From left to right: Jim Blinn, Dan Goods (photo © Shaughn Crawford), and Kalina Borkiewicz
In the spirit of SIGGRAPH 2023, this episode reflects on the past and how it’s led us to the bold and imaginative future ahead through the lens of NASA. SIGGRAPH 2023 Electronic Theater Director Kalina Borkiewicz catches up with Jim Blinn and Dan Goods, who share insights and stories from their experiences with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). They also discuss what pop culture gets right about space travel and exploration and what’s on the horizon for space discovery in the future.
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About Our Guests
Jim Blinn made his first computer generated pictures in 1968 while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. From 1974 to 1977, he was a graduate student at the University of Utah where he did research in realistic rendering. The results of this research have become standard techniques in today’s computer animation systems. They include realistic specular lighting models, bump mapping and environment/reflection mapping. In 1977, he received a Ph.D. and moved to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he produced computer graphics animations for various space missions to Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. These animations were shown on many news broadcasts as part of the press coverage of the missions and were the first exposure to computer animation for many people in the industry today. Also at JPL he produced animation for the PBS series COSMOS and for the Annenberg/CPB funded project “The Mechanical Universe”, a 52-part telecourse to teach college-level physics. During these productions he developed several other standard computer graphics techniques including work in cloud simulation and a modeling technique variously called blobbies or metaballs. From 1989 to 1995, he worked at Caltech producing animations to teach High School mathematics for “Project Mathematics!” From 1987 to 2007, he had a regular column called Jim Blinn’s Corner in the IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications journal where he described mathematical techniques used in computer graphics. These have been collected into three books. From 1995 to 2009, he worked at Microsoft Research as a Graphics Fellow developing a new mathematical notation scheme that greatly simplifies the algebraic description and manipulation of curves and surfaces. He is currently retired.
Dan Goods is passionate about creating moments where people are reminded of the gift and privilege of being alive. During the day, he leads an amazing team of creatives at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, transforming complex concepts into meaningful stories that can be universally understood. The team’s work is seen in public spaces, art museums, and is in outer space. After doing the dishes and spending time with his wife and kids, Dan works on other creative problem solving projects around the world. He recently finished working with the Museum of the Future in Dubai and is now trying to simulate the feeling of being in a room singing with a million other people. Dan was honored with NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Award. In the past he was selected as “One of the most interesting people in Los Angeles” by the LA Weekly. In 2002, he graduated valedictorian from the graphic design program at Art Center College of Design. Dan currently lives in Altadena, California, with his wife, kids, chickens, and a very special Rhodesian Ridgeback.