Monday, January 31, 2011

Jonathan Harris' Universe

It was a cold weekend. Bitterly cold. An arctic front swept in piercing through the warm blanket of air that had spent the past week melting the snow on roadways and lawns. With the cold, snow fell. And fell.

Where cold grey concrete had appeared it disappeared once again beneath a white frosty blanket.

The pendulum of thermometer's measurement of the air, swung from +13C to -13C within 24 hours. This morning, the thermometer reads, -28C -- That would be -18.4Fahrenheit -- Yup. You read that right. minus 18.4 Fahrenheit!

Baby, it's cold outside.

But, like all things weather oriented, the weather will change. The days ahead will grow warmer with a promise to near 0C later in the week. Welcome to the joys of a Calgary winter. A melodramatic dance of bundling up against frostbite to stripping down to cool off, all in one day. Warm to cold and back again. Up and down and all over the map. It's hard to get a grip on the weather in Calgary.

I spent yesterday writing and researching and making notes for a presentation I have to give next week. I hauled my laptop into the bedroom, propped myself up with pillows and blankets and read and wrote and jotted ideas into my notebook. Outside the bay window beside my bed, the world slept beneath its icy blanket. Frozen and silent. No birds twittering in the tree. No squirrels running along the wire. Winter's deep freeze stilled the world. Weak sunshine struggled to pierce the grey on grey sky. A wind flirted with eaves and snowbanks, lifting gusts of snow and flung them around. The Snow Queen and her ladies dancing in my backyard.

In my meanderings through cyberspace, I came upon a 'find' I just have to share. Sometime ago I wrote about artist, computer scientist, story-teller Jonathan Harris and shared his December 2007 Ted Talk -- Jonathan Harris Collects Stories. Yesterday, as I clicked and read articles on 'compassion', I came upon a site created by Jonathan Harris that got me really excited. UNIVERSE.

Universe is an amazing site. Founded on the notion that the Greeks used the constellations to tell the stories of their heroes, of gods and goddesses and their battles and journey through mythology -- what if we created constellations today? what would they be? wondered Jonathan.

"I would often look up into the dark sky and see the three star belt of Orion, the Hunter. And as an adult, I've been more aware of the great Greek myths playing out in the sky overhead every night. You know, Orion facing the roaring bull. Perseus flying to the rescue of Andromeda. Zeus battling Chronos for control of Mount Olympus. I mean, these are the great tales of the Greeks," says Jonathan in a Ted Talk he gave earlier in 2007 where he introduced the site -- Universe -- which he created in conjunction with Daylife. Daylife is a database of billions of real time current events.

Jonathan goes on to say, "And it caused me to wonder about our world today. And it caused me to wonder specifically, if we could make new constellations today, what would those look like? What would those be? If we could make new pictures in the sky, what would we draw? What are the great stories of today?"

I clicked and got lost in wonder, high above the earth, in the stars of Universe.

Check it out -- it is truly amazing. Be prepared to journey amongst the stars. Be prepared to name a constellation or two. To trip the light fantastic!


And, to entice you, below is Jonathan Harris' first Ted Talk in March 2007 where he talks about several of his projects -- including "We Feel Fine" -- Software that every two or three minutes scans the world's newly-posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" or "I am feeling." And when it finds one of those phrases, grabs it up to the period, logs it in a database, capturing as much data about the individual as possible so that it can show a graphic representation of the worlds emotions.

In this moment, knowing my words will be captured by Jonathan's software, I feel inspired. I feel awed. I feel like a kid in a candy-store looking at so many different options, I can't choose just one.

I'm hoping you feel inspired by Universe -- it's pretty amazing!



Maureen said...

Such an amazing site! Definitely one to include (with credit to you) in Saturday Sharing.

M.L. Gallagher said...

So glad you liked it! I knew you would :)

and the credit goes to Jonathan -- he's amazing!

Fi said...

You're freezing and yesterday we sweltered through 43C - amazing contrast.
Thanks for your kind thoughts in regard to my troublesome child - they definitely made me feel better.
Stay warm

Cheers, Fi

Fi said...

Me again - forgot to mention a belated happy birthday to your daughter. She sounds like she takes after her mum in 'specialness'

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Fi -- please send some of that heat northward! :)

thanks for the b-day wishes. she is special :) Thank you!

Take care.


Anonymous said...

very interesting post louise. thanks for sharing the site.