Posted by erika rae
| 6 Mar 2014
We all take the floors we tread on for granted. Not only are they more reliable than a best friend when it comes to catching you after ill-fated falls, but they also introduce an entire expanse of possibilities in terms of data collection. If you've done your reading, you may remember a group at the Georgia Institute of Technology we covered that's working to harvest energy from footsteps through a collapsable, charged contraption located underneath the floor. This time we've got something a little different, but just as awesome.
German-based Future-Shape has introduced the 2mm thick SensFloor, a large textile underlay that fits underneath flexible floor coverings like tiles and parquet. The conductive mat can track the movement of several people moving on top of it at once, as well as those in wheelchairs.
As cool as it is to see birds using manmade objects to decorate their lovenests, it's a little heartbreaking. But the reality is that the wilderness is strewn with refuse, hence bottlecaps and Bics go onto the B.O.M.
Well, turns out it's not just bowerbirds, but also bees that make use of human garbage—specifically, plastic—to spruce up their digs. The Ecological Society of America has released a paper entitled "Bees collect polyurethane and polethylene plastics as novel nest materials," detailing York University researcher J. Scott MacIvor's discoveries on the subject.
[While building nests, the bee species] Megachile rotundata was discovered using pieces of polyethylene-based plastic shopping bags and M. campanulae used a polyurethane-based exterior house sealant...
...Furthermore, since plastic pieces were found in combination with leaves in brood cells, and found only near the end of the cell series, bee naivete does not appear to be the cause for the use of plastic... It is interesting to note that in both bee species, the type of plastic used structurally reflects the native nesting material, suggesting that nesting material structure is more important than chemical or other innate traits of the material.
Interestingly enough, the usage of plastic as a nest component has both positive and negative effects on the hatching of brood. The parts of the nest made up of plastic tend to store moisture, and mold building up in those areas killed up to 90% of the brood; but on the plus side, the plastic kept parasites away from the brood, as the pests "were unable to sting through the plastic wall."
MacIvor points out a similar finding to that latter part, concerning house finches. When these birds use discarded cigarette butts to build their nests—gross, I know—the nicotine inside them tends to keep parasites away.
I can't decide if it's sad or exciting that animals and insects are finding ways to repurpose human garbage. But it will presumably continue, and at the very least, this puts quite a different spin on parents teaching their kids about the birds and the bees.
Via Modern Farmer
Design can sometimes make all the difference in very unpredictable ways. A case in point: Utility is one thing, but it was a change in design that led significant improvements to the public health of Cambodia. Here's that story...
About five years ago an epidemiologist Christopher Charles traveled to Cambodia to research anemia, the most common red blood cell disorder. Essentially it's caused by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. And it can be caused by a lack of iron and it is especially common in third world countries—about half of all Cambodian children suffer from it. Symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and muscle fatigue. Over time it can lead to growth and cognitive impairment.
Anemia can be easily treated with iron supplements, or increasing the intake of iron-rich foods. One of the problems is that few can afford such supplements or food in these poorer countries. Often cast-iron skillets are used to infuse food with iron during cooking. But these are also expensive to buy. So Charles thought if they could distribute smaller iron blocks to families to use in their cooking pots, as they boiled water or made soup, it might solve a big problem. He tested it out with a few families. But when he came around to check in on their progress he found they used the small chunk of iron as doorstops. (An aside: It reminds me of a family planning expert who taught sub-Saharan Africans how to use condoms by demonstrating with a broom handle. Later he learned that men and women were fitting their condoms on a broom handle, propping it up against the corner of the bedroom and then proceeding to have sex.)
Posted by erika rae
| 25 Feb 2014
These chairs were grown with 12 separate molds over the course of two weeks
Google "mycotecture" and Phil Ross is the first hit you'll see. For good reason, too. His work features a combination of fungi grown over a number of weeks, burgeoning to become colorful statement pieces of edible furniture and art. That's not even the kicker—not only are they edible, they're biodegradable, flame-retardant and practically bulletproof.
Ross' intrigue with mycotecture isn't just an experiment in food design. His inspiration stems from a lifelong interest in biology and its connection to all aspects of his work history and personal interests. In his words:
While I was terrible in high-school science and math, my education about the life sciences emerged from a wide engagement with materials and practices. Through my work as a chef I began to understand biochemistry and laboratory methods; as a hospice caregiver I worked with life support technologies and environmental controls; and through my interest in wild mushrooms I learned about taxonomies, forest ecology and husbandry.
Posted by erika rae
| 21 Feb 2014
"Untitled (Return to Sender, after Mary Jane Smith, 1865) 2010" detail
Most of the quilts I've seen in the past year have been hanging on walls as artwork in a museum or studio. After all, spending hours weaving a blanket by hand is now considered to be a craft, a quaintly outdated one, perhaps, but one that still has many practitioners to this day. (Trust me—I lived with a quilting editor for a year.)
Stephen Sollins is one of those people. Though I can't really say that he fits the stereotypical grandmotherly image of a quilter—Sollins chooses to forgo soft floral fabrics for patchwork masterpieces made out of Tyvek mailing envelopes.
"Untitled (Missive) 2010"
We've seen 3D-printed bike parts before, but now two British firms have advanced into printing out the entire frame (albeit not in a single piece, presumably because no laser sintering machine yet has that kind of footprint). Additive manufacturing firm Renishaw has joined forces with Empire Cycles to create a one-off version of Empire's MX6-EVO, which typically comes in aluminum; the one-off, however, was done with titanium alloy, and the duo reckon this is the world's first to be 3D-printed.
As an industrial designer, if you confuse extruding with embossing during a job interview or at an engineering meeting, you'll get some funny looks. But if you screw up the difference between laser sintering and laser melting, you're likely to be given a bit more slack. That's because there's a lot of confusion about the difference between Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and LaserCusing (no sexy acronym), and in fact, some vendors of these technologies themselves do not always draw clear distinctions between their capabilities. As conflicting information is being circulated, here we will attempt to explain the difference between the terms. (And hopefully those of you in our readership directly experienced with these technologies will sound off in the comments.)
First off, all four procedures follow the same basics:
1. A designer/engineer designs a part
2. Software cuts that part up into virtual slices on the horizontal plane
3. A chamber in the production machine is filled with powder
4. A laser runs over the powder, solidifying it and building up a thin layer of material
5. Layer after layer is built up from bottom to top, until the part is finished
6. The leftover powder is re-usable, leaving no waste
Posted by erika rae
| 14 Feb 2014
"Fortune" // Photos via Flickr
If you were one of those kids who grew up thumbing through "I Spy" books until the pages were worn and torn (or bedtime came around—whichever came first), you'll definitely appreciate the found objects in Elsa Insua's assemblage mosaics. Insua's work puts all kinds of junk to good use, from miniature rubber ducks to plastic toy dinosaurs.
A 22-year-old self-taught artist hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Insua has taken the notion of "mixed media" to heart. This particular series features a range of pop culture icons like Darth Vader and Barbie all the way to more common eye candy like sticky sweet donuts and pearl-adorned ice cream cones.
"The Great Temptation" (left) and "Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice" (right)
Posted by Ray
| 7 Feb 2014
We're saving these pickles for the end, but you can skip ahead if you must.
...the slush-caked roads of the Greater Tri-state Area, that is. (Ok, that was a really cheesy, but take the puns with a grain of salt. You've been warned.)
We Polar Vortexans have been experiencing some technical difficulties lately. Unlike the proverbial perambulating pretzels, the roads are not getting a-salted, and it's a kind of a problem. Many of the hardest-hit states in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. are running low on sodium, and Quartz notes that they may have to turn to an arguably less savory solution, such as "cheese brine and other dairy waste products."
Indeed, Gizmodo picked up on Modern Farmer's report on the win-win waste disposal practice last November. The smell, apparently, is an issue (though 'tis the season for nasal congestion anyway), but it's definitely a creative whey to solve two problems at once.
L: Lotsa Mozza; R: More on Milwaukee's industrial-strength cheese grater at the Journal-Sentinel.
Of course, cheese runoff is just one of the upcycled waste products that the National Geographic examines in their alt-de-icer round-up, which concludes with some DIY (De-Ice-Yourself, duh) tips. "You can easily try the brine or juice methods. Combine salt with molasses or beet juice from your grocery store, or that green liquid in pickle jars. Mix it all up, pour it into a spray bottle, and spray away. If all goes well, you will achieve maximum meltage with minimal salt."
Lo and behold, the folks across the Hudson had turned to last of those options, so to speak, some three years ago. As early as 2011, certain municipalities in northern New Jersey were substituting in "a briny mixture of salt and water that resembles pickle juice" for NaCl (a recipe for dis-ice-ter, if you will). At seven cents a gallon, it's difficult to determine how much money they'll save on $63/ton salt, not least because it's not clear how much of each it takes to deice, say, a mile of road. (According to the Times, NYC's Sanitation Department started the season with 250K tons of road salt and have used 346,112 tons so far; more on the cost savings below).
In any case, the CBS reporter's attempt is decidedly non-superlative:
Bergen County? More like gherkin county.
Posted by core jr
| 3 Feb 2014
A few years ago, I became slightly obsessed with embodied energy, which led to a new perspective on both materials and design, in the form of a self-initiated experiment and ultimately a design tool. I wanted to share some of my thoughts from this process to try and pass on a passion for embodied energy.
The whole process started by reading David Mackay's book "Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air." His "we need numbers not adjectives" attitude really appealed to me at the time, as I was getting very frustrated with some of the subjectivity and lack of depth in some sustainable design. It was with this mindset that I went searching for embodied energy data. The first time I trawled through a data set, I was pretty intrigued. This was a single number that summarized the intensely complicated journey of a material from digging its ore out of the ground through to the myriad of processes that lead to a usable material. The numbers also varied hugely between materials, revealing energy stories that I was completely unaware of. In a fairly short span of time, this data had completely changed my perspective on a lot of materials that I previously thought I was very familiar with.
What really caught my imagination was the fact that this was physical data. Unlike electricity consumption, where you need to go to great lengths to record and visualize energy, this data told you that the lump of material you're holding took 10 megajoules of energy to go from earthbound ore to product in hand. I could now define my whole material world in terms of energy—and that's exactly what I started doing, carrying a screwdriver and a set of scales I started disassembling and weighing products to try and calculate their embodied energy. This quickly escalated to doing an embodied energy calculation for everything I owned.
These calculations were very rough, but gave me an approximate figure for everything, allowing me to compare different elements of my lifestyle. Computers and camera gear, with their exotic circuitboard materials and batteries, far outweighed everything else, while other things, like my bikes, seemed pretty insignificant. This showed me that crunching the numbers, however crudely, will reveal all sorts of insights into the energy stories of our stuff.
At this point, I had gathered a lot of data and started to see the world in a slightly different light but what I was really interested in was how this data would affect the design process. There were various tools for conducting life cycle analysis on finished designs but I wanted to experiment with ways of using embodied energy to drive the design process from the start. I set myself a simple design brief with ambitious energy quotas. To redesign the Anglepoise lamp (which had weighed in at 140 Megajoules) to quotas of one, ten and 20 Megajoules. The idea was to put energy as the driving force at the start of the design process and see what happens.
Posted by erika rae
| 30 Jan 2014
If there's any genre of book you'd want to jump right into, sci-fi would probably be at top of the list. Sculptor Grant Louden brings us one step closer to our nerdy fantasies with his series of 3D models based off of popular sci-fi book covers.
The debut piece in the series is straight from the 1978 Sphere edition painting that graced the cover of James Blish's Star Dwellers. Louden teamed up with Colin Hay, the original artist behind their first model's inspiration, after showing him his artist renderings for the project. "I first came across this wonderful picture in Spacewreck in the late '70s, and still find it fascinating," Louden says in an interview with Sci-fi-o-rama. "Not only the mystery of the dead spacemen, but the nature of the small open craft in outer space—like a non-airtight midget submarine. The awkward angularity is also intriguing."
But the astounding level of detail of the final model is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The duo also saw fit to meticulously document all of their steps from preliminary sketches to finished product online. When I say meticulous, I mean it—the project's archive of work goes back 24 pages on the site. Needless to say, they went above and beyond the efforts of the average hobbyist, homebrewing an unconventional production method to make some of the parts.
Last month, I attended a dinner party where one of the guests wore his Google Glass at the table and throughout the entire evening. Many of us silently teased him, but wearable computers, a.k.a. wearables, are here to stay. And they are now showing up beyond just the geeky, early adopters.
But the limiting factor with wearables is power. How do we carry long-life batteries that won't break our backs? So far, the options look bleak.
Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology, however, have landed on a promising solution. We've heard of powering gadgets with our own movement before (think of the bike that powers a headlight) but this solution gives us more for less.
The team was able to capture energy from a new kind of nano-generator backpack that converts one's walking movement into electricity. The contraption is based on something called the triboelectric effect. Simply put, this is the electricity generated when two objects of opposing charge come together and then separate. It's the same principle behind static electricity shocks.
Scroll to the bottom to see what this thing becomes
Everyone from furniture builders to door manufacturers to IKEA understands the value of a torsion box. A torsion box is a completely flat, very sturdy and relatively lightweight surface, and anyone designing anything structural and rectilinear should understand its principles.
The concept is simple, even if construction can be tedious: Two flat, horizontal surfaces are sandwiched over a grid of crossmembers, and once the sandwich is glued shut, a rigidity much greater than that possessed by the individual parts is achieved.
Image via Bay Area Woodworker's Assocation
For furniture builders who require completely flat assembly surfaces, a torsion box is often one of the first things they'll build to kit out their shop; hence there are tons of craftspeople who've posted online tutorials on how to build one. Marc Spagnuolo, a.k.a. "The Wood Whisperer," put together a pretty comprehensive 20-minute-plus video on how he built his. Spanguolo shows you how to get past the dilemma of building your first torsion box, which is: how do you construct a perfectly flat surface, before you've got a perfectly flat surface to assemble it on?
[Editor's Note: This post has been edited to reflect a comment regarding the physical nature of nixie tubes.]
In this age of digital displays, it's hard not to appreciate the old-school aesthetic of a nixie tube. To individually bend ten different digits out of
cold cathode neon tubes the cathode, then stuff all of them together in a little glass dome—i.e. the tube itself—is perhaps needlessly labor-intensive but provides a clearly legible readout with an Edison-bulb vibe.
Sydney-based Duncan Hellmers is of the same mind. "[Nixie tubes] fit in well with today's aesthetic trends but still retain that sense of nostalgia and sentimentality," he writes. "I'd seen quite a few tube clock designs online, but couldn't find one whose character matched what I was after, so I decided to design my own."
Just how Bad did Walter White Break?
Have you ever wondered exactly how much aluminum a soda can contains? Or exactly how many CDs you could label with a Sharpie? Or whether 360-thread-count sheets actually have 360 threads per inch?
Wonder no more. Since 1998, California-based Rob Cockerham has been periodically updating his "How Much is Inside?" website by conducting (admittedly unscientific) experiments to answer the questions above. Said experiments range from straightforward—magnifying and painstakingly counting the threads in a sheet—to sideways approaches, like weighing a soda can and comparing it to the equivalent weight of sheets of aluminum foil to calculate how many cans one could make out of a roll.
Posted by Kat Bauman
| 22 Jan 2014
Since the dawn of time, high fashion has recycled low... and congratulated itself for doing so. Antique Japanese boro fabric, increasingly popular among the edgy styluminati, is simultaneously co-branded couture, lowbrow folk tradition, and literally recycled. Boro traces its lineage to the traditional cloths used and reused and re-reused by rural farmers, artisans, craftspeople and laborers between the 18th and 20th centuries. Before cotton was widely available in Japan, the most commonly used fibers came from tough and abundant sources like jute, wisteria and bast. Rough stuff for sure, but resistant to wear and tear. As cotton production increased and cotton products began to spread, used cotton kimonos and other textiles became available at more affordable prices.
Exploded diagram of a kimono, Boro fabric exploding at the seams
Tasteful French gallery show of other people's old workwear
To get the most out of these valuable softer fabrics, they were patched over and over, sometimes being torn into strips and rewoven, integrating the tougher materials for reinforcement. Dyed textiles would often be taken apart, redyed and rewoven in multiple iterations, creating a deeply textured and mottled appearance over time. Sometimes you can find signs of a fabric's earlier life, like the darker strip on a blanket where a kimono collar used to be. The most recognizable boro fabrics feature an array of indigo hues, carefully patchworked with strong quilting or darning stitches. (For a good time, look up "sashiko" stitching, which literally translates as "little stabs." Quilting is pretty metal.) The patches on most boro fabric, while varied in color and size, are usually square or rectangular. Coincidence? Nope, nor a cultural obsession with rigid angles. It's another sign of efficiency and good design.
Once upon a time, human beings were biodegradable. But with modern-day corpses shot full of embalming chemicals before being sealed inside metal coffins, it will be a long time, if ever, before those bodies go back into the earth.
The alternate method of cremation, of course, turns human bodies into ash; and now Swiss company Algordanza has taken it a step further, by figuring out how to compress that ash into diamonds. For US $5,000 to $22,000, your remains, or those of a loved one, can be turned into as many as nine diamonds, presumably depending on the volume of ash. And what's fascinating is that there is some color variation:
Most of the stones come out blue, [Algordanza CEO Rinaldo] Willy says, because contains trace amounts of boron, an element that bone formation. Occasionally, though, a diamond pops out white, yellow or close to black - Willy's not sure why. Regardless, he says, "every diamond from each person is slightly different. It's always a unique diamond."
This shot might be of Coach, but this guy's modelmaking skillz are first-class
Get this man a job as a modelmaker.
Luca Iaconi-Stewart learned to make architectural models from paper in a high school class, and found he enjoyed it. Rather than pursuing a career in architecture, Iaconi-Stewart subsequently embarked on a crazy project to build a detailed scale model of a Boeing 777, entirely out of paper.
The man has spent five years on the yet-to-be-completed project, and even sacrificed college to continue on it.
What's made out of leather, already broken-in, and gathering dust in the closet of most red-blooded American males of a certain age? A baseball glove. And for every one of you that still pulls yours out in the spring, there are probably nine of us that prefer to wear out the leather in our armchairs.
A company called Fielder's Choice Goods has been getting their hands on this worn-leather bonanza and turning ex-mitts into wallets, belts and keychains.
Bet you would've loved these over the holidays. Much better than paper dishes and yet with the same convenience: No washing! That's right, self-cleaning tableware.
The prototype is the work of the Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine, where they apparently "look at science from a creative point of view." And a useful one! The plate and cup are made of cellulose, and are coated with what they call a superhydrophobic coating, and it's this coating that resists dirt and water.
The coating was originally developed by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. They took the inspiration from the waxy coating of the lotus leaf.
In the '90s, David Munson was working as a volunteer English teacher in Mexico when he caught the bag bug. While searching for the perfect leather bag, he realized it didn't exist, and set out to design his own. Long story short, here in 2014 he runs Saddleback Leather, which manufactures a high-quality line of leather bags, backpacks, briefcases, wallets, luggage, accessories and more. Each product is designed to be so durable and "over-engineered" that your heirs will "fight over it when you're dead," as the company motto goes.
Munson, by the way, is pissed off. After spending years learning the trade and building out his company piece by piece, he now has to deal with unscrupulous folks knocking off his products. He came up with a rather brilliant way to address this problem head-on: He made a video to his competitors showing them how to knock his bags off, incidentally educating the consumer on where the quality and design of his products, versus the competition's, starts to diverge.
After reading our entry on multi-bladed jigsaws, Art Director and Coroflotter Juan Cano tipped us off to a similar machine, this one used to cut stone. By swapping out jigsaw blades for diamond-crusted wires, and switching the axis of cut from vertical to horizontal, the massive GoldBreton 2000 Multi-Wire Machine can cut massive chunks of granite into neat slabs.
That was cool enough, but it turns out Breton makes more machines than the relatively basic 2000. By attaching a cutting wire to pulleys that can swivel, then mounting those pulleys on arms that can move, they've created some very bad-ass CNC stone-cutting machines, like this two-axis model:
At eight-minutes-plus, this production methods video is longer than the average internet denizen's 2.5-minute attention span, but anyone who makes things out of wood will find it fascinating. This unnamed Hungarian craftsperson shows you every step as he goes from felled tree to cutting board, and what's most interesting is the dedicated series of jigs, rigs and fixtures he's come up with to speed up his production, as well as the combination of machines he uses. Be sure to check out:
The fresh floor-embedded pneumatic lift he uses to get the logs up to the bandsaw at 1:20
His lath drying rack at 3:29 and spinning drying rack at 3:47
Here's my oversimplified explanation of how the universe forms planetary bodies: There's a bunch of stuff floating around in space. The stuff crashes into other stuff, and sometimes that stuff sticks together. And gets bigger and bigger, and starts to rotate from the momentum of the impacts. Things even out when they spin, and that conglomerate, spinning stuff eventually becomes moons and planets, rendered spherical in a kind of galactic machining process.
Interestingly enough, something like this phenomenon has taken place this week, albeit at a smaller scale, in Lake Michigan. As the brutal cold snap struck the Good Harbor Bay in Michigan's Leelanau County, hundreds and hundreds of ice balls began to spontaneously form in the water. Check it out:
The Canadiano is freaking awesome. It's a single-serving coffee brewing device, for those of us who live alone, or those of you who live with other people but enjoy being selfish, and it's made out of wood.
Or one of three woods, specifically. You can order the Canadiano in Cherry, Walnut or Maple, and while we're not sure if this part is true or just hooey, the manufacturer claims that "the wooden piece will remember each cup of coffee you make."
Overtime the coffee oils of your specific beans and roast will be absorbed into the wood and be a part of your morning coffee experience... Each type of wood is matched with different beans and roasts from around the world. We encourage brewing single origin beans in the Canadianos. The Walnut edition is crafted and designed for use with darker roasts and earthier flavors such as beans from South East Asia. Maple and Cherry is designed for beans with slight citrus hints and nutty taste.
"These were little plates of ice, very flat, very polished, very transparent, about the thickness of a sheet of rather thick paper... but so perfectly formed in hexagons, and of which the six sides were so straight, and the six angles so equal, that it is impossible for men to make anything so exact."
The philosopher Rene Descartes made that observation when he attempted to catalogue snowflakes back in 1635, and wound up with a fairly thorough description of snowflake shapes, especially since all he had was the naked eye. See drawings above.
And we've experienced the same astonishment as Descartes when we wrote about platinum crystals. There is something about crystals that just looks too unreal.
It needs to be around freezing for water vapor in clouds to form ice crystals and this is when they skip the raindrop phase altogether (although the warmest snow is pretty wet and is the best kind for snowballs.) When the temperature drops below freezing snowflakes become smaller and lighter, and feel more like powder.
But the key to a snowflake's amazing shape is hexagonal symmetry. Ice crystallizes in a form that is scientifically known as Ice 1h, this means that its base shape is a hexagon, but the interesting part is that if you turn the crystal 60 degrees it maintains a hexagonal shape.