Sunday, December 17, 2006

Old Photos

The oldest known color photograph: 1872

Before the Autochrome process was perfected in France, this photograph of a landscape in Southern France was taken. No, it is not hand-tinted. This is a color-photograph. (Note: It was published in a Time/Life Book entitled "Color" in 1972, "courtesey of George Eastman House, Paulus Lesser.") You are looking at the birth of color photography seven years after the American Civil War. 130 years ago this view of Angouleme, France, was created by a "subtractive" method. This is the basis for all color photography, even today. It was taken by Louis Ducos du Hauron who proposed the method in 1869. It was not until the 1930's that this method was perfected for commercial use.

Color Photos from the Russian Empire

Monastery from the Solarium

Color film was non-existent in 1909 Russia, yet in that year a photographer named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii embarked on a photographic survey of his homeland and captured hundreds of photos in full, vivid color. His photographic plates were black and white, but he had developed an ingenious photographic technique which allowed him to use them to produce accurate color images.

The Emir of Bukhara

He accomplished this with a clever camera of his own design, which took three black and white photos of a scene in rapid sequence, each though a differently colored filter. His photographic plates were long and slender, capturing all three images onto the same plate, resulting in three monochrome images which each had certain color information filtered out.

A Zindan (prison)

Sergei was then able to use a special image projector to project the three images onto a screen, each directly overlapping the others, and each through the appropriately colored filter. The recombined projection was a full-color representation of the original scene. Emir of BukharaEach three-image series captured by the camera stored all of the color information onto the black and white plates; all they lacked was actual tint, which the color filters on the projector restored.

Dagestani Types

Tsar Nicholas II fully supported Sergei's ambitious plan to document the Russian Empire, and provided a specially equipped railroad car which enclosed a darkroom for Sergei to develop his glass plates. He took hundreds of these color photos all over Russia from 1909 through 1915.

Autochrome Lumière

in 1907, the first practical color photographic plates were introduced to the world by the Lumière brothers in France. The plates were called "Autochrome Lumière," and they were made up of microscopic potato starch grains which were dyed orange, green, and blue; sandwiched between black-and-white film and a piece of glass; then coated in shellac. The tiny starch grains acted as color filters, making the film essentially a mosaic made up of many tiny pieces. Once the black-and-white film base was developed, the dyed starch layer which had acted as many tiny color filters when the photo was taken now did the same task in reverse, giving the color back to the underlying image. The technology was a bit crude and grainy, but it was able to capture full color images which turned out looking rather impressionistic.

Marine RiflemenAutochrome film was expensive, slow and rare, so it didn't see a lot of use by the general public. But when World War One broke out in 1914, the French army began photographing soldiers and scenery, and some of their photos were taken with this new color film. As a result, a large proportion of color photos from that time are images of French soldiers in the field.

Color Photos from WWI

Although color photography was around prior to 1903, the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, patented the process in 1903 and developed the first color film in 1907. The French army was the primary source of color photos during the course of World War One.

Color Photos from WWII

The fact that most people imagine World War II solely in black and white has a solid historical reason: most of the estimated 40 million photos taken between 1939 and 1940 were not in color. The photographers of Russia's Red Army didn't even carry any color film with them, despite the fact that Kodak's Kodachrome, the first mass-produced color film available, appeared in the US beginning in 1935 and came to Europe a year later. It took a while for color to catch on among photographers, and it wasn't until after the end of the war that it came to dominate the field of photo-journalism.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nasa to Moon and Beyond

Move to new planet, says Hawking

Hawking (BBC/Laurence Cendrowicz)
Prof Hawking is in "no hurry to die"
The human race must move to a star outside our solar system to protect the future of the species, physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.

He told the BBC that life could be wiped out by a nuclear disaster or asteroid hitting the planet.

But the Cambridge academic added: "Once we spread out into space and establish colonies our future should be safe."

Prof Hawking, 64, was speaking before receiving the UK's top science award, the Royal Society's Copley Medal.

My next goal is to go into space, maybe Richard Branson will help me
Professor Stephen Hawking

He said there were no similar planets to earth in our solar system so man would "have to go to another star".

Prof Hawking said that current chemical and nuclear rockets were not adequate for taking colonists into space as they would mean a journey of 50,000 years.

He also discounted science-fiction ideas from programmes such as Star Trek, like using warp drive to travel at the speed of light, for taking mankind to a new outpost.

Instead he favoured "matter/anti-matter annihilation" as a means of propulsion.

Meteor fragments enter the earth's atmosphere
A collision with fragments from space could end life on earth

He explained: "When matter and anti-matter meet up they disappear in a burst of radiation. If this was beamed out of the back of a spaceship it could drive it forward."

Travelling at just below the speed of light, it would mean a journey of about six years to reach a new star.

"It would take a lot of energy to accelerate to near the speed of light," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

He became famous with the publication of his book A Brief History of Time in the late 1980s.

'Goal is space'

Prof Hawking was not given many years to live when he was diagnosed in the 1960s, aged 22, with motor neurone disease.

He said since then he had "learned not to look too far ahead, but to concentrate on the present".

"I am not afraid of death but in no hurry to die," he said.

"My next goal is to go into space, maybe Richard Branson will help me."

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group has contracted a firm to design and build a passenger spaceship.

Offshoot Virgin Galactic will own and operate at least five spaceships and two mother ships, and will charge £100,000 ($190,000) to carry passengers to an altitude of about 140km on a sub-orbital space flight.