Pop!Tech. At 100,000 feet.

Today sees the start of Pop!Tech 2010, an annual gathering of kindred spirits in the picturesque town of Camden, Maine. Pop!Tech is always full of surprises, and yesterday proved no exception when about twenty of us found ourselves standing in a field in Augusta helping Colin Rich launch his latest ‘balloon’.

For those who don’t know, this is what Colin does. And it’s pretty incredible.

Yesterday’s launch was the “Secret Session”, one of a number of warm-up events designed to set the scene before the real conference kicked off today. And this is what we ended up doing – launching a balloon with a mannequin’s head attached. Here’s the head (with the orange GPS device exposed) next to a map displaying the ‘expected’ path the device was going to take.

After an hour’s drive out of Camden, Colin checks that the cameras are all switched on and working, and the GPS device has a fix.

Once all the electrics are go, time to dig out the helium and inflate the balloon.

After a final set of checks, and a short wait for the wind to die down, Colin releases his icy grip.

Going, going… Gone.

If all goes to plan, over the next two-and-a-half hours the balloon will capture pictures and video as it rises to approximately 100,000 feet. At that point the balloon should burst and the device will fall back to earth. The fall alone will take about half-an-hour. Colin will then head off and try to track it down, based on the co-ordinates transmitted by the GPS embedded in the mannequin’s forehead.

Who said science was boring?

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