Seconds out

I crave a few seconds out of your life to read this post. It is the second account on NN of the launch of the second phase of Nature’s Second Life presence. Joanna Scott has posted an official account and explanation. In essence, the Second Nature islands have become part of a larger SL offering from NPG’s parent company Macmillan publishers, called The Elucian Islands . This new site provides space not just for scientific stuff but the whole range of knowledge and scholarship. It will be interesting to see how it develops.
Accounts of the launch have been posted by Jon Reed on his Publishing Talk blog and by others else where .
Nature laid on a good spread of champagne and canapes, plus a couple of speakers, introduced by Timo Hannay.
Timo revealed that the first speaker had inspired him several years before. Eddy Shah had been a pupil at the same school that Timo attended somewhat later and he came back to give an inspirational speech to the boys, including the young Timo.
It’s interesting to note this link between Eddy Shah , the man who transformed British newspaper publishing by introducing new technology, and Timo Hannay, who oversees new developments at Nature and is synonymous with new technology in science publishing.
Eddy Shah is a newspaper entrepreneur and technology enthusiast turned writer. His forthcoming thriller Second World is based on Second Life. He explained that it had been written 13 years earlier but rejected by publishers as being too far ahead of its time. Now the world has caught up and his book will be released as a mainstream thriller.
Mr Shah has the passion of a technology geek. When he talks about Second Life and the amazing virtual reality worlds that are just around the corner he has a glint in his eye. He clearly believes wholeheartedly that great things will come from virtual reality very soon. I couldn’t decide if he’s right or just possessed.
The second speaker was Anthony Steed, a Reader in Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics at UCL. His research concerns immersive reality environments and mixed reality systems. He showed a number of ways that they are exploring virtual environments. One picture was of a life-size screen with a man standing in front of it looking at an image of another man on the screen. That second man was stood in front of a similar screen looking at an image of the first man, and they were conversing. This system lets them use and see the full gamut of body language. It gave me a funny turn as I’d just been reading Haruki Murakami’s novel After Dark) . Some scenes in that book take place in a room with a TV screen that is showing another room and there seems to be some connection between these two rooms:

We want to check out the interior of that other room directly, with our own eyes… And so we decide to transport ourselves to the other side of the screen. It’s not that difficult once we make up our mind. All we have to do is separate from the flesh, leave all substance behind, and allow ourselves to become a conceptual point of view devoid of mass. With that accomplished, we can pass through any wall, leap over any abyss … We let ourselves become a pure single point and pass through the TV screen separating the two worlds.

Seeing Dr Steed’s system made Murakami’s scene seem almost realistic. Furthermore, in the corner of the room at Nature where the meeting took place was a screen showing a Second Life room full of avatars listening to the talks. I came away thinking that this SL stuff is getting closer to our world after all. Clearly Nature think so, given their continued investment. I wonder how long it will be before Nature publishes its first paper that can only be fully appreciated inside Second Life?

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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3 Responses to Seconds out

  1. Maxine Clarke says:

    “I wonder how long it will be before Nature publishes its first paper that can only be fully appreciated inside Second Life?” Fascinating question – I am looking forward to that one!

  2. Brian Clegg says:

    Has Nature ever published a paper that can only be fully appreciated in ‘first life’?

  3. Maxine Clarke says:

    Ha ha.