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friday :: april 29, 2005
universal constructor: replicating machines

Research by engineers at the University of Bath could transform the manufacture of almost all everyday household objects by allowing people to produce them in their own homes at the cost of a few pounds.

The new system is based upon rapid prototype machines, which are now used to produce plastic components for industry such as vehicle parts. The method they use, in which plastic is laid down in designs produced in 3D on computers, could be adapted to make many household items.

However, conventional rapid prototype machines cost around £25,000 to buy. But the latest idea, by Dr Adrian Bowyer, of the University’s Centre for Biomimetics, is that these machines should begin making copies of themselves. These can be used to make further copies of themselves until there are so many machines that they become cheap enough for people to buy and use in their homes.

Dr Bowyer is working on creating the 3D models needed for a rapid prototype machine to make a copy of itself. When this is complete, he will put these on a website so that all owners of an existing conventional machine can download them for free and begin making copies of his machine. The new copies can then be sold to other people, who can in turn copy the machine and sell on.

As the number of the self-replicating machines – there are now thousands of conventional rapid prototype machines – grows rapidly, so the price will fall from £25,000 to a few hundred pounds.

“People have been talking for years about the cost of these machines dropping to be about the same as a computer printer,” said Dr Bowyer. “But it hasn’t happened. Maybe my idea will allow this to occur.”

Dr Bowyer said the machines were a form of Universal Constructor, first proposed theoretically by the mathematician John von Neumann in the 1950s. He also said their progress would be similar to that of a species in nature – as the machines replicated, so their users would vary them to suit their needs, some making larger objects, some more accurate devices and some making devices more quickly >from *New machines could turn homes into small factories*. A revolutionary machine which can make everything from a cup to a clarinet quickly and cheaply could be in all our homes in the next few years. March 16, 2005

A universal constructor is a machine that can replicate itself and - in addition - make other industrial products. Such a machine would have a number of interesting characteristics, such as being subject to Darwinian evolution, increasing in number exponentially, and being extremely low-cost.

The project described in these pages is working towards creating a universal constructor by using rapid prototyping, and then giving it away free under the GNU General Public Licence. >from *The RepRap Project*. Replicating Rapid-Prototyper Project

related context
fabrication labs. personal factory for the digital age. explores how the content of information relates to its physical representation.
> sensitive object. extending interactivity to everyday life environment
> grafedia: hyperlinks for the urban landscape. spatial annotation project. february 18, 2005
> plan: pervasive and locative arts network. pervasive media, also known as ubiquitous computing, are exploring location awareness as a requirement for the delivery of accurate contextual information. january 28, 2005
> the sensor revolution. the embedding of the internet. march 2, 2004

fading copies

sonic flow
replicating machines [stream]
replicating machines [download]

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friday :: april 22, 2005
what are neutrinos telling us?: minos experiment

"Physicists from around the world are trying to understand what these mysterious neutrinos are telling us," said Fermilab director Michael Witherell. "Today, we are embarking on a journey of exploration using the most powerful neutrino facility in the world."

Michael Turner, the National Science Foundation's Assistant Director for Mathematics and the Physical Sciences, believes the neutrinos' infinitesimal mass belies their significant and ubiquitous impact. "Neutrinos are always referred to as ghostly particles, as if they are of little interest and have to be apologized for. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neutrinos account for as much of the mass of the universe as do stars, they play a crucial role in the production of the chemical elements in the explosions of stars, and they may well explain the origin of the neutrons, protons and electrons that are the building blocks of all the atoms in the universe. MINOS will help us better understand how neutrinos shaped the universe we live in."

The MINOS experiment will use a neutrino beam produced at Fermilab's Main Injector accelerator to probe the secrets of these elusive subatomic particles: where do they come from, what are their masses and how do they change from one kind to another? In Minnesota, a 6,000-ton particle detector will search for neutrinos that may have changed from one kind to another during the 2.5-millisecond trip. Trillions of lab-created neutrinos will pass through the MINOS detector each year. But because neutrinos interact so rarely, only about 1,500 of them each year will collide with atoms inside the detector. The rest pass right through with no effect. MINOS scientists will use the change from one type of neutrino to another as the key to discovering neutrinos' secrets.

Generating the neutrinos destined for Minnesota required building a beamline housed underground at Fermilab (near Chicago, Illinois). The beamline is a 4,000-foot tunnel, whose direction, roughly north and slightly down, points from Fermilab to Soudan. The beamline tunnel holds the components which generate the neutrinos from protons accelerated by Fermilab's Main Injector. Then comes the MINOS Hall, a 120-foot-long cavern located 350 feet below the surface of the lab campus, with access by an elevator traveling the equivalent of a 30-story building. The MINOS Hall holds the near detector, a smaller version of the MINOS detector at Soudan, which is used to measure the properties of the neutrinos at the start of their trip to northern Minnesota.

Neutrinos, ghost-like particles that rarely interact with matter, travel 450 miles (730 km) straight through the earth from Fermilab to Soudan -- no tunnel needed. The Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) experiment will study the neutrino beam using two detectors. The MINOS near detector, located at Fermilab, records the composition of the neutrino beam as it leaves the Fermilab site. The MINOS far detector, located in Minnesota, half a mile underground, will again analyze the neutrino beam. It will allow scientists to directly study the oscillation of muon neutrinos into electron neutrinos or tau neutrinos under laboratory conditions.

The Neutrinos at the Main Injector (NuMI) project, with the MINOS experiment, includes over 200 scientists, engineers, technical specialists and students from 32 institutions in 6 countries, including Brazil, France, Greece, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The institutions include universities and national laboratories. >from *MINOS Neutrino Experiment Launched at Fermilab*. March 4, 2005

related context
muon ionisation cooling experiment to go ahead. march 23, 2005
> scientists work to detect mysterious neutrinos. march 4, 2005
> xi international workshop on neutrino telescopes. february 22-25, 2005
> glass in the IceCube. february 18, 2005
> new neutrino telescope for south pole. february 15, 2005
> quantum universe: the revolution in 21st-century physics. june 11, 2004
> two new windows on the universe: the 2002 nobel prize in physics. october 16, 2002
> life come from explosions of stars: toward a standard model of supernovae. september 25, 2001
> working neutrino telescope: a novel way of seeing universe. may 22, 2001
> first direct evidence for tau neutrino. july 21, 2000
> prize for pioneers of neutrino astronomy. may 21, 2000

do not erase secrets:
what are these 'visitors' made of?

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friday :: april 15, 2005
walking as knowing as making: a peripatetic investigation of place

"Walking is an activity that can reconnect us with nature and with ourselves. We can use walking as a way to reanimate our senses and to see the natural world. Philosophical naturalists recognized this--as did Taoist and Zen Buddhist monks--and understood the elemental relationship of our bodies to the earth. Being aware of this relationship can help us as we look for solutions to current environmental crises."Trumpeter (1993). A Few Foot Notes on Walking by David Macauley .

In early spring of 2004 the New York Times reported on a recent study of aging adults. An inconspicuous three sentence news brief, noticeable only upon the closest of readings, stated in no uncertain terms: WALK MORE, THINK BETTER, “…In a study done by researchers at the University of Illinois, 41 adults ages 58 to 78 began an exercise program that gradually increased to 45-minute walks three times a week. After three months the participants increased brain activity and had an 11 percent improvement on decision-making tests.” That the conclusion seems rather self-evident suggests both a general recognition of the diminished role of walking in our contemporary lives and an intuitive understanding that walking is somehow good for us.

Despite its ubiquity in the everyday walking is an activity obscured by its own practical functionality. It is employed literally and understood metaphorically as a slow, inefficient, and increasingly anachronistic means to a predetermined end. Rarely is walking considered as a distinct mode of acting, knowing, and making. As its necessity diminishes and its applications rarefy, the potential of walking as critical, creative, and subversive tool appears only to grow. Conceived of as a conversation between the body and the world, walking becomes a reciprocal and simultaneous act of both interpretation and manipulation; an embodied and active way of shaping and being shaped that operates on a scale and at a pace embedded in something seemingly more authentic and real.

Based in Urbana-Champaign at the University of Illinois, Walking as Knowing as Making is a multifaceted effort that seeks to nurture both a theoretical and applied approach to knowing and interpreting place as we experience and construct it through walking. Using the walk as a guiding metaphor the format of this symposium has been designed to encourage a sustained, rigorous, and layered yet experimental, diffuse, and meandering consideration of walking and its associated activities, systems, and values. Between February and May 2005 we will bring to campus a diverse group of scholars, activists, and pedestrians to present ideas, engage in conversation, generate questions, tell stories, and, of course, walk. Supplementing and also weaving together this series of convergences will be a new interdisciplinary course about walking, an informal film series about place, a reading group, a series of informational and experimental walks and tours, production of a monthly sound collage for broadcast on local community radio stations, a museum exhibition, and a digital and print archive of all the events and activities. >from *walking as knowing as making: a peripatetic investigation of place*

related context
.walk. generative psychogeography, walking on algorithms as a means to explore the city, translates ideas from computer science to the real world.
> history of sacred run. "the sacred run is inspired by the native american tradition of running great distances, even to the most distant villages, to spread messages, news and information."
> psy-geo provflux 2005. may 27, 2005
> fused space: new technology in/as public space. july 23, 2004
> pk: parkour. january 16, 2004
> civic tv: alternative visions of the urban experience. november 21, 2003
> tormes: satellite navigation for blind people. june 11, 2003
> psy-geo-conflux: the meaning of living in a city.may 1 4, 2003

walk and think:
zebra crossing is bumped

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friday :: april 8, 2005
adapting buildings and cities for climate change

This challenging and exciting text gives an insight into the real changes that are necessary to give our modern day built environment both 'sustainability' and 'survivability'.

The book is based on the premise that climate change is going to happen and its impacts on our lives are going to be far worse than generally expected. Sue Roaf argues that many modern buildings are not only 'unsustainable' in themselves but are also having a catastrophic effect on the global climate.

In a unique argument, she illustrates that the only way we can hope to survive the following century in fact is if we not only begin to radically reduce CO2 emissions from our buildings and stop building climatically disastrous building types but also build only the buildings that can survive in the changed climates of the future.

Throughout the book, traditional and modern building types are used to: explain the history and impacts of climates past, present and future on buildings; set the scene in terms of the history of building development of where we are now and where we are going in terms of sustainability and survivability of buildings; develop two main scenarios of future building development with the 'business as usual' model and the 'survival plan' model, and to make a list of recommendations based on the two scenarios of what actions should be taken by architects, planners and engineers as well as local and national governments, businesses and ordinary people in ensuring the true sustainable nature of the built environment. >from *Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change. A 21st Century Survival Guide* by Sue Roaf, David Crichton and Fergus Nicol. ISBN: 0-7506-6099-6. Published December 14, 2004

Energy-inefficient houses help to suck up the 50% of the entire US energy demand. The 50% that goes into powering buildings.

related context
living beyond our means: natural assets and human well-being. millennium ecosystem assessment report. march 30, 2005
> peaking of world oil production: impacts, mitigation and risk management by robert l. hirsch, roger bezdek and robert wendling. published by the u.s. department of energy. february , 2005
> state of the world 2005. january 14, 2005
> iraqi homes show u.s. how to build. february 4, 2005
> climate change: message from the artic indigenous peoples. december 21, 2004
> oil peak: the most pivotal challenge facing modern civilization. june 23, 2004
> hassan fathy. "how do we go from the architect/constructor system to the architect-owner/builder system? one man cannot build a house, but ten men can build ten houses very easily, even a hundred houses. we need a system that allows the traditional way of cooperation to work in our society. we must subject technology and science to the economy of the poor and penniless. we must add the the aesthetic factor because the cheaper we build the more beauty we should add to respect man."

will buildings stop to fart?


I have heard that 70% of the energy consumption is in industry, along with (commercial, goods) transport and another significant part in 24% over- illuminating shops, bussines offices and urban landscapes...

being so true...

what is the point in reducing the energy consumpiton of housing a 50% which at best may only have a 10% impact in the global energy bill?


do they tell us to safe energy so they can use more?

who are they?

how much we are they?

it is nice to make efficient cars... but it is evil to keep facturing cars and incessantly renewing the cars population... with microchips, carbon fiber, flat screens and all the rest...

..purifiing the silicon crystals for the solar cells may cost more energy than that the cell provides during its conventional life-time...


posted by victor at april 8, 2005

U.S.A. Sectoral Share of Energy Consumption (2003E): Industrial (33%), Transportation (27%), Residential (22%), Commercial (18%)

Information contained in this report is the best available as of January 2005.


posted by josep at april 8, 2005

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friday :: april 1, 2005
plants defy mendel's inheritance laws

Contrary to inheritance laws the scientific world has accepted for more than 100 years, some plants revert to normal traits carried by their grandparents, bypassing genetic abnormalities carried by both parents.

These mutant parent plants apparently have hidden templates containing genetic information from the preceding generation that can be transferred to their offspring, even though the traits aren't evident in the parents, according to Purdue University researchers. This discovery flies in the face of the scientific laws of inheritance first described by Gregor Mendel in the mid-1800s and still taught in classrooms around the world today.

"This means that inheritance can happen more flexibly than we thought in the past," said Robert Pruitt, a Purdue Department of Botany and Plant Pathology molecular geneticist. "While Mendel's laws that we learned in high school still are fundamentally correct, they're not absolute. If the inheritance mechanism we found in the research plant Arabidopsis exists in animals, too, it's possible that it will be an avenue for gene therapy to treat or cure diseases in both plants and animals."

Pruitt and collaborator Susan Lolle found that Arabidopsis in which each parent plant had two copies of a mutant gene could produce progeny that didn't show the parents' deformity, but rather were normal like the grandparents. Under Mendelian laws, the offspring should have shown the same mutation.

Though further research is required to learn how this form of inheritance happens and how it can help improve plants or animals through gene therapy, Pruitt said the discovery has opened an important new line of thinking. >from *Plants defy mendel's inheritance laws, may prompt textbook changes*. March 23, 2005

related context
reappearance of missing genetic information poses exception to the rule. code is hiding but not lost. march 23, 2005
> researchers trace evolution to relatively simple genetic changes. march 25, 2005
> openfriday with artist exploring aesthetic possibilities of living organisms. february 9, 2005
> human origins: gene mutation linked to evolution. march 26, 2004
> challenges to evolution education. november 14, 2003
> 21-amino-acid bacteria: expanding the genetic code. january 30, 2003
> the advent of genomic medicine: to take center stage in clinical medicine. november 14, 2002
> landmark in evolutionary biology: mechanism to introduce new body designs. february 22, 2002

social origens inheritance:
arabidopsis go back to grandparents to skip deformity

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