Inspiring new scenes from the documentary about the life of Charles and Frances Townes. Watch out for the “pie in the sky death rays” (6:45)!

As you will know if you’ve been following this project, Charles is the inventor of the laser among numerous incredible scientific accomplishments. It was a huge honour to blast his genome into space last summer at Burning Man with the Genome Laser.

Taran Brar is fund raising to complete the documentary - get in touch with alex at genomelaser dot com for an intro.

Genome Laser is coming to Silicon Christmas

We’re stoked that the Genome Laser will be broadcasting at London’s biggest tech seasonal shindig - Silicon Christmas - at Bloomsbury Ballroom on 14th December.

Burning Man was the perfect place for Genome Laser to fire its first genomes - a unique annual event in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada where thousands of creative minds come together for a week to build a city and make their wildest ideas come to life in the form of incredible structure, art, music and performance.

Silicon Christmas is a gathering of some of the most entrepreneurial, creative and pioneering minds in technology, which makes is an ideal next event and community to unleash the Genome Laser.

Big thanks to Gemma Cocker, Sam Mathews and all of the other organisers and sponsors, and yet again our friends at Bassline Productions, for helping to make this happen.

If you’re wondering what’s next for Genome Laser, all we can say for now is that we had a blast and were so blown away by the incredible response to the Burning Man project that we felt that the journey must continue, and must continue to be purpose-driven.

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Some background from the Silicon Christmas website:

WE TAKE 900 DIGITAL DISRUPTERS, CREATIVE CONSTRUCTORS, HUSTLER ENTREPRENEURS, SAVVY-INVESTORS AND MEDIA INSIDERS OFFLINE FOR ONE WONDERFUL FREE NIGHT OF BOOZE, BEATS, AND BACCHANALIAN REVELRY.

OUR ATTENDEES WORK HARD ALL YEAR ROUND TO MAKE LONDON ONE OF THE HOTTEST TECH CITIES IN THE WORLD. BOOTSTRAPPED OR FUNDED, LARGE OR SMALL — THEY CUT THE DEALS, WRITE THE CODE, DESIGN THE UIS AND ALL-ROUND HUSTLE THEIR BUTTS OFF TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

SILICON CHRISTMAS IS WHERE WE BRING THEM ALL TOGETHER, ONCE A YEAR, TO SAY THANKS. OUR COMMITMENT TO THEM IS TO KEEP THIS ALMIGHTY PARTY FREE SO THEY CAN FOCUS ON HAVING A THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES.

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Following the inaugural public genome laser broadcast at Black Rock City, Alex and Vincent decided the project must continue. London Decompression was the ideal first event to fire up the Genome Laser back in the UK. After all, it was the magic and principles of Burning Man that helped to inspire the project.

In this clip, patterns in genomic data (ACGT) from the inventor of the laser, Dr. Charles Townes, is being converted into beams of photons as data “crawlers”, driven by the open-source software created by Say Nono, scan through each of his 23 chromosomes. 

We weren’t just happy with how this worked out visually, but also the awesome atmosphere created below. The placement of the laser, firing across the roof the large atrium dedicated to creative projects, and centred by a static tube train, gave the sense of forward motion when viewed from this perspective. This was completely unintentional and a cool surprise discovery on a mission up a ladder to change the hazer fluid (ambient smoke machine).

Watch this space for footage of the original Genome Laser from Burning Man 2013, which was captured on a professional video camera and tripod.

Huge thanks to our friends at Bassline Productions for kindly lending us the laser and hazer for this event, and to the London Decompression leads and helpers for all of their support and enthusiasm.

Interesting article about printing and broadcasting genomes in the latest Wired UK! J Craig Venter says his mission is to broadcasting genetic far beyond Earth in the hope that aliens can make sense of the data. So we’re not crazy after all :)

Interesting article about printing and broadcasting genomes in the latest Wired UK! J Craig Venter says his mission is to broadcasting genetic far beyond Earth in the hope that aliens can make sense of the data. So we’re not crazy after all :)

Inventor of the laser Dr Charles Townes to be sequenced for Genome Laser art project

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I’m beyond excited to be able to share some intergalactic news: this afternoon I received a signed consent from a 98-year-old gentleman called Dr Charles Townes, for his genome to be sequenced for the Genome Laser art project at Burning Man.

In addition to inventing the laser in 1958, and winning the Nobel Prize in 1964, Charles’ accomplishments (listed below) are mind blowing and it is a honour for him to be associated with this project. About Genome Laser, Charles replied with one of his signature remarks: “I am delighted to see the laser useful”. 

"How on Earth did this happen?", I hear you asking. Taran Singh contacted me from Berkeley via an incredible story published by Liat Clarke in Wired, which also featured in Huffington Post. Taran is making a film about Charles and his wife Frances titled "Townes: Life in the Universe".

YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC61OcZJFLwdDLr2DkzQeX-g?feature=watch

"I want to collaborate because it is the right thing to do. I can collect compelling footage for my movie, advance Charles’ legacy, and make people aware of the enormous contribution to humanity he has made (and not just with the laser). Genome Laser is a creative and ambitious project and I am grateful to be a part of it." - Taran Singh

Taran will be camping at Ooligan Alley (2&B) and is planning on capturing amazing footage of the Genome Laser in action at Aspire (aka Control Tower), an epic 60ft tall interactive structure complete with an enormous 60w laser, being constructed by the International Arts Megacrew.

Dr Jonathan Rothberg, who developed high-speed genome sequencing, moved it to a “chip” and can sequence a person in a few hours now with new machines, was on board when the project was just a wild idea. I’m proud that Genome Laser project is bringing together two of the most pioneering scientists in their respective fields of genomics and lasers (among others!), whose contributions towards medicine are continuing to find new applications and improve millions of lives.

Huge thanks to the awesome people behind Aspire (Control Tower) for supporting this project: in particular Diarmaid “Irish” Horken, Beave Beaverstock, and Matthew “Skippy” Raffery who is the legendary laser guy behind UV99 Laser which supplies most of the biggest laser shows at Burning Man, such as Ooligan Alley and Opulent Temple. Aspire will be located at Aspire Village, which is a combination of camps including IDEATE and Playa Skool. The Space Conference, and TEDxBlackRockCity which has an appropriate theme “paradigm shifts”, will also be hosted at Aspire Village.

Finally, behind the scenes the Genome Laser tech team has been crushing it thanks to Vincent Rebers, Michael Raasch, Neil Mendoza and Tom Bull. More technical updates are due very soon - meanwhile I strongly encourage fearless software developers and laser hackers to check out the latest build of QLT_GenomeLaser (Quality Laser Time) on Github.

Ahoy!
Alex Housley (aka Fastly)

Charles Townes’ accomplishments (aside from inventing the laser and winning a Nobel Prize):

  • Chairman of the Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) of the Apollo lunar landings. Played a key role in landing man on the moon by gathering scientists critical of the Kennedy’s effort to go the moon and getting their support
  • Discovered the first polyatomic molecules in space ie. H20 (water) NH4 (ammonia). Today this field is still bearing fruit with the discoveries of more complex molecules in gas and dust clouds, some of which are precursors to life
  • Figured out there is a black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy- Now we know black holes play an important role in spiral galaxies
  • Infrared Interferometry- a difficult and important technique that Townes’ group has pioneered for the last twenty years, allowing us to study the shapes and sizes of stars never before possible. From this research we have learned that Betelgeuse, the second most studied star in the sky, has shrunk 1% per year over the last 15 years
  • Initiation of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence using lasers. This program is called Optical SETI and runs out of UC Berkeley, and may be our best hope of finding aliens
  • Advisor to Popes and Presidents. Lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, a group of 80 scientists that advise the Pope
  • Founded JASON, the elite group of scientists advising the US military

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