IMAX

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IMAX

IMAX offers the most immersive movie experience in the world. Home to the world’s third largest screen, IMAX Melbourne Museum has become one of the world’s leading IMAX theatres, attracting over four million visitors to date.

Mexico in the World Cup

Author
by J. Patrick Greene
Publish date
30 May 2014
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Patrick is talking about Searching for the Aztecs in Mexico City as part of the Aztecs lecture series.

On 13 June, Mexico kicks off its World Cup campaign with a match against Cameroon in Group A in the group stage. Group A also contains Croatia and Brazil. Chances of a win against Brazil, the World Cup hosts, are not encouraging for Mexico. In three of Mexico’s 14 appearances in the World Cup these two teams have met, with Brazil scoring a total of eleven goals while conceding none. Mexican fans will be pinning their hopes on better results against Cameroon and Croatia. Mexico is lucky to be in the finals at all; after a series of indifferent results against other Latin American teams they scraped into the playoffs in which they qualified by beating New Zealand.

Perhaps the occasion will bring out the best in the Mexican team – and perhaps they will be inspired by a tradition of ball games that goes back to the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican civilisations. A ball game was an integral part of Aztec culture, with specially designed courts (or tlachtlis) placed in prominent locations in sacred and administrative precincts. However, it was not football. The rules required participants to use their hips and upper arms to keep the ball from touching the ground.

tlachti ball and ring Visitors to Aztecs can lift this replica ball - rather like a rubber cannonball - and imagine trying to propel it off their bodies and through the tiny hole in the stone ring.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the exhibition is a replica of the heavy rubber ball that the Aztecs used. Despite wearing a thick belt around the lower waist, injuries could result. Even worse, the game sometimes ended in human sacrifice. On the other hand, if a player achieved the near-impossible feat of sending the ball through one of the pair of stone rings high on the long sides of the court they were entitled to the pick of the possessions of all the spectators!

On their shirts, the Mexican footballers will wear the crest of the Mexican Federation of Association Football. The crest shows a football in front of the Aztec calendar stone, surmounted by the eagle that was part of the Aztec foundation myth.

When Mexico players have a home match they perform in one of the world’s largest stadiums, the Estadio Azteca. Footballers that play for one of Mexico’s leading clubs, the Pumas de la UNAM, have as their home ground the Olympic Stadium, which has on its exterior a huge sculpture designed by Diego Rivera with Aztec symbolism such as the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. Mexicans will be expecting their footballing heroes to rise to the World Cup occasion, inspired by the country’s proud Aztec heritage.

Olympic Stadium in Mexico City Olympic Stadium in Mexico City showing the sculpture designed by Diego Rivera.
Image: Patrick Greene
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Live broadcast of 2014 FIFA World Cup matches at IMAX Melbourne Museum

  • Saturday June 14th @ 8:00am - CHILE vs AUSTRALIA
  • Sunday June 15th @ 8:00am - ENGLAND vs ITALY

More about the Aztec ball game at aztec-history.com

National Geographic: Aztec, Maya Were Rubber-Making Masters?

Great White Sharks at IMAX

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
2 January 2014
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William Winram is a champion freediver and a passionate advocate for the protection of marine ecosystems. He uses his freediving abilities to help monitor shark populations, and he visited Melbourne Museum recently to talk about Great White Shark 3D, a new IMAX film that features him doing exactly that.

William Winram William Winram
Image: Michele Monico
Source: William Winram
 

Most divers use SCUBA breathing apparatus, but freedivers like William reach similar depths while holding their breath. This is a very different way to interact with sharks, as William explains. "When you hold your breath, your heart rate reflexively slows. There's a whole shift, physiologically, that doesn't happen in SCUBA diving." He believes that freediving makes him less intrusive, because "with SCUBA, you're entering as an alien. You're taking apparatus from the surface world, so right away your relationship is totally different." Freedivers can also move more freely in the water column, and don't generate noisy bubbles. "For a lot of species, bubbles are a sign of aggression," says William.  "If a male sea lion is getting upset, he blows bubbles and barks at us. That's how he shows his dissatisfaction."

William Winram preparing William Winram preparing for his world record freedive attempt in September 2013, Egypt.
Image: Alice C. Attaneo
Source: William Winram
 

William describes the sharks he encounters – Great White Sharks, Hammerheads, Tiger Sharks and others – as "shy, curious and cautious predators", quite unlike the killing machines of media and cinema. "Sharks are not obsessed with or addicted to killing, but they do need to eat. They know that we're not their normal diet, so they don't typically eat us." His calm, respectful approach to the world's largest predatory fishes means he is able to tag sharks harmlessly, unlike some other tagging techniques that often kill the animal.

"It's like you're walking down the hallway and I hit you in the rear end with a hypodermic needle. Afterwards you have a little bruise but you're fine." He and his colleagues aim for the thick muscle at the base of the shark's dorsal fin and use a specially modified spearfishing gun. All that's left is a small dart and tag – and these tags are allowing scientists to learn about the feeding behaviour and global movement of sharks. Tagging has also shown that Great White Sharks head for a mysterious area in the middle of the Pacific known as the Shark Café. No one is quite sure what the sharks do there, but it is clear that the animals have complex annual migratory patterns.

He sees Great White 3D as an opportunity to address the misunderstandings about sharks and encourage interest in their conservation. "We like to demonise sharks and we like to glorify other creatures, and all of it is false. People want to have this fantasy, an unreal world where things are either beautiful or ugly, nice or not. Sharks are easy to exploit because they're not cute and cuddly," he says. 

William Winram freediving William Winram freediving with a Great White Shark in Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.
Source: Still from Great White Shark 3D
 

Like all apex predators, Great White Sharks are found in relatively low numbers, yet they are vital in moderating populations of other species. Ecosystems suffer when they lose their apex predators, so the decline in sharks from human activities worries William very much. "We need to understand that we are part of an ecosystem. 50 per cent of the oxygen that we breathe comes from the sea.  At a certain point, if you kill them all off, the sea is done. It's time to respect your position and your role in your ecosystem."

Great White Shark 3D is now playing at IMAX Melbourne Museum.

Links: 

William Winram's website

ABC Science: Great whites hang out in 'shark cafe'

'In deep water' by Tim Winton for the Sydney Morning Herald

The Earth Wins at IMAX

Author
by Jerry Grayson
Publish date
25 July 2013
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Writer/Director Jerry Grayson is a helicopter pilot-turned-filmmaker. He spent eight years flying for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, a role that culminated in him being awarded the Air Force Cross by Her Majesty the Queen for outstanding gallantry in Search and Rescue. He talks about flying back over the scorched land he filmed for THE EARTH WINS, a unique Australian-made documentary which opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 29 August. 

A core premise of our film THE EARTH WINS is that if you view any given subject from a different perspective (in this case from the air) then there is the potential to form entirely new opinions.

Flying over the forests between Kinglake and Marysville was a sobering experience in the week following Black Saturday. However high we flew, the lifeless brown woodlands still stretched to the horizon. There was still a form of beauty to be found in the way that the hillsides resembled the rough hide of an elephant head, and we still refer to this shot as the "hairy hill".

Burnt landscape 'The hairy hill' - a view from the air of the forest between Marysville and Kinglake in the week after the Black Saturday fires.
Source: Helifilms
 

But if there was ever a scene that justified the phrase "a dreadful and terrifying beauty", this was it.

Four years later, almost to the day, I couldn't resist the opportunity to fly over the same hills once more and to record the way that the landscape had changed in the interim. As we crested the ridge at Kinglake I was horrified to see that the only change had been a change in colour. Vast forests of dead brown trunks were now vast forests of dead grey trunks. The hamlet of Kinglake West was almost unrecognizable to me in the way that new roads had been carved and new buildings erected. I gave up trying to find the remains of the house from which the chimney had been so lovingly preserved and transported to Melbourne Museum.

But for tens of kilometres beyond the human footprint the forests were as dead as they had been when we were shooting for our film in February 2009. Only an odd stand of trees here and there gave any clue as to what had once been.

Hills with dead trees The forests between Kinglake and Marysville four years after Black Saturday.
Source: Helifilms
 

But then a wonderful thing happened as we simply altered our perspective from the oblique to the vertical. Almost hidden at the base of the towering grey trunks was a carpet of new green life; huge and luxuriant ferns providing shade and water catchment for the young trees that would soon overtake their deceased parents.

Tree ferns under burnt trees Tree ferns springing back to life after bushfire.
Source: Helifilms
 

The experience gave me pause to consider the very essence of what THE EARTH WINS was always designed to convey, that just a tiny variation in one’s perspective or viewpoint can result in an overwhelmingly different conclusion.

If our film succeeds in illustrating how different some things can seem when viewed from a different angle then I will be very happy. See the film, share your thoughts with me at www.theearthwins.com. Did it move you, your partner, your mate, your parents or your offspring to view anything from a slightly altered perspective? Go on, make my day!

More on the Monarch

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
20 March 2013
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The Wanderer Butterfly, or Monarch, is probably the most recognisable butterfly in the world. It populates children's books and is the classical species used to illustrate insect life cycles. The Children's Museum at Melbourne Museum has housed enormous replicas of the Wanderer caterpillar, pupa and adult for the last 13 years.

Butterfly models in museum The giant butterfly, pupa and caterpillar in the Children's Gallery at Melbourne Museum.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Wanderer caterpillars feed on plants known as milkweeds. In Australia these include plants introduced from Africa and South America, such as Asclepias and Gomphocarpus. One of the most common is the Swan Plant (Gomphocarpus fruticosa), which may have been accidentally introduced as part of the regular trade between Australia and South Africa, or deliberately introduced for the 'silk cotton' to assist in hat making. This species is considered a noxious weed in some parts of Australia, and its abundance has been dramatically reduced by weed control programs, leading to a concurrent reduction in Wanderer populations around Melbourne.

Caterpillars feeding Caterpillars feeding on the Swan Palnt, Gomphocarpus fruticosa.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Milkweeds contain poisons called cardiac glycosides which are absorbed by the caterpillars and used for their own defences. These poisons affect the hearts of vertebrates such as birds, inducing vomiting at half the lethal dose. Wanderers advertise the fact that they are poisonous to eat with contrasting patterns of yellow and black in the caterpillar, and orange and black in the adult. The chemicals are concentrated in the tips of the wings of adults, so any bird venturing a taste will cop a full dose and leave the butterfly alone.

Wing of butterfly. The warning colours on the hindwing of a Wanderer Butterfly. The black spot is the 'sex gland' of a male.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

The caterpillars themselves also become victims of their own food plants. Studies in the USA show that up to 30 per cent of very young caterpillars become glued to the leaves of milkweeds by latex in the sticky sap. And when its first bite ingests an unusually high quantity of cardiac glycosides, a newly-hatched caterpillar may become seized for ten minutes or more in a state of catalepsis before recovering.

Caterpillar feeding A late-instar caterpillar addressing the milky sap of Asclepias rotundifolia.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Despite this, some birds such as Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes (Coracina novaehollandiae) seem to be able to feed on Wanderers with impunity. The caterpillars are also attacked by a tachinid fly (Winthemia neowinthemoides), whose larvae feed on caterpillars from the inside, slowly killing them. In some areas, particularly coastal NSW and Queensland, these parasites account for 80-100 per cent of Wanderer larvae.

mating butterflies A male Wanderer overpowers the female (left) before flying off together and resting for several hours whilst mating (right).
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Mating by Wanderer Butterflies can be an aggressive experience. Males patrol patches of host plants, awaiting females. When females appear they are chased with great vigour by the males, often spiralling high into the air. Eventually the male may overpower her with the assistance of pheromones that cause her wing muscles to seize, forcing her to the ground where he mates with her. In Australia, breeding may occur year-round in the northern parts of the Wanderers' range, but in southern areas thousands of adults cluster together in trees after mating to see out the cooler months. Although not as spectacular as the roosting sites in North America that host many millions of butterflies, these clusters around Sydney and Adelaide are a memorable sight.

Female Wanderer Butterfly Female Wanderer resting during the day.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Flight of the Butterflies 3D opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 21 March. 

Patrick's first post: Monarch or Wanderer butterfly

 

References

Orr, A. & Kitching, R., 2010, The Butterflies of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 296pp.

Oyeyele, S.O & Zalucki, M.P., 1990, Cardiac glycosides and oviposition by Danaus plexippus on Asclepias fruticosa in south-east Queensland (Australia), with notes on the effect of plant nitrogen content, Ecological Entomology, 15:177–185.

Parsons, W.T. & Cuthbertson, E.G., 2001, Noxious Weeds of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 698pp

Zalucki, M.P. & Brower, L.P., 1992, Survival of first instar larvae of Danaus plexippus (Lepidoptera: Danainae) in relation to cardiac glycoside and latex content of Asclepias humistrata (Asclepiadaceae), Chemoecology, 3(2):81-93

Wanderer or Monarch butterfly

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
8 March 2013
Comments
Comments (7)

The Wanderer Butterfly is known overseas as the Monarch Butterfly, so named for being the King, or Queen, of butterflies. In North America they are also known as King Billies, after William of Orange. The Australian name of Wanderer comes from its remarkable habit of long distance migration. The scientific name Danaus plexippus was bestowed by Carolus Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy and inventor of the scientific naming system.

Adult female Wanderer Butterfly Adult female Wanderer Butterfly
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Although not a native to Australia, the Wanderer may not exactly be introduced in the usual sense. Wanderer Butterflies most likely arrived in Australia across the Coral Sea from Vanuatu or New Caledonia, carried by three cyclones in early 1870. This was part of a major expansion in distribution across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from North America in the late 1800s, probably due to a combination of environmental factors, human movement and natural expansion.

Wanderer butterfly feeding An adult Wanderer Butterfly feeding on Cat's Whiskers (Orthopsiphon aristatus).
Source: Patrick Honan
 

The first recorded observations from Australia were made in February 1871 in Queensland, followed by the first record from Melbourne in April 1872. It is possible that Wanderers had been making the journey to Australia since time immemorial, but only after Europeans established their food plants here could Wanderers establish.

Wanderer caterpillar The distinctive fleshy 'filaments' behind the head of the caterpillar are used as sensory organs.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

Wanderers have been seen at sea up to 500km from land and occasionally settle on passing ships. This is not unusual – with favourable winds, Australian butterflies such as Common Eggflies often end up in New Zealand. Wanderers have a cruising speed of about 30km per hour with bursts of up to 50km per hour when alarmed.

Wanderer Butterfly pupa. The wings of the adult can be seen through the walls of a Wanderer Butterfly pupa.
Source: Patrick Honan
 

In North America, Wanderers undertake a famous annual migration from Canada and northern USA down to Mexico and California, and then back again. The populations overwintering in the Oyamel Fir Forests of Mexico roost at densities of 10 million butterflies per hectare. Because the length of time required for the migration exceeds that of an adult Wanderer's life span, those arriving back in Canada are the descendents of those that left the year before.

Map of butterfly migration Map of the North American migration of the Monarch or Wanderer butterfly that occurs each year in autumn.
Source: Via the Frost Lab, Queen's University Department of Psychology
 

The secrets of the Wanderer migration in North America weren't fully revealed until the 1970s. Canadian Dr Fred Urquhart was fascinated as a child by the question of where all the Wanderers disappeared to during winter, and he and his team of volunteers took nearly 40 years to discover the answer. Professor Urquhart died in 2002 but his life-long search is the subject of the new film Flight of the Butterflies 3D. In Australia, Dr Courtenay Smithers from the Australian Museum began tagging Wanderer Butterflies in the 1970s using many volunteers from the broader community. His studies revealed that overwintering populations around Sydney and Adelaide move into Melbourne and surrounds during summer. This research continues, with many questions still to be answered. In certain years, for example, populations appear to overwinter in some parts of Victoria, such as Phillip Island and the Western Districts, without needing to move interstate, but more data is needed to confirm these observations.

Flight of the Butterflies 3D opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 21 March. 

Patrick's next post on these butterflies: More on the Monarch

References:

Clake, A.R. & Zalucki, M.P., 2004. Monarchs in Australia: On the Winds of A Storm? Biological Invasions, 6:123-127

McCubbin, C., 1970, Australian Butterflies, Thomas Nelson Ltd, Melbourne, 206pp.

Rear Window captioning review

Author
by Maggie Scott
Publish date
27 July 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Maggie writes eclectically about pretty much anything to do with the arts because she has a big gap in her knowledge of science. She co-authors a blog on screen culture at www.pictureskew.net.

I haven't really thought about dinosaurs since Grade 5, so I was hoping that the wonderfully impassioned Sir David Attenborough narrating Flying Monsters 3D would rejuvenate my fleeting childish interest in all things 'flying saurus'. I also looked forward to trying out Rear Window captioning (RWC) designed by Rufus Butler Seder, the new closed caption technology introduced to IMAX Melbourne Museum (currently the only cinema in Australia to use it).

pterosaur flying A fearsome pterosaur from Flying Monsters 3D.
Source: National Geographic
 

'Closed captioning' usually refers to devices for personal use that display captions for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals. I am a regular purveyor of open captions at home (captions contained within the screen) and I always enjoy a foreign film at the movies because of their compulsory captions. But recently I have been trying out closed captions for English-speaking films at the cinema. At the Forest Hill Chase Hoyts, I tested CaptiView closed caption technology. It started out well, but broke down in the third act of the film. How would RWC compare?

Jeremy holding Rear Window captioning device. IMAX Melbourne Museum staffer Jeremy handing over the Rear Window captioning device at the Box Office.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I presented myself at the box office to collect the RWC gear, and was given a long, flexible black stem that had a white sock pulled over the end of it. Thankfully, they kept the sock, which protected a plastic reflective screen. Inside the cinema, I gulped bravely as I suddenly realised it was school holidays. Picking my way through the fidgety crowd, I found a seat about six or seven rows from the centre front and unsuccessfully tried to squeeze the contraption into the cup holder.

Within seconds, a cinema attendant bounced heroically over the seats, gave the thing a firm tap, and in it went. As the film rolled, I was still adjusting the flexible arm so that the small plastic screen would catch the mirrored captions reflected from an LED screen on the back wall of the cinema. The arm's design is not unlike the exoskeleton of a pterosaur, which is what I hoped the people around me would think it was as I fussed over the angles like I was adjusting a car's rear view mirror.

Throughout the film, distracted little legs kicked the back of my chair and I made a sorry attempt to move a few times. I couldn't yank the contraption out of the cup holder, and what with my giant 3D glasses, and my own personal collection of bulky bags, I was rendered immobile. Halfway through, I just gave up and settled in to enjoy the beautiful, immersive CG scenery which, at one point, depicts Sir David flying in a small glider, narrating like a champion as a giant Quetzalcoatlus flaps lazily behind him.

David Attenborough in a glider beneath a pterosoaur A scene from Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenborough in a glider, enjoying a close-up view of Quetzalcoatlus.
Source: National Geographic
 

I turned off my hearing aids to test the captions to their full capacity, and found that they kept up admirably, which is important for such a heavily narrated, information rich film. They are clear, consistent, descriptive and unfailing. This is what sets this technology apart from CaptiView, which relies on the full functionality of the device in your cup holder to work properly – one glitch and the movie is ruined.

Overall, RWC seems reliable if a little fussy to adjust within one's personal space. I will try it again with a feature fiction film to see how it holds up in a different genre, and to see whether the device better fits in other cup holders within the cinema.

It's fantastic that IMAX Melbourne Museum care so much about accessibility that they have integrated this technology into their cinemas, and it is doubly excellent to note that the allocated RWC seats are the best in the house! IMAX claims they will try to get most of their films with captions (look out for the CC symbol in the program). However, their selection of films is specialised and limited, so it would be even better if all the other cinemas out there could catch up because audiences who rely on this kind of technology really should have wider access to the huge variety of amazing films out there.

Links:

Accessiblity at IMAX Melbourne Museum

Rufus Butler Seder report on RWC

Melel Media review of RWC

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