Thursday, November 29, 2007

Algae Power

another great one from BLDGBlog:

A proposal in Iceland for alternative energy created from algae pond gases. Be sure to check out the full range of drawings and analysis with your own presentations in mind.

Ice Cube

From BLDGBlog:

Last week, New Scientist reported that a neutrino detector called IceCube, once constructed, might just do exactly that.
Because the Earth rotates, we read, distant neutrino sources – such as black holes – will be blocked at certain predictable moments by the Earth's core; piecing together all these temporary blindspots, we can then infer the shape of the core itself.
It's an absence that generates absences elsewhere.

According to The Daily Galaxy, building the IceCube is less an act of construction than a kind of archaeology in reverse; the process will consist of entombing "glass-globed sensors the size of basketballs on 1-mile-long strings, 60 sensors per string, in 80 deep holes beneath the polar surface."

For more on the IceCube and Antarctic science in general give this article in The Economist a quick read – then check out NOVA's round-up of weird detectors.
Then, if you're looking for a good book on Antarctica itself, consider picking up a copy of Terra Antarctica: Looking into the Emptiest Continent by William L. Fox (a book previously mentioned on BLDGBLOG here).

Time-based mapping

Beautifully done mappings and visualizations of flight patterns by Aaron Koblin, part of the Celestial Mechanics project. Video of the animated map here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Forum: Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development

The Forum is an excellent resource for information on current research being done by people with specific technical and methodological skills. It is a clearinghouse of published work from international researchers, scientists, engineers, and social scientists working in the fields that related to issues of sustainability ranging from water and sanitation to agriculture to urbanism.

"The Forum on Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development is an attempt to outline the burgeoning field. Rather than looking broadly at sustainability, the Forum focuses on the way in which science and innovation can be conducted and applied to meet human needs while preserving the life support systems of the planet. It highlights people and programs that are studying nature-society interactions and applying the resulting knowledge to create a sustainability transition around the world."

NY Times Environment Section Online

The Times Science section has a new Environment subsections that is a clearinghouse for a number of different ecology and sustainability articles.

Also, be sure to take a look at their blog in our links section.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The World Technology podcast

PRI and the BBC's regular radio program, The World regularly features a technology report. Many of these reports deal with sustainability, new technologies, and green issues. Their technology podcast conveniently packages them all in short audio programs which are all available for download at their website.

Some highlights below:

Who needs a car that goes over 25 mph anyhow? The all-electric car is back! What's so great about biofuels? Oil issues in Iraq an Russia. Checking in with the Iraqi blogger Riverbend. And two stories about HIV in Mexico and South Africa. Download mp3

The UN’s panel on climate change issues their third report this year: This one looks at what role technology can play. What about ocean sequestration to remove carbon from the air? Will it work? How Germans are slashing energy use. Biofuels in Denmark. A discussion about design concepts to help the other 90 percent. And, the world is moving too fast! (It’s scientifically proven.) Download mp3
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looks at the impacts of global warming. This podcast explores how climate change is affecting our world: from Africa, to South America, to Europe. And what global warming could mean in your neck of the woods. Download mp3

The power of the ocean: Wave Energy takes off in Portugal. A high-tech solution to, sadly, abandoned babies in Italy. Work from home? Ever get lonely? No longer the case in France. And cars are catching on in Vietnam. Download mp3
Gas hydrates... hot new fuel source or environmental menace? A blanket of pollution covers a village in rural China. And the role of immigration in American hi-tech startups. Plus the return of The Plastic People of the Universe. Download mp3


Euro-Supergrid with a EU-MENA-Connection: Sketch of possible infrastructure for a sustainable supply of power to EUrope, the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA).

" The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) is an initiative that campaigns for the transmission of clean power from deserts to Europe. Since it was founded in 2003 by The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan (NERC), it has developed the DESERTEC Concept and researched it in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Now TREC is making this concept a reality in cooperation with people in politics, industry and the world of finance.

The DESERTEC Concept of TREC is to boost the generation of electricity and desalinated water by solar thermal power plants and wind turbines in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and to transmit the clean electrical power via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines throughout those areas and as from 2020 (with overall just 10-15% transmission losses) to Europe. The technologies that are needed to realise the DESERTEC concept are already developed and some of them have been in use for decades. Several studies by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) confirm the viability of this concept and the usefulness of realising it very soon."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Circle of Blue

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This past week's edition of On the Media, the weekly WNYC program on media issues featured a segment on Circle of Blue, a coalition of journalists who donate their time and resources to produce news stories about water issues, drought, and desertification. It's an extraordinary group doing important and fascinating work that calls attention to stories about the water crisis.

The segment is available on their website:

Listening to the segment, I was reminded of the potential of the media to bring visibility to a set of issues and raise their level of prominence in the culture. The notion of constructing the conditions of visibility is certainly something that all the projects in the studio have the potential for as well. Many of you are dealing with fairly fluid and ephemeral forces and effects and more than a few of you are dealing with the movement of an edge or other aspects of a crisis front that may benefit from the responsive potentials of architecture as well as architecture's capacity for institutionalization, for marking position and establishing new datums.

The site also provides a rich history of journalism and journalists bringing visbility to drought issues going back to Dorothea Lang and the dust bowl and beyond. This is an excellent resource especially for those interested in water issues, but really for all you.

[C]Space Pavilion at the AA

"Architects Alan Dempsey and Alvin Huang have won a competition to design a temporary, freestanding pavilion that will be built in front of the Architectural Association school in London early next year.

The competition celebrates the 10th anniversary of the AA’s Design Research Laboratory. It was open to all students and graduates of the DRL and called for designs that made innovative use of Fibre C, a glass fibre-reinforced concrete panelling material produced by Rieder.

Dempsey and Huang have set up a blog to chart their progress as they prepare to build their [C]Space pavilion."


Wind Dam

Wind Dam
via Pruned-a proposed wind dam in Russia

"The dam, which would be located over a gorge at Lake [Ladoga] in north-west Russia, includes a cup-shaped spinnaker sail, believed to be the first of its kind, which will generate renewable energy by funnelling the wind through an attached turbine.

The spinnaker shape is similar to the mainsail of a yacht, and is thought to be particularly effective in capturing wind."

Brownfield Restoration


"After years of industrial pollution on the shores of Syracuse's Onondaga Lake, the Solway Settling Basins is now setting a precedent for the restoration of contaminated brownfield sites, or parcels of land that previously housed industrial facilities.

Rather than fencing off the area, capping it with clay and plastic, and then posting "Keep Out" signs, a partnership of engineers, scientists, and new corporate owners decided to restore the ecosystem, remediate the environmental concerns, and turn the site into something beneficial."



various geo-engineering schemes

Talk about potential for unexpected effects. Treehugger reports on a general warming to the idea of geo-engineering and other unorthodox methods that might slow global warming ranging from seeding the stratosphere with aerosol particles to simulate the cooling effects of a volcano to seep sea and bedrock carbon sequestration.Rather interesting that so many of the studio's geo-engineering topics are represented in this image.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

California Sues EPA

From the NYT: California and 14 other states are demanding urgent action on global warming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Landscape Architecture Blog

I found this blog called PRUNE - it has a lot of interesting blurbs about new and emerging ideas in landscape architecture and related fields. A good portion in the MAY 2007 section deal with flooding. Most of the articles contained in other sections touch base on some sort of disaster solutions, global warming and new energy sources.

Times Roundup - Something for Everyone

Quite the big news day. Below, a number of interesting articles from today's New York Times

From the Front Page, a biggie:

"Carbon Calculus" A proposal in Congress to put a price tag on greenhouse-gas emissions could overturn the economics of energy Article Here.

Also Inside:

Salt Lake city finds that sound environmental policy has emerged as a central organizing principle of the city's economic growth. Article Here.

On Staten Island, a boggy green break in one of the city's most industrialized stretches of waterfront is being preserved. Article Here.

For decades, Japan pursued economic development at all costs, but in an effort to protect the environment it is aiming to reverse destruction along the Kushiro River. Article Here.

Mum's the Word: We Found a Greener Gas. What's greener than HFCs for refrigeration? Carbon dioxide. Enter a public relations problem. Article Here.

The United States is the fastest-growing market in the world for wind power. Despite a patchwork of laws and regulations, many European energy companies would like to plant their windmills here. Article Here.

Fiji Water plans to become carbon negative -- that is, to more than make up for the greenhouse gases released in the creation, transportation and sales of its product. Article Here.

Photographs of Soil&Water Management in Japan

Interesting photography on various soil & water management practice in Japan. The book titled "Landscape" by the photographer Toshio Shibata features a lot of these practices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Disaster Vernacular

The Times reports on a new Post-Katrina housing vernacular, Post Storm or Disaster Vernacular. A useful article for all of the various flooding groups.

"The result is precisely the hasty, haphazard aesthetic that some planners warned would emerge unless officials seized on Katrina as an opportunity to rethink the Crescent City in a more systematic fashion. But to many people who live here, some construction is better than none, whatever form it takes. Although about a quarter of the population has yet to return, at least some people are coming home."

Monday, November 5, 2007

NASA Artic Melt Video

Al Gore Video

May 2006 SNL opening


Dwell Magazine's blog looks at Agro-Housing, projects that incorporate agricultural production and housing. Above, a project for China.

more at BLDGblog

Algae Fuel Cells

algae, biofuel, biocrude, LiveFuels, algae-based fuel, bio-based fuel, biodiesel, Solix, Greenfuels, NREL, US DOE, Department of Energy
Image by John MacNeill, commissioned by Solix Biofuels

If you think algae is just that green grime that dirties up your pool, think again: it’s also a surprisingly viable source for biofuel. The LiveFuels Alliance, funded by LiveFuels Inc based in Menlo Park, CA, is tapping into the oil producing potential of algae with an ambitious initiative to replace millions of gallons of fossil fuels with algae-based biocrude by 2010.


Friday, November 2, 2007

On desired and unexpected effects

Something that came up repeatedly in the review this week is the importance of not assuming that the effect of any implemented system or approach is either neutral or exclusively beneficial. Sediment transfer, water diversion, carbon sequestering, may have a number of unexpected consequences. It is important that to not assume that the best intentions always produce the best results. This is useful to us in two ways. It is desirable to explore and speculate on what those other effects might be in order to further define the performative parameters of the systems, but there is also an opportunity to explore the social effects and feedback that may be possible. This is unquestionably a significant aspect of the all of the projects and one that cannot be solved by any proposed technical program alone. It will require some speculation which will in turn open up new avenues of exploration.

I'm reminded of a fairly light but potent example. Below is the text of a the opening skit from Al Gore's appearance on SNL a few years ago. The video has been pulled from You Tube due to copyright, but the transcript is still pretty effective. The premise is a presidential address in a parallel universe where Gore won the 2000 election.

President Al Gore on Saturday Night Live

AL GORE: "Good evening my fellow Americans. In 2000 when you overwhelmingly made the decision to elect me as your 43rd President, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. We have accomplished so much, yet challenges lie ahead.

In the last six years, we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine. But I assure you, we will not let the glaciers win.

Right now in the second week of May 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas crisis in history.

We have way too much gasoline! Gas is down to nineteen cents a gallon and the oil companies are hurting. I know that I am partly to blame, by insisting that cars run on trash.

I am therefore proposing a Federal bail-out to our oil companies because hey, if it were the other way around, you know the oil companies would help us.

On a positive note, we worked hard to save welfare, fix Social Security, and of course, provide the universal health care we all enjoy today. But all this came at a high cost. As I speak, the gigantic National Budget Surplus is down to a perilously low 11 trillion dollars. And don't get any ideas. That money is staying in the very successful lock box. We're not touching it. Of course, we could give economic aid to China or lend money to the Saudis again, but right now we are already so loved by everyone in the world that American tourists can't even go over to Europe anymore without getting hugged.

There are some of you would like to spend our money on some made-up war. To you I say, "what part of lockbox don't you understand?" What if there's a hurricane or a tornado? Unlikely I know, because of the anti-hurricane and tornado machine I was instrumental in helping to develop…but what if? What if the scientists are right and one of those giant glaciers hits Boston? That's why we have the lockbox.

As for immigration, solving that came at a heavy cost, and I personally regret the loss of California. However, the new Mexifornian economy is strong and El Presidente Schwarzenegger is doing a great job.

There have been some setbacks. Unfortunately, the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Michael Moore was bitter and divisive. However, I could not be more proud of how the House and Senate pulled together to confirm the nomination of Chief Justice George Clooney.

Baseball, our national pastime, still lies under the shadow of steroid accusations. But I have faith in Baseball Commissioner George W. Bush when he says, "we will find the steroid users if we have to tap every phone in America."

In 2001, when I came into office, our national security was the most important issue. The threat of terrorism was real. Who knew that six years later, Afghanistan would be the most popular spring break destination, or that Six Flags Tehran is the fastest growing amusement park in the Mideast, and the scariest thing we Americas have to fear is … Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!"

Erosion closer to home

The Times looks at loss of beaches due to erosion and storm surges in the South.