Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Faster meets further!

Technology is awesome. It constantly amazes us, the shiny, the newest, the sleekest, the most advanced, the greenest, all point to our fascination to push the boundaries.

Human ingenuity, vision, ideation, all drive each of us in different ways. Passion and emotion often over-ride commonsense and process. Fast cars, expensive toys, remote destinations, are also often the domain of James Bond films.

So trick question.......what do fast cars, great design, astronomy and James Bond films have in common........
P A R A N A L !!!!!

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) tapped into all of these emotions with a unique blend of the fastest and the furtherest, an electric super car and the world's most productive optical telescope - both impressive structures that evoke our emotion and passions.

So some history here for the movie buffs may assist set the scene.

Who could forget the Aricabo Radio Telescope arising out of the "CGI lake" in the James Bond movie Goldfinger, water draining away every where, only to contact a satellite to laser a few cities before being blown to bits by the hero and his beautiful assistant.

Then more recently in Quantum of Solace with Daniel Craig in the lead role - Superspy meets beautiful woman, and on their first date find, yet again, another evil villain holed up in a Telescope control room that must be instantly dispatched with lots of special effects. Is it any wonder that astrophysicists are developing a complex and have to watch "Big Bang Theory" for therapy. Quantum of Solace (a very "sciencey" name) was filmed at ESO's Paranal site.

Daniel Craig described Paranal as "a very special place" and that goes some way to highlighting why you might find a group of telescopes there. The structures of Telescopes are imposing, impressive and unique and provide the essential backdrop for the action scenes in action movies.

Now when we talk about renewable technology, we are not talking about billion dollar telescope sites be blown up on James Bond film sets and then being open for the pressing business of Astrophysics the next day......but Mr Bond does likes his fast cars - now he can have an electric one.

The supercar, has also often drawn the same emotions out of the alpha-male, though this time its not the "racing green color" but racing green endurance. This week the ESO brought them both together for a unique opportunity.

Speed versus distance.

There they were - two pieces of highly advanced technology side by side in all their glory. The worlds fastest ELECTRIC supercar and the most productive ground based observatory. The "renewable" film set and the renewable energy super car. Enough of the parallels and metaphors.....it was just plain gorgeous!!

The ESO team described their exciting day as follows: "The SRZero electric supercar arrived at Paranal on October 27 after touring the Pan-American Highway from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and on their way to Ushuaia. The Racing Green Endurance (RGE) adventure could not have been complete without a stop at Paranal, where the RGE team had the opportunity to observe the fascinating southern skies under the best conditions and test the supercar’s limits by performing at an altitude of 2600 metres above sea level."

So what's the science angle here. The ESO also today shared some of their finest work "on wheels" with some of the deepest ever images of spiral galaxies taken with the HAWK-I camera on the VLT (very large telescope). These infra-red shots of these very distant spiral galaxies weren't just released to seed inspirational new designs for mag wheels for super cars, they also show the various types and stages of galaxy development. HAWK-I stands for High-Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager and is highly sensitive in the infra-red range.

So this week we saw the best set of wheels on earth and in the heavens. Thanks to the folks at the ESO and their imaginative marketing, drawing our attention to the best of breed technologies, and tapping into our passion for the shiniest, boldest, and contrasting it with the grandest and most majestic.

Photo Credits: ESO/ H.H. Heyer
ESO/ Glenn Arcos & www.racinggreenendurance.com
Source ESO Used with permission.

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