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Planets and galaxies, with a score by Debussy

February 9, 2010 |  5:00 am

To the plaintive chords of Claude Debussy's "Claire de Lune," a series of celestial bodies appear to waft by as if in a lethargic dance, suspended both in time and gravity.

The hypnotic video, "Things that Float" (seen above), is the creation of Stephen Nowlin, director for Art Center College of Design's Williamson Gallery in Pasadena. It represents the first installment in a curated series organized by NASA Images, a division of the Internet Archive, which seeks to make public-domain pictures more accessible.

Nowlin, whose work has often straddled the line between art and science, said the video is intended to make viewers reflect on the nature of gravity -- or the lack of it. "It's about the fascination we have with things that defy the physics of gravity," he said recently. "Most of the universe floats, and I wanted to capture that."

The project is hosted on NASAImages.org, which is a partnership between NASA and the Internet Archive. Curated shows will use images from the website, which contains close to 50 years of NASA-related media.

The project, "Guest Showcase," kicked off in January, with Nowlin's work as the inaugural installment. Future virtual exhibitions will include work by invited professionals from science, education, art, entertainment, business and academia.

Nowlin said he created the video using the iMovie application on his Apple laptop. The video, which has been uploaded to YouTube, will also later appear on the gallery's Facebook page and official website.

-- David Ng

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