'Animal Architecture," by Ingo Arndt and Jürgen Tautz, with a foreword by Jim Brandenburg, is a beautiful new science/photography book exploring the mystery of nature through the "complex and elegant structures that animals create both for shelter and for capturing prey."
Arndt is a world-renowned nature photographer based in Germany, whose work you may have seen in National Geographic, GEO and BBC Wildlife.
Above, a grey bowerbird's bower in Australia's Northern Territory. "The grey bowerbird goes to extreme lengths to build a love nest from interwoven sticks and then covers the floor with decorative objects. The more artful the arbor, the greater the chance a male has of attracting a mate."
"Arndt’s photographs display wonders such as the colourful mating arenas of bowerbirds in West Papua and the fantastic nests created by ants in Africa," says publisher Abrams and Chronicle.
"Studio photographs supplement the images from Arndt’s journey and offer close-up views of the nests, mounds and webs constructed by the animals. Features both breathtaking photography and scientific insight into animal behavior."
I spotted the book via a Guardian photo gallery, which you should check out here.
I have ordered myself a copy on Amazon!
More photos below, all by Ingo Arndt.
The challenge of developing a battery slim enough for a 5.5-inch iPhone, nicknamed (暱稱) the "iPhone Air" by the parts-supply industry, may push that handset's introduction back until next year.…
A study using data from monitoring stations designed to enforce a nuclear test ban treaty shows that the Earth is enduring far more dangerous asteroid impacts than previously thought.…
Recently, I spent a weekend out of town with some friends. We rented a geodesic dome vacation house in the woods. One exciting part of renting someone else's house is exploring some of the things they leave out for their renters--like their book collections. This house was throughly outfitted for children to visit, set up with loads of toys, tree houses, playgrounds, and children's books. Peter Pan: A Pop-up Adaptation by Robert Sabuda was far and away the best book there.
The book only has about six pages. Each page has a pretty huge pop-up, so big that it's surprising when you open each one. The illustrations are colorful and bright. The lines are bold and striking.
Each full page has a little booklet that tells the story, and each booklet is actually a pop-up book in its own. Here, a kite pops out of the smaller book.
The little pop-up books really bring the whole experience to the next level, but they're also a good example of the problem with this book: It's complicated and a little delicate to fold together. Small children would easily tear or crease it. In the copy I bought, this mermaid's hair was bent awkwardly. Fortunately the paper is thick and the folds are good, so you don't have to be too careful with it. It's also reasonably priced around $20 for a new copy.
And the kicker: It concludes with a full-on pirate ship. Get out. This book is such a trip.
Peter Pan Popup Book $20 on Amazon.
Apple has patented a system that will automatically detect when a user is driving, and lock out texting and other potentially distracting activities.…
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg has a list of films from the 1920s and 30s — prior to the widespread adoption of the Hollywood Production Code and its morality guidelines — that are actually worth tracking down through Amazon, Netflix, and other sources.
Most of the movies made during this era have been lost, and not all of those that survived are timeless classics. Studios were still figuring out what worked in a talking picture and what didn’t, so there’s lots of problems with pacing — some movies waste several minutes on dead air in scenes that would have been cut entirely just a few years later. Serious technical issues dog the crop from 1928-1930, too; there’s one film where every time you see a character holding a piece of paper, it’s soaking wet because at the time there was no other way to keep from picking up every crackle and rustle of a dry sheet of paper with the microphones. So there are more than a few pre-Code films that have been deservedly forgotten.
That said, Ortberg offers up a nice accounting of the ones you should check out, arranged in categories such as "Worth Watching For Any Reason", "If You Want To Get Into Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Racial Dynamics", "Worth It For the Titles Alone", and "If You Want To Take A Deeply Uncomfortable Journey To Another Time" (which hits all the fun horrible things of the past not covered by the racial dynamics category).
Walt Disney's "It's a Small World." The "Carousel of Progress." Billy Graham's religious film "Man in the 5th Dimension." Full-scale models of the engines of a Saturn V rocket. Wisconsin's "World's Largest Cheese. A US Royal tire-shaped Ferris wheel. A recreated medieval Belgian village. DuPont's musical review "The Wonderful World of Chemistry.” Intricate miniature dioramas of a possible world in the near-future, Futurama II, presented by General Motors.
All of these exhibits and pavilions, nutty ideas and contradictions were on display at the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Today marks the 50th anniversary of that fair, which first opened on April 22 in New York’s Flushing Meadows. The fair showed visitors a “spectacle that embodied the innovative, lunacy, hope, and fear of the Sixties,” according to Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America Hardcover, a new book New York City journalist Joseph Tirella.
Perhaps the world all seems closer today, with the ease of international travel and the Internet. There's no need for a foreign government to exhibit exotic wares in a funky cheese-shaped pavilion or hand out Belgian waffles when we can get our choice of gourmet items at Whole Foods. In 1964-65, the world was more naive, more forward-thinking, rather than future-fearing.
I recently had the chance to ask Tirella a few questions about his book Tomorrow-Land, the fair, what made it innovative and unique, and why it remains an important time capsule on the cusp of a tumultuous era. Read more about Tomorrow-Land on the book’s Facebook page and on Amazon
Ethan Gilsdorf: What are three things people need to know about the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair?
Joeseph Tirella: The 1964-65 New York World’s Fair happened at a time of tremendous change in America. After the Fair, America soon became a very different country. Finally, the Fair gave a glimpse of what America would look like in the future—a multicultural country.
Gilsdorf: You say that the fair remained a seminal event in the lives of many who attended. What made it awesome for those who were there?
Tirella: There was nothing like the 1964 Fair before it or after it. The technological advances displayed at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair were special but that was a time when computers and technology was considered science fiction—more Buck Rogers than reality. But in 1964 the world was already living in the atomic age and the Space Race was on. Technology, despite its obvious potential for destruction, was still seen as a force for good in the lives of Americans. That would eventually change.
Gilsdorf: What was the weirdest building or exhibit at the fair, in your opinion, or the “life in the future” prediction we'd most laugh at today?
Tirella: By far I think the part in GM's Futurama II exhibit that predicted humanity would be living underwater in underwater apartments and underwater hotels. It's just kind of laughable to think 50 years ago anyone would have suggested that. Imagine the environmental impact of that. How much electricity/power would it take to make enough light for human beings on the bottom of the ocean? Besides do humans need sharks for neighbors? And, for that matter, do sharks want humans for neighbors.
Gilsdorf: Exactly. I was just checking out GM’s promotional film for Futurama II. “Trains of submarines transport materials and goods along the waterways of the under sea,” says the narrator. “Aquacopters search the ocean floor to find, miles deep, vast fields of precious minerals and ores. … In warmer seas are new realms of pleasures… A weekend if you wish at Hotel Atlantis in the kingdom of the seas.” Aquacopters! Very cool. And totally unrealistic.
Gilsdorf: You said that “America soon became a very different country.” It sounds like there was a real culture clash brewing in and outside the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows. On the one hand, there was a last-gasp, Camelot-era faith in old values and government/corporate benevolence, represented by Guy Lombardo, Disney, Ford, GM, and NASA. But there were the beginnings of the counterculture in exhibits by Warhol. Then Ken Kesey crashed the gates, and Beatles and Dylan performed nearby, Malcolm X was agitating nearby. The assassination of Kennedy happened only few months before the fair opened in April, 1964. The fair epitomized that split in America. The times, there were a changin.’
Tirella: Absolutely. Inside the Fairgrounds was the Fair; outside America was changing rapidly --- far too rapidly to understand. Looking back now, a half-century later we can see the juxtaposition of two worlds colliding.
Gilsdorf: I get the impression that 1964-65 New York World's Fair, or possibly the 1967 Montreal Expo, were the last of the big, innocent, possible naive "the future really is going to be brighter" world's fairs. World's fairs don’t seem to have the huge impact they once did. Was that 1964-65 fair the last of its kind?
Tirella: Yes, it absolutely was. It was the last hurrah of an age when America collectively optimistic before the disappointments and disillusionment of Vietnam, multiple political assassinations, race riots, Watergate, the economic woes of the 1970s, etc.
Gilsdorf: So here’s a question I’ve always wondered: Who decides who gets to have a world's fair? Is there like an IOC of world expositions?
Tirella: The Bureau of International Exhibitions, or B.I.E. They are based in Paris and they regulate World’s Fairs.
Gilsdorf: But the fair was not officially sanctioned, right?
Tirella: Yes, it's true. Not a sanctioned world’s fair. The B.I.E. actually boycotted it.
Gilsdorf: Whoa. You mentioned the GM Futurama. There were some pretty funky pavilions built, and I heard that Disney relocated several of the exhibits to Disneyland in Anaheim. Do any of the buildings survive in Flushing Meadows? Were they moved elsewhere? What can folks still see?
Tirella: Yes, the Unisphere; the Space Museum; and the New York City Building, now the Queens Museum (newly renovated) are all in their original locations. Same with the NY State Pavilion, which is totally decayed. It is a rotting hulk of a mess but even in its current state it is something to behold. With the right vision and investment it can truly be something.
Modular mobile phone design feels important; I've been excited about the idea since Xeni posted about Phonebloks last September. Now, Google and New Deal Design have floated a concept for a modular Android phone ecosystem called Project Ara that's got me even more worked up. Project Ara lets you swap modules (batteries, radios, cameras, screens, etc) around between "exoskeletons." They call it an "ecosystem" because third parties are meant to be able to supply their own modules for an open spec.
A good overview in Wired discusses the possibilities this opens up (night vision, 3D imaging, biometrics) but I'm more interested in the possibilities for surveillance-resistant open source hardware, and hot-swapping modules that lock phones into carriers. Plus, as a serial phone-shatterer, I love the idea of being able to click out a busted screen and click in a fresh one.
For a modular phone to function, the designers surmised, each module will need to have direct access to a central piece of electronics, without having to worry about neighboring modules impinging on its space or function. “We want an arbitrator–some element that is objective and is neutral, that nobody can manipulate, that has a very clear spec that everyone can adhere to,” Amit says. The endoskeleton is that arbitrator.
Created with NK Labs, the Massachusetts firm responsible for the bulk of Ara’s electrical and mechanical engineering, it’s the bus to which all modules attach. Parceling dictates that every module has its own plot on the endo, making it so that module makers don’t have to worry about building on top of other modules–or other modules building on top of them.
Ara’s hoping to tap into a handful of next-gen technologies to make it all work. A prototype uses electropermanent magnets for attaching modules and an emerging standard called UniPro for letting them talk to the endo. Still, the concept of parceling was crucial to the vision. Creating a design where modules are both physically and electronically independent from their neighbors was the only way to establish an ecosystem in which anyone could bring a module to market.
“We had to create a system that allows everyone to understand the boundaries of where they can operate or not,” Amit says. “That was somewhat restrictive. But the notion was that this minimal restriction would allow this economy of third parties to thrive.”
Three Big Ideas in Google’s Modular Phone That No One’s Talking About [Kyle VanHemert/Wired]
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Researchers borrowed optical techniques from astronomy and ophthalmology to dramatically improve imaging of biological samples. This video, created by scientists at the HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, shows neurons in the brain of a living zebrafish embryo. You can see the difference in quality when their new technique of "adaptive optics" is switched on and off.
According to physicist/engineer Eric Betzig who led the research, “The results are pretty eye-popping."
Yes. Yes they are.
Dee Williams was diagnosed with a heart condition when she was 41. Faced with her mortality, she radically changed her life. She built a tiny house and reduced the number of things she owns to about 300. She wrote a book about her experience, The Big Tiny, which came out today.
[T]ime is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific Northwest she had painstakingly restored—but, increasingly, it did not include the mortgage payments, constant repairs, and general time-suck of home ownership. A new sense of clarity began to take hold: Just what was all this stuff for? Multiple extra rooms, a kitchen stocked with rarely used appliances, were things that couldn’t compare with the financial freedom and the ultimate luxury—time—that would come with downsizing.
Deciding to build an eighty-four-square-foot house—on her own, from the ground up—was just the beginning of building a new life. Williams can now list everything she owns on one sheet of paper, her monthly housekeeping bills amount to about eight dollars, and it takes her approximately ten minutes to clean the entire house. It’s left her with more time to spend with family and friends, and given her freedom to head out for adventure at a moment’s notice, or watch the clouds and sunset while drinking a beer on her (yes, tiny) front porch.