Wednesday, February 18, 2009

builder ballet

Sunday, February 15, 2009

windmill skin

Where once our technologies used to be mechanical and centralized, after the invention of electricity the form of products started to be less and less a factor in their functioning. In fact you could even say that we live in a dualistic world, where form and information have become separated. The information surrounding us that we call physical is mostly distinct from the information we say belongs to the mental realm.

With the advent of bio-engineering and nano-manufacturing, this is changing. The material physicality will more and more be able to match the patterns of the electronic; complex, parallel, minuscule and fast. A concept depicting beautifully how new technologies will mean a paradigmatic shift in our manufacturing processes and interaction with technologies is Nano Vent-Skin, by designer Agustin Otegui. He designed a building with an outer layer that can generate energy from the sun and the wind. This skin would consist of nano-scale elements that transform sunlight into electrical energy, and moreover contains tiny turbines that rotate when the wind blows against them, subsequently conferring this energy to micro-organisms that generate electrical energy. The structure also contains nano-wires that can send information about potential failures to a central system, that in turn sends new micro-organisms, so the system can regenerate through self-assembly.

This way, we can integrate functionalities holistically into a structure that hence becomes more like a biological organism than a 'piece of technology'. It all sounds too good to be true.

Here is a link to the website of the project: NanoVentSkin

the broccoli brain

scientists at Harvard and MIT have created a depiction of a complete neural circuit diagram, or "connectome", of the part of a mouse's brain that controls the muscle used to move the mouse's ears. To make this mapping possible, the mice were genetically modified so that their motor neurons would be fluorescent when active, and hence be perceivable through a microscope. This way, the scientists unraveled the structure of the connectome at a rate of half a millimeter per hour. The visualizations showed that there are significant differences between the same connectomes in the right and left hemisphere, and that the length of axons in the brain is not optimized at all to occupy as little space as possible. I think it's fascinating how these visualizations show that our internal landscape can be just as beautiful as ones we perceive out there.

Here's a link to the original paper:

Lu et al. - The Interscutularis Muscle Connectome