You may have heard of the Peel Island Lazaret CyArk webpage which is now available to the public. (For more information, I refer you to my previous blogs of 14.05.2016 – Digitising the Lazaret at Peel Island; 15.10.2016 – Click; and 07.03.2017 – Peel Island episode now available to view on BBC’s ‘Click’ )
However it requires the latest and fastest computers or it may take too long to load. My computer overheated but I did manage to view the attached photo which is described as ‘Church interior, 1950s. Originally built by Melanesian patients, this was the main church on the island. Photo by Dr Morgan Gabriel.’
However, I think it is more likely the church interior was at Fantome Island and not Peel. Comparing the external and interior images, it is obvious that their dimensions do not coincide.
Doctor Gabriel did visit both Peel and Fantome Islands as part of his medical duties, and as such did take both photos. However much later the church interior may have been mistaken by others for Peel and not Fantome.
This month’s cameo speaker at my local Probus Club chose for his topic ‘ Some Of What CSIRO Does With Your Taxes’. He described how Government funding for the organisation has dropped by 25% over the last five years, which has resulted in CSIRO’s earnings being down too. Then he touched on just three of their current projects:
Alzheimer’s Disease (where they have found that it is caused by not just high Amyloid tissue in the brain but also with high iron levels. They are trialling the drug Deferiprone to reduce the iron levels.)
Technology for Autism (1-100 children suffer from Autism. Computers may not be of benefit but the best three apps deal with language, education, and attention.)
Graphene (is a form of carbon only one atom thick and is very hard . It is very expensive to produce but CSIRO has devised a way to produce it much more cheaply from peanut oil.)
The CSIRO as such came into being after World War II from other precursor scientific organisations. When I was young, I remember the CSIRO being in the headlines much more so than it is today. Its mantra was (and still is):
‘We do the extraordinary every day. We innovate for tomorrow and help improve today – for our customers, all Australians and the world.
‘At the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), we shape the future. We do this by using science to solve real issues. Our research makes a difference to people, industry and the planet.’
Notable past developments by CSIRO have included the invention of atomic absorption spectroscopy, essential components of Wi-Fi technology, the polymer banknote, the insect repellent in Aerogard and myxomatosis for the control of rabbit populations.
So why is its funding being reduced? Is science no longer the panacea that it was once thought to be? Is there too much competition for Government monies? Has it become too self-effacing? Has technology stolen the public’s obsessions? In this era when chest beating for the audience attention seems to be dominated by everyone from media chefs to swaggering world leaders, perhaps its time that CSIRO, too, became more vocal about its achievements.
Since 2012, students from the Architecture Faculty at the University of Queensland (UQ) have been involved in digitising the former lazaret at Peel Island for the CyArk project. One of the pieces of equipment they have been using is the robot shown below. This proved invaluable in scanning the interior of the former doctor’s house at the institution, whose floors have been rendered unsafe for humans to tread due to whiteant infestation.
To explain how CyArk works, it is best to go to its website at cyark.org which explains to us initiated folk:
CyArk uses cutting edge technology to capture detailed 3D representations of world’s significant cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time.
By bouncing laser light off the surfaces, 3D scanners measure millions of points a second, accurate to a few millimeters to create a 3D data set, or point cloud. Colours represent the intensity of reflection from the surface.
Individual data points are joined together via small triangles, connecting each of the dots and forming a wireframe. These triangles are used to form a solid surface from the points, which creates a solid 3D model.
The 3D model generated from the point cloud is then coloured using photographs taken of the surface of the structure. The result is a photo-real 3D model which can be used to further study the monument and used for conservation and education.
This week I attended a demonstration of the Peel Island project at UQ, along with other members of the Friends of Peel Island Association (http://www.fopia.org.au) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The work already done by the UQ students is impressive and it is hoped to have the project uploaded on the CyArk site in the not too distant future. When this happens you’ll be able to digitally explore the lazaret as it was back in 1955!
My only misgiving was the length of the project’s digital life on the web, given the rate at which the web’s technology is outdated. CyArk claims that it will keep up with all changes so that the project will last forever. Now ‘Forever’ is a rather a bold statement when it comes to the internet. I’ll be interested to see whether this claim holds true!
A recent article in a Probus magazine speculated that this sharing of resources, services and goods will be our future. How many of us still have expensive tools we bought for a house renovation job and have never used since? In hindsight, we might have been better off hiring them in the first place. I still have such tools, even though I have long since sold the house and now live in a unit. I keep them ‘just in case’. I could have hired them from one of the Hire Shops at the time. These days, I can hire them from Internet sites. Not only that, I now can even use these sites to hire out my unused tools to others.
The Internet has certainly revolutionised the way we live and think. And not just in sharing tools. It has moved into other areas with a huge impact: Airbnb offers a cheaper holiday alternative to hotels; goget hires cars; openshed hires just about any household items; uber will taxi you; and airtasker will find someone to supply your need.
Of course there is an element of risk (such as quality, insurance), and I still feel loathe to try them out, but as time passes, and they become the norm, I, like many others, will weaken and accept them as everyday.
My first doubts as to the longevity of computers were cast in the 1990s when my favourite game ‘Myst’ no longer worked after Microsoft updated its Windows operating system. Since then, an increasing number of my programmes have been rendered useless by the ‘advance’ of technology. And anyone who has been Secretary to a community group will know how quickly their groups laptops have fallen into ‘clunkiness’.
My concerns were recently reinforced when I read that Vint Cef, a Google Vice President, is worried that all the images and documents we have been saving on computers will eventually be lost as hardware and software become obsolete. He fears that future generations will have little or no record of the 21st Century as we enter what he describes as a “digital Dark Age”. Our life, our memories, our most cherished family photographs increasingly exist as bits of information – on our hard drives or in “the cloud”. But as technology moves on, they risk being lost in the wake of an accelerating digital revolution.
So what will we do if we can’t ‘google it’? My wife will be lost without Doctor Google to confirm her diagnoses; my Facebook will become friendless; my Twitter world will fall silent.
More worringly, as our present digital storage expands, so we are eliminating our more conventional hard-copy storage.
Will all that will remain of our lives be a black screen?
Maybe, after all, the Aborigines had the right idea with their cave art.