Saturday, 23 May 2015

Pneum├átic’s Salvaged Tire Installations Playfully Interact With Barcelona’s Urban Architecture







Pneumàtic was founded by artists OOSS, Iago Buceta, and Mateu Targa for the street art festival Ús Barcelona. The idea behind the cut salvaged tire installations was to create works that tested the traditional uses of architecture, playing with the audience’s understanding of what is just beyond their physical grasp.

The works, which are all placed in linear or circular arrangements, also test the viewer’s association with architecture, giving a playful tactility to the spaces they occupy. Although most of the sculptures look as if they are only decorative, many impede walking paths, forcing one to walk around their blockade or traipse upon their back like a bridge. Each installation appears as if the solid structures the tires are adhered to are malleable, the pieces disappearing and emerging from the ground and walls like they are being slowly sucked in by quick sand. (via designboom)

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In the Field: SMAP Gathers Soil Data in Australia

It’s 3 a.m. in Yanco, Australia, a remote region located 380 miles (612 kilometers) west of Sydney. While

The post In the Field: SMAP Gathers Soil Data in Australia has been published on Technology Org.

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How climate change is killing the aspen forests of the American Southwest

The early 2000s were a time of exceptional drought in the American Southwest. The year 2002 in particular was perhaps the driest in the last 500 years, according to tree-ring historical reconstructions.

This was bad news for the aspen trees of the Southwest, which died by the millions. But it also raised a scientific question: just how exactly does drought kill trees? A child easily grasps that lack of water will kill about any plant. But the specific biological mechanism by which trees die from drought has not been well-established. It's the difference between knowing that shooting someone in the chest will kill them, and understanding why a bullet puncturing the heart will end a life.

A team of scientists, led by Dr. William Anderegg of Princeton, have been working on the aspen question, and their results were published today in Nature Geoscience. The answer is something called "xylem cavitation." And unless we do something big about climate change soon, it will kill most of the aspens in the Southwest.

Here's what that means. Trees transport water through their xylem tissue (one example of which is regular old wood), basically composed of millions of tiny tubes, or "conduits." Xylem doesn't work like a mechanical pump — instead, water flows up the tree trunk through capillary action. That flow is maintained through evaporation at the leaf surface, removing water at the top so more can replace it, and supplied by the roots drawing water from the soil.

In hot, dry conditions, like the early 2000s drought, water evaporates more quickly from the leaf surface — and there is less water in the soil to maintain supply. Anderegg and his team quantified both of these with a factor they called "climatic water deficit." When the deficit is high, the water pressure inside the xylem decreases due to tension between the top and bottom of the tree.

If the pressure gets low enough, gas bubbles will spontaneously form in the water column — which is called cavitation. A bubble instantly blocks that particular xylem conduit and prevents the water from flowing. Block enough conduits, and the tree desiccates and dies.

It's "like a tree heart attack," says Anderegg. He and his team constructed a model of this cavitation mechanism, calculated a threshold at which aspens should die, and compared it with historical data on the early 2000s drought. They found pretty clear agreement, explaining about 75 percent of the tree mortality during that time (a good result, given how complex forests are). In this image, red and yellow represent when the model correctly predicted whether a tree would live or die, while green and blue are the corresponding wrong predictions:

Xylem cavitation has been understood for years, but this is strong evidence for this being the murder culprit, so to speak. (Note that this model only applies to deciduous tree species. Conifer species like lodgepole pine have also been killed en masse by climate change-fueled drought, but abnormal beetle swarms are what strike the killing blow.) Others had suggested different mechanisms, like starvation. What's more, this threshold model has some disturbing implications. All that is required to kill an aspen forest is a sufficiently hot and dry spell.

According to the big climate models, under a high-emission pathway (that is, assuming world society does little to combat climate change), large sections of current aspen forests will be consistently above the mortality threshold by the 2050s. But since all that is needed to kill an aspen tree is a couple of exceptional years, then the bulk of current aspen forests will likely be dead some time before that decade.

This matters not just for the aesthetic value of forests in themselves, but also for many human interests as well. Besides being a major tourist attraction — they're just about the only fall color in much of the Colorado mountains — aspen is a major commercially harvested species in the Southwest. Aspens also support a large variety of local wildlife, much of it important to local economies, and a variety of other ecosystem services (like water filtration).

Obliterating the aspens would not only be a great ecological crime, but also a terrific blow to local communities across the Southwest.

Therefore, the drought of the early 2000s was a "canary in the coal mine," says Anderegg. If we do nothing about climate change, then by 2050 the average year will be about like 2002 in terms of temperature and precipitation. The aspens, and everything that relies on them, will be dead.

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Delicate Glass Sea Life Sculptures by Emily Williams

Glass Seaweed, 2014, Flameworked borosilicate glass, 20″ x 20″ x 20″

American artist Emily Williams draws inspiration from the sea and other aspects of organic life for the creation of her fragile glass sculptures that mimic seaweed, jellyfish, and coral. Each piece begins with a selection of perfectly straight borosilicate glass rods in various diameters which she carefully melts with a glass torch to form patterns similar to veins and branches.

As a child, Williams’ grandmother was a docent at the Smithsonian leading to many artistic and scientific discoveries at a very young age that would deeply influence her decision to pursue an artistic career. She went on to receive her MFA in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis and a BFA in sculpture from V.C.U. in Richmond. She is currently working on an impressive glass coral piece shown in the video below (and discussed in this blog post), and you can see more views of her work both on Facebook and in her portfolio.

Glass Seaweed, detail

Coral Skeleton
Glass Coral Skeleton, 2013, Flameworked borosilicate glass, 20″ x 22″ x 10″

Coral Skeleton_DetailCoral Skeleton, detail

Glass Nest
Glass Nest, 2013, Flameworked borosilicate glass, 15″ x 20″ x 20″

Glass Jellyfish, 2013, Flameworked borosilicate glass, 15″ x 14″ x 14″

Glass Petal, 2013, Flameworked borosilicate glass, 15″ x 12″ x 4″

Petal, detail

Burst, 2013, Flameworked borosilicate glass, 12″ x 10″ x 10″

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2nd Launch Disaster in 3 Weeks Strikes Russia, Destroying Proton Rocket and Mexican Comsat

For the second time in less than three weeks, a major disaster struck the Russian space program when

The post 2nd Launch Disaster in 3 Weeks Strikes Russia, Destroying Proton Rocket and Mexican Comsat has been published on Technology Org.

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