PLAN 72: Article
Revealing The Deeper Sources Of Awe

Media Lab Researcher Hosts New TV Program

Jeff Lieberman, a PhD candidate in media arts and sciences, is the host of a new TV series that uses visual technologies to explore phenomena outside human perception.

Premiered in October on the Discovery Channel, Time Warp uses new technologies such as super high-speed video capable of recording up to a million frames per second, 10,000 times slower than normal, to bring never-before-seen wonders into the range of human discernment – as a way, says Lieberman, 'to find the deeper sources of awe'.

Akin to Mr. Wizard, one of Lieberman's favorite childhood shows, Time Warp delves into scientific riddles such as how a hummingbird keeps its beak still, how a dog uses its tongue to drink and how a bullwhip makes its crack.

Some blurbs about the first season's shows:

Time Warp cameras capture the force of a Kung Tao master breaking stone slabs. Mad scientists take the backyard trick of creating Diet Coke and Mentos geysers to astounding new heights. A frisbee dog shows off her acrobatic skills in super slow motion.

• The Time Warp team's cameras capture the magic of juggling -- from balls to running chainsaws! The team then puts all sorts of things you really shouldn't in a blender...like butane lighters. And they break a beer bottle with only their hands.

• The Time Warp team and their high speed cameras show the disasterous results of throwing water on a grease fire, the explosive power of dry ice, the wonders of soap bubbles, and how to successfully do a tablecloth pull trick.

• The Time Warp team and their cameras capture the secrets behind the Fuel Girls' fiery breath, skateboard champion Greg Lutzka's killer kick flips, and Russ Byers' world record winning stone-skipping technique.

Lieberman holds four degrees from MIT – two separate undergraduate degrees in physics and math, a master's in mechanical engineering and another in media arts and sciences; he expects to finish his doctorate in 2010.

His research includes the development of robotic forms of artistic expression such as Absolut Quartet, a music-making machine in which the audience becomes part of the performance. After entering a 4 - 8 second theme, the viewer watches as the machine generates, in real-time, a unique musical piece based on the melody provided. The tune is played by a collection of nine ethnic percussion instruments; an array of 35 custom-tuned wine glasses played by robotic fingers; and a visually splendid ballistic marimba, which launches rubber balls roughly two meters into the air, precisely aimed to bounce off of 42 chromatic wooden keys.

Lieberman is also working on a wearable robot system that uses vibrotactile feedback to accelerate the learning of movement skills. By comparing the novice’s actual moves to an expert model, and activating small vibrators embedded in his Lycra suit, the system cues the novice how to adapt his movement to match the expert performance. Tests have demonstrated that the addition of vibrotactile feedback results in significant learning improvement over visual feedback alone.

For more information on Lieberman, visit his website at http://bea.st/ or contact him at foofie@mit.edu.