Tech does double duty this week, as we look at floating gardens that clean rivers, houses that produce oxygen and drones that create a Wi-Fi network.
UC Berkeley graduate student Jeff Benca used new computer graphic techniques to produce a realistic, full-color digital image of an extinct plant called a lycopod that flourished 400 million years ago.
Water and algae flow through channels built within the transparent walls of the Urban Algae Canopy. As the sun shines, the microalgae organisms photosynthesize, growing thicker and shading the interior. The growth of these organisms also produces oxygen equivalent to four hectares of woodland. Designed by ecoLogic Studio, this structure will be displayed in Italy at Expo Milano 2015.
Artist Miguel Chevalier created an interactive light installation at the Sacred Heart of Casablanca Church in Morocco using sound and lights to transform the floor into a magic carpet. As visitors move about the church's interior, cameras and sensors track the motion and use the information to change the patterns on the floor. The space becomes a life-size kaleidoscope.
Military drones that become outdated won't be tossed into the recycling bin. DARPA has an idea to repurpose them as flying Wi-Fi hotspots. The project will provide military personnel with reliable bandwidth when they're out in the field in remote locations.
As the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 showed us, nuclear power plants and tsunamis are not a good match. But researchers from MIT have an idea that could greatly reduce such a catastrophe in the future. Their idea is to construct sturdy floating platforms, similar to the ones that support offshore oil and gas rigs, and moor them five to seven miles offshore in deep water, where a tsunami wave would have no effect.
New York-based architecture firm REX has proposed a unique design for twin skyscrapers to be built under the hot, Middle-Eastern sun: Towers enormous retractable sunshades that resemble parasols. When opened, the 12-sided umbrellas would overlap to form a 700-foot-tall sun-blocking curtain. The overall appearance of the opened umbrellas looks like a type of latticework called Mashrabiya, which is common in the region.
Google Project Ara
What do you get when merge Lego-like function with Google smartphones? Answer: Project Ara. The new smartphone will allow users to add components, such as a new camera, a processor, more RAM or a different display size, brick-by-brick. Upgrading won't require buying an entirely new phone and users will be able to spend their money on the features they like best.
Thayne Edwards/Sandia National Labs
This credit-card-sized device is actually an anthrax detector developed by Melissa Finley at Sandia National Laboratory. The cartridge was made to cheaply and effectively test for Bacillus anthracis, which can cause illness and even death in both humans and animals. To test for the bacteria, a person swabs a soil sample onto the designated chamber. The device contains chemicals that react and produce an indicator line, similar to a pregnancy test, if the bacteria is present.
BMW i3 electric car was crowned as both the Green Car Of The Year and the Car Design Of The Year at the New York Auto Show.
Vincent Callebaut Architects
Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut is known for his fantastical and eco-friendly designs. His latest work, the Physalia, is a whale-shaped floating garden built to purify rivers. The hull is made from titanium, which reacts with sunlight to kill bacteria, while additional water gets pumped through a garden that serves as a biological filter. Thin-film solar panels on top of the craft as well as hydro-turbines beneath generate renewable energy.
After an ill-advised binge-watching incident a couple of years back, I became obsessed with “Game of Thrones” — both the acclaimed HBO series and the original epic fantasy novels by author George R. R. Martin, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” I tried plowing through the books, but soon became hopelessly lost in the story’s infamous scope and complexity. I didn’t blink for nine days straight, and I think I sprained a frontal lobe.
So I could have really used this interactive “Game of Thrones” map, which renders the vast continents of Westeros and Essos in familiar Google Maps format, with all manner of useful tools and overlays. Assembled by hardcore “Game of Thrones” fans (are there any other kind?), the map is designed to orient followers of the TV series or the book series, using the familiar Google Maps interface.
Toggle between “Chapters” or “Episodes” and the interactive map switches to accommodate, adjusting the ingenious “Spoilers” sliding pop-up tool. Simply indicate the book chapter or series episode you’re currently at, and the map automatically obscures locations and map elements that might spoil future story developments.
From there, you can explore the map’s other tools. The “Show Regions” buttons identify which noble house currently controls which city or region. “Show Character Paths” traces the travels of two dozen major characters. Click on a particular location, and you’re shuttled to the vast fan-administered wiki project, “A Wiki of Ice and Fire.”
It’s a clever and generous piece of work, useful for anyone brave enough to grapple with the impossibly huge fictional world of “Game of Thrones.” I applaud the civic engagement — if we’re going to wrap our heads around this thing, we have to work together.