Intangible Data in Physical Form: 12 Scientific Sculptures


[ By Steph in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

scientific sculpture cosmos 1

Mathematical theorems, the physics of an object moving through space, and intangible scientific data are visualized three-dimensionally and made into works of art in these 12 sculptures and installations.

Kinetic Sculptures Based on Mechanical Waves

margolin 1

rgolin 2

scientific sculpture margolin 1

scientific sculptures margolin 2

“Inspired in equal parts by math and nature,” Reuben Margolin’s kinetic sculptures use pulleys and motors to recreate the complex movements seen in nature. These mechanical installations capture the crawl of a caterpillar, the movement of waves and other physical phenomena in a way that’s entirely unexpected and beautiful to take in.

‘Cosmos’ Sphere Made of Scientific Data

scientific sculpture cosmos 2

If you were to happen upon this sphere while walking in the forest, you couldn’t be blamed for wondering whether you’d discovered an alien spaceship of some sort. But the reality of ‘Cosmos’ is just as interesting: it’s scientific data in three-dimensional form, a record of a year’s worth of carbon dioxide patterns and measurements from the trees of Alice Holt forest in Surrey, England. The grooves on the exterior of the sculpture contain the data, which was collected from a nearby tower.

Interactive Sound Tapestries

scientific sculptures interactive sound 1

scientific sculptures interactive sound 2

A series of capacitive sensors were applied to suspended fabric using conductive paint for ‘Contours,’ an interactive tapestry installation by creative laboratory Bare Conductive and designers Fabio Antinori and Alicja Pytlewska. As people pass nearby, the sensors gather data about their movements and translate it into ambient sounds, making reference to the relationship between science and the body.

Cell-Inspired Sculpture Made of 1200 Mirrors

scientific sculpture mirrors 1

scientific sculpture mirrors 2

An egg-like sculpture made of 1,200 mirrors hovered in a tree in the city center of Nantes, France, visually representing the creators’ research into cells. French studio Collectif Timée based the sculpture on the Voronoi Diagram in which a mathematical formula creates cells from halfway lines around random space points. As the cells converge, a kaleidoscopic effect is produced.

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This Robot Disguised as a Penguin is the Cutest Thing You’ll See All Day


This Robot Disguised as a Penguin is the Cutest Thing You'll See All Day

A group of scientists have been trying to study penguins without disturbing them, and they may have found the cutest way possible of doing it: rovers disguised as baby penguins. These penguin-bots are able to get close to the penguins without raising the alarm or stressing out the penguins, which will allow scientists to collect data about them in their most natural state.

Tagged: penguins , cute , robots , science , squee

Cracked Mirrors: 12 More Eerie Abandoned Observatories


[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

abandoned observatories_main
These twelve abandoned observatories tell no universal tales; their heavenly visions now fatally fogged as their expansive domes lie locked and shuttered.

Odorheiu Secuiesc Observatory, Romania

Odorheiu Secuiesc Romania abandoned observatory(images via: Jakab Aron Csaba)

Vlad the Observer? The abandoned observatory in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Transylvania, Romania was abandoned before it was even operational. Construction began in 1889… make that 1989 (images can deceive) under the auspices of the autocratic Ceausescu regime which was rapidly nearing a violent end. By 1990, Romania had shrugged off communism and pre-approved projects like the observatory at Odorheiu Secuiesc found their funding cut off.

Truro Observatory, Cornwall, UK

abandoned observatory Truro Cornwall(images via: Belief In Ruins and UER)

Considering the reputation England has for inclement weather, was building an observatory in Cornwall really such a great idea? A group of amateur astronomers thought so, and in 2000 they demonstrated their confidence by volunteering time, materials and skills to build two domes with plans on paper for a third. The group was also confident local and regional governments would contribute funding to support the project, which in hindsight (and even foresight) was a huge mistake. By 2002 the project was deep in debt, all work stopped and vandalism began. A pity these so-called observers weren’t more, er, observant.

Lamont–Hussey Observatory, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Lamont-Hussey abandoned observatory  Bloemfontein South Africa(images via: U-M Astronomy and Joe Mynhardt)

The stately Lamont–Hussey Observatory located on naval Hill in the city of Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa, opened in 1928 and featured a 27-inch (0.69 m) refracting telescope. Conceived, built, owned and operated by the University of Michigan, the Lamont–Hussey Observatory closed in 1972 after its usefulness as an astronomical instrument had been superseded by numerous other such facilities.

Daniel S. Schanck Observatory, New Jersey, USA

Daniel S. Schanck Rutgers abandoned observatory(images via: Wikipedia/Tomwsulcer, AFAR and Rutgers Rarities Investigations)

Few abandoned buildings look as good as the Greek Revival-style Daniel S. Schanck Observatory, located on the Queens Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Architect Willard Smith took inspiration from the Tower of the Winds in Athens, Greece when designing the octagonal observatory building, which opened in 1865. After the observatory closed in the 1960s, the building suffered from neglect and occasional vandalism before being cosmetically renovated by Wu & Associates, Inc in 2012.

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Augmented Sandbox: Realtime 3D Topographic Landscaping


[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]


Simulating an amazing array of natural environments and phenomena, this dynamic playspace turns ordinary hand-sculpted sand into vividly colorful landscapes in the blink of an eye.


A real and working augmented reality sandbox, the system is designed to help educate students about earth sciences with a uniquely responsive and intuitive interface.


A team of data visualization and earth sciences experts, mainly from the University of California, created the setup using a Microsoft Kinect camera coupled with topographic visualization software and a 3D data projector.

From rough prototypes to its present state, the project has come a long way in terms of the level of rendering detail and response speed.

augmented reality sandbox

Tapping into a familiar form of childhood play, the project “allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees [and more].”

Of course, one can imagine an array of applications of this technology beyond classrooms and science museums, from Minecraft-style, construction-centric games to simulators and modeling tools for landscape architects and urban designers.

interactive 3d projected sandbox

More about this amazing project: UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), together with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research CenterLawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, is involved in an NSF-funded project on informal science education for freshwater lake and watershed science. The sandbox hardware was built by project specialist Peter Gold of the UC Davis Department of Geology. The driving software is based on the Vrui VR development toolkit and the Kinect 3D video processing framework, and is available for download under the GNU General Public License.”

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Origami Microscope: Fifty-Cent Design is Crazy Durable


[ By Steph in Gadgets & Geekery & Technology. ]

Origami Microscope 1

Not only is this a microscope made of paper, costing a total of fifty cents to produce, it can stand up to being thrown, stomped on and dunked in water. And it comes in a flat-pack of yardstick that takes just a few minutes to assemble. Foldscope by Manu Prakash has the potential to transform the way disease is identified and diagnosed in developing parts of the world.

Origami Microscope 3

Demonstrated in a 2012 TED talk, the Foldscope is about the size of a bookmark and based on the principles of origami. It has no mechanical moving parts and it’s cheap enough to disseminate for free and incinerate after use to safely dispose of infectious biological samples.

Origami Microscope 2

It might not seem like a lens this tiny would be powerful enough to identify samples of microbes like Giardia or malaria, but the unique optical physics of a spherical lens held close to the eye can magnify samples up to 2,000 times. The lens is about the size of a poppy seed and costs about 17 cents. It can be press-fit into a small hole in the center of the slide-mounting platform on the paper microscope body.

Origami Microscope 4

More sophisticated version have multiple lenses or even combinations of colored LED lights powered by a watch battery. Other additions include the capability to project images on the wall of a dark room. Prakash plans to give away 10,000 of the DIY origami microscopes to citizen scientists with the most inspiring ideas for their use. Prospective users can apply for a Foldscope kit by emailing


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Home Ice: 12 International Antarctic Research Stations


[ By Steve in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

antarctic research stations
Constructing a research station in Antarctica means thinking outside the box-like building but not TOO far outside… Great Scott it’s COLD out there!

USA: Palmer Station

Palmer Station Antarctica(images via: Christopher Michel and WHOI)

Built in 1968 on Anvers Island, Palmer Station is the only American antarctic base located north of the Antarctic Circle. The base’s activities focus on the study of marine life and most projects are seasonal in nature: the station’s resident population averages around 40 in summer but drops to 15-20 in winter.

Palmer Station Antarctica(image via: NASA)

But enough about the station, check out the photo above! In November of 2009, red-parka’d base personnel got together to send a friendly greeting to NASA’s DC-8 flying science laboratory flying overhead.

Ukraine: Vernadsky Research Base

Ukraine Vernadsky Research Base antarctica(images via: EYOS Expeditions, Wikipedia/Lewnwdc77 and Around This World)

Ukraine didn’t build the Vernadsky Research Base; the former Faraday Station on Winter Island was purchased from Great Britain in 1996 for the bargain price of one pound. The station’s main claim to fame is its bar, said to be the southernmost such establishment on earth, where thirsty and/or bored patrons can pay $3 a shot for vodka brewed on-site.

Ukraine Vernadsky Research Base Antarctica(image via: Rachel Lea Fox)

Now operated by the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine, the Vernadsky Station consists of nine buildings and can house up to 15 staff members. Full credit to Flickr user Rachel Lea Fox for the image above. Time for a new flag? Er, I wasn’t asking you, President Putin.

Norway: Troll Research Station

Norway Troll antarctic station(images via: Norwegian Polar Institute, Wikipedia/Islarsh and Reuters, Alister Doyle)

Constructed in 1990 and expanded 15 years later, Troll Station is Norway’s only year-round antarctic science base… problem? The Norwegian Polar Institute operates 8-person capacity Troll Station, which is located in the Norwegian antarctic dependency of Queen Maud Land. Troll Station is built on a bare rock outcrop poking through the ice cap and since the region is considered to be a “desert” in meteorological terms, heavy snowfalls and wind-blown drifting are not major concerns.

Norway Troll Station Antarctica(image via: Epoch Times/Heiko Junge/AFP)

As is the case with all antarctic research stations, accommodations at Troll Station are both limited and spartan… even if you’re Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Belgium: Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station

Belgium Princess Elizabeth antarctic station(images via: Treehugger, International Polar Foundation and Architects24)

Belgium’s futuristic Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station opened in February of 2009 and claims to be “the world’s first zero emission polar research station.” The 16-person capacity station draws electric power from solar panels supplemented by a network of nine wind turbines.

Belgium Princess Elisabeth Antarctic Research Station bicycle(image via: IRM)

Though sunlight is unavailable for months at a stretch, Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station’s location backing onto the rocky Utsteinen Ridge in Queen Maud Land exposes it to howling gales measured at up to 300 kph (190 mph). Calmer days are much appreciated by station staff. He’s rollin’, don’t be hatin’.

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