-to-road
ratios, or how combustion works. And consumers don‘t care much either, as look as the
car can pass an emissions test and has a CD player, that‘s good enough.
We put on our glasses and hope we don‘t lose them. We take pictures of our children not
because of a new kind of lens or photographic technique, but because we want to treasure
a memory. We watch movies looking for thrills, without much regard for how they blew
up that airplane, or where that sea of robot soldiers came from, or what supercomputer
graphics workstation was used to create either image. We also trust our doctors, so when
they order a PET scan, as frightening as it might be, we readily comply.
But somebody is out there working for an eyeglass company. Somebody is sitting behind
a microscope all day much in the same way normal folks sit in front of the ―boob tube‖
all day. Hopefully, the microscopist is more productive. And, there is such a thing as
educational, informative and enriching TV watching.
So the future of human evolution is largely dependent not so much on knowledge and
technology, but on the choices we make to engage ourselves in evolution/revolution. We
can watch or we can participate. We can sit back passively or become interactive. It is
the choices we make that will ultimately determine the constructive or destructive forces
of advanced science. And with science moving to the atomic and sub-atomic level,
perhaps average folk better pay a little closer attention to what‘s going on in the universe.
Photography: A Brief History
The name ―Photography‖ is credited to Sir John Herschel, who first used the term in
1839, the year the photographic process became public. The word is derived from the
Greek words for light and writing.
There are two distinct scientific processes that combine to make photography possible.
These processes were known before photography was invented.
The first of these processes was optical. The Camera Obscura (dark room) had been in
existence for at least four hundred years (before Herschel). There is a drawing, dated
1519, of a Camera Obscura by Leonardo da Vinci. The second process was chemical.
For hundreds of years before photography was invented, people had been aware, for
example, that some colors are bleached in the sun, but they had made little distinction
between heat, air and light.
In the 1600s, Robert Boyle reported that silver chloride turned dark under exposure, but
he appeared to believe that it was caused by exposure to the air, rather than to light.
Angelo Sala, in the early 17th century, noticed that powdered nitrate of silver is
blackened by the sun. In 1727 Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that certain liquids
change color when exposed to light.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Wedgwood successfully captured images,
but his silhouettes could not survive, as there was no known method of making the image
permanent. The first successful picture was produced in 1827 by Niépce, using material
that hardened on exposure to light. This picture required an exposure of eight hours.
In 1829 Niépce formed a partnership with Louis Daguerre. Niépce died four years later.
Daguerre continued to experiment and discovered a way of developing photographic
plates, a process which greatly reduced the exposure time from eight hours to half an
hour. He also discovered that an image could be made permanent by immersing it in salt.
Details of the process were made public in 1839, and Daguerre named it the
Some people at the time thought the Daguerreotype was blasphemous. Some artists saw
it as a threat to their livelihood, and some even prophesied that painting would cease to
The Daguerreotype process was expensive and pictures could not be replicated. The only
way of making two pictures of the same thing was to use two cameras side by side.
The Calotype was invented by William Henry Fox Talbot and solved the problem of
duplication. The earliest paper negative known was produced in August 1835. In 1844
he introduced a photographically illustrated book, The Pencil of nature. The advantage
of Talbot‘s method was that an unlimited number of positive prints could be made.
Today‘s photography is based on the same principle.
Talbot‘s photography was on paper, and inevitably the imperfections of the paper were
printed alongside with the image, when a positive was made. Glass was used as a basis
for negatives, but the silver solution wouldn‘t stick to the shiny surface of the glass. In
1848, Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor (Niepce‘s cousin), perfected a process of coating a
glass plate with white of egg sensitized with potassium iodide, and washed with an acid
solution of silver nitrate. This new (albumen) process made for very fine detail and much
higher quality. However, it was very slow, and only photographs of architecture and
landscapes were possible. Human faces didn‘t work.
In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer introduced the Collodion process. This process was
much faster than conventional methods, reducing exposure times to two or three seconds.
The process revolutionized photography. The collodion process required that the coating,
exposure and development of the image should be done while the plate was still wet.
Another process developed by Archer was named the Ambrotype, which was a direct
The wet collodion process required a considerable amount of equipment on location.
Attempts were made to preserve exposed plates in wet collodion, but the preservatives
lessened the sensitivity of the material. A dry method was needed. Dr. Richard Maddox,
in 1871, discovered a way of using Gelatin (which had been discovered only a few years
before) instead of glass as a basis for the photographic plate. This led to the development
of the dry plate process. Dry plates could be developed much more quickly. Factory-
made photographic material was now becoming possible. There was no longer a need for
wet-plates or a darkroom tent.
Celluloid had been invented in the early 1860s by John Carbutt. He persuaded a
manufacturer to produce very thin celluloid as a backing for sensitive material. George
Eastman introduced flexible film in 1884. Four years later he introduced the box camera,
and photography was now available to the masses. Other names of significance include
Herman Vogel, who developed a means where film could become sensitive to green
light, and Eadweard Muybridge paved the way for motion picture photography.
Stereoscopic photography became popular during the Victorian Age, which reproduced
images in three dimensions.
Despite the digital revolution, film is stilled used to capture still and moving pictures
because of its incredible ability to record detail in a very stable form. Taking a picture
means when the shutter clicks, a moment in time is frozen by recording the visible light
reflected from the objects in the camera‘s field of view. The reflected light causes a
chemical change to the photographic film inside the camera. The chemical record is very
stable, and can be subsequently developed, amplified and modified to produce a
representation (a print).
In a 35-mm cartridge of color print film there is a long strip of plastic that has coatings on
each side. The heart of the film is called the base, and it starts as a transparent plastic
material (celluloid) that is extremely thin. The back side of the film (usually shiny) has
various coatings that are important to the physical handling of the film in manufacture
and in processing.
The other side of the film is where photochemistry happens. There may be 20 or more
individual layers coated here that are collectively less than one thousandth of an inch
thick. The majority of this thickness is taken up by a very special binder made of gelatin
that holds the imaging components together.
Some of the layers coated on the transparent film do not form images. They are there to
filter light, or to control the chemical reactions in the processing steps. The imaging
layers contain sub-micron sized grains of silver-halide crystals that act as the photon
detectors. These crystals are the heart of photographic film. They undergo a
photochemical reaction when they are exposed to various forms of electromagnetic
radiation. In addition to visible light, the silver-halide grains can be sensitized to infrared
Silver-halide grains are manufactured by combining silver-nitrate and halide salts
(chloride, bromide and iodide) in complex ways that result in a range of crystal sizes,
shapes and compositions. These primitive grains are then chemically modified on their
surface to increase their light sensitivity. The unmodified grains are only sensitive to the
blue portion of the spectrum, and they are not very useful in camera film.
Organic molecules known as spectral sensitizers are added to the surface of the grains to
make them more sensitive to blue, green and red light. These molecules must adsorb
(attach) to the grain surface and transfer the energy from a red, green, or blue photon to
the silver-halide crystal as a photo-electron. Other chemicals are added internally to the
grain during its growth process, or on the surface of the grain. These chemicals affect the
light sensitivity of the grain, also known as its photographic speed (ISO or ASA rating).
Negatives are the exposures made in the camera. Prints are made from negatives.
Products that have the word ―chrome‖ in the name produce a color transparency (slides)
that requires some form of projector for viewing. The slides are the actual film that was
exposed in the camera.
Film comes with an ASA (American Standards Association) or ISO (International
Standards Organization) rating that indicates speed. The ISO and ASA scales are
Some of the most common film speeds:
ISO 100 - good for outdoor photography in bright sunlight
ISO 200 - good for outdoor photography or brightly lit indoor photography
ISO 400 - good for indoor photography
ISO 1000 or 1600 - good for indoor photography avoiding the use of a flash.
Generally, the relative speed rating of the film is part of its name. ISO and ASA speed
ratings are printed on the box containing the roll of film. The higher the number, the
faster the film. ―Faster‖ means increased light sensitivity. Fast film is needed for
photographing quickly moving objects or dimly lit surroundings without the benefit of
additional illumination (such as a flash).
Increased light sensitivity comes from the use of larger silver-halide grains. These larger
grains can result in a blotchy or ―grainy‖ appearance to the picture, especially in
enlargements from a 35-mm negative. Professional photographers use a larger-format
negative to reduce the degree of enlargement and the appearance of grain. The trade-off
between photographic speed and graininess is an inherent part of conventional
photography. Photographic-film manufacturers are continuously searching for ways to
make faster films with less grain.
A slow-speed film is used for portrait photography, where lighting of the subject can be
controlled and the subject is stationary.
A tungsten-balanced film is used indoors where the primary source of light is from
tungsten filament light bulbs. Since the visible illumination coming from a light bulb is
different than from the sun (daylight), the spectral sensitivity of the film must be
modified to produce a good image.
The first step after loading the film is to focus the image on the surface of film. This is
done by adjusting glass or plastic lenses that bend the reflected light from the objects
onto the film. Older cameras required manual adjustment, but today‘s modern cameras
use solid-state detectors to automatically focus the image, or are fixed-focus (no
The proper exposure must be set. The film speed is the first factor, and most of today‘s
cameras automatically sense which speed film is being used from the markings that are
on the outside of a 35-mm cartridge. Exposure to film is the product of light intensity
and exposure time. The light intensity is determined by how much reflected light is
reaching the film plane. Light meters are used to determine light sensitivity. Many
cameras have built-in exposure meters.
The larger the diameter of the camera lens, the more light comes in. If there is too much
light reaching the film plane for the exposure-time setting, the lens can be ―stepped
down‖ (reduced in diameter) using the f-stop adjustment. The f-stop adjustment works
like the iris when the eye reacts to bright sunlight.
Photographic film has limited exposure latitude. If it is underexposed, it will not detect
all the reflected light from a scene. The resulting print appears to be muddy black and
lacks detail. If it is over-exposed, all of the silver-halide grains are exposed so there is no
discrimination between lighter and darker portions of the scene. The print appears to be
washed out, with little color intensity.
Faster film allows a smaller aperture setting for the same exposure time. This smaller
aperture diameter produces a larger depth of field. Depth of field determines how much
of the subject matter in the print is in focus. A limited depth of field keeps the primary
object in focus and the background is out of focus.
By opening the camera‘s shutter for a fraction of a second, a latent image of the visible
energy reflected off the objects is formed in the viewfinder. The brightest portion of the
picture exposes the majority of the silver-halide grains in that particular part of the film.
In other parts of the image, less light energy reached the film, and fewer grains were
The process involved in making the picture is a complex photochemical event. For more
information on this process, see the websites listed under Photography in the References
Developing film is also a complicated photochemical process. However, film can be
developed with just a basic understanding of chemistry, like knowing which chemicals to
use. The film is placed in a developing agent that is actually a reducing agent. The
reducing agent will convert all the silver ions into silver metal. Some grains will develop
With the proper control of temperature, time and agitation, grains with latent images will
become pure silver. The unexposed grains will remain as silver-halide crystals. Next,
the film is rinsed with water, or by using a ―stop‖ bath that arrests the development
process. The unexposed silver-halide crystals are removed in a ―fixing bath.‖ The fixer
dissolves only silver-halide crystals, leaving the silver metal behind. Finally, the film is
washed with water to remove all the processing chemicals. The film strip is dried, and
the individual exposures are cut into negatives.
It is a negative in the sense that it is darkest (has the highest density of opaque silver
atoms) in the area that received the most light exposure. In places that received no light,
the negative has no silver atoms and is clear. In order to make it a positive image that
looks normal to the human eye, it must be printed onto another light-sensitive material
(usually photographic paper).
In this development process, gelatin played an important role, in that it swelled to allow
the processing chemicals to get to the silver-halide grains, but kept the grains in place.
This swelling process is vital for the movement of chemicals through the layers of a
The process of developing color prints compared to black and white is similar, but also
different, and complex. Also, there are a number of photographic processes that took
place through the development of photography. These processes include: Albumen
prints, ambrotype, autochrome plates, calotype, carbon prints, Collodion prints,
cyanotype, daguerreotype, diluted albumen print, photogenic drawing, photogravure,
platinum prints, salt prints, silver prints, tintypes, wet plate, and woodburytype. In
addition, a wide array of photographic paper is used to make prints. Again, consult the
websites listed in the Reference section. Kodak has a learning center on their website.
Digital Cameras/Digital Images: Pixels, Resolution, Formats
A digital image is usually a rectangular grid comprised of individual pixels (picture
element or PEL). A good analogy might be a tile mosaic, with the smallest element in the
mosaic being the individual tiles (each of which is one color or shade). Each pixel in a
digital image has a bit-depth value, which informs a computer which color (or shade of
gray) the pixel will display (the greater the bit-depth value, the more colors/grays to
choose from). The combined effect of all the individually colored pixels creates the
The number of pixels in an image is often used as a way to describe the image‘s
resolution. The word resolution has a specific technical meaning to microscope users,
namely the ability to distinguish between two closely adjacent objects at a given
magnification. In the context of digital images, the word resolution usually refers to how
frequently an object was sampled.
Image resolution is often confused with the resolution of the output device (computer
monitor or printer). Output devices typically express their resolution in dots/inch (DPI).
Digital imaging software programs (Adobe Photoshop) often set their scale factors based
on the monitor resolution (72 DPI). This setting is only useful for images that will
ultimately be displayed on a monitor. Printers often refer to the maximum output
resolution in dots per inch (laser printers range from 300-1200 DPI, inkjets 1440 DPI,
dye-sublimation printers 300 DPI).
The bit-depth of an image can greatly affect the size of the computer file.
Bit depth (Number of colors/shades; approximate file size)
21/2 - 0.125 MB
24/32 - 0.5 MB
28/256 - 1.0 MB
212/4096 - 1.5 MB
216/65,536 - 2.0 MB
224/16,777,216 - 3.0 MB
Bit-depth relates to the number of colors that can be displayed in the image. Images with
only two colors are binary, the pixels are either black or white. Monitors and imaging
hardware generally range from 8-bit mode (256 shades of gray) to 24-bit mode (true
color). Newer monitors feature 32-bit (highest quality). These ranges are greater than
the sensitivity of the human eye.
The most commonly used color model is RGB (Red, Green, Blue) for on-screen color.
RGB is an additive color model. The three different phosphors on the monitor screen are
excited at different intensities, usually an 8-bit range for each color, with 256 intensities
per color, for a total of 16.7 million possible color combinations.
Color printing typically uses a subtractive color model called CYM (Cyan, Yellow,
Magenta). Sometimes this will be referred to as CYMK due to the addition of black to
allow for darker colors to be printed. The color inks combine on the white paper and act
like a filter to absorb some wavelengths of light and reflect the remainder into the eye.
CYMK cannot reproduce as large a range of colors as the RGB model.
There are a large number of available file formats for storing digital images. The
majority of the file formats are proprietary, and are specific to a given software program
or specific uses.
Well known file formats include:
BMP - windows bitmap
EPS - encapsulated postscript, this format is more useful for vector-based
information than pixel-based information
GIF - graphics exchange format, originally copyrighted by CompuServe, used on
web pages, has a 256 color palette limitation, not suitable for most scientific
JPEG - joint photographic experts group, supports 24-bit color, uses a lossy
compression technique (discrete cosine function), most often used on web pages,
not suitable for most scientific images.
PNG - portable network graphics, supports 48-bit color and 16 grayscale, lossless
TIFF - tagged image file format, originally developed by Aldus Corp. (which was
purchased by Adobe Systems) and Microsoft Corp. Supports palette images (up
to 8 bit), 8 and (in some programs) 16 bit grayscale as well as 24 bit color. TIFF
is probably the most commonly used file format for scientific images.
In addition to digital photos, conventional photos can be turned into digital file formats
using a digital scanner. Digital scanners are now as common as printers.
At its most basic level, a digital camera has a series of lenses that focus light to create an
image of a scene. Instead of focusing this light onto a piece of film, it focuses it onto a
semiconductor device that records light electronically. A computer then breaks this
electronic information down into digital data. Instead of film, a digital camera has a
sensor that converts light into electrical charges. The image sensor employed by most
digital cameras is a charge coupled device (CCD). Some cameras use complementary
metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology instead.
Both CCD and CMOS image sensors convert light into electrons. Once the sensor
converts the light into electrons, it reads the value (accumulated charge) of each cell in
the image. A CCD transports the charge across the chip and reads it at one corner of the
array. An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) then turns each pixel‘s value into a digital
value by measuring the amount of charge at each photosite and converting that
measurement to binary form.
CMOS devices use several transistors at each pixel to amplify and move the charge using
more traditional wires. The CMOS signal is digital, so it doesn‘t need an ADC. CCD
sensors create high-quality, low-noise images. CMOS censors are generally more
susceptible to noise. Because each pixel on a CMOS sensor has several transistors
located next to it, the light sensitivity of a CMOS chip is lower. Many of the photons hit
the transistors instead of the photodiode. CCDs consume as much as 100 times more
power than an equivalent CMOS sensor.
Typical resolutions include:
256x256 - Found on very cheap cameras, this resolution is so low that the picture quality
is almost always unacceptable. This is 65,000 total pixels.
640x480 - This is the low end on most ―real‖ cameras. This resolution is ideal for e-
mailing pictures or posting pictures on a Web site.
1216x912 - This is a ―megapixel‖ image size -- 1,109,000 total pixels -- good for printing
1600x1200 - With almost 2 million total pixels, this is ―high resolution.‖ You can print a
4x5 inch print taken at this resolution with the same quality that you would get from a
2240x1680 - Found on 4 megapixel cameras -- the current standard -- this allows even
larger printed photos, with good quality for prints up to 16x20 inches.
4064x2704 - A top-of-the-line digital camera with 11.1 megapixels takes pictures at this
resolution. At this setting, 13.5x9 inch prints can be created with no loss of picture
High-end consumer cameras range from 12, 16 or 20 million pixels. The quality of 35mm
film is about 20 million pixels.
A 2.1-megapixel camera can produce images with a resolution of 1600x1200, or
1,920,000 pixels. But ―2.1 megapixel‖ means there should be at least 2,100,000 pixels.
There is a discrepancy between the numbers because the CCD has to include circuitry for
the ADC to measure the charge. This circuitry is dyed black so that it doesn‘t absorb
light and distort the image.
To get a full color image, most sensors use filtering to look at the light in its three
primary colors. Once the camera records all three colors, it combines them to create the
full spectrum. High quality cameras use three separate sensors, each with a different
filter, to capture color. A beam splitter directs light to the different sensors. There are
other methods and filters available.
Just as with film, a digital camera has to control the amount of light that reaches the
sensor. The two components it uses to do this, the aperture and shutter speed, are also
present on conventional cameras. The aperture is automatic in most digital cameras, but
some allow manual adjustment to give professionals and hobbyists more control over the
Unlike film, the light sensor in a digital camera can be reset electronically, so digital
cameras have a digital shutter rather than a mechanical shutter. These two aspects work
together to capture the amount of light needed to make a good image. In addition to
controlling the amount of light, the camera has to adjust the lenses to control how the
light is focused on the sensor. In general, the lenses on digital cameras are very similar to
conventional camera lenses. Some digital cameras use conventional lenses while others
use automatic focusing techniques.
The focal length is one important difference between the lens of a digital camera and the
lens of a 35mm camera. The focal length is the distance between the lens and the surface
of the sensor. Sensors from different manufacturers vary widely in size, but in general
they‘re smaller than a piece of 35mm film. In order to project the image onto a smaller
sensor, the focal length is shortened by the same proportion.
Focal length also determines the magnification, or zoom. In 35mm cameras, a 50mm
lens gives a natural view of the subject. Increasing the focal length increases the
magnification, and objects appear to get closer. The reverse happens when decreasing
the focal length. A zoom lens is any lens that has an adjustable focal length, and digital
cameras can have optical zoom, digital zoom, or both. Some cameras also have macro
focusing capability, meaning that the camera can take pictures from very close to the
Digital cameras have one of four types of lenses.
Fixed-focus, fixed-zoom lenses are the kinds of lenses found on disposable and
inexpensive film cameras. Optical-zoom lenses with automatic focus are similar to the
lens on a video camcorder, with ―wide‖ and ―telephoto‖ options and automatic focus.
These lenses change the focal length of the lens rather than just magnifying the
information that hits the sensor.
With digital-zoom lenses, the camera takes pixels from the center of the image sensor and
interpolates them to make a full-sized image. Depending on the resolution of the image
and the sensor, this approach may create a grainy or fuzzy image. Replaceable lens
systems are similar to the replaceable lenses on a 35mm camera. Some digital cameras
can use 35mm camera lenses.
Most digital cameras have an LCD screen for immediate viewing of photos. For storage,
most cameras are capable of connecting through serial, parallel, SCSI, USB or FireWire
connection and use some sort of removable storage device, like SmartMedia cards,
CompactFlash cards and Memory Sticks. Most cameras use the JPEG file format for
Camcorders, or video camera recorders, have become almost as popular as cameras.
Nearly every event of every day life is now captured on tape, from school plays, sports
events, and family reunions, to car accidents, bar room fights, and...sex.
With digital camcorders, amateur movies can be loaded into a computer--just like digital
still photos--opened with a video editing software program, edited, enhanced and even
scored with a soundtrack, just like in Hollywood. Well, not quite just like Hollywood.
However, many new filmmakers start out using camcorders.
The camera section contains a CCD (charge coupled device), lens and motors to handle
the zoom, focus, and aperture. The VCR section is similar to most VCRs only smaller.
The camera section takes an image and converts it into an electronic signal. The VCR
section records the electronic signal on tape (or digitally).
The viewfinder is used by the user to see what is being shot. Viewfinders are like mini
TVs. Some camcorders use full-color LCD screens. There are many formats for analog
camcorders, and many extra features.
Digital camcorders have all these same elements, but have an added component that takes
the analog information and converts it into digital information. Digital information--like
all computer data--can be replicated an unlimited number of times without loss of quality.
Jerome Lemelson, an inventor, is credited with the first camcorder patent in the early 80s.
In a film camera, the lenses serve to focus the light from a scene onto film treated with
chemicals that have a controlled reaction to light. Camera film records the scene in front
of it. It picks up greater amounts of light from brighter parts of the scene, and lower
amounts of light from darker parts of the scene. The lens in a camcorder also serves to
focus light, but instead of focusing it onto film, it shines the light onto a small
semiconductor image sensor. This sensor, a charge-coupled device (CCD), measures
light with a half-inch (about 1 cm) panel of 300,000 to 500,000 tiny light-sensitive diodes
Each photosite measures the amount of light (photons) that hits a particular point, and
translates this information into electrons (electrical charges). A brighter image is
represented by a higher electrical charge, and a darker image is represented by a lower
electrical charge. A CCD creates a video picture by recording light intensity.
To create a video signal, a camcorder CCD must take many pictures every second, which
the camera then combines to give the impression of movement. Most digital camcorders
use tapes (because they are less expensive), so they have a VCR component much like an
analog camcorder‘s VCR. Instead of recording analog magnetic patterns, however, the
tape head records binary code.
All camcorders come with an autofocus device, usually an infrared beam that bounces off
objects in the center of the frame and comes back to a sensor on the camcorder.
Camcorders are also equipped with a zoom lens. Camcorders adjust automatically for
different levels of light.
Analog camcorders record video and audio signals as an analog track on video tape.
Analog formats include Standard VHS (same type used in regular VCRs), VHS-C
(standard VHS tape housed in a more compact cassette), Super VHS (much higher
resolution but can‘t be played in standard VCRs), Super VHS-C (a more compact
version), 8mm (the size of an audio cassette), Hi-8 (much higher resolution than 8mm).
Digital camcorders record information digitally.. Digital video can also be downloaded
to a computer, where it can be edited or posted on the Internet. Digital video has a much
better resolution than analog video
MiniDV camcorders record on compact cassettes, which are fairly expensive and hold
about 60 to 90 minutes of footage. The video has an impressive 500 lines of resolution
and can be easily transferred to a personal computer. DV camcorders can be extremely
lightweight and compact--about the size of a paperback novel. Many digital camcorders
work as digital still cameras as well. Sony‘s MicroMV works the same basic way as
MiniDV but records on much smaller tapes.
Digital8 camcorders (produced by Sony exclusively) are very similar to regular DV
camcorders, but use standard Hi-8mm tapes, which are less expensive. These tapes hold
up to 60 minutes of footage, which can be copied without any loss in quality.
Digital8 cameras are generally a bit larger than DV camcorders -- about the size of
standard 8mm models.
As of 2006, DVD camcorders are up and coming. Instead of recording magnetic signals
on tape, DVD camcorders burn video information directly onto small discs. The main
advantage is that each recording session is recorded as an individual track, like the
individual song tracks on a CD. There is no need for rewinding or fast-forwarding
through tape. DVD camcorders are pretty close to MiniDV models in performance.
DVDs can store more footage. Depending on the camcorder‘s settings, a disc can hold
30 minutes to two hours of digital video.
Newer DVD camcorders support two DVD formats: DVD-R and DVD-RAM. Both are
three-quarters the size of DVD movie discs and are encased in plastic cartridges (at least
while in the camcorder). The advantage of DVD-R camcorder discs is that they work in
most set-top DVD players. DVD-R means record once only. DVD-RAM discs allow
unlimited recording but can‘t be played in ordinary DVD players, but can be converted to
a format that will work in standard players.
Some digital camcorders record directly onto memory cards, such as Flash memory
cards, Memory Sticks and SD cards. Many different digital video editing software
programs are available.
What is most interesting about camcorders is the technology that was once used by
professionals is now available to anyone. The same applies to recording technology.
Amateurs can set up home video/recording studios that can produce amazing quality
products. It‘s not quite Hollywood, but it‘s a good training ground.
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) has had a profound impact on modern life, and in
particular, the entertainment industry. Known as the ―Wizard of Menlo Park‖ (New
Jersey), he patented 1,093 inventions, including the phonograph, the kinetograph (a
motion picture camera), and the kinetoscope (a motion picture viewer). He was also a
prominent manufacturer and businessman through the merchandising of his inventions.
The concept of moving images as entertainment was not a new one by the latter part of
the 19th century. Magic lanterns and other devices had been employed in popular
entertainment for generations. Magic lanterns used glass slides with images which were
projected. The use of levers and other contrivances made these images ―move‖. Another
mechanism called a Phenakistiscope consisted of a disc with images of successive phases
of movement on it which could be spun to simulate movement.
The Zoopraxiscope, developed by photographer Eadweard Muybridge in 1879, projected
a series of images in successive phases of movement. These images were obtained
through the use of multiple cameras. Following this, Edison invented a single camera
capable of recording successive images. The single camera was a breakthrough that
influenced all subsequent motion picture devices.
The initial experiments on the Kinetograph were based on Edison‘s conception of the
phonograph cylinder. Tiny photographic images were affixed in sequence to a cylinder,
with the idea that when the cylinder was rotated the illusion of motion would be
reproduced via reflected light.
A prototype for the Kinetoscope was publicly unveiled at a convention of the National
Federation of Women‘s Clubs in 1891. The device was both a camera and a peep-hole
viewer, and the film used was 18mm wide. The film ran horizontally between two
spools, at continuous speed. A rapidly moving shutter gave intermittent exposures when
the apparatus was used as a camera and intermittent glimpses of the positive print when it
was used as a viewer. A spectator looked through the same aperture that housed the
camera lens. The Kinetoscope was refined in 1892 and subsequent years.
The most popular movie cameras in use today are Arriflex, Moviecam (now owned by
the Arri Group), and the Panavision models. For very high speed filming, PhotoSonics
The movie camera is a type of photographic camera which takes a rapid sequence of
photographs on film. Once developed, the film can be projected as a motion picture. In
contrast to a still camera which captures a single snapshot at a time, the movie camera
takes a series of images; each called a ―frame‖.
The frames are later played back in a movie projector at a specific speed, called the
―frame rate‖ (number of frames per second) to give the illusion of motion. The human
eye and brain merge the separate pictures together to generate the illusion, a phenomenon
called the ―persistence of vision‖.
Most of the optical and mechanical elements of a movie camera are present in the movie
projector, such as film tensioning, take-up, intermittent motion, loops, and rack
positioning are almost identical.
The camera does not have an illumination source and film stock is housed in a light-tight
enclosure. Lighting a set is critical to what a camera captures on film. Movie cameras
come with a wide array of lenses and filters. A movie camera has an exposure control via
an iris aperture located on the lens. There is a rotating, mirrored shutter behind the lens,
which alternately passes the light from the lens to the film, or reflects it into the
Film cameras do not record sound. Some older news cameras had magnetic recording
heads inside the camera. For magnetic recording, single perf 16mm film pre-striped with
a magnetic stripe along one edge was used. Sound (dialog and action) is recorded
separately. Sound F/X and music is added in post-production.
Digital cameras are increasingly being used in Hollywood, but for the most part,
Hollywood still uses film. There is also a continuous push to use digital projection
systems in movie theaters, but most theaters still use traditional movie projectors.
16 mm cameras are used frequently in independent film making, and later blown up to 35
mm in film labs. Other formats exist (70 millimeter).
The clapper board, which contains basic information about a scene, is seen at the
beginning of each take (a shot sequence). It is used as a reference point for the editor to
sync the picture to the sound (provided the scene and take are also called out so that the
editor knows which take goes with any given sound take). It‘s called a clapper because
two pieces, joined by a hinge, are ―clapped‖ together, making a loud clap sound which
indicates the start of the take. Scene and take numbers are written on the board, visible
For syncing with sound, the most commonly used system uses unique identifier numbers
exposed on the edge of the film by the film stock manufacturer (KeyKode is the name for
Kodak‘s system). These are then logged (usually by a computer editing system, but
sometimes by hand) and recorded along with audio timecode during editing.
These systems are used in replace of or conjunction with clapboards. Aaton cameras
have a system called AatonCode that can ―jam sync‖ with a timecode-based audio
recorder and prints a digital timecode directly on the edge of the film itself.
Some cameras have low-accuracy (―non-sync‖ or MOS) film-advance systems. One of
the most common uses of these cameras in commercial films are the spring-wound
cameras used in hazardous special effects, known as ―crash cams‖. Scenes shot with
these with these types of cameras have to be kept short, or resynchronized manually with
Mounting the Camera during a Shoot
A number of different methods are used to employ movie cameras on a film set (studio or
location) including tripods, dollies, cranes, boom-controlled and handheld. Ariel
photography and shooting dialog while a car is moving use different mounting methods.
Steadicams are handheld cameras used to track actors as they move around obstacles or
across rough ground, characters walking through forests or crowds, and many other uses.
Commercial director Garrett Brown is credited with the invention of the Steadicam in the
early 1970s. Traditional handheld cameras pick up the cameraman‘s body movements
and vibrations. ―Brown‘s Stabilizer,‖ later renamed Steadicam, stabilizes a camera by
using an articulated, iso-elastic arm, A specialized ―sled‖ that holds the camera
equipment, and a supportive vest.
The camera, along with a battery and a monitor, are positioned on the sled. The sled is
attached to the articulated arm, which is attached to the vest. The arm and vest
configuration works to isolate the camera from the body of the cameraman. The sled‘s
job is to provide optimum balance for the camera.
Some Steadicam shots (sequences) are as smooth as dolly or crane shots, particularly
useful in following an actor down stairs, through long, narrow hallways, and a multitude
of other locations where cranes and dollies are impossible to use.
Typically, the Steadicam operator walks ahead of the actors, shooting them from the front
as they walk and talk. Obviously the operator must walk backwards for this kind of shot,
supported by other crew members. Or the operator will walk behind the actors.
Sometimes the jolts, shakes and vibrations picked up by handhelds prove to be useful
effects for certain kinds of scenes, such as the perspective of a cop chasing a suspect
through a building or to heighten the drama of an unsettling scene in a horror movie.
Dollies are the usual means for mounting cameras during shooting. Dollies are wheeled
platforms operated by ―grips‖ that move along tracks (like railroad tracks). Some dollies
have lifts for capturing certain overhead shots, while huge cranes are needed for super
long overhead shots, like those used in the movie, Titanic. Regardless of Steadicam,
dolly, crane or boom, each shooting method has its limitations and must be meticulously
Long Shots and Close-ups
The right camera angle can make all the difference in the world in terms of generating
fear or a laugh. The right lens and the right lighting capture a melancholy mood or a
killer in the shadows.
Long shots give us a battle scene. Close ups give us the fear on a soldier‘s face. A
medium shot engages us in a conversation. As the camera pans away from the
conversation, the audience sees a monster lurking behind a doorway, but the characters
are unsuspecting. Ah, what would the movies be without suspense? A super close-up
and we see the monster‘s teeth, razor-sharp, drooling and bloody--enough to make us run
out of the theater screaming. Of course, the right sound effect and score needs to go with
Webcams are increasingly finding serious use such as in space shuttle launches, multiple
business uses, and traffic control. The Internet features a host of personal cams and
private cams used in a variety of ways from broadcasting church sermons to extremely
profitable pornographic use. Webcams are used for security, from professional
surveillance in a wide range of public buildings, airports and public events, to home
security. Webcams can be used to monitor virtually anything via remote.
A simple Webcam setup consists of a digital camera attached to a computer, typically
through the USB port. Webcam software ―grabs a frame‖ from the digital camera at a
preset interval (for example, the software might grab a still image from the camera once
every 30 seconds) and transfers it to another location for viewing. Webcams used for
streaming video use a higher frame rate. Frame rate indicates the number of pictures the
software can grab and transfer in one second. For streaming video, a minimum rate of at
least 15 frames per second (fps) is needed; 30 fps is ideal.
Once it captures a frame, the software broadcasts the image over an Internet connection
(broadband is critical). There are several broadcast methods. Using the most common
method, the software turns that image into a JPEG file and uploads it to a Web server
using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Some Webcam software comes with Web-based
image access, including remote access, which utilizes a UDP protocol to transfer
Webcam images directly from one computer to another. Anyone using a Web browser
can access the Webcam images on a PC. Most users who use webcams set up dedicated
websites for viewing.
Webcam features are many. Motion sensing takes a new picture when it detects motion.
Image archiving is just what it implies, with images saved at predetermined intervals.
Some instant messenger programs support Webcam video for Video Messaging.
Advanced connections use wired or wireless methods to connect home-theater A/V
equipment to a Webcam.
Automation is the use of Robotic cameras to set a series of pan/tilt positions and program
frame-capture settings based on the position of the camera. Streaming media is used for
professional applications. Custom coding is useful for setting up a set of commands that
instruct a webcam to do things like automatic refresh. Viewers normally refresh an
image manually by clicking on the Refresh button in the browser.
The Boob Tube
Some people have no telephones or refrigerators; but they have a TV. Most statistics
claim an estimated 99% of American homes have at least one TV. But, this claim is no
longer sufficient in estimating the size and scope of the TV market. Without
authoritative background, it‘s fair to say most homes have more than one TV.
Some homes have a TV in every room, including the bathroom and garage. Plus, there
are portable TVs. As if that‘s not enough, people spend hours in bars watching TVs.
Now, TV shows are downloadable from the Internet and viewable on screens that fit in
the palm of a hand (the iPod).
One of the most popular past times of prisoners is watching TV. Trials, wars and
Presidential speeches are broadcast on TV. Clearly, TV is a cultural and technological
phenomenon rivaling the light bulb, the telephone and the car, perhaps even more so,
considering that the automobile and telephone/cell phone industries rely heavily on TV
advertising to generate sales.
No electronic device causes as much controversy as the TV, not so much for its
technology and money making ability, but for its content. The severest critics scream,
―Too much sex and violence.‖ Hollywood--the mother of TV--gets the same digs. V-
Chips enable parents to take control over what their children watch, endorsed by the
omni-presence of the FCC, the media and communications watchdog. But for the most
part, TV has charmed us with a host of stars and shows that have defined American
culture. That‘s not completely accurate. TV is a global phenomenon.
In America, reruns keep the Golden Age of the 50s alive with shows like I Love Lucy,
Leave It to Beaver, and Ozzie and Harriet. The success of some shows is overwhelming
and can‘t be measured. M.A.S.H. is on constantly, a show that‘s been on since the 70s.
And then, there‘s The 70s Show. The stars of Friends allegedly commanded a million
bucks per episode. But that‘s trade talk. Salary information on TV stars is as mythical as
the shows they star in. However, some of TVs biggest stars, like Oprah Winfrey, Bill
Cosby and Merv Griffin (amongst many others), are repeatedly reported as the wealthiest
entertainers in show biz.
The galaxy of stars TV has given the public includes some of the most popular
entertainers in entertainment history. Lucille Ball, Red Skeleton, Bob Hope, Johnny
Carson...these names are legends. Shows like Jackie Gleason, Bandstand, Rowan and
Martin’s Laugh-In (where Goldie Hawn got her start), Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of
Genie, and dozens more, have become cultural phenomena. The Kennedy assassination
was broadcast on TV. Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatle‘s to America. The Vietnam
War was the first war to be broadcast daily into the homes of Americans. America--and
the world--witnessed 9/11 on TV.
If anyone wants to sell something, TV is the place to do it. The cost of 30-second spots
during prime time and specialized events like the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards
run into the millions. Major corporations like McDonalds and Coca-Cola spend more on
TV advertising than any other corporate expenditure. And people love to hate
When the remote came along, it was the first means viewers had of avoiding
commercials. But timing was critical. Mindless flipping through channels or excessively
long kitchen, bathroom and telephone call breaks could mean missing part of a program.
And programmers are quite savvy. They can time a program in such a way that if a
viewer is not watching the second a program returns, they could miss a vital plot link.
Cable and satellite TV came along and promised an end to nuisance advertising.
However, regular broadcasting networks still thrive and commercials remain a necessary
evil. Some commercials are very well put together and even enjoyable to watch.
They‘ve become mini-programs, in a sense, with humor, dialog, story lines and all the
special effects found in Hollywood. Like Hollywood‘s Oscars, TV‘s Emmys, the TV
commercial world has the Clio Award. A number of well known actors, directors and
other media professionals got their start in commercials. Regardless, the goal remains the
same: sell something.
TV trivia rivals movie trivia. Who was the first female broadcaster? When was the first
color TV introduced? What was the first commercial ever aired? What was the first
televised sports event? How old is Al Bundy?
Through the early 20th century, up to the Golden Age of TV (late 40s and 50s), to HDTV
and Satellite TV today, the history of television broadcasting is vast. The US began
experimental mechanical broadcasting in the mid-to-late 1920s, and experimental
electronic (Cathode-ray-tube) broadcasting in the late 30s, early 40s.
In the 1870s, the ―selenium camera‖ was a device that would allow people to ―see by
electricity.‖ Other similar devices at the time were called telectroscopes. Eugen
Goldstein introduced ―cathode rays‖ to describe the light emitted when an electric current
was forced through a vacuum tube. Sheldon Bidwell experimented with telephotography.
In Germany, Paul Nipkow patented the ―electric telescope.‖
Alexander Graham Bell, along with others of his time, imagined ―seeing‖ through a
telephone. Bell called his device, simply, the ―photophone.‖ During the 1st International
Congress of Electricity held at the 1900 World‘s Fair in Paris, ―distance vision‖ was a
popular subject. Allegedly this is also where the word ―television‖ was first heard. In
1927, Bell Laboratories and the Department of Commerce held the 1st long-distance
transmission of a live picture and voice simultaneously.
Then secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover was the ―star‖ of the show, announcing the
technological breakthrough. Ironically, it was another World Fair in 1939 where RCA‘s
David Sarnoff generated new interest in RCA‘s new line of TV receivers that had to be
connected to radios for sound.
Coaxial cable lines (pure copper or copper-coated wire surrounded by insulation and an
aluminum covering) used to transmit television, telephone and data signals were first laid
by AT&T between New York and Philadelphia in 1936. In 1945 the 1st experimental
microwave relay system was introduced by Western Union between New York and
Philadelphia. This distribution system transmitted communication signals via radio along
a series of towers. With lower costs than coaxial cable, microwave relay stations carried
most TV traffic by the 70s.
Between 1945 and 1948 the number of commercial (as opposed to experimental)
television stations grew from 9 to 48 and the number of cities having commercial service
went from 8 to 23. Sales of television sets increased 500%. In 1946 Peter Goldmark,
working for CBS, demonstrated his color television system to the FCC. Also in the late
40s, playwrights Arthur Miller, Paddy Chayevsky and others introduced Americans to
high drama in programs like Kraft Television Theater, Studio One, and the Actors Studio.
John Cameron Swayze introduced America to weekday news programming via the
Camel Newsreel Theater in 1948. By 1960 there were 440 commercial VHF stations, 75
UHF stations, and 85% of U.S. households had a television set.
The 1960s through the 1980s represented a period of expansion that spawned a slew of
new devices and technology. In 1962, the world experienced the 1st transatlantic
reception of a television signal via the TELSTAR satellite, launched by NASA. By 1967
most network programming was in color and in 1972 half of U.S. households had a color
In 1975, HBO, then a fledgling company, bought the rights to the live transmission of
The Thrilla from Manila, the heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali
and Joe Frazier. Subscribing cable viewers saw the historic fight as it was happening.
The ability of satellite communications to broadcast real-time images from around the
world, revolutionized TV, and it revolutionized the way humans viewed the world. In
1978 PBS was the 1st network to deliver all its programming via satellite instead of
Home videotaping was another major technology introduced during this time. In 1972 the
Phillips Corporation introduced video cassette recording (VCR) for the home. Sony‘s
Betamax format in 1976 morphed into RCA‘s VHS format. By 1985 the VHS format
dominated the U.S. home market.
Fiber optic cable was introduced in 1970 by Corning‘s Robert Maurer, Donald Keck, and
Peter Schultz. Fiber optic cable is transparent rods of glass or plastic stretched so they are
long and flexible and transmit information digitally using rapid pulses of light. Fiber
optic cable could carry 65,000 times more information than conventional copper wire.
High definition television (HDTV) was also introduced during this period. In 1981 NHK,
the Japanese National Broadcasting Company demonstrated their 1,125 line HDTV
system to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers at a conference in San
Francisco. The sharpness of a television picture is a function of the number of lines per
screen--the more lines the sharper and more vivid the image. In the 1920s, pictures were
broadcast between 30 and 60 lines.
The convergence--or marriage-- of digital technologies, broadband networks, movies,
radio and television will spawn a new device that does it all and fits in the pocket. Even
those who can‘t see or hear will be fitted with artificial intelligence, allowing them to see
and hear better than most people do normally. Shows will become so interactive (some
form of virtual reality) it will be impossible to tell the difference between fantasy and
reality. The viewer will be the star.
In the new millennium, analog TVs still proliferate, but this is changing fast. Digital TV
(DTV) is setting new standards. Satellite dishes now pepper backyards and rooftops all
over America. TV shows are viewed on flat screen computer monitors, downloaded
straight to a large screen, high definition home entertainment system, or downloaded to
portable devices like iPods.
Somewhere, there‘s a guy in a cheap motel room, still trying to adjust a coat hanger to get
better reception on a black and white TV. It‘s late at night, and the best he can hope for
is an info-commercial selling some exercise device designed to shape abdominal muscles
into a washboard. If he‘s lucky, he might get a re-run of I Love Lucy.
Scientific Visualization: An Overview
Visualization in its broadest terms represents any technique for creating images to
represent abstract data. Scientific Visualization has grown to encompass many other
areas like business (information visualization), computing (process visualization),
medicine, chemical engineering, flight simulation, and architecture. Actually there‘s not
a single area of human endeavor that does not fall under scientific visualization in one
form or another.
From a crude perspective, scientific visualization was born out of the conversion of text
into graphics. For instance, describing an apple with words. Bar graphs, charts and
diagrams were a 2-dimensional forerunner in converting data into a visual representation.
Obviously words and 2-dimensional representations can only go so far, and the need for
more mathematically accurate datasets was needed to describe an object‘s exterior,
interior, and functioning processes.
Such datasets were huge, and it wasn‘t until the development of supercomputers with
immense processing power combined with sophisticated digital graphics workstations
that conversion from data into a more dynamic, 3-D graphical representation was
possible. From the early days of computer graphics, users saw the potential of computer
visualization to investigate and explain physical phenomena and processes, from
repairing space vehicles to chaining molecules together.
In general the term ―scientific visualization‖ is used to refer to any technique involving
the transformation of data into visual information. It characterizes the technology of
using computer graphics techniques to explore results from numerical analysis and
extract meaning from complex, mostly multi-dimensional data sets.
Traditionally, the visualization process consists of filtering raw data to select a desired
resolution and region of interest, mapping that result into a graphical form, and producing
an image, animation, or other visual product. The result is evaluated, the visualization
parameters modified, and the process run again.
Three-dimensional imaging of medical datasets was introduced after clinical CT
(Computed axial tomography) scanning became a reality in the 1970s. The CT scan
processes images of the internals of an object by obtaining a series of two-dimensional x-
ray axial images.
The individual x-ray axial slice images are taken using a x-ray tube that rotates around
the object, taking many scans as the object is gradually passed through a tube. The
multiple scans from each 360 degree sweep are then processed to produce a single cross-
section. See MRI and CAT scanning in the Optics section.
The goal in the visualization process is to generate visually understandable images from
abstract data. Several steps must be done during the generation process. These steps are
arranged in the so called Visualization Pipeline.
Data is obtained either by sampling or measuring, or by executing a computational
model. Filtering is a step which pre-processes the raw data and extracts information
which is to be used in the mapping step. Filtering includes operations like interpolating
missing data, or reducing the amount of data. It can also involve smoothing the data and
removing errors from the data set.
Mapping is the main core of the visualization process. It uses the pre-processed filtered
data to transform it into 2D or 3D geometric primitives with appropriate attributes like
color or opacity. The mapping process is very important for the later visual
representation of the data. Rendering generates the image by using the geometric
primitives from the mapping process to generate the output image. There are number of
different filtering, mapping and rendering methods used in the visualization process.
Some of the earliest medical visualizations, created 3D representations from CT scans
with help from electron microscopy. Images were geometrical shapes like polygons and
lines creating a wire frame, representing three-dimensional volumetric objects. Similar
techniques are used in creating animation for Hollywood films. With sophisticated
rendering capability, motion could be added to the wired model illustrating such
processes as blood flow, or fluid dynamics in chemical and physical engineering.
The development of integrated software environments took visualization to new levels.
Some of the systems developed during the 80s include IBM‘s Data Explorer, Ohio State
University‘s apE, Wavefront‘s Advanced Visualizer, SGI‘s IRIS Explorer, Stardent‘s
AVS and Wavefront‘s Data Visualizer, Khoros (University of New Mexico), and PV-
WAVE (Precision Visuals‘ Workstation Analysis and Visualization Environment).
These visualization systems were designed to help scientists, who often knew little about
how graphics are generated. The most usable systems used an interface. Software
modules were developed independently, with standardized inputs and outputs, and were
visually linked together in a pipeline. These interface systems are sometimes called
modular visualization environments (MVEs).
MVEs allowed the user to create visualizations by selecting program modules from a
library and specifying the flow of data between modules using an interactive graphical
networking or mapping environment. Maps or networks could be saved for later recall.
General classes of modules included:
data readers - input the data from the data source
data filters - convert the data from a simulation or other source into another form
which is more informative or less voluminous
data mappers - convert information into another domain, such as 2D or 3D
geometry or sound
viewers or renderers - rendering the 2D and 3D data as images
control structures - display devices, recording devices, open graphics windows
data writers - output the original or filtered data
MVEs required no graphics expertise, allowed for rapid prototyping and interactive
modifications, promoted code reuse, allowed new modules to be created and allowed
computations to be distributed across machines, networks and platforms.
Earlier systems were not always good performers, especially on larger datasets. Imaging
Newer visualization systems came out of the commercial animation software industry.
The Wavefront Advanced Visualizer was a modeling, animation and rendering package
which provided an environment for interactive construction of models, camera motion,
rendering and animation without any programming. The user could use many supplied
modeling primitives and model deformations, create surface properties, adjust lighting,
create and preview model and camera motions, do high quality rendering, and save
images to video tape.
Acquiring data is accomplished in a variety of ways: CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound,
confocal microscopy, computational fluid dynamics, and remote sensing. Remote
sensing involves gathering data and information about the physical ―world‖ by detecting
and measuring phenomena such as radiation, particles, and fields associated with objects
located beyond the immediate vicinity of a sensing device(s). It is most often used to
acquire and interpret geospatial data for features, objects, and classes on the Earth‘s land
surface, oceans, atmosphere, and in outerspace for mapping the exteriors of planets, stars
and galaxies. Data is also obtained via aerial photography, spectroscopy, radar,
radiometry and other sensor technologies.
Another major approach to 3D visualization is Volume Rendering. Volume rendering
allows the display of information throughout a 3D data set, not just on the surface. Pixar
Animation, a spin-off from George Lukas‘s Industrial, Light and Magic (ILM) created a
volume rendering method, or algorithm, that used independent 3D cells within the
volume, called ―voxels‖.
The volume was composed of voxels that each had the same property, such as density. A
surface would occur between groups of voxels with two different values. The algorithm
used color and intensity values from the original scans and gradients obtained from the
density values to compute the 3D solid. Other approaches include ray-tracing and
Scientific visualization draws from many disciplines such as computer graphics, image
processing, art, graphic design, human-computer interface (HCI), cognition, and
perception. The Fine Arts are extremely useful to Scientific Visualization. Art history
can help to gain insights into visual form as well as imagining scenarios that have little or
no data backup.
Computer simulations have become a useful part of modeling natural systems in physics,
chemistry and biology, human systems in economics and social science, and engineering
new technology. Simulations have rendered mathematical models into visual
representations easier to understand. Computer models can be classified as Stochastic or
Stochastic models use random number generators to model the chance or random events,
such as genetic drift. A discrete event simulation (DE) manages events in time. Most
simulations are of this type. A continuous simulation uses differential equations (either
partial or ordinary), implemented numerically. The simulation program solves all the
equations periodically, and uses the numbers to change the state and output of the
simulation. Most flight and racing-car simulations are of this type, as well as simulated
Other methods include agent-based simulation. In agent-based simulation, the individual
entities (such as molecules, cells, trees or consumers) in the model are represented
directly (rather than by their density or concentration) and possess an internal state and
set of behaviors or rules which determine how the agent‘s state is updated from one time-
step to the next.
Winter Simulation Conference
The Winter Simulation Conference is an important annual event covering leading-edge
developments in simulation analysis and modeling methodology. Areas covered include
agent-based modeling, business process reengineering, computer and communication
systems, construction engineering and project management, education, healthcare,
homeland security, logistics, transportation, distribution, manufacturing, military
operations, risk analysis, virtual reality, web-enabled simulation, and the future of
simulation. The WSC provides educational opportunity for both novices and experts.
Virtual reality holds tremendous promise for the future. It‘s still in the experimental
stage, but movies like the Matrix and Minority Report are giving us a glimpse of what
could be, and most likely will be.
Virtual Reality is a three dimensional, computer generated simulation in which one can
navigate around, interact with, and be immersed in another environment
Douglas Engelbart, an electrical engineer and former naval radar technician, is credited
with the first exploration into VR. He viewed computers as more than glorified adding
machines. It was the 1950s, and TVs had barely turned color. His goal was to connect
the computer to a screen.
By the early 1960s, communications technology intersecting with computing and
graphics was well underway. Vacuum tubes turned into transistors. Pinball machines
were being replaced by video games.
Scientific visualization moved from bar charts, mathematical diagrams and line drawings
to dynamic images, using computer graphics. Computerized scientific visualization
enabled scientists to assimilate huge amounts of data and increase understanding of
complex processes like DNA sequences, molecular models, brain maps, fluid flows, and
celestial events. A goal of scientific visualization is to capture the dynamic qualities of a
wide range of systems and processes in images, but computer graphics and animation was
not interactive. Animation, despite moving pictures, was static because once created, it
couldn‘t be altered. Interactivity became the primary driver in the development of VR.
By the end of the 1980s, super computers and high-resolution graphic workstations were
paving the way towards a more interactive means of visualization. As computer
technology developed, MIT and other high tech research centers began exploring Human
Computer Interaction (HCI), which is still a major area of research, now combined with
The mouse seemed clumsy, and such devices as light pens and touch screens were
explored as alternatives. Eventually CAD--computer-aided design--programs emerged
with the ability of designers to model and simulate the inner workings of vehicles, create
blueprints for city development, and experiment with computerized blueprints for a wide
range of industrial products.
Flight simulators were the predecessors to computerized programs and models and might
be considered the first virtual reality -like environments. The early flight simulators
consisted of mock cockpits built on motion platforms that pitched and rolled. A
limitation was they lacked visual feedback. This changed when video displays were
coupled with model cockpits.
In 1979, the military began experimenting with head-mounted displays. By the early
1980s, better software, hardware, and motion-control platforms enabled pilots to navigate
through highly detailed virtual worlds.
A natural consumer of computer graphics was the entertainment industry, which, like the
military and industry, was the source of many valuable spin-offs in virtual reality. By the
1970s, some of Hollywood‘s most dazzling special effects were computer-generated.
Plus, the video game business boomed.
One direct spin-off of entertainment‘s venture into computer graphics was the dataglove,
a computer interface device that detects hand movements. It was invented to produce
music by linking hand gestures to a music synthesizer. NASA was one of the first
customers for the new device. The biggest consumer of the dataglove was the Mattel
company, which adapted it into the PowerGlove, and used it in video games for kids.
The glove is no longer sold.
Helmet-mounted displays and power gloves combined with 3D graphics and sounds
hinted at the potential for experiencing totally immersive environments. There were
practical applications as well. Astronauts, wearing goggles and gloves, could manipulate
robotic rovers on the surface of Mars. Of course, some people might not consider a
person on Mars as a practical endeavor. But at least the astronaut could explore
dangerous terrain without risk of getting hurt.
NASA is investigating user interfaces for robots such as AERCam, short for Autonomous
Extravehicular Robotic Camera. These are spherical free-flying robots being developed
to inspect spacecraft for trouble-spots. AERCam is designed to float outside spacecraft,
using small xenon-gas thrusters and solid-state cameras to view the vehicle‘s outer
surfaces and find damage in places where a human spacewalker or an extended robotic
arm can‘t safely go. With a VR system, the astronaut could maneuver the melon-sized
AERCam with standard hand controls while intuitive head movements rotate AERCam to
let the astronaut ―look around.‖
VR is not just a technological marvel easily engaged like sitting in a movie theater or in
front of a TV. Human factors are crucial to VR. Age, gender, health and fitness,
peripheral vision, and posture come into play. Everyone perceives reality differently, and
it‘s the same for VR. Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is a major area of research.
The concept of a room with graphics projected from behind the walls was invented at the
Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle in 1992. The
images on the walls were in stereo to give a depth cue. The main advantage over ordinary
graphics systems is that the users are surrounded by the projected images, which means
that the images are in the users‘ main field of vision. This environment has been dubbed,
―CAVE (CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment).‖
The CAVE is a surround-screen, surround-sound, projection-based virtual reality (VR)
system. The illusion of immersion is created by projecting 3D computer graphics into a
10‘x10‘x10‘ cube composed of display screens that completely surround the viewer. It is
coupled with head and hand tracking systems to produce the correct stereo perspective
and to isolate the position and orientation of a 3D input device. A sound system provides
audio feedback. The viewer explores the virtual world by moving around inside the cube
and grabbing objects with a three-button, wand-like device.
Lightweight stereo glasses replace helmets, so a viewer can walk around inside the
CAVE as they interact with virtual objects. Multiple viewers often share virtual
experiences and easily carry on discussions inside the CAVE, enabling researchers to
exchange discoveries and ideas. One user is the active viewer, controlling the stereo
projection reference point, while the rest of the users are passive viewers.
The CAVE was designed from the beginning to be a useful tool for scientific
visualization. The CAVE can be coupled to remote data sources, supercomputers and
scientific instruments via high-speed networks. Various CAVE-like environments exist
all over the world today. Projection on all six surfaces of a room allows users to turn
around and look in all directions. Thus, their perception and experience are never
limited, which is necessary for full immersion. The PDC Cube at the Center for Parallel
Computers at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in Sweden is the first fully
Any quick review of the history of optics, photography, computer graphics, media,
broadcasting and even sci-fi, is enough to believe VR will become as commonplace as
the TV and movies. There are far too many practical applications, such as in surgery,
flight simulation, space exploration, chemical engineering and underwater exploration.
But just wait until Hollywood stops speculating and starts experimenting. The thought of
being chased by Freddy Kruger is one thing, but to actually be chased by Freddy Kruger
is utterly terrifying. No more jumping out of seats when the face of a giant shark snaps
its teeth as us. Now we can really know what it‘s like to be chased by cops speeding
down a thruway at 100 mph. We can feel and smell pineapples on a tropical beach. We
can catch bad guys, defeat aliens in a starship battle, and have conversations with
Presidents in our bare feet. With virtual reality, the only limit is the imagination.
Sequel: What’s Next?
With all this looking and viewing and seeing—is the world a better place? We got
museums filled with art, telescopes as big as buildings, microscopes that reveal circling
electrons in the blood of an ant, supercomputers and graphics workstations, mega-million
dollar movies and interactive VR games, lasers, contact lenses, and…the Internet.
Do all these visualization tools, methods and processes really communicate better than
good old fashioned words? The Internet seems a clumsy device, now. Interactive is a
euphemism for a lot of mouse clicking and jumping back and forth between hyperlinks.
Our backs start to ache, our wrists go numb, and the eye strain could be blinding.
Trillions—if there could be count—of images circulate the globe, pouring through TVs,
DVDs, videos and even Smartphones, like a tsunami of unimaginable proportion. Still,
there‘s war, poverty, hate and disease. Are we closer to a world of peace? Or, are we
sending the wrong message and is the receiver capable of interpreting it as it was
For instance, how much time did Osama Bin Laden spend getting to know Americans
before launching his series of terrorist attacks based on such a deep well of hate? Or, did
he watch too much TV or get his impressions based on fashion magazines? In turn, how
many Americans know if the war on terrorism is a war on Shiites or Sunnis?
World news headlines rate about the same as advertising commercials or the comings and
goings of entertainment celebrities. Power rests in the push of a button on a remote or the
click of a mouse. It‘s ―information is power‖ against ―too much information.‖ And it‘s
hard to tell which information is designed to inform and which information is designed to
Seeing the future for some people is about as dramatic as the one-liner, ―Tomorrow‘s just
another day.‖ Tomorrow is just another day filled with the same routines as yesterday. A
popular car bumper sticker expresses the most extreme on the negative spectrum, ―Life
sucks, and then you die.‖
Hopefully, the person who came up with such a black and white view of life was being
funny. If the person was serious, fortunately there are many who disagree.
Some see a beautiful rain forest. Others see a tiger lurking in the shadows. Some see
calm ocean waves and palm trees swaying in a tropical breeze. Others see a hurricane on
the rise. Some see the end is near. Others see a bright tomorrow.
Seeing with Thought, Seeing with Feeling
Smartphones and iPods that play videos and mp3‘s? We are obsessed. We just can‘t get
enough audio/visual input. The next step is hardwiring a TV/Movie/Media implant chip
in our brain that automatically sends and receives audio/visual data wirelessly. But how
will we filter? How will we look inside and outside at the same time? How many things
can we focus on at one time? We already do this--we look at something and look inside
our schemata to make comparisons. When we see something new, we compare it to
something old. Or, it gets entered as new information.
Actually, it appears--and the pun is intended--that we can see everything at once--we see
ourselves in the universe. We see all the way into our souls and all the way out into
outerspace...or outertime. We imagine whatever we want to imagine. However,
describing what we see is not always so easy as, say, pointing our fingers and saying,
We even imagine things we can‘t imagine, like other dimensions. We imagine there are
other dimensions, but we haven‘t a clue what they might be or if they even exist. How
can we imagine something that doesn‘t exist?
It would be curious to see what the world would be like if everyone saw God in the same
way. Actually, we do. We know right from wrong, unless we‘re insane. We know it‘s
wrong to hurt each other.
So just what is it that‘s out of sync? Is it the madness? We hear voices and see visions
that aren‘t there? Does everyone do this, or just those labeled psychotic?
Is it a table? Can we all agree that the thing we see in front of us is a table? Can we do
this without getting caught up in details, like, color, size, or kind of wood? Is it a table
for the rich or a cardboard box being used as a table? Whatever, can we all agree--it‘s a
But then, even if we do, where do we go from there? What do we do with the things we
see? Is seeing enough, or is it a tool for doing something else?
Can we see love? Or is it that we see the manifestations of love? We see it expressed,
shared, and even destroyed. Is love an idea or a feeling? And can we see ideas and
feelings? Can we hold them in our hands? Can we see thoughts and feelings in the same
way we can all see a table? Or, to be more accurate, we see tables pretty much the same
way we see thoughts, ideas, feelings and God.
Is ―love at first sight‖ really possible? Absolutely. We are suddenly mesmerized,
dumbfounded, confused and just plain overwhelmed. We see nothing else but the object
of our affections. We fall in love and the world disappears. We don‘t need to see
anything else, just this person we love, but probably haven‘t even met yet. We can‘t stop
looking. We study everything about them, the hair, the face, the eyes.
Songs tell the story: The Beatle‘s, ―I Saw Her Standing There,‖ Foreigner‘s ―Double
Vision,‖ Bruce Springsteen‘s, ―Brilliant Disguise,‖ Johnny Lee‘s, ―Lookin‘ for Love,‖
and on a humorous note, Aerosmith‘s, ―Dude Looks like a Lady.‖
And then, of course, there‘s Michael Jackson‘s, ―I Always Feel Like Somebody‘s
Friends and Strangers: Seeing Eye to Eye
What is it that friends see in the same way that makes them friends? Friends do not
necessarily sit around and analyze why they are friends. Friendship just sort of happens.
When we are kids going to school, we don‘t think about who is not in the school. We
simply make friends with who ever is around us. Step outside those boundaries and
everything changes. Or, introduce somebody who for a variety of reasons, just doesn‘t
seem to fit in.
There‘s a stranger in town. He doesn‘t quite look like everyone else. He dresses
differently. He even has a peculiar accent. Just don‘t get too close because, well, in this
day and age, he could be a killer, or a terrorist, or a madman of some kind. Maybe he
was just released from prison or maybe he‘s on the run from the cops. He‘s not from
around here. He didn‘t grow up here. Nobody knows his past, his family, his roots.
But what about the stranger? What does he see? A small town riddled with fear because
it‘s never stepped outside its boundaries to see what else and who else is in the world.
Some of these people have never been on a plane. They‘ve never traveled outside the
state yet alone to a foreign country.
Whatever they know about the world is based on images from school, a handful of books,
and more so, from TV. Everybody...looks the same. They‘re all white. They all talk the
same, maybe with a funny Midwestern accent. Nobody dresses out of the ordinary. It‘s
pretty much jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes, whether its men or women. Nobody is
really rich, so there are no fancy gowns, limousines or mansions on a hill.
The sad truth is that even a scenario like a stranger coming to a small town with everyone
gawking and wondering is far from what really happens in life. Small towns aren‘t so
small anymore. Apartment complexes in particular, have opened up a whole new door
for a slew of strangers, all living in close proximity.
Apartments are worse in the big city, largely because of transience. People come and go
like the wind. If something is going on, like a drug deal, or a beating, or someone dresses
up at night like a transvestite, no one sees anything. They can live within a 100 feet of
each other and because of conflicting schedules, or even that drapes are always kept
closed, they never see each other. There‘s a stranger in town, and he lives next door.
Behind Closed Doors
What does a killer see in his mind? Alone in his room, he plots and plans for the next
victim. Does he see blood, or does he see victory? There‘s a cop out there who doesn‘t
much care what the killer sees. The killer must be stopped, period. Cops see the world a
lot differently than most people. They see the worst. They see things going on in
apartments that even next door neighbors didn‘t see. It‘s a world full of people sneaking,
hiding, cheating and stalking.
It‘s a world behind closed doors. We can live with someone for years and still never
know what is really going on inside their minds. By all appearances, everything looks
fine. It‘s everyday life as usual. Then the bomb drops. Suddenly a loving, devoted wife
wants a divorce. She‘s sick and tired of being ignored; being taken for granted. He never
Meanwhile, a mother wonders why a reclusive teenager always shuts the door to her
bedroom lately. But it can last only so long. Pregnancy is not something you can keep on
We don‘t see people on drugs or booze, unless they‘re stoned or bombed out of their
minds, and perhaps can‘t even walk or their eyes look dazed. A little snip here, a little
snort there, a couple of drops of Visine, and no one is the wiser. So we randomly issue
drug tests. At home, we‘re convinced something is going on, because someone‘s
behavior suddenly seems out of the ordinary. We don‘t see sadness, or loneliness or
desperation. We don‘t see feelings of inferiority, depression, or angst.
On the streets of New York, LA, or even Paris and Bombay, someone remarks, ―I‘ve
seen it all.‖ In the big city, such a comment is most likely true. We see wealthy
businessmen stepping over the bodies of homeless women. We see an endless stream of
cab drivers and pedestrians screaming at each other. We sit on a subway and don‘t
wonder who all these people are, only that the subway car is ridiculously crowded, and
we can‘t wait to get to our stop.
One thing you definitely don‘t do is stare. If a look lasts longer than a few seconds, it
could start a fight. There are the romantic glances, but on the streets of New York, there
are a lot of charmers who look good, but underneath, they are stalking their next victim.
But it isn‘t just justifiable fear of a madman that warrants our distrust. Sometimes we‘re
just in a bad mood. We want to be left alone. We don‘t want anybody looking at us,
judging us, seeing through us.
So whadda ya lookin‘ at?
As Robert DeNiro so famously said in Taxi Driver, ―You lookin‘ at me?‖
Or maybe it was Humphrey Bogart: Here‘s lookin‘ at you, kid.
Ever hear the song, ―The Future‘s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades?‖
Evolution is generally viewed linearly. History is a chronological order, with an
unknown originating point following century by century, decade by decade, year by year,
day by day, second by second.
We have the calendar and the clock to prove this is so. Both move forward. Anyone
looking backwards is obviously living in the past. Even the past to the present to the
future follows a straight line.
Life is a series of ―what‘s next?‖ Forget about what happened. If such everyday
philosophy were to hold so true, then why do so many people spend so much time
digging up the past?
The evolution of civilization goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of technology. But
this creates a paradox since the big bang, for instance, can‘t be viewed from a single
originating point in time, although many scientists believe such a point exists. They just
can‘t find it.
What about time? Didn‘t time exist before the universe? That‘s a bit confusing, since
time and the universe are quite possibly one and the same thing. Time had to exist before
there‘s a point in it.
The simplest answer is, of course, God. But God had to start somewhere too. God
created the heavens and earth, so they say. God also proceeded in an orderly fashion,
over an alleged period of 7 days. But when God was doing this, there were no people,
yet alone calendars and clocks. Apparently the sun rises and sets in a linear fashion. But
why 7 days? Why rest on the 7th? Well, it must‘ve been an exhausting experience,
creating the universe and all. So maybe God earned it.
Who or how God was created is a non-issue, as far as believers are concerned.
Another paradox--or multiple paradoxes--exists in that the universe is allegedly
expanding, or radiating outward without any seemingly real sense of direction. Space
and time does not exist linearly; space and time is everywhere. Yet, we follow a straight
line to get from one place to the next, and as already illustrated, we move forward in time
nanosecond by nanosecond.
The same linear/non-linear debate applies to light. Particles and/or waves move in a
straight line, until they are scattered, refracted and reflected. Gravity, magnetism,
electromagnetic radiation, light, and even water, the desert and the arrangement of forests
have both linear and non-linear properties.
The general public just isn‘t ready for chaos theory. Most people have to go to work
tomorrow and their lives move according to a set schedule. And even chaos theory is an
attempt to put things like vast systems into a nice, neat package, where illusive
randomness is actually controlled.
Viewing life in a linear fashion has its advantages and disadvantages. From birth to
death, we view our lives linearly. Life is a sequence of events--although many times
appearing random--where one thing seems to lead to another. The linear view brings
order and structure to our lives.
Even wars are basically fought in a linear fashion, with two opposing sides and a line
down the middle. But anyone soldier knows the enemy is all around, not just in front.
There is random crime and random acts of kindness. It rains one day and then its sunny
the next. Leaves fall and pollen spreads with a wind that randomly changes directions.
Examples are limitless.
Love certainly doesn‘t follow a straight line. We‘re in and out of love like the wind in
the trees, even when its love for the same person. Love does seem to have a point of
origin, similar to the Big Bang or God. It‘s frequently expressed as, ―I fell in love from
the moment I met you.‖
If death is a mirror to life, it‘s curious to know if the other side follows the same patterns
of linearity and non-linearity as it does in life. Is death a mirror or a window, and is there
a way to get back?
If time travel becomes possible, then we‘re really in for a ride. But even time travel is
constrained by forwards and backwards. There‘s not a lot of talk about time travel to the
And how do we process all these paradoxes and mysteries? For the most part, we ignore
them. Such questions are in God‘s hands, and that‘s good enough for most people. The
best we can do is get on with our lives. Maybe watch a little TV, play a little ball, go
The commercial world has absolutely no time for such questions. No one is about to tell
their boss they can‘t come to work because they‘re confused as to whether time is linear
or non-linear. Things have to move in an orderly manner so profits can be made.
Money poses an interesting challenge to the linear/non-linear debate. Clearly, wealth is
not equally distributed, nor is the power that comes with it. Wealth, like fate, seems to
strike the lucky, even when some claim it was hard work that moved them from poor to
Fate, destiny, God, time, gravity, electromagnetic radiation, nature--is it all well ordered
or does it all come in a nice, neat package with a bow on it?
Discoveries seem to happen in a linear fashion, and now we‘re in a world of
nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, the Internet, genetics and colonization of space.
Inspiration is a peculiar thing. It‘s like a bunch of funny little photons dancing around
like fairies in a Disney animated movie, spreading the light of inspiration to all who
wonder. Pretty corny, huh? Yeah, well, for all the technological expertise combined in
some of the most advanced high tech companies in the world, the primary output is a
talking duck, a conniving coyote, a green ogre and brooms that dance.
Communication is the reason why innovation spreads so fast. A bunch of inventors meet
at a convention. One of them suggests seeing through a telephone. Another one balks at
such a preposterous idea. An artist starts drawing a picture of someone watching a scene
projected on a wall with a projecting device. Another inventor with a sense of humor
mentions talking animals. It comes time to leave and the race is on. The inventors retreat
to their humble abodes where late into the night, under the magic of the stars, the race is
on to see who can get the first patent.
Ideas once didn‘t spread so fast. Without telephones or broadcasting devices, or even
cars, an innovator had to travel miles to the nearest town by foot or horse to meet
someone with similar whacked out notions about the universe.
Now, crazy ideas aren‘t so crazy anymore. It‘s quite obvious anything is possible. The
earth is no longer flat, humans can fly, and little robots can sail through the bloodstream
like mini-nuclear powered submarines on a mission to destroy the enemy.
Time travel, teleportation, conversations with ghosts—it‘s all just a movie away from
reality. Or, maybe it‘s just a bit of reality away from a movie. It‘s hard to tell which
comes first, reality or fantasy.
The universe is full of optical illusions. Shadows dance. Images split into two or merge
into one. Too much brightness makes us squint. Light plays tricks on our eyes. Our
brains miscalculate or misinterpret, maybe because of outside noise, confused thought
patterns, or even our feelings. One key to understanding what we see is to focus…not
easy to do when bombarded by a tsunami of images in a universe full of mixed messages.
Perhaps a microscope will help.
There's nothing like a refresher course in light and color to appreciate the simple things in
life. Amazing what we take for granted. Some of the first words we ever learn as
children are tree, cloud, sky and sun. As kids, we spend most of our time playing with
colors, with trees, clouds, the sky and sun as our favorite drawing subjects.
Getting older, we learn there is a force behind these natural wonders, a magical, powerful
force that science and art just can't explain. Waves move across the water. A sunset
takes us through a kaleidoscope of color as clouds cast shadows against the rays of the
sun on the trees.
Something is clearly going on.
Look again and night falls. Out come the stars and the glorious moon, a moon that
science has done everything in its power to turn into just a big rock in the sky.
Meanwhile, some believe the moon is a God. And when the moon shines, goblins and
fairies danced in dark forests. Werewolves are known to prowl. Dogs bark at the moon.
Maybe that's what art is--art picks up where science leaves off. The wind and the sun
provide energy that moves the waves and makes plants grow. That's a good thing, and
we thank science for showing us this. But art paints another picture. Art teases us with
canvasses of color and fills our imaginations and souls with dancing shadows and bends
illusion in ways no refracting lens could ever do.
While all this is going on, the dazzle of light, color, shadow and sound is not possible
without us humans there to experience it. Well, to put it another way, it‘s us humans that
appreciate such natural magic. Do animals see what we see? Do they experience the joy
of the suns rays and marvel at the sight of a rainbow? Well, they're not talking. But, here
we are, with our two eyes, taking it all in, and wondering...
Then along comes the storytellers, to weave it all together in a way that gives life
meaning or, at times, just to entertain us. Afterall, it's just great to be alive.
So, the bottom line is...what‘s next? What do you see?
Appendix A: History of Computer Graphics (and a whole lot more)
NOTE: The following history of computer graphics was created by SIGGRAPH. It‘s
been reformatted (bulleted lists, capitalizations, etc.).
1200 - 1959
1200 Chinese Abacus
1617 Napier‘s bones
1450 Gutenberg press
1687 Principia Mathematica - Isaac Newton
1801 Jacquard loom
1811 Luddites riot
1826 Photography (Niepce)
1830 Babbage Analytical Engine designed
1842 FAX (Alexander Bain)
1843 Morse‘s telegraph installed between Philadelphia and Washington
1864 Maxwell electromagnetic wave theory becomes basis for radio wave
1877 Edison invents phonograph
1884 Nipkow (Germany) devises scanner for scanning and transmitting images
1885 CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)
1887 Edison patents motion picture camera
1888 Edison and Dickson design Kinetoscope - (motion pictures from successive
photos on a cylinder); Berliner invents gramophone; Oberlin Smith publishes
basics of magnetic recording
1890 Hollerith introduces an automated punch-card driven tabulation device for
the Census Bureau
1891 Dickson uses Edison‘s kinetograph to record motion pictures
1898 Poulsen invents the Telegraphone, the first magnetic recording device
1905 Fleming electron tube; 1905 Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity
1906 de Forest develops Audion vacuum tube amplifier
1923 Zworykin develops Iconoscope at Westinghouse
1926 First television (J.L. Baird); 1st teleconference - between Washington and
1927 Philo Farnsworth invents fully electronic TV (First all electronic TV is
made by RCA in 1932); Motion picture film standardized at 24 fps
1928 Hollerith introduces the 80-column ―punch card‖
1929 BBC begins broadcasting
1930 Philo Farnsworth receives patents for transmitting images by electronic
1931 1st stereo recordings
1936 Magnetophone is 1st true magnetic tape recorder
1938 Valensi proposes color TV
1939 Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard design the Audio Oscillator
1941 First U.S. regular TV broadcast; 1st TV commercial (for Bulova watches)
1945 Whirlwind computer project starts at MIT
1946 ENIAC computer built at University of Pennsylvania
1948 cable TV is installed
1947 Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain of Bell Labs invent transistors (―transfer
1949 John Whitney enters first International Experimental Film Competition in
Belgium; Williams tube (CRT storage tube); Whirlwind computer built; core
memory developed by Wang of Harvard
1950 Cybernetics and Society - Norbert Weiner (MIT); Ben Laposky uses
oscilloscope to display waveforms which were photographed as artwork
1951 Graphics display on vectorscope on Whirlwind computer in first public
1952 Mr. Potato Head invented; later starred in ―Toy Story;‖ Air Force Project
Blue Book organized to categorize UFO sightings
1953 NTSC broadcast code
1954 FCC authorizes color TV broadcast; FORTRAN - John Backus
1955 Disneyland opens; SAGE system at Lincoln Lab uses first light pen (Bert
1956 Lawrence Livermore National Labs connects graphics display to IBM 704;
use film recorder for color images; Ray Dolby, Charles Ginsberg and Charles
Anderson of Ampex develop the first videotape recorder; Alex Poniatoff (Ampex)
introduces the VR1000 videotape recorder (2‖tape) - the first practical broadcast
1957 1st image-processed photo at National Bureau of Standards; Digital
Equipment Corporation founded
1958 Numerical controlled digital drafting machines, APT II (Automated
Programming Tools) - MIT; CalComp 565 drum plotter; Saul Bass creates titles
for Hitchcock‘s movie, Vertigo; Integrated circuit (IC, or Chip) invented by Jack
St. Clair Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Electronics;
John Whitney Sr. uses analog computer to make art
1959 First film recorder - General Dynamics Stromberg Carlson 4020 (uses
Charactron tube); TX-2 computer at MIT uses graphics console; GM begins DAC
1960 William Fetter of Boeing coins the term ―computer graphics‖ for his human
factors cockpit drawings; John Whitney Sr. founds Motion Graphics, Inc.; LISP
developed by John McCarthy; DEC PDP-1 introduced
1961 Spacewars, 1st video game, developed by Steve Russell at MIT for the
PDP-1; Catalogue (John Whitney)
1962 Information International Inc. (Triple I) founded; Itek begins Electronic
Drafting Machine project; Mr. Computer Image ABC produced on Scanimate by
1st computer art competition, sponsored by Computers and Automation;
Sketchpad developed beginning in 1961 by Ivan Sutherland at MIT is unveiled;
Mouse invented by Doug Englebart of SRI
1st (?) computer generated film by Edward Zajac (Bell Labs)
BEFLIX developed at Bell Labs by Ken Knowlton
Charles Csuri makes his first computer generated artwork
DAC-1, first commercial CAD system, developed in 1959 by IBM for General
Motors is shown at JCC
Lockheed Georgia starts graphics activity (Chase Chasen)
Michael Noll (Bell Labs) starts his Gaussian Quadratic series of artwork
Roberts hidden line algorithm (MIT)
The Society for Information Display established
Fetter of Boeing creates the ―First Man‖ digital human for cockpit studies
Project MAC (MIT)
IBM 2250 console ($125,000) introduced with IBM 360 computer
Poem Field by Stan Vanderbeek and Ken Knowlton
Itek Digigraphic Program (later Control Data graphics system)
The BASIC programming language developed by Kurtz and Kemeny
Ruth Weiss introduces drawing software that performs hidden line elimination
RAND tablet input device (commercially known as Grafacon)
Compact cassette tape (Phillips)
New York World‘s Fair
Electronic character generator
1st computer art exhibition, at Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart
1st U.S. computer art exhibition, at Howard Wise Gallery in New York
Dolby Laboratories founded by Ray Dolby, inventor of the first videotape
Roberts introduces homogeneous coordinates
Utah computer science department founded
Bresenham Algorithm for plotting lines
Tektronix Direct View Storage Tube (DVST)
CADAM developed at Lockheed; CADD developed at McDonnell Douglas
Project DEMAND consortium (IBM, Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell,
TRW, Rolls Royce)
BBN Teleputer uses Tektronix CRT
Odyssey, home video game developed by Ralph Baer of Sanders Assoc., is 1st
consumer CG product
Group 1 FAX machines (using CCITT compression)
Lincoln Wand developed
Plasma Panel introduced (first developed at Illinois in 1964 as part of the PLATO
Studies in Perception I by Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon (Bell Labs)
MAGI founded by Phil Mittleman
Joint Defense Department / Industry symposium on CAD/NC held in Oklahoma
IBM awards Artist-in-Residence to John Whitney, Sr.
Loutrel hidden line algorithm
Appel hidden line algorithm
Steven Coons publishes his surface patch ―little red book‖
Sine Curve Man and Hummingbird created by Chuck Csuri
Adage real time 3D line drawing system
Lee Harrison‘s ANIMAC graphic device
GE introduces first full color real time interactive flight simulator for NASA -
Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) started in New York by artists
Rauschenberg and Kluver
MIT‘s Center for Advanced Visual Studies founded by Gyorgy Kepes
Instant replay and Slo-Mo introduced using Ampex HS-100 disc recorder
Cornell‘s program started in Architecture by Don Greenberg
1/2 inch open reel video tape recorder
DEC 338 intelligent graphics terminal
University of Utah asks Dave Evans to form a CG department in computer
Edsger Dijkstra writes article Go To Statement Considered Harmful which signals
beginning of structured programming
Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts exhibition at London Institute
of Contemporary Arts
Csuri‘s Hummingbird purchased by Museum of Modern Art for permanent
Permutations - John Whitney, Sr.
Sutherland Head Mounted Display (Sword of Damocles), developed in 1966,
shown (AFIPS Conference)
Evans & Sutherland Calma, Computek, Houston Instrument, Imlac founded
ARDS terminal, Computek 400 terminal
LDS-1 ($250,000) from E&S introduces line clipping
Computer Image Corporation founded
UNIX developed by Thompson and Ritchie at Bell Labs (in PDP-7 assembly
SCANIMATE commercialized - Lee Harrison
Genesys animation system - Ron Baecker
GRAIL (Graphics Input Language) developed at Rand
Computer Space arcade game built by Nolan Bushnell
Xerox PARC founded
Lee Harrison‘s CAESAR animation system
Bell Labs builds first framebuffer (3 bits)
Sony U-Matic 3/4‖ video cassette
Intel introduces the 1 KB RAM chip
1st use of CGI for commercials - MAGI for IBM
Graphical User Interface (GUI) developed by Xerox (Alan Kay)
SIGGRAPH formed (began as special interest committee in 1967 by Sam Matsa
and Andy vanDam)
ComputerVision, Applicon, Vector General founded
ARPANET is born
Sonic Pen 3-D input device
ISSCO (Integrated Software Systems Corporation ) founded (marketed DISSPLA
software) by Peter Preuss
Watkins algorithm for visible surfaces
Pascal programming language developed by Wirth
Imlac PDS-1 programmable graphics computer marketed
John Staudhammer starts NCSU Graphics Lab at NC State
Pierre Bezier from Renault develops Bezier freeform curve representation
GINO (graphics input output specification) - Cambridge University
Intel 4004 4-bit processor
Interactive Graphics for Computer-Aided Design (Prince) published
MCS (Manufacturing and Consulting Services) founded by Patrick Hanratty,
considered the ―father‖ of mechanical CAD/CAM - introduces ADAM CAD
software, which is the heart of many modern software systems
Robert Abel and Associates founded
Floppy disk (8‖) - IBM
MAGI Synthevision started (Bo Gehring)
CGRG founded at Ohio State
NASA IPAD (Integrated Program for Aerospace Vehicle Design) initiative
Graphics Standards Planning Committee organized by ACM-SIGGRAPH
The @ symbol selected for email addresses by BBN
C language developed by Ritchie
Emmy awarded to Lee Harrison for SCANIMATE
Alto computer introduced by Xerox PARC (Alan Kay)
Intel 8008 8-bit processor
Megatek, Summagraphics, Computervision, Applicon founded
Utah hand (Catmull) and face (Parke) animations produced
Computer Graphics and Image Processing journal begins publication
8-bit frame buffer developed by Dick Shoup at Xerox PARC
Sandin Image Processor - Dan Sandin, Univ. Illinois-Chicago Circle
Atari formed (Nolan Bushnell)
Newell, Newell and Sancha visible surface algorithm
video game Pong developed for Atari
Graphics Symbiosis System (GRASS) developed at Ohio State by Tom DeFanti
E&S begins marketing first commercial frame buffer
Ethernet - Bob Metcalf (Harvard)
Westworld - uses 2D graphics
Circle Graphics Habitat founded at Univ. Illinois Chicago (Tom DeFanti & Dan
Moore‘s Law (the number of transistors on a microchip will double every year
and a half) by Intel‘s chairman, Mr. Gordon Moore
Nolan Bushnell‘s video game Computer Space appears in movie Soylent Green
first SIGGRAPH conference (Boulder)
3/4 inch portapack replaces 16mm film for news gathering
Richard Shoup develops PARC raster display
Rich Riesenfeld (Syracuse) introduces b-splines for geometric design
Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics (Newman and Sproull) first
comprehensive graphics textbook is published
Motion Pictures Product Group formed at III by John Whitney, Jr. and Gary
Alex Schure opens CGL at NYIT, with Ed Catmull as Director
Barnhill and Riesenfeld introduce the name ―Computer-Aided Geometric Design‖
SuperPaint developed by Dick Shoup and Alvy Ray Smith
TCP protocol (Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn)
DEC VT52 incorporated the first addressable cursor in a graphics display terminal
Intel (Zilog) 8080
z-buffer developed by Ed Catmull (University of Utah)
Futureworld (sequel to Westworld) uses 3D CGI (III)
Hunger produced by Peter Foldes at National Research Council of Canada; wins
Cannes Film Festival Prix de Jury award for animation
Phong shading - Bui-Toung Phong (University of Utah)
Sony Betamax recorder
USAF ICAM (Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing) initiative started
Cray 1 introduced
Altair 8800 computer
Fractals - Benoit Mandelbrot (IBM)
Winged edge polyhedra representation (Bruce Baumgart)
Catmull curved surface rendering algorithm
Bill Gates starts Microsoft
Quantel (QUANtized TELevision) introduces the DFS3000 Digital Framestore
Martin Newell (Utah) develops CGI teapot (physical teapot now in the Computer
Museum in Boston)
JPL Graphics Lab developed (Bob Holzman)
Arabesque completed (John Whitney)
Anima animation system developed at CGRG at Ohio State (Csuri)
MITs Visible Language Workshop founded by Muriel Cooper
Ed Catmull develops ―tweening‖ software (NYIT)
Jim Clark‘s Hierarchical model for visible surface detection
N. Burtnyk , M. Wein, Interactive skeleton techniques for enhancing motion
dynamics in key frame animation, CACM, V19, #10, Oct 1976, 564-569
Jim Blinn develops reflectance and environment mapping (University of Utah)
Nelson Max‘s sphere inversion film
Ukrainian Pysanka Egg erected in Vegraville, Canada by Ron Resch (University
of Utah) to commemorate the RCMP
Sony Beta home video
Floppy disk (5 1/4‖)
Apple 1 (Wozniak)
IFIP (The Internation Federation of Information Processing) conference at Seillac
in France on ―The Methodology of Computer Graphics‖ begins standardization
Computer Graphics Newsletter started by Joel Orr; becomes Computer Graphics
World in 1978
Peter Fonda‘s head digitized and rendered by III for Futureworld
Ampex VPR-1 Type C 1‖ video recorder
Wang word processing
―Artist and Computer‖, by Ruth Leavitt
Mathematical Elements for Computer Graphics (David Rogers) published
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak start Apple computer.
Apple Computer incorporated
VHS (Video Home System) format - Matsushita
JVC VHS home video
Apple II released
Frank Crow introduces antialiasing
Jim Blinn introduces a new illumination model that considers surface ―facets‖
Computer Graphics World begins publication (started by Joel and N‘omi Orr as
Computer Graphics Newsletter)
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences introduces Visual Effects
category for Oscars
Nelson Max joins LLL; Jim Blinn joins JPL
R/Greenberg founded (Richard and Robert Greenberg)
SIGGRAPH CORE Graphics standard
Ampex ESSTM (Electronic Still Store) system introduced for network sports slo-
mo;adapted for use as animation sequetial storage device
GKS (Graphical Kernal System) graphics standard introduced
Fuchs multiprocessor visible surface algorithm
Larry Cuba produces Death Star simulation for Star Wars using Grass at UICC
developed by Tom DeFanti at Ohio State
Tom DeFanti‘s GRASS system rewritten for Bally home computer (Zgrass)
E&S goes public
AT&T and Canadian Telidon introduce videotex graphics standard (NAPLPS)
Digital Effects founded (Judson Rosebush, Jeff Kleiser, et al)
Lance Williams curved shadows paper
Ikonas frame buffer - England/Whitton
Leroy Neiman uses Ampex AVA-1TM video art system to draw (on air) football
players in Super Bowl XII
1st CGI film title - Superman (R. Greenberg)
Computer Graphics World begins publication
James Blinn produces the first of a series of animations titled The Mechanical
DEC VAX 11/780 introduced
Video laser disc
Bump mapping introduced (Blinn)
National Computer Graphics Association (NCGA) organized by Peter Preuss of
ISSCO and Joel Orr
IGES graphics file format specified
IBM 3279 color terminal
Motorola 68000 32-bit processor
Atari 8-bit computers introduced
Disney produces The Black Hole using CGI for the opening
Sunstone - Ed Emshwiller (NYIT)
George Lucas hires Ed Catmull, Ralph Guggenheim and Alvy Ray Smith to form
Vol Libre - Loren Carpenter of Boeing
Apollo Computer founded - introduces the 68000 based workstation
Turner Whitted of Bell Labs publishes ray tracing
First NCGA conference - Arlington, Virginia - Steven Levine, President
Donkey Kong introduced by Nintendo (Mario named in US release)
IBM licenses DOS from Microsoft
Apple Computer IPO - 4.6M shares @ $22
Aurora Systems founded by Richard Shoup
SIGGRAPH Core standard reorganized as ANSC X3H3.1 (PHIGS)
EUROGRAPHICS (The European Association for Computer Graphics) formed;
first conference at Geneva
Disney contracts Abel, III, MAGI and DE for computer graphics for the movie
MIT Media Lab founded by Nicholas Negroponte
Pacific Data Images founded by Carl Rosendahl
Computer hard disk drive - Seagate
Hanna-Barbera, largest producer of animation in the U.S.,begins implementation
of computer automation of animation process
Quantel introduces Paintbox
Tom DeFanti expands GRASS to Bally Z-50 machine (ZGRASS) - University
Illinois - Chicago Circle
IBM introduces the first IBM PC (16 bit 8088 chip)
DEC introduces VT100
IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications published by IEEE Computer Society
Ampex ADO® system introduced; garners an Emmy award in 1983
Digital Productions formed by Whitney and Demos
Cranston/Csuri Productions founded by Chuck Csuri, Robert Kanuth and Jim
R/Greenberg opens CGI division (Chris Woods)
MITI Fifth Generation Computer Project announced by Japanese Ministry of
International Trade and Industry
REYES renderer written at LucasFilm
Penguin Software (now Polarware) introduces the Complete Graphics System
Looker includes the virtual human character Cindy (Susan Dey) - 1st filkm with
Adam Powers, the Juggler produced by III
Carla‘s Island - Nelson Max
The Last Starfighter (Digital Productions) begins production
The Geometry Engine (Clark)
Jim Clark founds Silicon Graphics Inc.
Sun Microsystems founded (sun := Stanford University Network)
Alain Fournier, Don Fussell, Loren Carpenter, Computer Rendering of Stochastic
Skeleton Animation System (SAS) developed at CGRG at Ohio State (Dave
Sony still frame video camera (Mavica)
ACM begins publication of TOG (Transactions on Graphics)
Tom Brighham develops morphing (NYIT)
Adobe founded by John Warnock
Toyo Links established in Tokyo
Symbolics Graphics Division founded
EPCOT Center opens
Atari develops the data glove.
Where the Wild Things Are test (MAGI) - digital compositing used to combine
CG backgrounds and traditional animation
AutoDesk founded; AutoCAD released
ILM computer graphics division develops ―Genesis effect‖ for Star Trek II - The
Wrath of Khan
Particle systems (Reeves - Lucasfilm)
SGI IRIS 1000 graphics workstation
Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines (NURBS) introduced by Tiller (Note: this date
is somewhat misleading, since the concept built on the work of Vesprille (1975),
Riesenfeld (1973), Knapp (1979), Coons (1968) and Forrest (1972))
Road to Point Reyes - Lucasfilm
The Last Starfighter released
Jim Blinn receives the first (1983) ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Ivan Sutherland receives the first (1983) ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons
Steve Dompier‘s ―Micro Illustrator‖
UNIX System V
Utah Raster Toolkit introduced (Spencer Thomas)
Autodesk introduces first PC-based CAD software
Alias founded in Toronto by Stephen Bingham, Nigel McGrath, Susan McKenna
and David Springer
Mip-mapping introduced for efficient texture mapping (Williams - NYIT)
Sony and Philips introduce 1st CD player
Robert Able & Associates produces the 1st computer generated 30 second
commercial used for Super Bowl (Brilliance)
Wavefront Technologies is the first commercially available 3D software package
(founded by Mark Sylvester, Larry Barels and Bill Kovacs )
Thomson Digital Image (TDI) founded
Jim Clark receives the 1984 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
International Resource Development report predicts the extinction of the
keyboard in the next decade
A-buffer (or alpha-buffer) introduced by Carpenter of Lucasfilm
Distributed ray tracing introduced by Lucasfilm
Cook shading model (Lucasfilm)
14.5 minute computer generated IMAX film (The Magic Egg) shown at
SIGGRAPH 84 - 18 teams; 20 segments
Universal Studios opens CG department
First Macintosh computer is sold; introduced with Clio award winning
commercial 1984 during Super Bowl
McDonnel Douglas introduces the Polhemus 3Space digitizer and body Tracker
The Cornell Box invented by Cohen
Radiosity born - Cornell University
John Lasseter joins Lucasfilm
Digital Productions (Whitney and Demos) get Academy Technical Achievement
Award for CGI simulation of motion picture photography
Lucasfilms introduces motion blur effects
Porter and Duff compositing algorithm (Lucasfilm)
The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (Lucasfilm)
Commodore launches the new Amiga
Loren Carpenter receives the 1985 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Pierre Bezier receives the 1985 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Sogitec founded (Xavier Nicolas)
Max Headroom - computer-mediated live action figure
Judson Rosebush Co. started
Abel Image Research takes Robert Abel & Associates to shaded graphics business
Tony de Peltrie airs
Biosensor (Toyo Links)
Quantel Harry is first non-linear editor
CGW predicts 90s graphics workstation
Targa 16 board (AT&T) goes to market
Pixar Image Computer goes to market
NeXT Incorporated founded by Steve Jobs and five former Apple senior
Perlin‘s noise functions introduced (Ref: Perlin, Ken. An Image Synthesizer.
Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 85 Proceedings) 19(3) July 1985, p. 287-296.)
CD-ROMs High Sierra (ISO9660) standard introduced
PostScript (Adobe - John Warnock)
PODA creature animation system developed by Girard and Maciejewski at Ohio
Boss Films founded by Richard Edlund
MIT Media Lab moves to new home
Young Sherlock Holmes stained glass knight (Lucasfilm), 2010 (Boss Films)and
The Great Mouse Detective was the first animated film to be aided by CG.
Pixar purchased from Lucasfilm by Steve Jobs
X-Window System (MIT Project Athena)
Trancept Systems founded by Nick England and Mary Whitton - graphics board
CGI group starts at Industrial Light and Magic (Doug Kay and George Joblove)
Softimage founded by Daniel Langlois in Montreal
Sun Microsystems goes public
mental images founded in Berlin
Computer Associates acquires ISSCO
Microsoft goes public (IPO raises $61M; share prices go from $21 to $28)
Apple IIgs introduced
Silicon Graphics Incorporated IPO
SGI IRIS 3000 (MIPS processor)
Turner Whitted receives the 1986 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Waldo project introduces motion capture (Digital Productions)
Kajiya‘s Rendering Equation
Omnibus assumes Robert Able & Associates and Digital Productions in hostile
takeovers by John Pennie and investors
Whitney/Demos Productions founded
Intel introduces 82786 graphics coprocessor chip; Texas Instruments introduces
TMS34010 Graphics System Processor
Luxo Jr. nominated for Oscar (first CGI film to be nominated - Pixar)
Scitex founded for prepress
GIF format (CompuServe), JPEG format (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
Willow (Lucasfilm) popularizes morphing
Max Headroom debuts
CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile) standard
Side Effects Software established
VGA (Video Graphivs Array) invented by IBM
Windows 2.0, MS/OS 2, Excel
Sun 4 SPARC workstation
Reynolds‘ flocking behavior algorithm (Symbolics)
Stanley and Stella in: Breaking the Ice
Rob Cook receives the 1987 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Don Greenberg receives the 1987 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) founded at Ohio
State (formerly CGRG)
Omnibus closes, eliminating DP and Abel
Cranston/Csuri Productions closes
Marching Cubes algorithm (Lorensen and Cline - GE)
Metrolight Studios, RezN8 Productions, Kleiser/Walczak Construction Co.,
PICT format (Apple)
Apple sues Microsoft for copyright infringement for GUI
GKS, PHIGS standards
Prime Computer acquires Computervision
Solid Texturing introduced (Perlin Noise Functions) (Ref: K. Perlin. An image
synthesizer. Computer Graphics, 19(3):287--296, 1985)
Al Barr receives the 1988 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Internet Worm infects servers all over the world
Gary Demos founds DemoGraFX
Open Software Foundation (OSF)
NeXT Cube - For $6500, it features: 25-MHz 68030 processor and 68882 math
coprocessor, 8 MB RAM, 17-inch monochrome monitor, 256 MB read/write
magneto-optical drive, and object-oriented NeXTSTEP operating system.
JCGL purchased by NAMCO
US Patent awarded to Pixar for RenderMan
Who Framed Roger Rabbit mixes live action and animation
Willow (Lucasfilm) uses morphing in a feature film
D-2 composite video format introduced by Ampex
Disney and Pixar develop CAPS (Computer Animation Paint System) (academy
technical award in 1992)
PIXAR wins Academy award for Tin Toy
John Warnock receives the 1989 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
David Evans receives the 1989 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
8MM videotape introduced by Sony
OSF Motif V1.0 released
Mental ray renderer released (integrated with Wavefront (1992), Softimage
(1993), Maya (2002)) - awarded AMPAS Technical Achievment Award in 2002
HP buys Apollo
Computervision acquires Calma
ILM creates the Abyss
PIXAR starts marketing RenderMan
Microsoft ships Windows 3.0
NewTek Video Toaster
First edition of Graphics Gems published by Academic Press (Andrew Glassner,
US Patent awarded to Pixar for point sampling
Richard Shoup and Alvy Ray Smith receive the 1990 ACM SIGGRAPH CG
3D Studio (AutoDesk)
IBM RS6000 workstation
John Wiley & Sons begins publishing The Journal of Visualization and Computer
World Wide Web (CERN)
Jim Kajiya receives the 1991 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Andy van Dam receives the 1991 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Disney and PIXAR agree to create 3 films, including the first computer animated
full-length film Toy Story
ILM produces Terminator 2
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Special Achievement Award
for Visual Effects for Total Recall (Metrolight Studios)
Beauty and the Beast (Disney)
Symbolics Graphics Division sold to Nichimen Graphics
SunSoft - software subsidiary of Sun Microsystems
SGI Indigo workstation
Disney (Randy Cartwright, David Coons, Lem Davis, Tom Hahn, Jim Houston,
Mark Kimball, Dylan Kohler, Peter Nye, Mike Shaantzis, David Wolf) get
Academy Scientific and Engineering Award for CAPS production system.
Ray Feeney, Richard Keeney and Richard Lundell get Academy Scientific and
Engineering Award for the Solitair Film Recorder .
QuickTime introduced (Apple)
Henry Fuchs receives the 1992 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Softimage goes public
SGI acquires MIPS
OpenGL (SGI) released
University of Illinois debuts CAVE virtual reality technology at SIGGRAPH 92
Lawnmower Man (Effects by Angel Studios and Xaos)
US Patent awarded to Pixar for Non-Affine Image Warping
VIFX uses flock animation with Prism software to create large groups of animals
Tom Brigham and Doug Smythe and ILM get Academy Technical Achievement
Award for morphing technique (MORF)
Loren Carpenter, Rob Cook, Ed Catmull, Tom Porter, Pat Hanrahan, Tony
Apodaca and Darwyn Peachey get the Academy Scientific and Engineering
Award for Renderman
Novell buys UNIX from AT&T - $150M (transfers UNIX trademark to X/Open
standards organization in 1993)
February (premiere) issue of DV magazine advises ―[to be able to do digital
video, get] the most souped up system you can get your hands on. A fast
processor (68040 on Amiga or Mac, 80486 on PC) and lots of RAM (8-64 MB)
are in order. So is a large hard drive (200 MB - 1 GB) if you want to take on
Disk array and compression codecs allow for nonlinear editing and full motion
Academy Scientific and Engineering Award is given to Les Dittart, Mark Leather,
Doug Smythe and George Joblove for the development of the Digital Motion
Picture Retouching System (rig removal and dirt cleanup)
Pat Hanrahan receives the 1993 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Ed Catmull receives the 1993 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Jurassic Park - ILM and Steven Spielberg
Wavefront buys TDI
Wired Magazine launched
Babylon 5 uses Amiga and Macintosh generated CGI
Mosaic browser (NCSA)
Xaos Tools Pandemonium image processor for the SGI
Myst released (Cyan) - in 1998, it became the top selling game of all time
Digital Domain founded by James Cameron, Stan Winston, and Scott Ross
SGI and Nintendo team up for Nintendo 64 product
ILM earns Oscar for special effects for Jurassic Park
Microsoft acquires Softimage - announces Windows 95
Iomaga Zip drive
Linux 1.0 released
Reboot (CG cartoon) uses 3D characters (Mainframe Entertainment)
Direct Broadcast Satellite service
SGI founder Jim Clark resigns, forms Mosaic Communications
VRML introduced (Mark Pesce)
HDTV standard for transmission adopted in US
The AMPAS Academy Award of Merit goes to Peter and Paul Vlahos for
Ultimatte electronic blue screen compositing.
Academy Scientific and Engineering Awards go to Gary Demos and Dan
Cameron of III, David Difrancesco and Gary Starkweather of Pixar, and Scott
Squires of ILM for pioneering work in film scanning; Lincoln Hu and Mike
Mackenzie of ILM and Glenn Kennel and Mike Davis of Kodak for development
work on a linear array CCD film input scanning system; and Ray Feeney, Will
McCown and Bill Bishop of RFX and Les Dittert of PDI for their development
work on an area array CCD film input scanning system
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Mike Boudry of the Computer
Film Company for pioneering work in film input scanning; and David and Lloyd
Addleman for their inventions in digital image compositing.
US Patent awarded to Pixar for creating, manipulating and displaying images
Facetracker used by SimmGraphics to animate facial expressions for Super Mario
Ken Torrance receives the 1994 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Toy Story (Pixar)
DreamWorks SKG founded (Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David
DreamWorks SKG and Microsoft form DreamWorks Interactive
Internet Explorer 2.0
Academy Scientific and Engineering Award goes to Alvy Ray Smith, Ed Catmull,
Tom Porter and Tom Duff (Pixar) for pioneering inventions in digital
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Gary Demos, David Ruhoff, Dan
Cameron and Michelle Feraud for creation of the Digital Productions digital film
compositing system; the Computer Film Company for the CFC Digital Film
Compositor; and Doug Smythe, Lincoln Hu,, Doug Kay and ILM for the ILM
digital film compositing system.
US Patent awarded to Pixar for image volume data
John Lasseter of Pixar gets Academy Award for development and application of
techniques used in Toy Story
Kurt Akeley (SGI) receives the 1995 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Jose Encarnacao receives the 1995 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Wavefront and Alias merge
Pixar goes public with 6.9M share offering
Netscape IPO ($58.25/share)
Sony Playstation introduced
Sun introduces Java
Internet 2 unveiled
MP3 standard format developed
John Whitney passes away (1922-1996)
Quake hits game market
Marc Levoy receives the 1996 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Academy Scientific and Engineering Awards go to Jim Hourihan for particle
systems in Dynamation; Brian Knep, Zoran Kacic-Alesic and Tom Williams of
ILM for the Viewpaint 3D Paint system; and Bill Reeves for the original
development and concept of particle systems.
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Jim Kajiya of Cal Tech and Tim
Kay for pioneering work in the creation of CGI hair and fur; Nestor Burtnyk and
Marceli Wein of the National Research Center of Canada for computer assisted
key framing for animation; Garth Dickie for shape-driven warping and morphing
in the Elastic Reality Special Effects System; Jeff Yost, Christian Rouet, David
Benson and Florian Kainz for the development of a system to create and control
hair and fur in CGI; Brian Knep, Craig Hayes, Rick Sayre and Tom Williams of
ILM for the creation and development of the direct input device; and Ken Perlin
for the development of the Perlin Noise technique.
Colossal Pictures files Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Yahoo! IPO ($43/share)
SGI buys Cray Research - $764M
SGI introduces O2 workstation
Disney purchases DreamQuest Images; Dreamworks buys interest in PDI
Windows 95 ships
VIFX joins with Blue Sky
DVD technology unveiled
IBM Deep Blue wins at chess
Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz receives the 1997 ACM SIGGRAPH CG
James Foley receives the 1997 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Academy Scientific and Engineering Awards go to Bill Kovacs and Roy Hall for
the engineering efforts that result in the Wavefront Advanced Visualizer software;
Richard Shoup, Alvy Ray Smith and Tom Porter for the development of digital
paint systems; John Gibson, Rob Kreiger, Milan Novacek, Glen Ozymok, and
Dave Springer for the development of geometric modeling in Alias
PowerAnimator; Craig Reynolds for pioneering contributions to 3D computer
animation; Eben Ostby, Bill Reeves, Sam Leffler and Tom Duff for the Pixar
Marionette animation system; and Dominique Boisvert, Rejean Gagne, Daniel
Langlois, and Richard Lapierriere for the Actor component of the Softimage
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Jim Keating, Michael Wahrman
and Richard Hollander for the Wavefront Advanced Visualizer software
development; Greg Hermanovic, Kim Davidson, Mark Elendt and Paul Breslin
for the development of PRISMS software; and Richard Chuang, Glenn Entis and
Carl Rosendahl for the PDI animation system.
Pixar interactive division dissolved
Microsoft sued by Justice Dep‘t
Apple Computer acquires NexT
Titanic becomes the largest grossing motion picture in US history
Alias Maya released
Quicktime 3.0 released
Boss Films closes
Sun gets back into graphics with the Darwin Ultra series of workstations
MPEG-4 standard announced
CGI cartoon Voltron produced in US
SGI and Microsoft form partnership to develop APIs; SGI will develop NT-based
Geri‘s Game (Pixar) - awarded the Academy Award for Animated Short
Colossal Pictures emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Avid purchases SoftImage from Microsoft
The SIGGRAPH Conference celebrates its 25th Anniversary in Orlando
Jim Blinn delivers the SIGGRAPH 98 Keynote address
Michael Cohen (Microsoft) receives the 1998 ACM SIGGRAPH CG
Maxine Brown receives the first SIGGRAPH Outstanding Service Award
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Doug Roble (Digital Domain)
and Thad Beier (Hammerhead) for Tracking Technology; Nick Foster (PDI) for
water simulation systems; David Difrancesco, Bala Manian and Tom Noggle for
laser film recording and Cary Philips for the ILM Caricature animation system
Academy Scientific and Engineering Awards go to Gary Tregaski for the primary
design and Dominique Boisvert, Philipe Panzini and Andre Leblanc for the
development of the Flame and Inferno software; Roy Ference, Steve Schmidt,
Richard Federico, Rockwell Yarid and Mike McCrackan for the design and
development of the Kodak Lightning laser recorder.
The graphics world loses David Evans at age 74
Bunny (Chris Wedge - Blue Sky) - awarded the Academy Award for Animated
Star wars Episode One - The Phantom Menace uses 66 digital characters
composited with live action
VIFX and Rhythm & Hues merge
The graphics world loses Pierre Bezier
Silicon Graphics Incorporated changes its name to SGI
Fred Brooks receives the Turing Award
NewTek ports Toaster to NT
Melissa computer virus
SIGGRAPH celebrates its 30th Anniversary as an organization at SIGGRAPH 99
in Los Angeles
Tony DeRose (Pixar) receives the 1999 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement
Jim Blinn receives the 1999 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
SGI cuts Cray, NT production and High end graphic design
Side Effects Houdini ported to Linux
Toy Story 2 produced by Pixar
Stuart Little produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks
Fantasia 2000 produced by Disney
Disney‘s DreamQuest and Feature Animation join to form The Secret Lab (TSL)
SGI sells Cray to Tera Computer
Human genome mapped by Celera
Microsoft X-Box prototype shown at SIGGRAPH 2000
Dinosaur produced by Disney
The graphics world loses Phil Mittleman (MAGI)
Walking with Dinosaurs - Framestore (UK)
Mission to Mars effects produced by ILM and The Secret Lab
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Award of Merit awarded to Rob
Cook, Loren Carpenter and Ed Catmull for the significant advancements to the
field of motion picture rendering as exemplified in Pixar‘s Renderman
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Venkat Krishnamurthy for the
Paraform software for digital form development; and George Burshukov, Kim
Libreri and Dan Piponi for image based rendering
SIGGRAPH 2000 held in New Orleans
Tom DeFanti and Copper Giloth receive the 2000 SIGGRAPH Outstanding
David Salesin receives the 2000 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Hollow Man produced by Sony
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Centropolis)
Maya ported to Macintosh
Mac OS-X introduced
SIGGRAPH 2001 held in Los Angeles
Lance Williams receives the 2001 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
Andrew Witkin receives the 2001 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Paul Debevec receives the 2001 ACM SIGGRAPH Significant New Researcher
The graphics world loses Bob Abel (Sept 23)
Disney‘s Secret Lab closes
Side Effects Houdini ported to Sun
Autodesk acquires Media100 software product line
Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format introduced by Dolby Labs and
Academy Technical Achievement Awards go to Garland Stern for the Cel Paint
software system; Uwe Sassenberg and Rolf Schneider for the 3D Equalizer
matchmove system; Lance Williams for pioneering influence in animation and
effects; Bill Spitzak, Paul Van Camp, Jonathan Egstad and Price Pethal for the
NUKE-2D compositing software; Steve Sullivan and Eric Shafer for the ILM
Motion and Structure Recovery System (MARS); and John Anderson, Jim
Hourihan, Cary Philips and Sebastion Marino for the ILM Creature Dynamics
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences approve a new category for
the Oscars titled Best Animated Feature Film Award. Nine films were declared
eligible: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Marco
Polo: Return to Xanadu, Monsters, Inc., Osmosis Jones, The Prince of Light,
Shrek, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Waking Life
Significant FX movies - Final Fantasy (Square), Monsters Inc.(Pixar), Harry
Potter, A.I., Lord of the Rings, Shrek (PDI), The Mummy Returns (ILM), Tomb
Raider (Cinesite), Jurassic Park III, Pearl Harbor (ILM), Planet of the Apes
Microsoft xBox and Nintendo Gamecube released
SIGGRAPH 2002 held in San Antonio, Texas
Bert Hertzog (Fraunhofer Center for Research in Computer Graphics) receives the
2002 Outstanding Service Award for extraordinary service to ACM SIGGRAPH
by a volunteer
David Kirk (NVIDIA) receives the 2002 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement
HP / Compaq merger
William Fetter (Boeing) passes away.
Steven Gortler (Harvard Univ) receives the 2002 ACM SIGGRAPH Significant
New Researcher Award
Alias|Wavefront, an SGI company, was awarded an Academy Award of Merit
Oscar at the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony of the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its development of Maya software.
Mark Elendt, Paul Breslin, Greg Hermanovic and Kim Davidson receive a
Scientific and Engineering Award for their continued development of the
procedural modeling and animation components of their Prisms program, as
exemplified in the Houdini software package.
ACADEMY TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS: To Dick Walsh for the
development of the PDI/ Dreamworks Facial Animation System. To Thomas
Driemeyer and to the mathematicians, physicists and software engineers of
Mental Images for their contributions to the Mental Ray rendering software for
motion pictures. To Eric Daniels, George Katanics, Tasso Lappas and Chris
Springfield for the development of the Deep Canvas rendering software.
Atari Games Corporation (Midway Games West) out of business.
Oscar nominees for Best animated short film: THE CATHEDRAL ,Platige Image,
Tomek Baginski; THE CHUBBCHUBBS!,Sony Pictures Imageworks,Eric
Armstrong (WINNER); DAS RAD , Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg GmbH,
Chris Stenner and Heidi Wittlinger; MIKE‘S NEW CAR, Pixar Animation
Studios,Pete Docter and Roger Gould; MT. HEAD, Yamamura Animation
Production, Koji Yamamura; for Achievement in visual effects: THE LORD OF
THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS, Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William
Cook and Alex Funke (WINNER); SPIDER-MAN, John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk,
Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier, STAR WARS EPISODE II ATTACK OF
THE CLONES, Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll and Ben Snow;ICE
AGE nominated for Best Animated Feature Film
Dolby Labs acquires DemoGraFX, Gary Demos‘ company
SIGGRAPH 2003 held in San Diego
David Brown (founder - Blue Sky and ex of MAGI) passes away
Pat Hanrahan (Stanford) receives the 2003 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons
Peter Schrøder (Cal Tech) receives the 2003 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement
Mathieu Desbrun (USC) receives the 2003 ACM SIGGRAPH Significant New
The Cathedral selected as Best Short Film in SIGGRAPH Electronic Theatre
Apple introduces the Power Mac G5
Alias/Wavefront becomes Alias
Jim Clark elected to Fellow in Academy of Arts and Sciences
Oscar nominees for Best animated short film: Harvie Krumpet - Adam Elliot
(winner); Boundin‘ - Bud Luckey; Destino - Dominique Monfery, Roy Edward
Disney; Gone Nutty - Carlos Saldanha, John C. Donkin; Nibbles - Christopher
Hinton; for Best animated feature : Finding Nemo - Andrew Stanton (winner);
Brother Bear - Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker; Triplettes de Belleville, Les -
Sylvain Chomet; for Achievement in Visual Effects: Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King - Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, Alex Funke
(winner); Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - Daniel Sudick,
Stefen Fangmeier, Nathan McGuinness, Robert Stromberg; Pirates of the
Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charles
Gibson, Terry D. Frazee
Academy Scientific and Engineering Awards go to Stephen Regelous for the
design and development of Massive, the autonomous agent animation system
used for the battle sequences in ―The Lord of the Rings‖ trilogy. Academy
Technical Achievement Awards go to Christophe Hery, Ken McGaugh, and Joe
Letteri for their groundbreaking implementations of practical methods for
rendering skin and other translucent materials using subsurface scattering
techniques; Henrik Wann Jensen, Stephen R. Marschner, and Pat Hanrahan for
their pioneering research in simulating subsurface scattering of light in translucent
materials as presented in their paper ―A Practical Model for Subsurface Light
SIGGRAPH 2004 held in Los Angeles
Steve Cunningham and Judith Brown receive the 2004 Outstanding Service
Award for extraordinary service to ACM SIGGRAPH by a volunteer
Hugues Hoppe (Microsoft) receives the 2004 ACM SIGGRAPH CG
Zoran Popovic (Univ. Washington) receives the 2004 ACM SIGGRAPH
Significant New Researcher Award
Chris Landreth‘s Ryan selected for Jury Award in SIGGRAPH Electronic
Theatre; Sejong Park‘s Birthday Boy selected Best Animated Short
Oscar nominees for Best animated short film: Sejong Park & Andrew Gegory -
Birthday Boy; Jeff Fowler & Tim Miller - Gopher Broke; Bill Plympton - Guard
Dog; Mike Gabriel & Baker Bloodworth - Lorenzo; Chris Landreth - Ryan; for
Best animated feature : Brad Bird - The Incredibles; Bill Damasschka - Shark
Tale; Andrew Adamson - Shrek 2; for Achievement in Visual Effects: Roger
Guyett, Tim Burke, John Richardson and Bill George - Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban; John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash and Joe Letteri -
I, Robot; John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier -
Academy Scientific and Technical Awards go to Dr. Julian Morris, Michael
Birch, Dr. Paul Smyth and Paul Tate for the development of the Vicon motion
capture technology; Dr. John O. B. Greaves, Ned Phipps, Antonie J. van den
Bogert and William Hayes for the development of the Motion Analysis motion
capture technology; Dr. Nels Madsen, Vaughn Cato, Matthew Madden and Bill
Lorton for the development of the Giant Studios motion capture technology; Alan
Kapler for the design and development of Storm , a software toolkit for artistic
control of volumetric effects.
SIGGRAPH 2005 held in Los Angeles
Steve Cunningham and Judith Brown receive the 2004 Outstanding Service
Award for extraordinary service to ACM SIGGRAPH by a volunteer
Tomoyuki Nishita (Tokyo University) receives the 2005 ACM SIGGRAPH
Steven Anson Coons Award
Jos Stam (Alias) receives the 2005 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
Ron Fedkiw (Stanford) receives the 2005 ACM SIGGRAPH Significant New
Shane Acker ‗s 9 selected for Best of Show in SIGGRAPH Electronic Theatre;
Fallen Art and La Migration Bigoudenn selected for Jury Honors
Autodesk agrees to purchase Alias for $182M.
Appendix B: A Sampling of CG Software Programs Used in Moviemaking
Inferno (plate treatment)
Proprietary (lighting; other tools)
Houdini (animation light set up)
3D Studiopaint (textures)
SGI (super computers and graphics workstations)
Fred (not a person, but a name of software)
Appendix C: Special Effects Glossary (partial)
Animatronics: puppets of human, animal, or creature form controlled by an operator
manually or remotely via electronic or radio control.
Blue-screen photography (also green-screen): technique of filming a subject in front of a
blue- or green-screen; the blue or green background is then removed through optical or
digital processes, allowing the subject, or element, to be isolated for compositing with
another element. Often characters are filmed with a blue-screen in order to place them in
a different scene, or on a miniature set.
Composite: to combine two or more individual images onto one piece of film by
photographic or digital means. Early compositing was accomplished in the camera by
masking part of the scene when filming, rewinding the film and removing the matte and
shooting again to expose the previously masked portion. The photographic technology of
the optical printer revolutionized visual effects in the 1920s. In the 1990s, digital
compositing is commonplace, in which multiple film images are scanned into the
computer, combined digitally, and output to a single piece of film.
Computer generated imagery (CGI): Images created with the use of a computer. Also
called computer graphics (CG), computer animation, or digital animation.
Element: one photographic image, which will be composited with others to create a
complete visual effects shot.
Gag (also trick): a special effect.
Glass shot: background scenery painted on glass that is positioned in front of the camera
and filmed so that it appears to be part of the scene.
Hanging miniature: a miniature suspended in front of the camera. When viewed through
the lens, it appears to be part of a structure in the scene. In the Ben Hur (1925) chariot
race scene, only the lower part of the coliseum was built. The upper tiers, including
thousands of tiny ―spectators‖ mounted on rods to allow them to stand, was a hanging
Matte (also mask): Early filmmakers created in-camera composites by covering part of
the lens with a mask while filming, or placing a sheet of glass with a blacked-out area
between the camera and the scene, to prevent a portion of the film from being exposed.
The cameraman would then rewind the film, and shoot again with the mask removed and
the previously exposed area covered, thus combining two images in one shot. In The
Playhouse, (1921), Buster Keaton used this method to put himself on-stage as nine
different characters. A stationary matte marks off a static defined area; a traveling matte
follows the silhouette of a moving character or object and changes shape from frame to
Matte painting: painting of elaborate background scenery that can be composited with
live action or miniatures. They were originally painted on glass, but artists now often
create them with the computer.
Mechanical effects (also called practical or physical effects): special effects created on-
set in front of the camera which may not require additional photographic manipulation.
Includes pyrotechnics, animatronics creatures, make-up effects, flying with wires.
Motion-control camera: a camera controlled by a computer, which can be programmed
to precisely duplicate the same movement repeatedly. With motion control, multiple
elements can be filmed in exactly the same way, allowing the images to be aligned for
Multiple exposure: the photographing of two images onto the same piece of film.
Optical printer: device consisting of a projector and camera with lenses facing each
other; in the process called compositing, two or more pieces of film with elements of a
scene are placed in the projector and photographed together onto a new piece of film in
Pyrotechnics: the controlled use of incendiary materials to create explosions, fires, and
Rear projection: a previously filmed background scene is projected behind actors on a
screen in a studio, to create the illusion that they are on location.
Stop-motion animation: technique in which a miniature puppet is moved incrementally
through a range of motions and photographed one frame at a time with each movement.
When the filmed scene is run at the conventional film speed of 24 frames per second, the
illusion that the creature is moving is created. King Kong, animated by Willis O‘Brien, is
an acclaimed example of the technique.
Substitution shot: trick shot in which the camera is stopped and the actors freeze while
an object or actor is exchanged for another. In The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the
actors froze while a dummy was substituted for the actress just as the ax is poised to fall;
the camera was then re-started to capture the ―beheading.‖
Trick (also trick shot or gag): a special effect
Visual effects (also called optical or photographic effects): special effects achieved with
the aid of photographic or digital technology, occurring after the principal photography,
or main shooting, of a film. Includes miniatures, optical and digital effects, matte
paintings, stop-motion animation, and computer-generated imagery (CGI).
Appendix D: Famous Names in Optics (not a complete list)
Alhazen (965-1040) - Born in Iraq as Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham, the great Arab
physicist is more often known by the Latinized version of his first name, Alhazen. The
efforts of Alhazen resulted in over one hundred works, the most famous of which was
―Kitab-al-Manadhirn‖, rendered into Latin in the Middle Ages. The translation of the
book on optics exerted a great influence upon the science of the western world, most
notably on the work of Roger Bacon and Johannes Kepler. A significant observation in
the work contradicted the beliefs of many great scientists, such as Ptolemy and Euclid.
Alhazen correctly proposed that the eyes passively receive light reflected from objects,
rather than emanating light rays themselves.
Sir George Biddell Airy (1801-1892) - Sir George Airy was a distinguished nineteenth
century English Astronomer Royal who carried out optical research and first drew
attention to the visual defect of astigmatism. Airy manufactured the first correcting
eyeglasses (1825) using a cylindrical lens design that is still in use. The diffraction disks
that bear his name (Airy Disks) were discovered in the spherical center of a wavefront
traveling through a circular aperture. These diffraction patterns form the smallest unit
that comprises an image, thus determining the limits of optical resolution.
Dominique-François-Jean Arago (1786-1853) - In 1811, Arago, in collaboration with
Augustin-Jean Fresnel, discovered that two beams of light polarized in perpendicular
directions do not interfere, eventually resulting in the development of a transverse theory
of light waves. Arago was also instrumental in the success and funding of Louis-
Jacques-Mandé Daguerre‘s photographic process, known as the daguerreotype, and
directed studies that directly led to the discovery of the location of Neptune by Urbain-
Jean-Joseph Le Verrier.
Jacques Babinet (1794-1872) - Jacques Babinet was a French physicist, mathematician,
and astronomer born in Lusignan, who is most famous for his contributions to optics.
Among Babinet‘s accomplishments is the 1827 standardization of the Angstrom unit for
measuring light using the red cadmium line‘s wavelength, and the principle (bearing his
name) that similar diffraction patterns are produced by two complementary screens.
Roger Bacon (1214-1294) - Roger Bacon was an English scholastic philosopher who was
also considered a scientist because he insisted on observing things for himself instead of
depending on what other people had written. Bacon‘s writings included treatises on
optics (then called perspective), mathematics, chemistry, arithmetic, astronomy, the tides,
and the reformation of the calendar.
His skill in the use of optical and mechanical instruments caused him to be regarded by
many as a sorcerer. Bacon was acquainted with the properties of mirrors, knew the
powers of steam and gunpowder, had a working knowledge in microscopy, and possessed
an instrument very much like a modern telescope.
Friedrich Johann Karl Becke (1855-1931) - Friedrich Johann Karl Becke was an Austrian
geologist, mineralogist and petrologist from the University of Prague, who developed a
method for determining the relationship between light refraction and refractive index
differences observed in microscopic specimens. The phenomenon, which is now referred
to as the formation of Becke lines, has been named for him.
Max Berek (1886-1949) - Max Berek was a German physicist and mathematician,
associated with the firm of E. Leitz, who designed a wide spectrum of optical
instruments, in particular for polarized light microscopy and several innovative camera
lenses. Professor Berek is credited as the inventor of the Leica camera lens system at
their Wetzlar factory.
Neils Bohr (1885-1962) - Building on Ernest Rutherford‘s work on the nucleus, Bohr
developed a new theory of the atom, which he completed in 1913. The work proposed
that electrons travel only in certain orbits and that any atom could exist only in a discrete
set of stable states. Bohr further held that the outer orbits, which could hold more
electrons than the inner ones, determine the atom‘s chemical properties and conjectured
that atoms emit light radiation when an electron jumps from an outer orbit to an inner
Although Bohr‘s theory was initially viewed with skepticism, it earned him the Nobel
Prize in physics in 1922 and was eventually expanded by other physicists into quantum
William Henry Bragg (1862-1942) - Sir William Henry Bragg was a noted British
physicist and President of the Royal Society who had numerous research interests, but the
work that earned him a rank as one the great leaders in science was his historic
advancements in X-ray crystallography. Working with his son William Lawrence Bragg,
he developed a method of bombarding single crystals with high-energy X-rays emitted by
specially constructed vacuum tubes.
By examining the pattern of X-rays diffracted by various crystals, Bragg and his son were
able to establish some fundamental mathematical relationships between an atomic crystal
structure and its diffraction pattern. For this achievement, William Henry Bragg and
William Lawrence Bragg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915.
Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) - Sir David Brewster was a Scottish physicist who
invented the kaleidoscope, made major improvements to the stereoscope, and discovered
the polarization phenomenon of light reflected at specific angles. In his studies on
polarized light, Brewster discovered that when light strikes a reflective surface at a
certain angle (now known as Brewster‘s Angle), the light reflected from that surface is
plane-polarized. He elucidated a simple relationship between the incident angle of the
light beam and the refractive index of the reflecting material.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) - Albert Einstein was one of the greatest and most famous
scientific minds of the 20th century. The eminent physicist is best remembered for his
theories of relativity, as well as his revolutionary notion concerning the nature of light.
However, his innovative ideas were often misunderstood and he was frequently ridiculed
for his vocal involvement in politics and social issues.
The birth of the Manhattan Project yielded an inexorable connection between Einstein‘s
name and the atomic age. However, Einstein did not take part in any of the atomic
research, instead preferring to concentrate on ways that the use of bombs might be
avoided in the future, such as the formation of a world government.
Euclid (325-265 BC) - Though often overshadowed by his mathematical reputation,
Euclid is a central figure in the history of optics. He wrote an in-depth study of the
phenomenon of visible light in Optica, the earliest surviving treatise concerning optics
and light in the western world. Within the work, Euclid maintains the Platonic tradition
that vision is caused by rays that emanate from the eye, but also offers an analysis of the
eye‘s perception of distant objects and defines the laws of reflection of light from smooth
Optica was considered to be of particular importance to astronomy and was often
included as part of a compendium of early Greek works in the field. Translated into
Latin by a number of writers during the medieval period, the work gained renewed
relevance in the fifteenth century when it underpinned the principles of linear
Armand Fizeau (1819-1896) - Armand Fizeau is best known for being the first to develop
a reliable experimental method of determining the speed of light on the Earth. Previously,
the speed of light was measured based upon astronomical phenomena. Fizeau also
conducted experiments that demonstrated that the velocity of light is a constant,
regardless of the motion of the medium it is passing through.
It was previously established that light traveled at different rates through different
mediums, but prior to Fizeau‘s discovery, it was believed that if the medium was in
motion, the velocity of the speed of light would be increased by the movement of the
Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault (1819-1868) - Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault was a French
physicist who is considered one of the most versatile experimentalists of the nineteenth
century. Together with the French physicist Armand Fizeau, Foucault developed a way
to measure the speed of light with extreme accuracy. He also proved independently that
the speed of light in air is greater than it is in water.
Foucault‘s other contributions to the field of optics included a method of measuring the
curvature of telescope mirrors, an improved technique to silver astronomical mirrors, a
method of testing telescope mirrors for surface defects, and the invention of a polarizing
prism to analyze polarized light.
Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788-1827) - Augustin-Jean Fresnel, was a nineteenth century
French physicist, who is best known for the invention of unique compound lenses
designed to produce parallel beams of light, which are still used widely in lighthouses. In
the field of optics, Fresnel derived formulas to explain reflection, diffraction,
interference, refraction, double refraction, and the polarization of light reflected from a
John Frederick William Herschel (1792-1871) - John Herschel was the only child of
renowned scientist and astronomer William Herschel. In 1820, the younger Herschel was
one of the founding members of the Royal Astronomical Society, and when his father
died in 1822 he carried on with the elder Herschel‘s work, making a detailed study of
double stars. In collaboration with James South Herschel compiled a catalog of
observations that was published in 1824. The work garnered the pair the Gold Medal
from the Royal Astronomical Society and the Lalande Prize from the Paris Academy of
In 1839, Herschel developed a technique for creating photographs on sensitized paper,
independently of William Fox Talbot, but did not attempt to commercialize the process.
However, he published several papers on photographic processes and was the first to
utilize the terms positive and negative in reference to photography. Particularly
important to the future of science, in 1845 Herschel reported the first observation of the
fluorescence of a quinine solution in sunlight.
William Herschel (1738-1822) - Friedrich William Herschel was an eighteenth century
German astronomer who is credited with the discovery of the planet Uranus. In addition,
Herschel measured the heights of about one hundred mountains on the moon, carefully
recorded the data, and prepared papers that were presented to the Royal Society of
London. In the late 1700s, he began to build and sell telescopes. The high quality of
Herschel‘s optics was soon widely known outside of England, and he utilized them to
publish three catalogues containing data on 2500 heavenly objects, including the sixth
and seventh moons of Saturn, Enceladus and Mimas. Herschel continued making
observations and cataloging his discoveries until his death in 1822 at age 84.
Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) - Christiaan Huygens was a brilliant Dutch
mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who lived during the seventeenth century, a
period sometimes referred to as the Scientific Revolution. Huygens, a particularly gifted
scientist, is best known for his work on the theories of centrifugal force, the wave theory
of light, and the pendulum clock. His theories neatly explained the laws of refraction,
diffraction, interference, and reflection. Huygens went on to make major advances in the
theories concerning the phenomena of double refraction (birefringence) and polarization
Shinya Inoué (1921-Present) - Shinya Inoué is a microscopist, cell biologist, and educator
who has been described as the grandfather of modern light microscopy. The pioneering
microscopist heavily influenced the study of cell dynamics during the 1980s through his
developments in video-enhanced contrast microscopy (VEC), which is a modification of
the traditional form of differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy. Inoué also
made significant contributions to the investigation of biological systems with polarized
light microscopy. His seminal work, ―Video Microscopy,‖ was published in 1986, and a
second revised and updated edition, co-authored with Kenneth Spring, followed in 1997.
The book is a cornerstone of microscopical knowledge and is highly regarded throughout
the scientific community.
Alexander Jablonski (1898-1980) - Born in the Ukraine in 1898, Alexander Jablonski is
best known as the father of fluorescence spectroscopy. Jablonski‘s primary scientific
interest was the polarization of photoluminescence in solutions, and in order to explain
experimental evidence gained in the field, he differentiated the transition moments
between absorption and emission. His work resulted in his introduction of what is now
known as a Jablonski Energy Diagram, a tool that can be used to explain the kinetics and
spectra of fluorescence, phosphorescence, and delayed fluorescence.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) - Johannes Kepler was a sixteenth century German
astronomer and student of optics who first delineated many theories of modern optics. In
1609, he published ―Astronomia Nova‖ delineating his discoveries, which are now called
Kepler‘s first two laws of planetary motion. This work established Kepler as the ―father
of modern science‖, documenting how, for the first time, a scientist dealt with a multitude
of imperfect data to arrive at a fundamental law of nature.
John Kerr (1824-1907) - John Kerr was a Scottish physicist who discovered the electro-
optic effect that bears his name and invented the Kerr cell. Pulses of light can be
controlled so quickly with a modern Kerr cell that the devices are often used as high-
speed shutter systems for photography and are sometimes alternately known as Kerr
electro-optical shutters. In addition, Kerr cells have been used to measure the speed of
light, are incorporated in some lasers, and are becoming increasingly common in
Edwin Herbert Land (1909-1991) - The founder of the Polaroid Corporation, Edwin
Herbert Land was an American inventor and researcher who dedicated his entire adult
life to the study of polarized light, photography and color vision. Perhaps Land‘s most
famous contribution to science, however, was his development of instant photography.
The invention was inspired by his three-year old daughter when she asked him why she
could not instantly see a picture he had just taken of her on vacation. The one-step dry
photographic process took Land three years to perfect, but his success was phenomenal.
Theodore Harold Maiman (1927-Present) - Theodore Maiman is best remembered for
constructing the world‘s first laser, a device that has transcended the field of optics to
find a diversity of applications in the modern world. In May of 1960, Maiman built his
prototype laser using a synthetic ruby rod silvered at both ends to reflect light.
Small enough to be held in the palm of the hand, when the atoms in the rod were excited
by an intense beam of light from a xenon lamp, a release of energy was initiated and an
internal chain reaction occurred that caused the energy to bounce back and forth within
the rod. When the energy built up to a certain level, it escaped from one end of the ruby
rod to form an intense beam of monochromatic light centered at 694.3 nanometers.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) - James Clerk Maxwell was one of the greatest
scientists of the nineteenth century. He is best known for the formulation of the theory of
electromagnetism and in making the connection between light and electromagnetic
waves. He also made significant contributions in the areas of physics, mathematics,
astronomy and engineering. He considered by many as the father of modern physics.
Albert Michelson (1852-1931) - Albert Abraham Michelson, a Polish-American
physicist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1907. He is best known for his
experiments in which he proved that the hypothetical medium of light, the ―ether‖, did
not exist, and his many attempts at accurately measuring the speed of light. Michelson is
also well known for developing a means to more accurately measure the speed of light
and the size of stars.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) - Sir Isaac Newton, who was ironically born the same year
that Galileo died, is popularly known as one of history‘s greatest scientists. Many of his
discoveries and theories in the areas of light, color, and optics form the basis for current
scientific thought in these disciplines. In addition to his extensive work in optics,
Newton is perhaps best known for his theory of universal gravitation. He also is
considered one of the inventors of calculus along with German mathematician Gottfried
Leibniz. Newton‘s three laws of motion are considered basic to any physics student‘s
Max Planck (1858-1947) - Max Planck, a German physicist, is best known as the
originator of the quantum theory of energy for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in
1918. His work contributed significantly to the understanding of atomic and subatomic
processes. Planck made significant contributions to science throughout his life. He is
recognized for his successful work in a variety of fields including, thermodynamics,
optics, statistical mechanics, and physical chemistry.
Lord Rayleigh (John William Strutt) - (1842-1919) - Lord Rayleigh was a British
physicist and mathematician who worked in many disciplines including electromagnetics,
physical optics, and sound wave theory. The criteria he defined still act as the limits of
resolution of a diffraction-limited optical instrument. Rayleigh wrote over 446 scientific
papers, but is perhaps best known for his discovery of the inert gas argon, which earned
him a Nobel Prize.
Ole Christensen Roemer (1644-1710) - Roemer‘s greatest achievement was the first
relatively accurate measurement of the speed of light, a feat he accomplished in 1676. At
the Royal Observatory in England, Roemer‘s studies of Jupiter‘s moon Io and its frequent
eclipses enabled him to predict the periodicity of an eclipse period for the moon. By
applying the relatively inaccurate calculations for the distances between Earth and Jupiter
available during the seventeenth century, Roemer was able to approximate the speed of
light to be 137,000 miles (or 220,000 kilometers) per second.
Henri Hureau de Sénarmont (1808-1862) - Sénarmont was a professor of mineralogy and
director of studies at the École des Mines in Paris, especially distinguished for his
research on polarization and his studies on the artificial formation of minerals. He also
contributed to the Geological Survey of France by preparing geological maps and essays.
Perhaps the most significant contribution made by de Sénarmont to optics was the
polarized light retardation compensator bearing his name (still widely utilized today).
Willebrord Snell (1580-1626) - Willebrord Snell was an early seventeenth century Dutch
mathematician who is best known for determining that transparent materials have
different indices of refraction depending upon the composition. Snell discovered that a
beam of light would bend as it enters a block of glass, and that the angle of bending was
dependent upon the incident angle of the light beam.
Light traveling in a straight line into the glass will not bend but, at an angle, the light is
bent to a degree proportional to the angle of inclination. In 1621, Snell found a
characteristic ratio between the angle of incidence and the angle of refraction. Snell‘s
law demonstrates that every substance has a specific bending ratio-the ―refractive index.
The greater the angle of refraction, the higher the refractive index for a substance.
George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903) - Throughout his career, George Stokes emphasized
the importance of experimentation and problem solving, rather than focusing solely on
pure mathematics. His practical approach served him well and he made important
advances in several fields, most notably hydrodynamics and optics. Stokes coined the
term fluorescence, discovered that fluorescence can be induced in certain substances by
stimulation with ultraviolet light, and formulated Stokes Law in 1852.
Sometimes referred to as Stokes shift, the law holds that the wavelength of fluorescent
light is always greater than the wavelength of the exciting light. An advocate of the wave
theory of light, Stokes was one of the prominent nineteenth century scientists that
believed in the concept of an ether permeating space, which he supposed was necessary
for light waves to travel.
Samuel Tolansky (1907-1973) - Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England as Samuel
Turlausky, Tolansky performed a significant amount of his research and developed the
interference contrast microscopy technique that bears his name. Other research interests
of Tolansky included the analysis of spectra to investigate nuclear spin and the study of
optical illusions. Although he was primarily concerned with the spectrum of mercury,
during World War II Tolansky was asked to ascertain the spin of uranium-235, the
isotope capable of fission in a nuclear chain reaction.
Thomas Young (1773-1829) - Thomas Young was an English physician and a physicist
who was responsible for many important theories and discoveries in optics and in human
anatomy. His best known work is the wave theory of interference. Young was also
responsible for postulating how the receptors in the eye perceive colors. He is credited,
along with Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, for developing the Young-
Helmholtz trichromatic theory.
Appendix E: Websites
How OLEDs Work
How Digital Cinema Works
How does a Star Wars lightsaber Work
How Illustration Works
How IMAX Works
How Plasma Displays Work
How Cable Television Works
How Satellite TV Works
How RACEf/x Works
How Digital TV Works
How Blue Screens Work
How Steadicams Work
How Nuclear Medicine Works
How CAT Scans Work
How MRI Works
How X-rays Work
How Photographic Film Works
How Telescopes Work
How Paparazzi Work
How Light Works
How Digital Cameras Work
A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation
A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation - Section 14: CGI in the movies
A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation - Section 17: Virtual Reality
A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation - Section 18: Scientific
CGI Historical Timeline
Nanoworld Magnification Series
Science at NASA
An Overview of Electronic Surveillance:
History and Current Status
FBI Has Long History of Surveillance
Drawing with Optical Instruments
Devices and Concepts of Visuality and Representation
Molecular Expressions Images from the Microscope
Secret Worlds: The Universe Within
(Secret Worlds: The Universe Within, found at Molecular Expressions website, deserves
special mention. Featured is an animated graphic that takes the viewer from Outerspace
to the Atom.
From the website:
View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space
towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just
outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee,
Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world
that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the
subatomic universe of electrons and protons.
An Anecdotal History of Optics from Aristophanes to Zernike
Optics/Photonics Web Resources
Media History Project
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Telescopes from the Ground Up
History of Astronomy: Topics: Instruments
A carbon nanotube page
Molecular Expressions Photo Gallery
Nanotechnology - Graphics
Micromachines Movie Gallery
Nanomedicine Art Gallery
How Light Works
An Atlas of Cyberspaces
Zazzle - Space Exploration Gallery
How Contact Lenses Work
Spitzer Space Telescope
Scanning Tunneling Microscope
Large Telescopes around the World
NCSA‘s Multimedia Online Expo, ―Science for the Millennium.‖
Near-field Scanning Optical Microscopy (NSOM)
Imago Scientific Instruments
Tiny Wonderland of Electron Microscope Is Revealed at Exhibition
Wordnet - Princeton
Silicon Photonics - Intel
Optics/Photonics Web Resources
Silicon Photonics Glossary
Hollywood and Film
American Cinematographer - Cameras in Cinematic History
Timeline of Influential Milestones and Important Turning Points in Film History
Cinema: How Are Hollywood Films Made?
Explore Hollywood Blvd.
Filmmaking Online Resources
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Internet Public Library - Film Making
Money, Change and the History of Hollywood
Pixar Animation Studios
Scene 1 Enter Future Filmmaker
American Film Institute Screen Education Center
AFI‘s 100 YEARS...100 MOVIES
Industrial, Light and Magic
PBS - Special Effects: Titanic and Beyond
Film and Video Magazine
www.filmandvideomagazine.com October | 2001
Scientific Visualization, Modeling and Simulation
Whatever happened to ... Virtual Reality?
Air War College - Wargames, Simulations & Exercises
Virtual Reality: History
The Winter Simulation Conference:
The Premier Forum on Simulation Practice and Theory
A History of Photography from its beginnings till the 1920s
American Photography Museum
History of Photography Timeline
Photographer Nicephore Niepce - History of Photography - Point de Vue du Gras
Digital Cameras/Digital Images: Pixels, Resolution, Formats
An Introduction to the History of Astrology
History of Astrology
Timeline of Art History
The History of Art Virtual Library
Historical Periods in Television Technology
Television History - The First 75 Years
Historical Periods in Television Technology
Quantitative Study of Dreams