The Null Device


Scientists have developed a camera that takes pictures that can be refocussed afterward, by keeping track not only of the intensity of incoming light but of its angle as well.

Now, Pat Hanrahan and his team at Stanford University have figured out how to adjust the light rays after they have reached the camera. They inserted a sheet of 90,000 lenses, each just 125 micrometres across, between the camera's main lens and the image sensor. The angle of the light rays that strike each microlens is recorded, as well as the amount of light arriving along each ray. Software can then be used to adjust these values for each microlens to reconstruct what the image would have looked like if it had been properly focused. That also means any part of the image can be refocused - not just the main subject.
The researchers' page on the "light field camera" includes papers and a gallery of refocusable images, and videos of focussing through a frozen moment. The examples look uncanny, as if splashes of water frozen in space were unbelievably intricate dioramas.

Applications of this technology include surveillance (where being able to change focus after the fact would often be useful) and motion photography; I imagine we may see this in films, music videos and ads soon enough as well.

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Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a story of bohemian, intellectual bootywhang in Communist Prague, has acquired a reputation as a standard seduction prop. Though, according to Maciej Ceglowski, it is a very mediocre book; the literary equivalent of one of those high-concept Working Title films that purports to be sophisticated art-house fare for people who like the aura of intellectuality without the arduous chore of being made to think (or, for that matter, read subtitles):

Milan Kundera is the Dave Matthews of Slavic letters, a talented hack, certainly a hack who's paid his dues, but a hack nonetheless. And by his own admission, this is his worst book. If you strip off the exoticism of Brezhnev-era Czechoslovakia (this rinses off easily in soapy water), you are left with a book full of vapid characters bouncing against each other like little perfectly elastic balls of condensed ego. And every twenty pages the story steps outside for a cigarette so that the author can deliver a short philosophical homily. Kundera has a sterile, cleanroom writing style meant to suggest that he is a surgeon expertly dissecting the human condition before your eyes, but if you look a little more closely, you see he's just performing an autopsy on a mannequin. Or more accurately, a RealDoll.
Ceglowski goes on to recommend a set of books by Slavic authors much better than Kundera, and rate their date-impressing potential. He's right on the money for The Master and Margarita (in terms of it being a cracking good read, at least), and I get the feeling that I'm going to have to read Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk.

(via substitute) culture czechoslovakia literature maciej ceglowski mikhail bulgakov milan kundera the master and margarita the unbearable lightness of being 3