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The Internet Can Show You A Lot, But Not This

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands by Jeffrey Ambroziak

I never noticed how hard it was to get around with wheels until I had a stroller to push. Stairs and curbs are everywhere, and taking the most direct route is never an option – retrofitted buildings either tuck handicapped entrances around the sides of buildings or require you to zig and zag before you approach the entrance you would otherwise have waltzed up to. What’s my point? Accessibility. For able-bodied people, designing for a small percentage of people with special needs may feel like a drag until you’re forced to view the world through their eyes. Conclusion: it’s a royal pain to navigate a world that’s not designed for you. Solution: design for accessibility.

Interestingly, there’s a science art exhibit in NY that puts us all on the outside looking in, unless you’re one of the lucky 19 million residents of the NY Metro area who has possibility of visiting it in the flesh. Ironically, I think part of the motivation behind the exhibit was to bring sophisticated science to anyone and everyone in the form of awe-inspiring art. And while the description of the exhibit is tantalizing and makes my little sciart heart go pitter-patter, the designer in me is frustrated that I can’t at least taste the exhibit remotely, which, these days, ain’t that much to ask. So why can’t I? They have a website, right? Well, yes, but… the images require 3D glasses to view, and wouldn’tchya know it, my local Walgreens is fresh out of a pair. I was sure I would find them next to the 2-for-$2.99 reading glasses. Dang.

Viewing Jeffrey Ambroziak's Infinite Perspectives Exhibit on opening night © Oliver Uberti from National Geographic

The exhibit, at Underline Gallery (238 West 14th Street, NY, NY), is called Perspectives: Places I’ll Remember and features 3D maps made by artist and scientist Jeffrey Ambroziak. What Ambroziak has done as a scientist is pretty cool. He developed a map projection system known as the Ambroziak Infinite Perspective Projection (AIPP) that allows images to be viewed in three dimensions from any perspective – a feat you can grasp the significance of if you’ve ever dropped $40 to see a 3D movie and had the misfortune of sitting so far off to the side that your view is nauseatingly distorted or worse, just doesn’t work. AIPP eliminates this problem. (Hollywood, take note.)

Hanauma Bay, Oahu by Jeffrey Ambroziak on display at NY's Underline Gallery

What Ambroziak has done as an artist is equally appealing. As he puts it, “Like the best of technology, the technology behind my images strives to hide complexity and to produce the illusion of magic.” By applying his AIPP technique to carefully chosen satellite images of places that hold meaning to him, he inspires us “to embrace the burden of being human.  To immerse one’s finite existence in the infinite majesty of the Grand Canyon.  To engage in the harsh climb to the summit of Half Dome.  To unleash a war of attrition against unyielding gravity and traverse the cable car routes of San Francisco.” Or so I’m told. Not having a pair of 3D glasses makes it hard to synthesize the images displayed on the gallery website. Sigh. The internet is almost perfect… but not quite. For some things, you still have to show up in person.

Underline Gallery’s exhibit, Infinite Perspectives: Places I’ll Remember, runs through November 20, 2011. The gallery is located at 238 W. 14th Street, New York, NY. If you go, tweet me @eyeforscience and/or @symbiartic so I can live vicariously through you. If no one tweets me, I might just have to buy Ambroziak’s book, Infinite Perspectives: Two Thousand Years of Three-Dimensional Mapmaking. I hear it comes with 3D glasses.

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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