Sunday, 27 May 2007

A report on initial experience with sculpted prims.

Nicholas, K.   "A report on initial experience with sculpted prims."  Proc Royal Soc  2007; 2 (advance communication ahead of printing).

Availability of sculpted primative constuction allows for a greatly-expanded repertoire of objects for the builder. Preparation of the sculpted prim is nonintuitive, and requires additional methods and skills that may not be readily available. Further work is suggested to improve access to sculpting methods. Proceeds from the sale of the developed sculpted-prim glassware should go towards future research and development of sculpting methods.

Constructing a primitive object (prim) has to this point required little in the way of preparation or skills beyond that required for day-to-day existence. Linden Lab have added an option to transform a prim into a unique shape based on a map of sorts (Fig. 1). Construction of this map is nonintuitive, and requires what appears to be a fair amount of mathematics
to translate a three-dimensional representation into this color-based map.

Fig. 1. Color-map of an object.

Methods available to perform this conversion require a knowledge of three-dimensional artistry, and an investment in the tools. One tool requires a L$ 1,820,000 capital outlay (1). Less-costly tools are available, with varying degrees of utility, and are detailed elsewhere (2).

Using the "Rokuro" software (3), a series of maps were created to model common laboratory glassware (the first objects available for study). Eleven items were created; five were solid objects, and six attempted to recreate the hollow nature of actual glassware (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Hollow versus solid objects.

The object maps were loaded on to the beta grid for testing. All objects were given a standard glass texture (without any alpha channel), set to 30% transparency, with low reflectivity and "brightness" bump-mapping settings (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Texturing parameters.
(See text for 'A' and 'B' discussion.)

Creating the object maps via the lathe tool took on the order of 5 to 10 min per object, trending towards the lower end as the author gained facility with the method.

Figure 3 shows the different effect seen with hollow ("A") and solid ("B") prims. At a uniform level of transparency, the solid prims provided a more life-like outer appearance, with the hollow objects showing a penumbra, and the solid objects presenting a clearly-defined outer edge.

Figure 4 shows the glassware on a different background; figure 5, with different lighting (sunrise), and figure 6, at night, using only ambient lighting.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

Fig. 6.

Simple sculpted primative construction is within the ability of the average-to-advanced builder, using very specific tools, and and access to the beta grid for testing. Glassware emulation produces reasonable results, though the correct, hollow representation of vessels produces a somewhat-indistinct outer edge. No attempt was made to optimise texture methods, and it is acknowledged that texture map creation for sculpted prims is difficult (4). Further research is required to maximise the utility of sculpted prims; furthermore, more available (and accessible) tools for builders are required.

All of the glassware will be on sale at the offices of the Royal Society, in Tamrannoch, Caledon. These will be priced at below-upload-cost, with the set of 11 pieces sold at L$100. Naturally, proceeds from the sales will fund futher sculpting methods.

The author is supported by a new-materials grant from the Duchy of Loch Avie (LA-21-003), and by viewers like you. She has no industry support or conflict of interest to disclose.

(1).   Autodesk Maya (ex-Alias|Wavefront, ex-Silicon Graphics) was sighted at US$ 6999. Linden Lab's current officially-suported sculpted prim import pathway (singular) is for Maya.
(2).   Building forum, Accessed repeatedly, often to little avail.
(3).   Jewell, Y. Rokuro (lathe) Accessed 25 May 2007.
(4).   Krogstad, A. Personal communication.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Initial Report: Analysis of a ship-wreck off Loch Avie.

Nicholas K, Krogstad A. "Analysis of a ship-wreck off Loch Avie." Proc Royal Soc 2007; 2 (advance communication ahead of printing).

The discovery and analysis of the site of a wrecked submersible in the littoral waters off the Duchy of Loch Avie are reported. Findings support that a submersible vessel, likely under steam power, suffered a catastrophic boiler failure. The wreck is relatively recent, and the lack of crew remains suggests an autonomous vehicle. Further studies are ongoing regarding the origin of the vessel, and details of its control mechanisms.

No reports currently exist regarding any underwater archæological sites in Caledonian waters. The experience of one author (KN) during the Caledon Hydrographic Survey suggests that, as of January 2007, there were no identifiable wrecks in surveyed areas, and a more-detailed exploration of Loch Avie in conjunction with the study of Nessie the Loch Beastie (1) revealed no wrecks in or around Loch Avie.

Despite ongoing civilian and naval traffic, there are no reports of loss of ships, impediments to navigation, or damage to vessels that may occur during inadvertent collisions with submerged wrecks.

As well, there has been no reported seismic activity in the area that may either expose wrecks previously buried under silt, or produce rogue waves that may be a hazard to ships.

Discovery of the site.
The site was initially discovered by one of the authors (AK) while doing sediment testing on the sea floor. One sample container was retrieved containing several pieces of coal; the Caledonian strata are not known to contain anthracite. The authors returned to the site in the Royal Society's submersible (fig. 1) to ascertain the source of the coal.

Starting at the location the coal was found, a standard search pattern (βουστροφηδόν) was begun, in 10m wide rows. Visibility was estimated at 15m at the surface, and 10m at depth. Measurement of the sub-surface currents were in line with prior observations (2), with a 1 m/sec (0.1 Sievert) current at the bottom. A 2-degree-Centigrade thermocline was present at 12 m depth.

The bottom was at 21 m depth, and fairly uniform across the search pattern. It consisted of the typical sedimentary deposits, without evident rock outcropping or other features. No flora or fauna were identified, save for ubiquitous plankton in suspension.

The first evidence of the wreck site was the finding of a screw-and-shaft mechanism, partially buried in silt. (Fig. 2.) The screw was toroidal, with a 50-cm estimated radius, and appeared to be brass or copper. The survey course then continued east-north-east at 80 degrees, along the visible axis of the debris field.

A field of lump coal was found to the east of the propeller, with an approximate 10 m diameter spread. The coal was visibly similar to the originally-extracted specimen, and consistent with fuel coal used in coal-fired steam plants. (Fig. 3.)

Beyond the coal field came larger debris pieces. Multiple metallic shapes were scattered along the debris field axis, buried in silt to various degrees. No identifiable structures or components were among the pieces. (Fig. 4.) The metal was of uniform make-up, averaging 5 cm thick, and without paint or markings. Edges of the fragments were curled and deformed; where an interior/exterior differentiation was noted on the fragments, the deformity trend was from in- to outside. The pieces ranged from one to 3 m in diameter. Application of the external magnetometer revealed the fragments to be uniformly ferrous.

There was no evidence of oxidation or combustion on any of the visible fragments. A failure of the on-board under-silt sounding apparatus prevented locating any obscured pieces, though the magnetometer did detect signal changes under silt.

The four largest pieces formed an axis of 110 degrees, to the east-south-east, turning right from the initially-seen debris field direction. (Fig. 5.) Absent from this section of the site were any smaller (sub 1 m) items. No encrustation of the debris was noted, and no plant or animal life was noted in the vicinity of the wreck. Gieger counter readings were consistent with background radiation.

Proceeding along the secondary debris field axis, the largest piece of the wreck was found approximately within 10m of the eastern-most portion of the debris. (Fig. 6.) A single metallic object, 15 x 2 x 3 m, with a cylindrical protrusion 1 x 1 x 3 m in the mid-section, was lying on the silt, aligned nearly due east. The eastern end was conical, and partially buried in silt. The western end was severely deformed, again with an in-to-out orientation of damage. The interior of this largest piece was open to the sea, but a combination of metal damage and sediment prevented close inspection. However, certain interior features were noted. A plane of metal consistent with diamond-plate decking was evident, along with several pipes, levers, and gear assemblies. No biologic matter was noted, neither human remains, nor expected sea life. The cylindrical feature on the hull was consistent with a sail and hatch, and was rotated nearly perpendicular to the sea floor.


Taken together, these findings are most likely the remains of a submarine vessel. Based on the forward section, the estimated size would have been 25 x 3 x 2 m, with the hatch just forward of amidships, standing at 1 m above the hull. No diving planes were seen; however, it appears that some portion of the wreck has been covered by silt, probably at the time of initial impact with the sea bed. Based on the presence of coal, and the fragmentary remains of the stern, the craft was likely under coal-fired steam power, and suffered a boiler explosion. Due to the relatively compact east-west dimensions of the debris, the vessel was likely stationary at the time of the engineering catastrophe. When the boiler exploded, the aft end of the vessel ruptured, ejecting the coal stores, and sending the shaft-screw section aft. Due to the lack of apparent impact damage, or deep embedding in silt, the vessel was probably close to the bottom, estimated at 15 m depth. The fast undersea current at the site helps provide some timing on the loss of the craft; significant time had not passed between the wreck and its discovery, as there was not appreciable dune formation on the up-current end of debris. The lack of remains (human or otherwise) with this time frame raises the possibility that the vessel was under autonomous control (3). The data do not support further conclusions regarding the method of operation, or origin, of the craft.

A submarine craft was lost off the southern coast of Loch Avie some time between January and May of the current year, likely closer to the latter. It may have been un-manned, and suffered an unrecoverable hull failure after steam plant explosion while at depth. No evidence exists as to the origin, nature, or type (civil versus military) of the ship. Metallurgical analyses are currently being conducted, and a second expedition to explore the interior of the hull is planned.

(1) Nicholas K et al. Proc Royal Soc 2007; 1.
(2) Krogstad A. Unpublished data 2006.
(3) Bell L et al. The speed of post mortem change to the human skeleton and its taphonomic significance. Forensic Sci Int 1996; 82(2):129-140.