Shiny happy Water Towers with no hands

Posted by on September 7th, 2011

Forgive me some gallows humor, but sometimes a smile is the best weapon against despair. Texas may be in the middle of its biggest ever recorded wildfires, but that didn’t get this water tower down. Here it is, despite the futility of its existence, putting on its happy face.

You can see more stark photos of our present of environmental collapse at the Austin American-Statesman’s photo blog, but remember the example of this lone piece of infrastructure, gifted to us from the past; the power of nightmares may have ruled our lives since the 1980s, but the future can belong to those who buy into it with a currency of optimism; it’s there waiting for us, we just have to take ownership of it.

via Bruce Sterling

Six Flags, NOLA

Posted by on May 27th, 2011
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Six Flags New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
It has been abandoned ever since.
This film was made in October 2010 by Teddy Smith

via Interdome

Ericsson’s vision of the future-present smart home

Posted by on April 8th, 2011
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Of course, in the Philip K. Dick version of this scenario the devices would probably conspire against him.

via @bruces

Vladivostok, March 16, 2011

Posted by on March 24th, 2011

A woman passes by a sign on a fire station, displaying the local time, temperature and radioactivity level data, in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok on March 16, 2011.

Just one of many awesome images from The Atlantic’s gallery of photos capturing the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

via Justin Pickard

Adam Greenfield’s Cognitive Cities keynote: On Public Objects

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s Adam Greenfield‘s excellent, thought-provoking keynote at the recent Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin – On Public Objects: Connected Things And Civic Responsibilities In The Networked City


The Invisible Wi-Fi Landscape

Posted by on March 1st, 2011

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.

This project explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs.

A four-metre long measuring rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through WiFi networks using a photographic technique called light-painting.

Forgotten: The most radioactive town in Europe

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

At about 10.30am on 17 January 1966, when Jesus Caceido heard a deafening explosion coming from the village of Palomares, the future mayor of the area had no idea he had just witnessed one of the Cold War’s most serious nuclear accidents – or that nearly half a century later, the 1,500 villagers would still be battling to have the ensuing contamination removed for good. After all, they live in Europe’s most radioactive village.

Today, 45 years after four nuclear bombs fell near the village when a US Air Force B-52 bomber and a refuelling aircraft collided in mid-air, tens of thousands of cubic metres of contaminated soil and an estimated – although never officially confirmed – half a kilogram of plutonium remain. And the radiation is getting potentially more dangerous, not less.

“As this type of plutonium decays, it is converted into another radioactive substance, americium, which is highly carcinogenic and can be released into the atmosphere,” says Igor Parra, a specialist for the Ecologistas en Accion pressure group for Palomares.

Via The Independent.

China To Create Mega-City With Population of 42 Million

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

City planners in south China have laid out an ambitious plan to merge together the nine cities that lie around the Pearl River Delta. The “Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One” scheme will create a 16,000 sq mile urban area that is 26 times larger geographically than Greater London, or twice the size of Wales.

The new mega-city will cover a large part of China’s manufacturing heartland, stretching from Guangzhou to Shenzhen and including Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing. Together, they account for nearly a tenth of the Chinese economy.

Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, energy, water and telecommunications networks of the nine cities together, at a cost of some 2 trillion yuan (£190 billion). An express rail line will also connect the hub with nearby Hong Kong.

“The idea is that when the cities are integrated, the residents can travel around freely and use the health care and other facilities in the different areas,” said Ma Xiangming, the chief planner at the Guangdong Rural and Urban Planning Institute and a senior consultant on the project.

Via disinfo.

Extinctions Expected to Increase Strongly Over the Century

Posted by on November 25th, 2010

The main factors behind loss of biodiversity are the degradation and destruction of natural habitats, climate change and overexploitation of biological resources. Changes in land use, brought on for instance by urbanization or the conversion of equatorial forest into pasture and arable land, is therefore the principal threat to biodiversity.

Via ScienceDaily.

National Geographic shows us our beautiful world

Posted by on November 23rd, 2010

The following is a selection of photos taken from National Geographic’s annual photo caption contest. Actually it’s a sub-selection of the photos’s The Big Picture ran.

Regardless, it’s our world and if you frame the photos just right, it’s an amazing place.

A supercell thunderstorm rolls across the Montana prairie at sunset. (Photo and caption by Sean Heavey)


The Serra da Leba Road near Lubango (Huíla, Angola). This is Serra da Leba, a landmark in Angola. A road built in the 70′s, it’s been in the country’s postcard images for decades, but all shots were taken by day. I wanted something different and tried a night shot. But it seemed impossible: pitch dark, foggy, altitude of 1,800m (5,000ft). I wanted no more than 60sec of exposure, max, to avoid digital noise. But a car takes a few minutes to climb or descend this section of the road. The fog was dense and blocking the view! Suddenly the fog cleared, a few cars went down, others went up, they met in the middle in under 60sec… Painting done! (Photo and caption by Kostadin Luchansky)


Pure Elements. I drove my 4×4 over rivers to get a view of the Volcano eruption at “Fimmvorduhals” in Iceland. It was a full moon and strong winds gave me problems standing still outside the truck. I had my camera with me and zoom lens but no tripod, suddenly there was a magical moment, I was experiencing a display of nature rarely seen by man. I found my camera with the zoom lens, rushed out of the truck, trying to fight the strong wind. I pushed the camera on to the hood of the truck trying to stand still, holding my breath, I shot 30 frames, and only one shot was good. (Photo and caption by Olafur Ragnarsson)


Lightning Crashes. A lightning bolt strikes the antenna of The Center building in Central Hong Kong during a storm on September 13, 2009. (Photo and caption by Michael Siward)


Cloud and ship. Ukraine, Crimea, Black sea, view from Ai-Petri mountain. (Photo and caption by Yevgen Timashov)


The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil is considered a wildlife sanctuary, but today, even in this isolated archipelago dolphins are victims of the bad habits of consumption. (Photo and caption by João Vianna)


Liquid Planet. Another picture from the Liquid Vision Series, which shows a different point of view of waves. An angle that people are not used to seeing. (Photo and caption by Freddy Cerdeira)


The Nile as seen from the ISS

Posted by on November 1st, 2010

via The Burn Lab Report

Thomasons – the scars left on buildings by progress

Posted by on October 13th, 2010

Thanks to Bruce Sterling’s twitterfeed we now a have a word for those things we see around us on a daily basis, but couldn’t concisely describe.

Thomasons: Stairs leading to nowhere. Protruding pipes and tubes connecting to nothing. The silhouette of an older building left in the one that consumed it.

It’s how the past haunts the present.

The name is taken from this Flickr pool:

I’m curious. What, if anything, have others previously used to describe this?

Toolbox: Setting up a home science lab

Posted by on September 17th, 2010

Make has an excellent guide to setting up your own home lab:

As is true of most hobbies and other organized activities, if you’re going to do home science, it’s desirable to have a dedicated place to do it. But dedicated lab space is by no means essential. After all, when most people think of home science the image that comes to mind is a kid working with a chemistry set at the kitchen table. Even if the kitchen table is the only available place to work, you can get a lot of home science done.

But before you settle on the kitchen table, give serious consideration to other possible locations for your home lab. Of course, you may have to choose between using the kitchen table and having no lab at all. In that case, do the best you can with what you have to work with. Here are some things to think about when you choose a location for your home lab.

Owning the Weather

Posted by on August 29th, 2010

“What if we could have altered the track of Katrina?”

Owning the Weather” is a documentary about geo-engineering by Robert Greene. It’s about whether or not we should engineer the weather and the different impacts that this has. And not only because we can, but also because actually we are already doing so.

Words and video via Next Nature.

See also:

Hong Kong’s rooftop shanty towns

Posted by on May 26th, 2010

From daily tonic:

In South America the slums are attached to the outskirts of mega-cities such as Caracas and Mexico City like wasps’ nests on a cliff face. In a hilly island city like Hong Kong, however, living space is limited. Here you only see the laboriously constructed huts made of corrugated iron and planks of wood in which the poorest of the poor live if you look upwards – they occupy, to put it in cynical terms, a penthouse location.

Some of these rooftop shacks, which in the year 2006 after the government’s first slum clearance programme still housed 3962 people in 1554 households, are up to three storeys high. Improvised structures made of ladders and bits of furniture create connections between the individual parts of the buildings and join these impoverished dwellings into complete rooftop settlements – sociologists even talk of a “self-organising niche architecture” and point to the utopian aspects of this urban way of life.

This brings to mind the excellent post on the Kowloon Walled City by David Forbes, over on Coilhouse.

thanks for the tip-off Vertigo Jones!

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill as seen from orbit

Posted by on May 7th, 2010

Devastating photo, taken from orbit by ISS resident Soichi Noguchi:

Oil spill of Gulf of Mexico, USA. on Twitpic

(higher rez photo here)

HP Invents a Central Nervous System for the Earth

Posted by on February 19th, 2010

HP has just unveiled an incredibly ambitious project to create a “Central Nervous System for the Earth” (CeNSE) composed of billions of super sensitive, cheap, and tough sensors. The project involves distributing these sensors throughout the world and using them to gather data that could be used to detect everything from infrastructure collapse to environmental pollutants to climate change and impending earthquakes. From there, the “Internet of Things” and smarter cities are right around the corner.

HP is currently developing its first sensor to be deployed, which is an accelerometer 1,000 times more sensitive than those used in the Wii or the iPhone – it’s capable of detecting motion and vibrations as subtle as a heartbeat. The company also has plans to use nanomaterials to create chemical and biological sensors that are 100 million times more sensitive than current models. Their overall goal is to use advances in sensitivity and nanotech to shrink the size of these devices so that they are small enough to clip onto a mobile telephone.

Once HP has created an array of sensors, the next step is distributing them and making sense of all the data they generate. That’s no easy task, granted that a network of one million sensors running 24 hours a day would create 20 petabytes of data in just six months. HP is taking all that number crunching to task however, and will be harnessing its in-house networking expertise, consulting, and data storage technologies for the project.

Link via

Nine Strategies of Geo-engineering

Posted by on February 19th, 2010


Cave Music

Posted by on September 28th, 2009

Performers Katelyn Clark and Xenia Pestova will play multiple toy pianos and portable percussion instruments, placed strategically throughout the cave’s winding passages. Canadian Music Centre Associate Composer Erik Ross will provide an electroacoustic soundscape, which will be played back by loudspeakers, creating an intricate sonic tapestry. According to the composer, the audio material will be based upon Canadian environmental themes and use sounds directly inspired by the cave setting, such as running water, as well as spoken text.”

Photo via Veronika von Volkova’s photostream, from the Cave Music project.

To Make A Tree

Posted by on August 28th, 2009

Designed by Fabio Novembre, the trees act as an oasis in the middle of the city Milan:

Link and photo via