Google Earth Alphabet
Language is communication technology. As Marshall McLuhan said, the spoken word was ‘the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way’.
Language not only describes, but also contributes to the social construct we call ‘reality’ and does so without any wires or silicon involved. When our physical environment takes up the shape of written language, it becomes something of a text to be read, as if our environment starts talking back to us.
Computers and software use the same graphic symbols – in the sense of programming language – as humans do, although in a somewhat different configuration, for communication. Most – if not all – contributors to nextnature.net, are advocates and critics of visual culture. But paradoxically, the tools that produce this visual culture, wouldn’t exist without written language. One tool that made an impact on how our worldview is constructed is Google Earth. It literally brings a new perspective to our world, and from this new perspective our world can be explored in a different way.
Miniature Sensor Network for the Office
“Have you seen my stapler? No, but just look it up on Google home office maps.”
CSIRO Researchers have developed miniature sensors that track lab equipment, coffee mugs and staplers in the office.
The sensors are called Fleck Nano and were build on CSIRO’s existing Fleck technology that is being commercially produced for monitoring cows on farms.
Fleck sensors collect data like location and temperature. They form an ad-hoc mesh network, and communicate with static nodes and each other via radio waves.
Dubai Globe: Sea versus Economy
Above: artist impression 2003 | below: Nasa January 2010
When developers launched the globe project just off Dubai’s coast in 2003, they hoped that the rich and famous would land there to populate the 300 islands.
Within five years Nakheel Properties leveled up 11 billion cubic feet of sand and 47 million tons of rock. However, a year ago (2009) the work stopped and now it looks like the project will never be completed. While officially the project has just been delayed, the obvious conclusion would be that it is the economic recession causing the islands to gradually wash back into the sea.
The naturalness of travelling with a Jeep
Economy, as Seen From Space
Reliable data on economic growth is hard to come by in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries. Yet according to scientists, outer space offers a new perspective for measuring economic growth.
Using satellite images of nighttime lights, J. Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, and David N. Weil from Brown University have created a new framework for estimating a country or region’s gross domestic product, or GDP by observing the changes in a country’s “night lights” as seen from outer space.
“Consumption of nearly all goods in the evening requires lights,” they write in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. “As income rises, so does light usage per person, in both consumption activities and many investment activities.”
LHC – How physics becomes metaphysics
Little over a week after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) became operational it broke down. As the world’s largest particle accelerator isn’t working, computer simulations are the only option for a whole generation of researchers. With entire PhD’s being based on simulated data, you wonder whether physics is still an empirical science.
Today’s most ambitious scientific instruments are modern-day cathedrals in their size and complexity. Situated as much as 175 meters (570 ft) beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is designed to accelerate protons to near the speed of light and smash them together in four giant detectors spread around its 27-kilometre circumference. Built at a cost of $4.3 billion, making it not only the grandest but also the most expensive scientific instrument ever created by man.
The main argument for the creation of the LHC is to discover the Higgs bosons, an elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model in particle physics, but yet to be observed experimentally – a Nobel price is awaiting the one who makes the discovery.
SIMULATIONS REPLACE EMPIRICAL EXPERIMENTS
Physicists once hoped that the LHC would start its collisions in late 2006, but on 19 September 2008, shortly after the machine was finally switched on, an electrical short caused extensive damage along a sector of the machine. Repairs have taken longer than expected, and the LHC is not scheduled to restart before mid-November 2009.
The long delays have scattered the dreams of LHC Students who had hoped to use fresh data from the machine to use in their studies. According to the renowned Nature journal, LHC Students face data drought: “European graduate students face strict time constraints for completing their PhDs. Most universities require a thesis to be submitted within three to four years, and that means that students cannot wait for their data. Instead, their analyses are being done with data from ‘Monte Carlo’ simulations — computer programs that replicate what might come out of real collisions..”
Mapping the DNA World
DNA related tools, once expensive and restricted to research and crime labs, are rapidly becoming affordable. Like GPS – once a high-tech wonder now turned into a everyday gadget – simple DNA sequencing may soon be available to almost everyone.
Undoubtedly DNA related applications will transform society as we know it: Synthetic pets, Amateur food testing, Faked DNA evidence, Genetic mapping, Genetic social networks, DNA as information storage, HumanDNA trees, Hyper Fruit… the applications are mind bubbling and seemingly infinite.
Designer Niko Vegt, master student at the Next Nature theme, has been working on an imaginary map of the DNA world. Unlike a regular map, which represents a physical territory, the DNA World map represents a conceptual territory of DNA related applications and developments. Its main continents are Science, Medical, Heath, Personal, Social, Justice and Environment – all surrounded by an ocean of Ethics.
The Internet Mapping Project
“The internet is vast. Bigger than a city, bigger than a country, maybe as big as the universe. It’s expanding by the second. No one has seen its borders. And the internet is intangible, like spirits and angels. The web is an immense ghost land of disembodied places. Who knows if you are even there, there. Yet everyday we navigate through this ethereal realm for hours on end and return alive. We must have some map in our head.
I’ve become very curious about the maps people have in their minds when they enter the internet. So I’ve been asking people to draw me a map of the internet as they see it. That’s all. More than 50 people of all ages and levels of expertise have mapped their geography of online.”