Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Graph necklace, Tjep, 2004

The familiar tick of scientific data...in a necklace.

"Modern life seams to be increasingly reliant on numbers that can be transposed into graph's, from the stock exchange to your heart beat, from global warming to traffic congestion rates. This piece of jewelry symbolizes mankind's cartesian way of defining the world, in an object supposed to embody our most emotional aspirations.This jewellery is not about eternal beauty but about results. "

But I'm waiting for the spectrum in a bracelet...
from Dutch designer tjep.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pi Poles, Robert Wilson

"Bearing a symbol crucial to science, Robert Wilson's pi-shaped power poles also bear a crucial 30 megawatts of power to make science at Fermilab happen. "

Designed and installed in the 1970s, when he was director of Fermilab. The original wooden structures are now being replaced with steel cast to the original dimensions.

A scientist with an eye for design.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Phonofone by Science+sons

In an age of electronic amplification, we've forgotten the power of the simple physical amplification of a sound wave, which used to be the only kind available. scienceandsons remembers:

"Through passive amplification alone, These unique pieces instantly transform any personal music player + earbuds into a sculptural audio console.
Without the use of external power or batteries, the Phonofone inventively exploits the virtues of horn acoustics to boost the audio output of standard earphones to up to 55 decibles* (or roughly the maximum volume of laptop speakers)
Upon connecting active earphones to the Phonofone their trebly buzzing is instantly and profoundly transformed into a warm, rich and resonant sound."

Unsustainable by Greetje van Helmond

Jewelry from saturated sugar solutions, by Greetje van Helmond, via dezeen.

This is the same procedure used for making rock candy, an edible science experiment popular in elementary school classes. Crystals, of course, are simply highly ordered arrangements of atoms or molecules. Once the molecules have begun assembling in an orderly fashion, other molecules will continue adding to the same scheme, it being energetically favorable to continue the existing pattern rather than to fall apart into randomness. Thus the formation of larger and larger crystals. The cords so cleverly used by Greetje simply provide a scaffolding for this natural process to occur.

You can do this in any sort of container you happen to have lying around, but Greetje uses actual chemical glassware. A set-up like this is mundane to scientists but often seen in popular culture as something sinister...bubble bubble toil and trouble...in which wild-eyed scientists concoct foul brews of death and destruction. I love that here, the lab instruments grow objects of delicate beauty.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Quantum Man by Julian Voss-Andreae

A quantum physics student turned sculptor, Julian Voss-Andreae creates scientifically inspired works. This work is itself quantized, composed of units at discrete intervals, but also beautifully conveys the essential ephemeral nature of quantum mechanics, about which it can be quantifiably said that there is no 'there' there.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Capacity by Annie Cattrell

This is not an image of a lung, but of the breath inside it.
Shortlisted for the 2007 Bombay Sapphire prize for excellence in glass design.
More about the artist at the V&A's site.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Star Skyscraper

Constellation-inspired skyscraper by architectural firm Gensler, for the headquarters of a banking firm in Quatar.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A designer talks about scientists

"Scientists look inside. Backwards. And then they look deep. They ask questions based on what they see, and look again. It's a perspective that combines scrutiny with humility, specificity with open-mindedness — factors not altogether mysterious to designers."

"As a visual maker, to spend any time at all with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us. In an age that is likely to be remembered for its self-absorption, it is an extraordinary thing to witness a lab filled with people devoting themselves passionately to understanding what DNA looks like, or how the immune system behaves, or what infection means for a human being fighting for her life. It's radical. It's humbling. And if we don't begin actively seeking new opportunities to learn, collaborate and contribute to this critical community of thinkers and doers, then we may have good reason to revisit that psychosis study."

from Jessica Helfand's article, Science and Design, the Next Wave, at designobserver.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How it works

So, basically, all forms of energy are flowing around us all the time (how did you think the radio signals get to your car?). They are stronger if you are closer to an energy source (like if you were right next to the radio tower).

Electricity is the flow of electrons; it is just energy. Though the electrons themselves are contained in the wire, their flow produces an energetic field around the wire itself. Flourescent lights work because an electric field passing through them adds energy to the atoms inside which become 'excited' and then emit light (the physics of this is a little complex and would require a more lengthy explanation...). Normally this is provided by voltage from a wire, but the field under a high power line is enough to excite these atoms.

So the fluorescent tubes glow. Probably much less than they would when powered from the mains, and therefore only visible after dark. Why isn't it dangerous? Electrical danger comes from both voltage AND current (flow). In other words, water contained behind the Hoover Dam is fine, but if it flows.... The current inside the tubes is very low; about the same as causes a spark after you scuff your feet on the carpet. So you can safely hold the tube in your hand and see it light. If you've ever been to a science museum and touched the silver ball that makes your hair stand on end you've experienced a high voltage at low current. A flourescent tube would light if you held it near one of these when it was on.

Interesting history: in looking this up on the web I found that many people already knew this trick:
"It is an old farmer's trick here in the States to conceal a coil underneath power transmission lines to run small irrigation pumps where no other power is available..."
"A simple test for a portable radio transmitter (typically ~ 2W) is to bring the antenna close to a fluorescent tube lamp. If the lamp lights when the transmit button is pressed, it is a useful indication that the transmitter is working..."

Field by Richard Box

While Leverhulme Trust artist-in-residence at the Bristol University physics department, Richard Box designed an installation called Field. It was created by planting 1,301 fluorescent light tubes into the earth underneath an overhead power line covering an area of 3,600m2. The electromagnetic fields from the power cables above, lit the tube lights to create this unique installation. As its name suggests, the installation took place in a field near the A46 between Bristol and Bath in February 2004. Hundreds of people flocked to see it. Inspired by a childhood story of a boy who played with fluorescent tubes under pylons near his home. Winner of the 2004 Bombay Sapphire prize for excellence in glass design.