METAL »

[15 Feb 2010 | 4 Comments | 13,964 views]
Lace Fence: Demakersvan’s take on Chain Link

Standard issue chain link fence is in many ways like the late Bea Arthur’s character Dorothy Zbornak on Golden Girls:  brutally honest, tall, and often topped with barbed wire.  Efficient and not terribly expensive, chain link isn’t the kind of fence that the poet Keats would have written home about.  But then again, would the poet Keats have been interested in any fence that wasn’t constructed entirely out of Grecian urns and coated with fluttering nightingales?  It’s hard to say. 

Photo by Joost van Brug
Dutch design firm Demakersvan has produced a line of chain link fence that incorporates the …

FIRE, WOOD »

[12 Feb 2010 | 4 Comments | 7,224 views]
Intel Hexapod Robot Spider!

Kids these days.  You never know what they’re going to come up with next, but you can bet they’ll post whatever it is on YouTube.  In my day we made videos with cameras the size of Volkswagens, walking uphill both ways in the snow talking on 12″ cellphones that took D batteries.  We certainly didn’t sit around building robots out of Intel processors and spare parts.  But this is the second decade of the new millennium, and that is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Matt Bunting, an electrical engineering …

FIRE, METAL »

[10 Feb 2010 | One Comment | 3,530 views]
Absolutely TEX-FAB(ulous)

Recently I saw the ad for TEX-FAB on Archinect whilst trolling for competitions* and even though (or more accurately because) I thought that it was a Texas-set remake of the BBC show Absolutely Fabulous, I clicked on the link.  To my surprise, I discovered that TEX-FAB is a conference for Texas designers using digital fabrication techniques, and as a corollary Patsy will neither be shooting JR nor drinking vodka-champagne out of a boot-shaped glass.
TEX-FAB bills itself as a “new resource for designers, academics, fabricators, and students seeking out the innovative application of digital technology to the physical environment.”  The …

EARTH, WOOD »

[8 Feb 2010 | One Comment | 6,305 views]
Fungus Among Us

I have a confession to make.  I’m not proud to admit this, but I can’t keep it to myself any longer: I do not like fungus.  There!  I said it!  I don’t like mushrooms on my pizza and fairy rings creep me out.  Those little ridges on the underside of mushroom caps remind me of dirty filters on air conditioning units; I don’t like how they’re spongy and dense, or how mushrooms taste like soil.  They live on dead things and grow in damp, dark places.  It’s not that I …

FIRE, WOOD »

[5 Feb 2010 | 3 Comments | 4,942 views]
Jali Zari – Colorful Acrylic Panels

I assume you’re aquainted with acrylic already;  perhaps the two of you met while model-making in the wee hours of the night during architecture school, or maybe you’re wearing acrylic nails.  Could be you’re rocking an acrylic visor on your motorcycle helmet, or your exotic tropical fish collection swims in an acyrlic fish tank.  You love it because it’s lightweight, transparent, has good impact strength, doesn’t break into lethal shards, doesn’t yellow, lasts for 30 years, and never forgets to call.  But sometimes a person wants more than transparency.  Sometimes a person wants …

EARTH, FIRE, WATER »

[4 Feb 2010 | No Comment | 3,096 views]
The Wicked Walls of the West

When they poured water on the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, she started to shrink, screetching, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” and it seemed like a really unpleasant experience for her.  Another way to describe the conversion from evil green lady to a pile of black clothing might be to say that the Wicked Witch of the West underwent a phase change, although “I’m phase changing! I’m phase changing!” doesn’t really have the same ring to it so I respect the script writer’s choice of words.  We benefit from the phenomenon …

METAL »

[3 Feb 2010 | 2 Comments | 3,221 views]
Smooth as Silk (Honeybee Silk)

Until today I never in my wildest dreams imagined that bees could produce any kind of silk.  I thought worms were in charge of silk production and that was the end of it.  It pains me to admit this (you have no idea how it pains me) but I was wrong.  Not only are silk worms falling down on the job, as it turns out spiders aren’t any better!  Apparently it’s down to good old Apis mellifera (also known as the western honey bee) to make the silk that takes care of business.  …

EARTH, FIRE »

[3 Feb 2010 | No Comment | 8,001 views]
Get Lit: Lucem and Litracon

Light-transmitting concrete is kind of endearingly creepy looking – it reminds me of one of those tiny hypoallergenic dogs with no fur except in pale tufts on its oversized head.  I’m jarred by the fact that light can shine through something designed to be massive and essentially made out of rocks.  Glass fibers are embedded in the concrete in parallel, so that light is transmitted from one side of a block of the concrete to the other.  The technology is not brand new;  I saw light-transmitting concrete featured at the National Building Museum some …

WATER »

[2 Feb 2010 | No Comment | 2,044 views]
Liquid Glass

Your friendly neighborhood scientists are messing around with nanoparticles.  They’re doing it because materials take on new properties and even behave differently at such small sizes.  If you want to learn more about nanotechnology before we dive into liquid glass, take a look at this video from KQED:

Now let’s consider glass.  We are most of us by now fairly familiar with the material;  its primary ingredient is silica, it’s brittle, at earthly operating temperatures it tends to be fairly solid, and it loves long walks on the beach, horseback riding, and watching the sunset.  But when …

FIRE, WATER »

[27 Jan 2010 | No Comment | 5,143 views]
Chromazone Thermostar Ink

I’m completely obsessed with thermochromatic ink.  I’m obsessed with ink in general, ever since my undergraduate days in the print shop in Walsh.  But I am especially obsessed with thermochromatic ink – and not just because it’s how I know whether my beer is cold enough.  Thermochromatic ink changes color when the temperature drops above or below a specific threshold.  I found this lovely and slightly dense explanation of how this happens while I was looking at Chromazone Thermostar Ink the other day:
“ChromaZone is a microencapsulated thermochromic pigment which changes from colour to colourless …

EARTH »

[26 Jan 2010 | 2 Comments | 6,052 views]
Integrity Block

Concrete Masonry Units, also affectionately called “CMU,” provide those fortunate enough to be able to lay hands on them with an easy, fire-resistant, low maintenance, cheap way to throw a wall together in a hurry.  All that’s needed is a foundation, the aforementioned CMU, reinforcement, mortar, concrete to fill the voids in the blocks where necessary, and somebody with a strong back to put it all together.  Convince your somebody to stack these ingredients evenly in neat rows – and voila!  You have a wall.  You can even cover up CMU with something else if they look ugly.  So where’s …

WOOD »

[26 Jan 2010 | No Comment | 4,250 views]
Biopolymers – PLA

An astonishing amount of plastic is used in construction projects, although it performs primarily as a an insulator or protector, “embedded and unseen within the larger systems of a building” (Faircloth).  It can take on any shape from filmy transparent sheets to complex, chunky molded forms.  While its longevity is a virtue in some cases, the accumulation of plastic across the planet is cause for alarm.  A quick investigation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch led me to some disturbing photos of tiny pieces of plastic recovered from the bellies …

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