- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 6, 2004

President Kennedy once said, “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” A cyber-stop created to complement a traveling museum exhibit concurs by giving children a chance to experience an ever-evolving planet and its species by manipulating its actions down to the millionths of a second.

Playing With Time

Site address: www.playingwithtime.org

Creator: Red Hill Studios, an educational multimedia company in Larkspur, Calif., designed the site, which was co-produced with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Creator quotable: “The goal [of the Web site and the museum exhibition] is to change the way people see the world around them. We live in a sea of change — but only a tiny fraction of that change can be perceived by our senses. We are encouraging people to develop a sense of the changing world around them — not just with their eyes, but also with their minds and imaginations,” says Robert Hone, creative director of Red Hill Studios.

Word from the Webwise: Through the use of time-lapse movies and animations and also slow-motion video, site developers have put together a visual smorgasbord of moments to inspire children to reflect and learn.

After viewing a simple Welcome page, visitors should click on the box labeled “to see and do” to find the sections labeled Gallery, A Place in Time, and Activities, which will dazzle the eyes and stimulate the brain.

Under Gallery, 81 videos are available in the QuickTime format, showing such marvels as a cat slurping milk, impulses racing through a nerve cell, eight months on a construction site squeezed into 24 seconds and the motion of a vibrating cymbal. They can be sorted by name, time scale or size, and each comes with information about the subject of the clip as well as how the shot was produced.

For example, visitors can watch a pregnant woman change shape over a six-month period in 22 seconds. They will learn that her uterus will grow from the size of a tangerine to larger than a basketball and her body will need to increase its blood supply by one-half to supply oxygen and nutrition to the fetus. The clip was created with time-lapse animation from a series of digitized photos compiled using a computer graphics program.

Under A Place in Time, the scaling of events can be incorporated into clips so visitors can select multiple time frames to watch the blink of an eye (from 4 seconds to 20 microseconds), the growth of a New York forest (from 14 seconds to one year) and the evolution of Cape Cod (from 10 seconds to a 7,000-year period).

Look to Activities for the chance to use time in the development of art through two simulations. The first involves the online production of a fractal tree, and the second shows multiple time-lapse shots of the same event to create a rippling effect across the screen, controlled with speed and delay options.

Finally, for a comprehensive view of time-lapse photography, a main section titled Toolkit resides at the top banner of all pages. The primarily text-based set of subtopics is punctuated with photographs and more video clips as it presents an online course that will take special-effects shutterbugs from basic principles of production to advanced techniques.

Ease of use: Visitors can use a Mac or PC powered by a Pentium 3 (250MHz) or a PowerMac (150MHz). The QuickTime and Shockwave plug-ins are required.

Don’t miss: Stop by Activities to take a puzzlelike challenge titled the Time Sequencer. The player must drag into correct order eight time-lapse frames featuring a gymnast in action, movement of the continental plates, a water balloon bouncing or a dart hitting a water balloon.

Family activity: Anyone using a modern-day video or still camera can put together a cool time-lapse sequence with the help of the Toolkit section. Sample projects are offered that range from capturing plants growing or ice cream melting to assembling a puzzle.

Also, the traveling museum exhibition “Playing With Time” will be in Norfolk at the Nauticus Center starting in September.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Lots of peeper-popping stuff for the younger visitors and enough information for the student make the site worth perusing for a considerable chunk of time.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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