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Watch This World First: Airplane Projects In-Flight Entertainment Onto Clouds

More than just a pretty picture, Project Nimbus is the result of collaborative efforts between art, science and the maker community

It may have been years in the making, but there’s no comparing Project Nimbus to ordinary in-flight entertainment systems. In a world first, the project — a collaborative effort between artist Dave Lynch, scientist Michael Nix and maker Aaron Nielsen — fuses science and art to project an image of a galloping horse from a plane-mounted laser onto passing clouds.

While it may delight the eye, the original inspiration for Project Nimbus came from a rather malevolent source.

In 2007, Lynch was studying for a master’s degree when he came across a paper entitled Non-lethal Weapons: Terms and References by Dr. Robert J. Bunker of the National Security Studies program at California State University. The paper outlines advances in unconventional weaponry since the Vietnam War, and one of these weapons is the projection of an image into the sky above a hostile city to intimidate its residents.

Intrigued by the idea, Lynch tried creating images using different types of projectors and light sources. When none of them worked, Lynch took inspiration from 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge and created a zoopraxiscope – a device for projecting moving images.

Lynch then successfully took the galloping horse image, made famous by Muybridge, and projected it onto the streets of Leeds, England. But if he wanted to project that picture onto moving clouds, Lynch knew that only a laser would give the sharp image he needed. Seeking expert advice, he approached Dr. Michael Nix of Leeds University for assistance.

With a few adaptations to Lynch’s zoopraxiscope, Project Nimbus lit up the skies above Leeds last month. The above clip from New Scientist shows Muybridge’s iconic image from the window of a Cessna 172 aircraft. The projection, as Nix explains, is more than just a pretty picture.

“To see the work purely as the spectacle of a horse a mile high on the clouds obscures the greater success of genuine collaboration,” he said in an interview with New Scientist. As Lynch explained, there is hope that this project will pave the way for further collaboration between the art, science and the maker community.

[Photo & Video: New Scientist]

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mgobluetex July 9, 2015

That, ,or the fact that there are rarely any clouds at cruising altitude.


Cool! Of course, no one will see it on many US airlines because they insist on closing the window shades during the flight.