The Bridges of Meghalayas

“In North-East India, the giant cliffs, lead up to a hidden word: Meghalayas. Nearly 2km high and buffeted by mansoon clouds this is possibly the wettest place on earth. Once 25 meters of rain fell here in a year, the world record. Living here poses an unusual problem and it is not just keeping dry. Nearly all the rain falls during the summer mansoon. River flows from gentle stream to raging torrent. They become wild and unpredictable and almost impossible to cross. Harli and his niece Giuliana are busy cultivating a cunning solution: 30 years ago, Harli planted this strangler fig on the river’s edge and today he is teaching Giuliana how to care for it…”

David Attenborough in the BBC Documentary How the world made us below (from the PermacultureForest Youtube Channel)  narrates the beautiful story of the live bridges of Meghalayas which is a network of living fig tree bridges, sometimes several century old, used to cross the torrents in the Mansoon season.

Above: The “double decker” bridge, in Travel the Unknown blog  

Above: Close up Photo of a fig tree bridge by Neeraj2608 

Above: Even Handrails were made with the roots, article from Inhabitat      

 Above: view of one of the bridges from dpreview



Radiolaria Pavilion

Andrea Morgante, founder of Shiro Studio, collaborated with D-Shape in 2008 to produce the Radiolaria pavilion, a free-form structure created using the world’s largest 3D printer. Measuring 3 x 3 x 3 metres, the structure is a scale model of a final 10 metre tall pavilion currently being fabricated in Pontedera, Italy. The aim of the Radiolaria pavilion was to demonstrate the capabilities of this pioneering construction technology through complex geometry. It allows free-form construction of monolithic structures on a large scale.

Ernst Haeckel’s studies on radiolarians were a source of inspiration; their evolutionary formation process of mineral and siliceous skeletons share an affinity with the way that the mega-printer operates, through the slow deposition of mineral and siliceous material, layer after layer.

The thin layers of the structure are held together by an inorganic binder, which transforms any kind of sand or marble dust into a stone-like material (i.e. a mineral with microcrystalline characteristics) with a resistance and traction superior to portland cement, to a point where there is no need to use iron to reinforce the structure.  The structure was designed using CAD/CAM software and then exported directly to the printer. Once printed, it only takes about 24 hours for the material to fully set. The process is also environmentally sound, if any of the building material remains unused, it can be recycled.

Above: Radiolaria Pavilion Printed scale model sandstone structure

Above: 3D Printer – Individual layers of sandstone being printed to form pavilion

Clever Algorithms

The book Clever Algorithms – Nature-Inspired Programming Recipes by Jason Brownlee is fully available online. It describes the mechanisms behind most of the bio-mimetic codes which are used. You might recognize Genetic Algorithm and Simulated Annealing used in Galapagos.

The Elements, a Volatile History

Do you know the real shape of atoms under an electronic microscope and what their assembly logic is?Do you wonder why Mendeleïev’s periodic table of the Elements is so highly considered and how it came about ? Do you want to learn how Alchemist discovered elements while looking for gold ?

Below are  the three episodes of a great BBC Documentary series to watch this week-end: The Elements , a Volatile History.


Episode 1, Discovering the Elements



Episode 2, The Order of the Elements



Episode 3, The Power of the Elements



When researching the close packing of tetrahedrons I came across a reasonably new discovery, The Quasicrystal.  Its current impact or potential impact can be gauged by the fact that Dan Shechtman, who made the finding, was this year awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“Quasicrystals are a fascinating aspect of chemical and material science – crystals that break all the rules of being a crystal at all.”

So what is a Quasicrystal?

Basically they are formed when tetrahedra are compressed into a given volume. In Dan Shechtman’s discovery, the packing achieves an efficiency which fills 82% of space, higher than any previous effort.  The close packing of the tetrahedron forms these intricately complicated and amazingly complex structures. A normal crystal is a material structure which repeats periodically however one of the really interesting things about Quasicrystals is that they don’t actually repeat exactly, despite its regularity.  Quasicrystals represent a class of solids which lack translational symmetry, but nevertheless exhibit perfect long-range order and reveal well defined fivefold rotational symmetries. Translational symmetry is when an image or object can be divided into a sequence of identical repetitions which are translated about a given vector. So without this form of symmetry the Quasicrystal is non-periodic.

Aperiodic and Penrose tiling’s can also be found within Quasicrystals which themselves can be found in medievil Islamic mosaics.

The model shown in the second image is made up of 4000 x 1cm long struts, built thanks to 3D printing!

For further information follow the link below.

Alternative fabrication methods using sand

Following on from the tutorial yesterday where Jack talked about possibly casting his experiments with sand using a saline solution sprayed onto the forms created here are two further ways of utilising sand to create rigid structures.

Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter

The first is a 3D printer which concentrates the solar energy to form glass structures from the sand the machine sits on. I know many of you have seen this before but I thought I’d post it in relation to this specific topic. The link is to designboom, a great website with daily updates from the latest innovations in architecture, art and design. Check out the link to find further information on Markus Kayser’s printer.

The second is a TED lecture given by Magnus Larsson. He proposes an ambitious project to stop desertification in the Sahara by literally forming a wall across the continent using the desert sands as a bulding material.

If anyone wants to edit this post to try and embed the video from the TED lecture go ahead, I can’t get it to work with their f=video format but that may just be me.

The Lotus Effect

Very interesting video showing how a lotus leaf reacts to liquid. Notice how even honey slides off the leaf like water.  Research is being done on material with a Lotus-like property, also known as superhydrophobicity.


Below is an image from a scientific paper published in 2008 titled Laser structuring of water-repellent biomimetic surfaces and fully available here. The image shows a comparison between the microscopic texture of a leaf and a surface shaped with a laser.  The artificial lotus shows very similar behaviour (and appearance) to the real leaf. A group in Germany called “Lotus-Effect” is also working on the reproducing the magic and has published great documentaries on their website.

Martian Landscape

Stunning images of the Martian Landscape taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since 2006. Thank you to Subtilitas for pointing it out and for The Big Picture for posting them.

Part of the Abalos Undae dune field. The sands appear blueish because of their basaltic composition, while the lighter areas are probably covered in dust. More, or see location on Google Mars. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona) 

Scalloped sand dunes in the southern hemisphere of mars, displaying seasonal frost on the south-facing slopes, which highlights some of the regular patterns, as the frost forms only on parts of the ripples. More, or see location on Google Mars. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)