Beauty, Design, Smart Ideas.

Posts from the ‘Technology’ category

I’m sure you’ve heard Carl Sagan’s famous Pale Blue Dot, a beautiful tribute to our little, fragile planet.

As the Voyager 1 spacecraft was leaving our solar system, Sagan requested it take one final image on its way out. The image is here. If you look carefully, you’ll see the tiniest speck of light on the right side. That is Earth. That is us. As he states, everything we’ve ever known or loved.

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Joel Somerfield pays tribute to the Sagan speech in this nicely animated video.
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A bonsai tree in space. Wow. This week a Japanese artist launched a bonsai tree and a bouquet of flowers into space from the site of Burning Man. What?! Using high altitude helium balloons and with the help of JP Aerospace, Azuma Makoto launched these living plants into the stratosphere within a thin metal frame. The why is much less important than the wow.

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To accomplish this mission, titled Exobiotanica, Makoto and his 10-person crew teamed with Sacramento-based JP Aerospace — “America’s Other Space Program” — a volunteer-based organization that constructs and sends vessels into orbit. JP’s owner and founder, John Powell, started launching things into the upper atmosphere in 1977, when he was still a teenager. “The best thing about this project is that space is so foreign to most of us,” says Powell, “so seeing a familiar object like a bouquet of flowers flying above Earth domesticates space, and the idea of traveling into it.”

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Via Times Magazine:

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The cloud lamp showing dramatic lightning

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with a large built-in speaker, the thunderous effect of the lamp is palpable

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When not in action, it’s a fun puffy hanging sculpture

So there are lamps shaped like cloud, and then there’s Cloud, an interactive piece so beautiful that it shouldn’t even be called a lamp. It’s pretty remarkable. And at over $3,000, it should be. The thunder mode is so fantastic. As a West-coast transplant, thunderstorms are one of the things I miss most about the Midwest/East coast. I’d leave it on thunder mode most days.

Via the artist’s site: The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement. The system features a powerful speaker system from which the user can stream music via any Bluetooth compatible device. Using color-changing lights the cloud is able to adapt to the desired lighting color and brightness. The cloud also has alternative modes such as a nightlight and music reactive mode.

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‘Cloud’ is an Arduino-controlled, motion-triggered lightning & thunder performance. It is also a music-activated visualizer and suspended speaker unit.

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Some visions for the future of food harken back to the tool ‘ol days of organic farming and food you recognize. Other visions paint a more science-fiction approach, where the food we eat has been engineered to become something entirely new. From London’s Royal College of Arts, designer Johanna Schmeer has created a very odd and alien looking vision.  Via Wired:
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She explores how synthetic biological material can be used to provide nutrition.

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In her vision, humans would get their nutrients from photosynthesizing pods and vessels.

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It’s a bizarre vision, and not necessarily appetizing. But my guess is that we will have both this type of hyper-futuristic approach, as well as a return-to-farm style of food production.

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The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

392 Megawatts is a huge amount of energy, from any power plant. 392 Megawatts of carbon-free solar power is astounding. Remarkable in size and capacity, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the biggest in the world, and one of the few power-tower solar thermal plants operating today. Instead of the solar panels you see on a house roof or your old calculator, this type of solar reflects light from thousands of reflective mirrors and concentrates it to boil water and turn a turbine.  The mirrors are computer controlled and send huge amounts of heat to giant boilers 459 feet in the air.  The system generates enough clean energy to power 140,000 homes. Fantastic.
Via Gizmodo, Wikipedia, and Brightsource Energy

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

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If you averaged the world’s handwriting into a single typeface, what would it look like? BIC took on the challenge, combining hundreds of thousands of hand written letterforms from various demographics into a unified form. You can see the difference between different countries, ages, genders and professions, blended into one.  Via DesignBoom:
BIC-unified-typeface-designboom-01 BIC-unified-typeface-designboom-03 BIC-unified-typeface-designboom-05 BIC-unifies-the-worlds-handwriting-into-a-single-typeface-designboom-01

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tower
The Burj Khalifa will simply be another tall building when these two towers are completed. The Phoenix Towers, to be built in the huge city of Wuhan, in central China, will rise a full kilometer into the sky. At 3,281 feet tall, this enormous undertaking plans to incorporate a huge number of green energy technologies, including wind, solar, thermal, biomass boilers and hydrogen fuel cells. At well over 200 floors and built on an island, the towers will be huge and garish, but also a hugely visible symbol of sustainable ingenuity and design, something lacking in modern China. Designed by UK Architecture firm Chetwoods. Via the architect:

Based on the traditional Chinese Phoenix – two birds, male Feng and female Huang; The plan was generated from Yin/Yang form to represent perfectly balanced union; Symbiotic – the Feng tower uses cutting edge technology to feed the Huang tower with renewable power.

 

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Watson's sauce

And with the twist of a cap, food may never be the same again.  IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, can cook. And really well, apparently. IBM gave the supercomputer a huge list of food ingredients, their flavor profiles, and the basic understanding of what makes humans like the taste of certain things, and not like others. Watson did the rest, combining flavors and ingredients it mathematically chose, and created some really interesting sauces and recipes. While somewhat scary, it’s also pretty darn exciting, and promises a lots of new flavor combinations for future dinner tables. Via FastCo Design:

How the machine’s AI cross references three databases of information:

  1. A recipe index containing tens of thousands of existing dishes that allows the system to infer basics like “what makes a quiche a quiche”
  2. Hedonic psychophysics, which is essentially a quantification of whether people like certain flavor compounds at the molecular level
  3. Chemoinformatics, which sort of marries these two other databases, as it connects molecular flavor compounds to actual foods they’re in

Via FastCo:

[IBM] sent a lucky few journalists a beautiful bottle of Bengali Butternut BBQ Sauce, a golden, algorithmic elixir born from the silicon mind of Watson himself.

When I unwrapped the brightly colored box and found the bottle inside, I immediately flipped to the back label. Most BBQ sauces start with ingredients like vinegar, tomatoes, or even water, but IBM’s stands out from the get go. Ingredient one: White wine. Ingredient two: Butternut squash.

The list contains more Eastern influences, such as rice vinegar, dates, cilantro, tamarind (a sour fruit you may know best from Pad Thai), cardamom (a floral seed integral to South Asian cuisine) and turmeric (the yellow powder that stained the skull-laden sets of True Detective) alongside American BBQ sauce mainstays molasses, garlic, and mustard.

I pour a bit of the bottle onto a plate of roasted tofu and broccoli–even a pork lover has gotta watch his cholesterol–and tentatively took a bite. Watson’s golden sauce may have the pulpy consistency of baby food, but it packs a surprising amount of unique flavor.

Immediately, you can taste the sweet warmth of the wine and the squash. The tamarind blends seamlessly, backed by a duo of vinegars, to tickle your tongue with just the right amount of tartness. The other flavors combine to leave an indefinable, warm aftertaste that, as you have a few more bites, actually heats your mouth–thanks to Thai chiles.

I test it again and again. Finally I just slather my plate in the stuff. It’s delicious–the best way I can describe it is as a Thai mustard sauce, or maybe the middle point between a BBQ sauce and a curry. Does that sound gross? I assure you that it isn’t.

Watson can cook!

An infographic about Watson and the future of food

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How Watson categorizes flavors and ingredients

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Watson’s creations being served out of the IBM Cognitive Cooking food truck

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The Watson food interface.

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I.M. Cooling Tower, Belgium

 

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop was a small settlement in Namibia that saw a boom in the early 1900s when German settlers realized that the area was rich in diamonds. The surge of wealth gave out after WWI, however, when the diamond field began to deplete. By the 1950s, the town was completely deserted, and is now visited by photographers and tourists.

102-Year-Old Floating Forest in Sydney, Australia

This is the hull of the SS Ayrfield, a large steam ship condemned to dismantling in Homebush Bay, Australia after WWII. When the dismantling yard closed down, however, it and several other ships remained where they were. Now, it is a beautiful and haunting floating forest that serves as an example of nature’s capacity for survival.

The Maunsell Sea Forts, England

The Maunsell Sea Forts were erected near the Thames and Mersey rivers in Britain to help defend against potential German air or naval raids during WWII. After being decommissioned in 1950, they have been inhabited by various new tenants, including pirate radio operators and by the Principality of Sealand, which claims to be an independent sovereign state.

Last House on Holland Island, U.S.A

This house was part of what was once a fairly successful small island colony in Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. Rapid erosion of the island’s mud and silt coast, however, meant that there was less and less room to live on the island. This house was the last one left on Holland Island before it too collapsed in 2010.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat was established on Feb. 4th, 1970 in Ukraine near the border of Belarus as a Soviet nuclear city. It was home to many of the workers who worked in the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which melted down disastrously in the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster. After being evacuated, Pripyat remains a radioactive ghost town that can only be visited through guided tours.

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 fernando barbella imagines signs from the near future

Let’s say you’re doing errands or traveling on a casual Tuesday, in the year 2028. Here are some road signs and other signage you might come across. From the mind of designer Fernando Barbarella, there is some very clever and creepy concepts at play. Via DesignBoom:

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

signs from the near future

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