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view from Echo Point

The Seeing

by Philip Merrill & Christine Lusey

Seeing is an astronomy term for clarity of vision. To achieve it, dedicated stargazers have long trekked to remote heights. As when it started, Mt. Wilson presently boasts the best seeing in the world (including Earth's orbit). Most recently this is because it was first to implement adaptive optics, making many micron adjustments every second to lock its crosshairs on target. The goal is to accurately capture light and record it. This is a powerful metaphor for the Digital Explorers.

The pioneering photographer Cartier-Bresson said: "Light is the magician." Biblical creation begins with it. Radiated light fills our day and bounces in our sky making the day's dome blue. At night, the moon's reflected light defined our calendars while the mysterious radiated light of the stars long cried for explanation. Explanation came, and we still strive to redefine ourselves within our new knowledge.

We are completing a circle by posting our multimedia trek here. Probably you are bathing in radiated light from your digital information device on Earth's newborn web, reading about this Observatory which has achieved milestones for human knowledge. The first discovery that the galaxies are all moving away from each other. Michelson's most accurate measurement of the speed of light in 1926. Our guide was still a boy then, and remembers the loud siren-like wail which tuned a spinning prism so that frequency could be used to measure speed of rotation. Unfortunately, the arc lights for the experiment shed light on the trees and diminished the 100" telescope's seeing, but with cooperation these early 20th century scientists worked it out.

And now we dream of interplanetary travel in our near future and prepare to move into bigger and better orbital stations. The city lights of Los Angeles expend enormous energy into the sky, diminishing seeing. Yet there are plans to implement newer lights which confine their rays downward where it is needed, and cooperative efforts continue. And we...multimedia-heads that we are...try to make our craft better, or at least use it more effectively.

As we stared out at the Observatory's many vistas, and alternately fastened our concentration on intricate detail, that quiet awe which so characterizes physiological perception of nature seemed to surround us and energize us. Expressing it in our work seems too ambitious, yet no more so than many human ambitions of the past: flight, celestial navigation, agriculture, fire. What fires are within us? With more primitive tools, artists have fashioned a second nature more easily grasped and discussed. Whatever we do with our enterprise solutions, marketing communications, or lowly home pages, new media is crying out to be used. To be a new fire or as the book title says: "Virtual Light".

So many hypothetical futures are lonely ones. So many keyboard-pounders and tablet-pen pushers are alienated and overworked. But we can adjust and improve our seeing. Human goals have barely changed, albeit they've adjusted. And we need to adjust our new media - which many of us hold very dear - to seeing, recording, sharing. We need to express the light in our minds with a reborn naivete, in the face of our computer-literate group's pejorative attitude. We don't need a new belief system but rather to explore this new optical and multisensory language, which too small a fraction of our species speak. The speed of light and dimensions of space limit all we do. The artificial light, which displays our polyglot networks of packetized electrons, doesn't need to. As the quiet mist of this afternoon's journey surrounds these thoughts (at 5:25 am)...See you!