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“This is the classic reference on how the golden ratio applies to spirals and helices in nature.” – Martin Gardner

The Curves Of Life

What makes this book particularly enjoyable to flip through is an abundance of beautiful hand drawings and diagrams. Sir Theodore Andrea Cook explores, in great detail, the nature of spirals in the structure of plants, animals, physiology, the periodic table, galaxies etc. – from tusks, to rare seashells, to exquisite architecture.

He writes, “a staircase whose form and construction so vividly recalled a natural growth would, it appeared to me, be more probably the work of a man to whom biology and architecture were equally familiar than that of a builder of less wide attainments. It would, in fact, be likely that the design had come from some great artist and architect who had studied Nature for the sake of his art, and had deeply investigated the secrets of the one in order to employ them as the principles of the other.

Cook especially believes in a hands-on approach, as oppose to mathematic nation or scientific nomenclature – seeing and drawing curves is far more revealing than formulas.

252264because I believe very strongly that if a man can make a thing and see what he has made, he will understand it much better than if he read a score of books about it or studied a hundred diagrams and formulae. And I have pursued this method here, in defiance of all modern mathematical technicalities, because my main object is not mathematics, but the growth of natural objects and the beauty (either in Nature or in art) which is inherent in vitality.

Despite this, it is clear that Theodore Cook has a deep love of mathematics. He describes it at the beautifully precise instrument that allows humans to satisfy their need to catalog, label and define the innumerable facts of life. This ultimately leads him into profoundly fascinating investigations into the geometry of the natural world.

 

Relevant Material

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“An organism is so complex a thing, and growth so complex a phenomenon, that for growth to be so uniform and constant in all the parts as to keep the whole shape unchanged would indeed be an unlikely and an unusual circumstance. Rates vary, proportions change, and the whole configuration alters accordingly.” – D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson

D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson wrote, on an extensive level, why living things and physical phenomena take the form that they do. By analysing mathematical and physical aspects of biological processes, he expresses correlations between biological forms and mechanical phenomena.

He puts emphasis on the roles of physical laws and mechanics as the fundamental determinants of form and structure of living organisms. D’Arcy describes how certain patterns of growth conform to the golden ratio, the Fibonacci sequence, as well as mathematics principles described by Vitruvius, Da Vinci, Dürer, Plato, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and more.

While his work does not reject natural selection, it holds ‘survival of the fittest’ as secondary to the origin of biological form. The shape of any structure is, to a large degree, imposed by what materials are used, and how. A simple analogy would be looking at it in terms of architects and engineers. They cannot create any shape building they want, they are confined by physical limits of the properties of the materials they use. The same is true to any living organism; the limits of what is possible are set by the laws of physics, and there can be no exception.

 

Further Reading:

Michael-Pawlyn-Biomimicry-A-new-paradigm-1

Biomimicry in Architecture by Michael Pawlyn

“You could look at nature as being like a catalogue of products, and all of those have benefited from a 3.8 billion year research and development period. And given that level of investment, it makes sense to use it.” – Michael Pawlyn

Michael Pawlyn, one of the leading advocates of biomimicry, describes nature as being a kind of source-book that will help facilitate our transition from the industrial age to the ecological age of mankind. He distinguishes three major aspects of the built environment that benefit from studying biological organisms:

The first being the quantity on resources that use, the second being the type of energy we consume and the third being how effectively we are using the energy that we are consuming.

Exemplary use of materials could often be seen in plants, as they use a minimal amount of material to create relatively large structures with high surface to material ratios. As observed by Julian Vincent, a professor in Biomimetics, “materials are expensive and shape is cheap” as opposed to technology where the inverse is often true.

Plants, and other organisms, are well know to use double curves, ribs, folding, vaulting, inflation, as well as a plethora of other techniques to create forms that demonstrate incredible efficiency.

DS10 started the year researching sci-fi novels, movies, magazines and technological discoveries from the past two centuries. Here are the timelines showing the historical and political events,as well as the technological discoveries that greatly influenced Science Fiction from the 1800s until today.

1800-1825

1800-1825

1825-1850

1850-1875

1875-1900

1900-1905

1905-1910

1910-1915

1915-1920

1920-1925

1925-1930

1930-1935

1935-1940

1940-1944 (1)

1940-1945

1945-1950

1950-1955

1955-1960

1960-1965

1965-1970

1970-1975

1975-1980

1980-1985

1985-1990

1990-1995

1995-2000

1995-2000

2000-2005

2000-2005

2005-2010

2005-2010

2010-2014

2010-2015

Back in our studio and excited to see how students are tackling the brief this year. Here are some pictures showing the different systems that students chose for brief01 and some of the models that are already being produced.

DS10 studio all buzzing

DS10 studio all buzzing

Andrei Jippa is 3D printing radiolarias with his RepRap

Andrei Jippa is 3D printing radiolarias with his RepRap

String vibration experiments by Garis Lu

String vibration experiments by Garis Iu

Henry Turner looking at microscopic images of sea urchins

Henry Turner looking at microscopic images of sea urchins

Origami Folding from Sarah Shuttleworth

Origami Folding from Sarah Shuttleworth

John Konings looking at bamboo structures

John Konings looking at bamboo structures

Below is our schedule and some pictures from DS10′s Unit Trip to Switzerland which took place from the 15th until the 18th November 2012. We would like to thank all the following people for their generosity.

-Thursday 15th: Visit of the ETH University’s CAAD groups. Presentations by Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenberger, Ammar Mirjan of DFAB (Gramazio and Kolher) and Philippe Block of the Block Research Group. Party at Gonzo Club in Langstrasse.

– Friday 16th: Walk through the city and SPA day at the Thermalbald & Spa Zurich in the former Hürlimann Brewery designed by Althammer Hochuli.

-Saturday 17th:  Early train to Lausanne. Visit of the EPFL university Laboratory for Timber Constructions – IBOIS.  Presentations by Markus Hudert and Christopher Robeller.  Visit of the EPFL campus and workshops with Mitch Heynick.  Visit to the Rolex Learning Centre by SANAA.

Pictures by Dan Dodds, Luka Kreze, Phil Hurrel, Jake Alsop and Arthur Mamou-Mani.

Above: Presentation by Philippe Block of the Block Research Group

Above: MLK Jr. Park Stone Vault, Austin, TX, USA Project by the Block Research Group

Above: Ammar Mirjan of DFAB (Gramazio and Kolher) showing us the robotic facility

Above: Ammar Mirjan of DFAB (Gramazio and Kolher) showing us a brickwall assembled by a robotic arm.

Above: Presentation by Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenberger

Above: Waterjet cut, Folded aluminium structure made by EPFL students.

Above: One of the IBOIS research structures with Markus Hudert

Above: Mitch Heynick showing us the Rolex Learning Centre by SANAA.

Above: Moustaches floating at the Thermalbald & Spa Zurich

Above: Emma Whitehead learning that the ETH campus is larger than expected.

Above: Freitag Recycled Shipping Container Store in Zurich

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Click on an image from Gallery below to view full size.

Technology today is designed to fail. Products are made so that you will buy a new one after a pre-determined time. This is called planned obsolescence and is a widely accepted commercial concept within industrial companies.

The Phoebus Kartel  was a cartel of, among others, Osram, Philips and General Electricfrom December 23, 1924 until 1939 that controlled the manufacture and sale of light bulbs. It decided that it would limit the lifetime of a lightbulb to 1000 hours. Before this arbitrary and profit-driven decision, light bulbs could last for a very long time, a solid proof for that is the Livermore’s Centennial Lightbulb which shines since 1890. The 1000 hours rule was the beginning of an imposed large-scale planned obsolescence.

Above: The Livermore’s Centennial Lightbulb’s webcam

After the great depression, Bernard London thought that imposing planned obsolescence by law would bring prosperity to Americans.

The american designer Brook Stevens gave many conferences on the advantage of planned obsolescence. His products would always look newer, better than the existing one. By his definition, planned obsolescence was “Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.”

Above: The toastalator by Brook Stevens

Without planned obsolescence, shopping malls would probably not exits and economic growth would not be as crucial as it it today to the economy.  In essence, economic growth does not attempt to make human life better, it just tries to grow for the sake of it. This growth is based on debt and on consuming products that are not necessary. As the economist and system theorist Kenneth Boulding once said: “Someone who believes that an economy that constantly grows on a planet that is finite is either mad or an economist, the problem is that we are all economists now.”

The Waste Makers, published in 1960 by Vance Packard is the first book on the topic.

Apple, largest public company in the U.S., gave a clear notice to its reseller when the IPOD battery would fail: “buy a new ipod“.  Apple was sued for that by consumers, the case was called Wesley vs. Apple. Apple lost the case and was forced to extend the warranty on the battery. Apple has no environmental policy for its products and tries to sell as many products as possible, not products that will last.

Image courtesy of Stay Free Magazine.

Epson adds microchips in some of their printers that counts the amount  of prints and breaks the printer after reaching a pre-determined printer. In fact, some freewares help you to reset the count so that you can use your printers more.

Electronic products that could have lasted much longer end up in illegal dump site in countries such as Ghana and Nigeria (have a look at the Agbogbloshie dump site on this BBC documentary).

Above: kid looking for copper on the Agbogbloshie illegal E-Waste dump site, Ghana

The idea of creating “Open-Source” buildings from simple materials that can be made and improved by anyone and based on home-grown or widely accessible products is DS10’s answer to the tragedy of planned obsolescence. Similarly to open source software that can always be updated and maintained by the end user, the makers will not be at the sole mercy of a proprietary vendor. We will also look into temples, timeless monuments for spirituality and best counter example for modernist buildings, a theory which emerged around the same time as the Phoebus Kartel.

Sources:

-This post is based on the documentary “The Light Bulb Conspiracy” by Cosima Dannoritzen.

-http://www.apfelkraut.org/2011/03/the-untold-story-of-planned-obsolescence/

-http://quiet-environmentalist.com/is-the-earth-doomed-due-to-planned-obsolescence/

-http://www.amazon.com/Made-Break-Technology-Obsolescence-America/dp/0674022033

-http://www.amazon.co.uk/Planned-Obsolescence-Publishing-Technology-Academy/dp/0814727883

“My garden is sending tweets!” Eric Maundu

Just came across this amazing video in which Eric Maundu talks about his start-up “Kijani Grows” (“Kijani” is Swahili for green), a small startup that designs and sells custom aquaponics systems for growing food using cheap technology including arduino boards. Toby and I often talk about “closed loop systems”, this is a great example of one.

“The land in West Oakland where Eric Maundu is trying to farm is covered with freeways, roads, light rail and parking lots so there’s not much arable land and the soil is contaminated. So Maundu doesn’t use soil. Instead he’s growing plants using fish and circulating water. It’s called aquaponics- a gardening system that combines hydroponics (water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish farming). It’s been hailed as the future of farming: it uses less water (up to 90% less than traditional gardening), doesn’t attract soil-based bugs and produces two types of produce (both plants and fish). Aquaponics has become popular in recent years among urban gardeners and DIY tinkerers, but Maundu- who is trained in industrial robotics- has taken the agricultural craft one step further and made his gardens smart. Using sensors (to detect water level, pH and temperature), microprocessors (mostly the open-source Arduino microcontroller), relay cards, clouds and social media networks (Twitter and Facebook), Maundu has programmed his gardens to tweet when there’s a problem (e.g. not enough water) or when there’s news (e.g. an over-abundance of food to share).
Maundu himself ran from agriculture in his native Kenya- where he saw it as a struggle for land, water and resources. This changed when he realized he could farm without soil and with little water via aquaponics and that he could apply his robotics background to farming. Today he runs Kijani Grows (“Kijani” is Swahili for green), a small startup that designs and sells custom aquaponics systems for growing food and attempts to explore new frontiers of computer-controlled gardening. Maundu believes that by putting gardens online, especially in places like West Oakland (where his solar-powered gardens are totally off the grid), it’s the only way to make sure that farming remains viable to the next generation of urban youth.”

These images show the results of some recent experiments using wax and water.
To achieve the structures I filled a container with hot melted wax, weighted it so it would sink, then dropped it into a larger container full of cold tap water (approx 10 degrees)
Due to the lower density of the wax it rises to the surface of the water, and in doing so exposes an increasing surface area to the water allowing it to cool and solidify on its way up.
This technique has resulted in some exciting organic flowing structures which I hope to analyse further and develop more architecturally.