Given the events of 2005 – killer hurricanes, radical insurgencies, melting ice caps, threats of pandemics – the theme of this year’s PopTech!, “Grand Challenges,” has a “ripped from the headlines” urgency.
Stepping to the stage before a sold-out crowd at Camden, Maine’s opera house this morning, curator Andrew Zolli promised the next three days would explore not only a range of catastrophes currently besetting the earth and its people, but also the enormous opportunities for exploration, creativity, and sustainability on the horizon, driven by human ingenuity and invention.
Promising beginning! Unfortunately, the first speaker, Graham Flint, a physicist who is working on a portrait of the world as seen thru gigapixel digital cameras quickly got bogged down in the minutae of the technology instead of demonstrating its cool applications.
In conjunction with Google Earth, Flint and his team are currently building a portrait of America, but will soon move to preserve images of the world’s endangered sites in high rez. “Had we photographed the Buddhas before the Taliban blew them up we’d have that forever, but now it’s forever lost,” he says. The images, on display in the opera house, had an HDTV-like clarity. I worried about those rusty bolts on the side of the space shuttle Discovery in one picture.
Meanwhile Rome is “dissolving like an Alka Seltzer because of acid rain. If future generations want to see what the Coliseum looked like, they’re going to have to see it via virtual reality since reality reality will be gone,” Flint says.
Flint ended with an image showing what the camera can do in a useful way – projecting an image of a nude beach in California, with pre-blurred faces to protect the perps. Stay tuned for the debate over the privacy implications of this technology. Check out the project at www.gigapxl.org.