Thursday, May 22, 2008

3D Sun; Black Holes, The Other Side of Infinity: two SI films

3D Sun (20 min, Morgae and K2 Communications) is an IMAX short subject showing magnetic storms and prominences, and solar storm outbursts, as they intersect with the magnetosphere around Earth. The animation was developed from two space stations a distance apart showing “stereo” photography. The film also shows aurora borealis in the arctic. A star is somewhat a limited subject for 3D photography. The Minnesota Film Board is mentioned in the credits. In Washington, this is shown in the Lockheed-Martin IMAX theater in the National Air and Space Museum.

Solar storms are important because they can disrupt satellite operation, GPS, and sometimes power grids. I don't know of a case where they have damaged personal computers or electronic equipment, the way an electromagnetic pulse would. We had some out-of-cycle (sunspots every 11 years) solar storms in October 2003. One episode in Season 2 of "Smallville" was predicated on a solar flare, ironically broadcast on the same day that the flare occurred in reality.

Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity (25 min. Spitz), is shown in the Einstein Planetarium in the same museum, but effectively it is like an Omnimax film, although it does cover the entire surface. The film discusses the occurrence of black holes within the Milky Way and similar galaxies, and then the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. It demonstrates, in animation, how two galaxies collide and how their central black holes unite. It explains Einstein’s idea of general relativity and space-time, and how the black hole represents a singularity. It demonstrates the “event horizon” with a conical waterfall analogy. Then it introduces the concept of “white hole” as a possible wormhole to another universe.

It’s hard to do a lot visually in film with cosmology. The Moon ("Magnificent Desolation") has been shown in Imax 3-D, and "Roving Mars" in Imax. Now I think a good idea would be an animated rendition of Europa, Io, Titan, and Triton in Imax 3-D. It would be fascinating to look at. It takes a little over an hour for light to reach Titan from the earth (including any email sent to any “colonist” there). .

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