Tuesday, 26 March 2013

14 things about SXSW Interactive 2013


Seeing as SXSW Interactive is dedicated to building the World of the Future, let's assume for a moment that the event itself - specifically, the Austin Convention Center and surrounding area of downtown Austin - actually was that future. What would it be like?

A few observations:

  1. In a virtual world, the physical would still matter. Meeting authors and thinkers in person would still be an invaluable experience.
  2. The best-laid plans would still go awry: sessions would fill up, rain would slow you down.
  3. Serendipity would still exist: a stroll through the trade show area took me back to Antofagasta in more ways than one.
  4. Meaning would still exist, but perhaps only in the aggregate. One tweet is a fart in the wind. Thousands of tweets is a barometer of an industry.
  5. It would be crowded. 
  6. Free rides would always be appreciated.
  7. Until it's available as an app, you would still line up for food.
  8. Vine did to video what Twitter did to text.
  9. Everyone would be pleasant until the shuttle ran late. 
  10. All men would wear beards. 
  11. You would be your own company. You would have access to everything they do. You would compete on analytics and win on value.
  12. Accomplishments would trump credentials.
  13. You would be an asset in someone else's friend portfolio. You'd know your value to people you value.
  14. Social success would be the result of Authenticity + Emotion + Analytics.

David Bowie goes to Bangalore

I heard a story once about how the recording of "Heroes," the title track off the seminal album from David Bowie's "Berlin Period."

If you've heard the song you'll notice that Bowie's vocals change dramatically as the song progresses - close and intimate in the opening verses, more passionate and strained near the end.

The story says that to get that effect, producer Tony Visconti set up three microphones. The first was nine inches in front of Bowie, the second 20 feet away, the third 50 feet away.

The first microphone afforded Bowie the early, almost whisper-like vocal effect. But as the song's intensity grew, Visconti closed it, forcing Bowie to project his voice toward the second (you can hear the effect kick in at the 1:15 mark) and then, the third. Wikipedia describes it thusly:

Only the first was opened for the quieter vocals at the start of the song, with the first and second opening on the louder passages, and all three on the loudest parts, creating progressively more reverb and ambience the louder the vocals became.[8] Each microphone is muted as the next one is triggered. "Bowie's performance thus grows in intensity precisely as ever more ambience infuses his delivery until, by the final verse, he has to shout just to be heard....The more Bowie shouts just to be heard, in fact, the further back in the mix Visconti's multi-latch system pushes his vocal tracks, creating a stark metaphor for the situation of Bowie's doomed lovers"

One artist, three mics, and one producer challenging him to produce something innovative and lasting.

"Heroes" wasn't a hit upon its first release, but it's since gone on to become Bowie's second-most-covered song after "Rebel Rebel."  That Bowie is back with a new album whose cover riffs off that of "Heroes" also bodes well for his continued relevance.

Even if this story wasn't true, it does put the last month or so in a helpful context. February (and a bit of March) saw me attend three meetings in three different cities. Though not officially related, they did take me progressively further afield, and forced me to progressively expand my capabilities.

They also gave me the opportunity to blog about one of my favorite songs.

Back in early February, I met with almost 50 of my social media colleagues in New York at the IBM offices at 11 Madison Ave. Over three intense days, we sought out strategies, tactics and innovative new ideas that would move our social strategy forward. We shared what we had learned on our own or in our immediate teams, we applied them to what the business was asking of us, we identified the gaps that we're now working to fill.

This was the first microphone.

Later in February, I made my first trip to Bangalore, India, to meet colleagues and further our social metrics strategy. This time the discussions were at a higher level. We talked about longer-term goals. In my spare time, I caught up on visiting colleagues from my Chile adventure and marvelled at the speed and scale of what we like to refer to as "emerging markets." Suddenly, the scope of my previous achievements didn't seem so impressive. I knew I'd have to up my game.

This was the second microphone.

Then, in early March, I attended SXSW Interactive ("Southby," to those in the know). This time, there were no real work deliverables. This trip was purely professional development, with a taco or two thrown in for good measure.

I attend SXSW not for practical, pragmatic, down in the dirt kind of advice. (From my experience, the only way to get that kind of advice is do actually get down in the dirt and learn it yourself.) I attend SXSW to see if my own knowledge and skills in the social "scene" are keeping pace with where the industry is headed and to hear from some amazingly prescient thinkers like Douglas Rushkoff and Stephen Wolfram.

Video streaming by Ustream

I'd ask myself, How much farther do I need to stretch my thinking? How many more people do I need to reach? Are my assumptions about the industry that I purport to understand still valid, or do I throw it all out and start again?

Third microphone.

As for me, I know we accomplished a lot in New York. I know I accomplished a lot in Bangalore. What I will accomplish based on SXSW has yet to be determined.

I have ideas about what I can do. I can't guarantee that it will be an immediate hit, but with any luck it will be covered many, many times.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Something Amazon wil never say

"It's what music does to our minds that saves our industry." ~ Compact Music owner Ian Boyd on the resurgence of vinyl among the young kids today.

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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Three quotes about the Singularity

Timely, given where I was in the last week.

I read this before I went.....

What does it mean for a society to thoughtlessly grant power to those who see the human body as an impediment to transcendence and believe that what’s good about us is what can be replicated by inanimate computers?  ~ Nicholas Carr, "The other digital dualism"

Then yesterday I found this:

The robot is going to lose. Not by much. But when the final score is tallied, flesh and blood is going to beat the damn monster. ~ Adam Smith

Then today I found this:

The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism. - John Calhoun


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Spaced Out

When I was a kid, everyone was into space. Planets, galaxies, black holes, the whole bit. 

I wasn't.

I was into the sea. Unlike space, it was full of life. Things that looked like plants were actually animals.

I was really, really into sharks.

In the intervening years it looks like not much has changed.

Right now our culture is engaged in a battle to decide what's happening up in space

Now's the time to choose up sides, and that's something I've never been good at.


Only experience has the answers I'm looking for.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

South By SouthSongs

The music portion of SXSW officially kicks off today, but music's already been a big part of my time with the interactive folks. Here's the soundtrack.

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue: The album that broke the mold what was possible in jazz and, according to some, what was possible in Western music. Used by former jazz pianist turned leadership coach to the U.S Navy Frank Barrett to explain how to improvise and succeed in challenging and unprecedented situations.

Oscar Peterson, C Jam Blues: Also mentioned by Barrett, but as an example of what came before Kind of Blue. Yes, it swings hard. Yes, the technique is top notch. But according to Barrett, Peterson isn't viewed as a great improviser. Listen to enough of his playing and you start to hear patterns and repetition.

Sonny Rollins, Oleo: A peerless improviser who took a five-year sabbatical from jazz because he thought he had begun to repeat himself. I once saw him solo for 20 minutes without repeating so much as an interval.

Iron Maiden, Murders in the Rue Morgue: Playing either from the jukebox or through the stereo at Casino El Camino. Great burgers. Update: The AV Club is reporting that Clive Burr, the drummer for this and other early 'Maiden albums, has died after a long struggle with MS. He was 56.

Roger O'Donnell, Songs From the Silver Box: The former Cure keyboardist breaks out on his own in a lovely bit of ambient. Discovered the day I arrived and subsequently purchased via Groove Salad on SOMA FM. Keep them online and commercial free here. (This isn't the exact song, but it's close.)

Kreuz Ost, Berlin: From a Berlin Music Commission giveaway CD from the German booth at the EXPO. I got one last year and made some cool discoveries. I'm only a few seconds into this one, but so far I like what I hear.

Grinderman, A short film: Nick Cave is present in so many disciplines these days it's hard to pin down one example, but I liked the look of this film. He kicked off the music portion of SXSW today by abusing the raft of iphone flashers: "Are you guys going to do that the whole fucking time?"

James Alan Shelton, Shady Grove: Discovered during a stroll down East 6th last night as part of one of those Putomayo world music compilations. It's an old folk tune and he really does it well.


I've been listening to quite a few successful and influential people this week. They've been speaking about the future and how technology is hurtling  us toward a brighter future.

It's all well and good. But sometimes I like to look backwards. Here then, are some quotes I've found - oddly enough, from an app called Quotes Folder - that I think are appropriate to the SXSW crowd. Feel free to disagree, share, etc.

"Only the flexibly creative person can really manage the future. Only the one who can face novelty with confidence and without fear." ~ Abraham Maslow

"Ideas are the beginning of all achievement." ~ Bruce Lee

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." ~ Frederick Douglass

"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." ~ Henri Bergson

"You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." ~ James Allen 

"If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play." ~ John Cleese

"If everything's under control, you're going too slow." ~ Mario Andretti

"A leader is someone who steps back from the entire system and tries to build a more collaborative, more innovative system that will work over the long term." ~ Robert Reich

"The price of being the best is having to be the best." ~ Terry Pratchett

"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed." ~ William Gibson

"Only a weak mind seeks ultimate answers." ~ Elayne Boosler

Sometimes when they say you're ahead of your time, it's just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing." ~ George McGovern

"A man of courage flees forward in the midst of new things." ~ Jacques Maritain

"Experience teaches slowly and at the cost of mistakes." ~ James A Froude

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." ~ John Wooden

Saturday, 9 March 2013

They have the plant but...

From Evernote:

They have the plant but...

Data plan!

(Lisa needs wi-fi.)

Data plan!

(Lisa needs wi-fi.)

Data plan!

(Lisa needs wi-fi.)

A new blog forward.

From Evernote:

A new blog forward.

Why make mountains out of molehills? Just gonna post in aphorisms. Hell, it worked for Nietzsche and McLuhan. Paragraphs are so Web 1.0..

Monday, 4 March 2013

The European Southern Observatory - In Focus - The Atlantic

This is where i did my CSC assignment. I saw a lot of this stuff while I was there. Very cool.

From Evernote:

The European Southern Observatory - In Focus - The Atlantic

Clipped from: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/01/the-european-southern-observatory/100444/

The European Southern Observatory

Jan 23, 2013

High in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has built several collections of telescopes and observatories on remote, arid mountaintops. The locations are ideal for ground-based astronomy -- far from city lights, high above sea level, with more than 350 cloudless days a year. The ESO is an intergovernmental research organization with 15 member states, founded in 1962. It has been making observations from the southern hemisphere since 1966, and continues to expand its facilities to this day. The sites are La Silla, which hosts the New Technology Telescope (NTT); Paranal, home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT); and Llano de Chajnantor, which hosts the APEX submillimeter telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Construction on the newest project in Chile's desert -- the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a 40-meter-class telescope -- is due to start later this year in Cerro Armazones. I've collected below some amazing images of the ESO's observatories, and a few of the astronomical images they've been able to make over the years. [34 photos total]

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As the full Moon sets, the Sun is about to rise on the opposite horizon. The ESO's Very Large telescope (VLT) has already closed its eyes after a long night of observations, and telescope operators and astronomers sleep while technicians, engineers and day astronomers wake up for a new day of work. Operations never stop at the most productive astronomical ground-based observatory in the world. ESO staff member Gordon Gillet welcomed the new day by capturing this stunning image from 14 km away, on the road to the nearby Cerro Armazones.
This view of the Chajnantor Plateau shows the site of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), taken from near the peak of Cerro Chico. Babak Tafreshi, an ESO Photo Ambassador, has succeeded in capturing the feeling of solitude experienced at the ALMA site, 5,000 meters above sea level in the Chilean Andes. When the telescope is completed in 2013, there will be a total of 66 such antennas in the array, operating together. ALMA is already revolutionizing how astronomers study the Universe at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. Even with a partial array of antennas, ALMA is more powerful than any previous telescope at these wavelengths, giving astronomers an unprecedented capability to study the cool Universe -- molecular gas and dust as well as the relic radiation of the Big Bang. #
A glowing laser shines forth from the VLT, piercing the dark Chilean skies, its mission is to help astronomers explore the far reaches of the cosmos. We have all gazed up at the night sky and seen the stars gently twinkle as the Earth's turbulent atmosphere causes their light to shimmer. While it's a beautiful sight, it causes problems for astronomers, who want the crispest possible views. To help them achieve this, professional stargazers use something that sounds as though it has come from science fiction: a laser guide star that creates an artificial star 90 km above the surface of the Earth. The laser energizes sodium atoms high in the Earth's mesosphere, causing them to glow and creating a bright dot that appears to be a man-made star. Observations of how this "star"� twinkles are fed into the VLT's adaptive optics system, controlling a deformable mirror in the telescope to restore the image of the star to a sharp point. By doing this, the system also compensates for the distorting effect of the atmosphere in the region around the artificial star. The end result is an exceptionally crisp view of the sky, allowing ESO astronomers to make stunning observations of the Universe, almost as though the VLT were above the atmosphere in space. #
This color-composite image of the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) was created from images obtained using the Wide Field Imager (WFI), an astronomical camera attached to the 2.2-meter Max-Planck Society/ESO telescope at the La Silla observatory in Chile. The blue-green glow in the center of the Helix comes from oxygen atoms shining under effects of the intense ultraviolet radiation of the 120 000 degree Celsius central star and the hot gas. Further out from the star and beyond the ring of knots, the red colour from hydrogen and nitrogen is more prominent. A careful look at the central part of this object reveals not only the knots, but also many remote galaxies seen right through the thinly spread glowing gas. #
Many billions of years old, but still sparkling brightly, NGC 2257 is a globular cluster, the name given to the roughly spherical concentrations of stars that orbit galactic cores, but are often found far out from the centers in the halo areas of galaxies. NGC 2257 lies on the outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. The image is made from data taken with the Wide Field Imager instrument on the 2.2-meter MPG/ESO telescope at La Silla, as part of the ESO Imaging Survey project, which was planned to make public imaging surveys to identify targets for follow-up observations with the VLT. #
A view of the Chajnantor plateau, showing the ALMA antennas ranged across the unearthly landscape. Some familiar celestial objects can be seen in the night sky behind them. These crystal-clear night skies explain why Chile is the home of not only ALMA, but also several other astronomical observatories. In the foreground, the 12-meter diameter ALMA antennas are in action, working as one giant telescope. On the far left, a cluster of smaller 7-meter antennas for ALMA's compact array can be seen illuminated. The crescent Moon, although not visible in this image, casts stark shadows over all the antennas. In the sky above the antennas, the most prominent bright "star", on the left of the image, is in fact the planet Jupiter. The Large Magellanic Cloud can also be clearly seen on the right, just above the rightmost antenna. On the far left of the image, just left of the foreground antennas, is the elongated smudge of the Andromeda galaxy. This galaxy, more than ten times further away than the Magellanic Clouds, is our closest major neighboring galaxy. Even though only its most central region is apparent in this image, the galaxy spans the equivalent of six full Moons in the sky. #
The ALMA correlator, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, fully installed and tested at its remote, high altitude site in the Andes of northern Chile. This wide-angle view shows some of the racks of the correlator in the ALMA Array Operations Site Technical Building. This photograph shows one of four quadrants of the correlator. The full system has four identical quadrants, with over 134 million processors, performing up to 17 quadrillion operations per second. #
Scientists work at the radio telescope control station of the ALMA project, in the Chajnantor plateau, Atacama desert, some 1,500 km north of Santiago, Chile, on October 1, 2011. #
One of most famous spiral galaxies is Messier 104, widely known as the "Sombrero" because of its particular shape. It is located towards the constellation Virgo, at a distance of about 30 million light-years. (ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler and J.-E. Ovaldsen)#
A composite color image of the Horsehead Nebula and its immediate surroundings, based on three exposures in the visual part of the spectrum with the FORS2 multi-mode instrument at the 8.2-m KUEYEN telescope at Paranal. It was produced from three images, obtained on February 1, 2000. #
This image, taken with the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) shows a wide variety of interacting galaxies in the young Hercules galaxy cluster. The sharpness of the picture and the sheer number of objects captured -- across a full square degree -- in less than three hours of observations attest to the great power of the VST and its OmegaCAM camera to explore the nearby Universe. #
The residence for astronomers of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at the Cerro Paranal Observatory, photographed on September 15, 2008. The residence was built below ground to minimize the impact on the environment and to avoid the artificial light to spoil the night sky. This site was also used as one of the locations for the 2008 James Bond film "Quantum of Solace". #
The swimming pool inside the residence for ESO astronomers at the Cerro Paranal Observatory, photographed on September 15, 2008. #
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, under construction. ALMA will be initially composed of 66 antennas, consisting a main array of fifty 12-meter antennas that can be spread over distances from 150 metres to 16 kilometers. In addition to the main array, ALMA will also have a compact array, composed of four 12-meter antennas plus twelve 7-meter antennas. By using the technique of interferometry, ALMA will work as a single giant telescope, enabling astronomers to observe the cold universe with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. #
Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia visit Paranal observatory of ESO in Cerro Paranal, on November 24, 2011. #
The KMOS spectrograph, shown when it was undergoing tests at the UK Astronomy Technology Center in Edinburgh, before it was shipped to Chile to become a powerful new instrument on the VLT. The 24 robotic arms are visible. #
The prominent tail of Comet McNaught made a spectacular view over the VLT platform in January of 2007. #
Radio telescope antennas of the ALMA project, in the Chajnantor plateau, on October 1, 2011. #
In this image released April 25, 2011, taken atop Cerro Paranal, the 2,600-meter-high mountain in Chile's Atacama Desert, home to the VLT, the atmospheric conditions are so exceptional that fleeting events such as the "green flash" of the setting Sun are seen relatively frequently. ESO Electronics Engineer Gerhard Hudeepohl captured an even rarer sight: a green flash from the Moon, instead of the Sun. #
The 8.2m diameter main mirror of Antu, the first Unit Telescope of ESO's Very Large Telescope, is cleaned using carbon dioxide snow. While the telescope enclosure is maintained extremely clean, the mirrors are exposed to the elements during the observations. Consequently, dust from the desert slowly accumulates over the surface of the mirror, making it less reflective over time. The mirror's surface is so delicate that normal cleaners used for household mirrors are not appropriate. Observatories have developed other methods, such as this one using carbon dioxide snow. The tiny CO2 snowflakes in the white plume have a temperature of minus 80 degrees Celsius; when they land on the mirror, which is at room temperature, they cause minuscule 'explosions' that detach the dust grains from the surface. The dust then floats away, leaving the mirror clean. #
The dynamism of ESO's Very Large Telescope in operation is wonderfully encapsulated in this unusual photograph, taken just after sunset at the moment Unit Telescope 1 starts work. An extended exposure time of 26 seconds has allowed ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Huedepohl to record the movement of the dome, looking out through the opening from within, as the system swings into action. The rotating walls of the dome look like an ethereal swirl through which a slice of the Atacama Desert can be glimpsed, while the crisp dusk sky provides a splash of cool blue. #
Color composite image of Centaurus A, revealing the lobes and jets emanating from the active galaxy's central black hole. This is a composite of images obtained with three instruments, operating at very different wavelengths. The 870-micron submillimeter data, from LABOCA on APEX, are shown in orange. X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in blue. Visible light data from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2 m telescope located at La Silla, Chile, show the stars and the galaxy's characteristic dust lane in close to "true colour". (ESO/WFI, Optical; MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al., Submillimeter; NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al., X-ray)#
Observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have revealed an unexpected spiral structure in the material around the old star R Sculptoris. This feature has never been seen before and is probably caused by a hidden companion star orbiting the star. This slice through the new ALMA data reveals the shell around the star, which shows up as the outer circular ring, as well as a very clear spiral structure in the inner material. #
A color composite of visible and near-infrared images of the dark cloud Barnard 68. It was obtained with the 8.2-m VLT ANTU telescope and the multimode FORS1 instrument in March 1999. At these wavelengths, the small cloud is completely opaque because of the obscuring effect of dust particles in its interior. #
The barren Atacama Desert in northern Chile, with part of the ESO's VLT observatory visible. The four 8.2-meter Unit Telescopes stand out to the right on the summit of Mount Paranal. To the left looms the 4.1-meter Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), the largest survey telescope in operation. #
High in the Chilean Andes, at 5,000 metres above sea level, one of the giant Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) antenna transporters contemplates an unexpected sight -- a delicate dusting of snow whitens the landscape of the Chajnantor plateau. Snow is a very rare event at this extremely arid site and is a consequence of the Altiplanic winter, caused when the jet stream reverses and comes from the chill east. Chajnantor is one of the driest sites in the world, making it excellent for astronomical observations. The hill in the background is Toco, a 5600-meter mountain toward the north. This image was taken on 30 April 2010. The ALMA transporters, two giant custom-built vehicles, can move the antennas across the Chajnantor plateau, allowing different configurations of the array. #
Star trails over the ESO 3.6-meter Telescope, which hosts HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, the world's foremost exoplanet hunter. #
This VISTA image shows the spectacular 30 Doradus star-forming region, also called the Tarantula Nebula. At its core is a large cluster of stars known as R 136, in which some of the most massive stars known are located. This infrared image, made with ESO's VISTA survey telescope. #
The NGC 1365 galaxy, also known as the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy, in an image that combines observations performed through three different filters with the 1.5-meter Danish telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, on September 22, 2010. The galaxy, at 60 million light-years from Earth, 200,000 light-years across and about twice the size of the Milky Way, is one of the largest known to astronomers. (Reuters/ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/ R. Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thsne, and C. Feron)#
Work takes place on one of the ESO's 12-meter radio telescopes in the Atacama desert. #
As soon as the Sun sets over the Chilean Atacama Desert, ESO's VLT begins catching light from the far reaches of the Universe. The VLT has four 8.2-meter Unit Telescopes such as the one shown in the photograph. Many of the photons that are collected have traveled through space for billions of years before reaching the telescope's primary mirror. The giant mirror acts like a high-tech "light bucket", gathering as many photons as possible and sending them to sensitive detectors. Careful analysis of the data from these instruments allows astronomers to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos. #
The reflection nebula Messier 78, captured using the Wide Field Imager camera on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory, Chile. This color picture was created from many monochrome exposures taken through blue, yellow/green and red filters, supplemented by exposures through a filter that isolates light from glowing hydrogen gas. #
This evocative image shows a dark cloud where new stars are forming along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. This cloud is known as Lupus 3 and it lies about 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). It is likely that the Sun formed in a similar star formation region more than four billion years ago. This picture was taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and is the best image ever taken of this little-known object. #
This aerial view shows beautifully the Chilean Atacama Desert around the ESO Paranal Observatory, home to the VLT (at bottom right). Close to the VLT, one can see the dome of the VISTA survey telescope, and to the right, the Paranal Residence and basecamp. The high peak in the distance is the 6,739-meter high Andean volcano named Llullaillaco. Also in the image, to the middle left, one can see an isolated peak with a curvy road leading to its summit. This is Cerro Armazones, the selected home for the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). #

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