Friday, October 26, 2012

Trona Pinnacles

Recently I have been playing around with camera tracking in preparation for an upcoming job. I have been filming my apartment and incorporating cg objects into the scene with decent success. Unfortunately the environment wasn't incredibly exciting. My apartment may be nice, but it doesn't make for the most impressive backdrop. So in an attempt to find some more captivating scenery I set out for the Mojave desert with a camera and a tripod, hoping to discover some rad desert environments that would make for a good sci-fi backdrop. My specific destination - the Trona Pinnacles.

The Trona Pinnacles are an incredible land formation located about 3.5 hours NE of Los Angeles. If you were going to Death Valley you would drive past them. The unusual spires and rock formations are known as Tufa Spires, which are deposits formed when natural springs interact with other bodies of water. Apparently, during the Pleistocene era there was a massive runoff of water from the Sierras that resulted in multiple lakes being created in the valleys of the region. The area of Trona was fully submerged under the currenlty dried up Searles Lake. Other lakes in the area such as Mono Lake were the result of the same runoffs. It was during the time when Searles lake was full that the pinnacles grew from their underwater springs.  The landfroms are rather young in the global scheme of things, ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 years old. They formed in three groupings during three different ice ages. This is why there are three very distinct types of spires in the collection of formations.

 If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend a visit to Trona. It is an incredibly alien landscape worth seeing in person. Please enjoy the Trona Pinnacles photo set, and look out for an upcoming video or two with some spaceships and other sci-fi things flying around the some videos of the area.

I think this area gets a lot of 4-wheelin

Vibe'n in the desert

Trona Railway 

Not Trona Pinnacles but an awesome sunset on the drive home

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nerd Out to the Max!

This is one of my favorite lectures on the origins of the universe and just where it might be heading.  
After watching this lecture a couple times, it is hard not to find real world examples of the shifts from low to high entropy states described by Sean Carrol.  Like the title says, this is a serious nerd out viewing but incredibly interesting to watch or just listen to.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Iceland Lake Painting

After seeing Prometheus I can't get iceland out of my head (the opening sequence was shot there).  The drama of the landscapes is perfect material for creating some nice moody paintings.
This painting is a recreation of a photo that I found when doing some research on Iceland.  Enjoy!


Thursday, October 4, 2012


If you start to investigate quantum physics and you get as obsessed with it as I am, you may stumble upon some really interesting theories regarding the reality of the universe.  One that I find to be fascinating is that of the Holographic Universe.  Check out the video below for a very brief overview of the theory.

Continue reading after watching video.  Otherwise the following may not make much sense.

The Holographic theory is one that becomes even more interesting when you know a rather interesting trait of how common holographic film actually works.  

When you see a hologram (much like the Tupac hologram at Coachella this past year which was rad) the three dimensional illusion is created when a laser passes through a 2d sheet of holographic film.  Unlike normal film used in a camera, the information stored on a sheet of holographic film does not contain a visible 2d representation of what the 3d hologram would look like, rather it has what can best be described as an interference wave pattern (it looks like ripples on water), that when a laser passes through it, the light from the laser is reconfigured on the other side as a three dimensional hologram.  That in itself is pretty cool.  Now here is when it gets strange.  

If you were to cut a piece of holographic film, and project a laser through either one of the  half sheets, you would get the same 3d hologram that you got when the piece of film was fully intact.  Halve the two pieces again, and now you have 4 pieces of film capable of projecting the original 3d hologram.  Cut them again and you have 8 clones of the original, 16, 32, etc.  The interference pattern is essentially a fractal code, embedded at all scales with the exact information.  No matter what you do to the holographic film, the same information is present at every point on the sheet.  Pretty crazy!

So what does this mean for the universe and reality.  Beyond theorizing that the universe may be constructed in a similar fashion (much like as is described in the video), it may also be the case that our brains have a holographic logic to them as well.  This theory has been tested through an experimentation on the memory of mice.  

In an attempt to isolate the location of where memory was stored in the brains of mice, biologist Karl Lashley  removed portions of the brains of mice that he had trained to run through a maze (not cool for the mice by the way).  He found that even though removing portions of the brain inhibited certain physiological functions of the mice, they still would retain the memory of how to run the maze.  This baffled Lashley since he assumed that memory was located in specific regions of the brain.  It wasn't until later when he came across an article describing the construction of a laser hologram that he made the connection and theorized that the mice brains operated in the same way as the holographic film I was previously describing.  Memory, like the image on a piece of holographic film, was stored in interference patterns at essentially every location in the brain, and it could not be isolated to one specific region.  This theory gained support from anatomist Paul Pietsch who initially set out to disprove Lashley's claims.  He performed thousands of test on salamanders exploring the same uniform distribution of memory, and came to the same conclusion as Lashley.  The mind perceives and stores information by encoding and decoding complex interference patterns.

To tie this entire entry back to some previously discussed material on this blog (see the Get Your Brain Into a Computer post from September), a brain with a holographic logic has many connections to the research that is being done on the connectome.  If the Human Connectome Project is succesful in digitally replicating a human connectome into a computer, it would confirm that memory and conciousness is something that can exist as a virtual entity of pure information, much like the holographic brain model.   It's some heavy stuff.

Now of course, the holographic universe is one of many theories speculating on the universe being a simulation/video game/the Matrix.  The interesting thing about the holographic theory however, is that in a sense it can be tested.   I will leave you with two things to ponder.  

In 1982 physicist Alain Aspect discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn't matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart.

Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing. The problem with this feat is that it violates Einstein's long-held tenet that no communication can travel faster than the speed of light. Since traveling faster than the speed of light is tantamount to breaking the time barrier.

Sound like anything else?

Check out this clip from a Through the Wormhole episode discussing the Double Slit Experiment.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Post Gnomon Live

This weekend I had the great opportunity to attend the Gnomon Live Workshop.  It was an incredibly intense weekend with over 20 hours of lectures from some of the best concept artists in the film and game industry.  Each artist did a little presentation about themselves as well as a demo about how they aproach their individual workflows.   It was incredible to see the range of approach that each artist would take to complete a project.  Some would approach things incredibly methodically, with intention in every step they took, while others seemed to just fly by the seat of their pants through the process.  Personally, I really enjoyed the guys that just went crazy with it (Kekai Kotaki and Cecil Kim in particular).

Here is a list of the artist that presented.  I highly recommend taking a look at some of their work as they are all very talented.

Fausto De Martini
Kekai Kotaki
Anthony Francico
Laurel Austin
Jaime Jones
Cecil Kim
Ian Joyner
Jerad S. Marantz
Anthony Jones
Wes Ball & John Park

The entire weekend was inspirational, as well as a kick in the pants to get moving on some new projects.  Here are a few quick paintings I did this morning and last night attempting to adopt some of the techniques and strategies from a few of the artists from the weekend. They are pretty rough and could use some cleaning up, but they was loose and quick which is what I was going for.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

3d Print Everything!!!

At long last it actually looks like we are getting close to being able to have an affordable really good at home desktop 3d printer.   Forget the MakerBot2, forget all the crappy at home FDM 3d printers that you have debated over maybe getting.  This at home SLA printer actually looks like it is really, really good.  For those of you that are familiar with the 3d printing process, you will appreciate quite a few things in this video.  In addition to the fact that the print resolution is a very high quality, the build material looks like it is incredibly efficient and easy to manage.  This thing has definitely moved to the top of the wish list.

Check out the Kickstarter page for this thing.  They obviously are getting a lot of support as they have well surpassed the goal of $100,000.

And here is the company website.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Bit O' Speedpainting

Here are a few quick (about an hour each) paintings done in photoshop.

Having done most image work over the past few years through rendering 3d models, the goal of these is to start to get into a more quick and looser way of developing content.

And yes, there is a dragon in one of these.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Neutrino Detectors are the Coolest

Many of you may have heard recently that there may be something in the universe that moves faster than light.  The neutrino.  This discovery has the science community scratching it's head because if that is the case, it throws a very large wrench into Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the physics community as a whole.

Birthed in the center of stars, neutrinos are an incredibly enigmatic little piece of the cosmological puzzle.  First off, they don't react much at all with matter.  In fact, they react so little, that one neutrino would have to pass through 5 million light years of lead before there is even a possibility for it to bump into another particle.  To quantify that relative to human beings, every second, trillions of neutrinos pass through your body without having any interaction whatsoever with the particles that make you, you.  I know that the movie 2012 talks about neutrinos melting the earth from the inside out, but that is just not the case.  From what is known in the science community, neutrino interaction is very rare.  Which leads us to the topic for this blog which is the various neutrino detection facilities around the world.

Now my personal interests in neutrino detection is twofold.  On one hand there is the scientific relevance of the research which I find to be incredibly fascinating.  However, given that the majority of my personal scientific knowledge of neutrinos is based on whatever I can glean from reading internet articles and  the occasional scientific journal,  I am not what you would call an expert on the matter.  So I will not attempt to give insight into the implications of neutrino research.  The other aspect of neutrino detection that I find to be incredibly fascinating are the facilities that are created to detect the presence of neutrinos.  They are pretty much awesome, freaky places.

Neutrino detection facilities are located deep underground or underwater to isolate the detector from cosmic rays and other background radiation.  The Super Kamiokande (pictured above) for instance is located under Mt Kamioka in the Mozumi Mine in Hida, Japan.  It consists of a cylindrical stainless steel tank that is 41.4 m (136 ft) tall and 39.3 m (129 ft) in diameter holding 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water. Mounted on the superstructure are 11,146 photomultiplier tubes which are incredibly sensitive detectors of light.  These detectors multiply the current produced by incident light by as much as 100 million times.  In the case of the Kamiokande, neutrinos are detected when a neutrino interacts with a particle in the water which in turn releases what is known as Chernekov Radiation (Chernekov radiation is seen in the glow that is produced by nuclear reactors).  When this interaction occurs in the Kamiokande (and it rarely does) the photomultipliers record the event simultaneously, allowing a 3d digital depiction of the resultant radiation, allowing scientists a glimpse at how neutrinos behave when they interact.

As for now, the implications of the neutrino are not fully understood.   Much like the research into the Higgs Boson, dark matter, anti-matter, etc, there are hopes however that the understanding of the neutrino will help to advance the quest for linking quantum mechanics and general relativity together into a theory of everything.  In any case, like many particle physics research facilities (Cern, Fermilab,etc), neutrino detection facilities are some incredibly cool structures simply for the aesthetics created as a result of their function.

Super Kamiokande


South Pole Ice Cube Detector

Borexino Detector

Super Kamiokande
Sudbury SNO Detector
Chernekov Radiation (Not Nuetrino Detector)

Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 ModeMachine Demo Reel

A collection of Archviz work from 2009-2012.  

Many thanks to the offices and people involved in the production of the projects included in this video.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ghost Organs

This is an incredibly interesting video from a while back discussing some cutting edge research into the potential to grow genetically specific human organs on the framework of another person's used organs.

One of the big problems with organ transplants is that in order for a human body to accept a donor, it must be a perfect genetic match for the person in need.  Meaning, someone may be in need of a new heart, and there may be 10,000 donor hearts sitting on ice waiting to get used, but if they are not genetic matches, they are of no use to the person in need.  But scientists, aided by some incredibly simple household items, may be unlocking the door to universal organ transplants, potentially saving the lives of countless people seeking out donor organs.  Have a look. It is definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Plain and simple, Tigers are awesome.  Unfortunately, being as awesome as they are,  they are also sought after by poachers.  Add to that, they also have to deal with the fact that humans have pushed most tigers out of their natural habitat.  Currently, the Bengal Tiger (those pictured in this post) have dropped to numbers hovering around 4,000, most of which are kept in captivity.  

"In India, where about 60 per cent of the world's wild tigers still roam, the human population has grown by 50 percent in the past 20 years. Over the past 40 years, China's population, the largest in the world, has more than doubled; and 99 per cent of China's original forest habitat has been destroyed.

In order to live in the wild, tigers need water to drink, animals to hunt, and vegetation in which to hide. As the mountains, jungles, forests, and long grasses that have long been home to tigers disappear, so, too, do tigers."

Unfortunately, tigers are not a special case here.  Countless species are on the verge of extinction due to the negligent expansion of human civilizations.  What is going to have to happen for us to have to get it in through our thick skulls that our planet will not continue to sustain our current mode of growth?  The fact that we (in terms of earth's evolotuion) in a very  short amount of time have the ability to nearly eliminate entire species of animals that have roamed the earth for millions of years is incredibly frightening.

Anyhow, here are some awesome pictures of Bengal Tigers take by The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) in an effort to raise awareness.

You can visit them here: