Blade Runner: Science FACT!   Leave a comment

There’s a good story behind this photograph:


The weather is nicer now, and I’ve been able to spend some time learning how to photograph birds. It’s not complicated- use a fast (low f/#) telephoto lens (long focal length lens), but it takes skill to accurately locate a plane of focus. So what does this have to do with ‘Blade Runner’, a Ridley Scott film based on a novel by Philip K. Dick? That’s the story….

Like many people, I was (and still am) transfixed by the movie. At the time, I had recently seen “Empire Strikes Back”, but was too young to see “Alien”. “Blade Runner” was a revelation.

After, one sequence in particular stood out to me- the scene when Deckard finds a photo of Zhora, and using “super-sciencey image technology”, zooms in to find a synthetic snake scale.

Possibly, what interested me about the ‘zoom’ sequence was the intensely visual aspect to image manipulation- not just zooming in and “enhancing” (which as I sadly learned in grad school, is fantasy), but also the three-dimensional aspect to looking behind objects (which, as I happily learned in grad school, is possible).

Back to the bird. See it’s eyeball? It’s reflective, like a mirror. It’s not apparent when I shrunk the photo, but the plane of focus is located exactly on the eyeball and on the picture above, all you can see are a few shiny spots. Rather than do all the intermediate magnifications, I’ll now immediately zoom in by a factor of 100X:


That is a clear image of backyard. One arrow points to a tree, and the other points to our chimney. Pretty cool! Here’s the ‘real’ scene (flipped horizontally to simulate a reflection):


Science fact!

But in truth, that’s not my favorite part of “Deckard finds a photo of Zhora, and using ‘super-sciencey image technology’, zooms in to find a synthetic snake scale.” The best part of that sentence is when we learn the scale is *synthetic*. As it happened, a year or two earlier (say late 1980-early 1981), I happened to check out of the library a certain book, and quite amused to see the same image on a movie screen! This website tells the story better than I can.


Posted May 6, 2014 by resnicklab in Uncategorized

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