We know that nature is vital to life on Earth, it sustains the planet, and it provides us with endless analogy and beauty. How many stories do we tell that talk about nature? It is such an inspiring and spiritual thirst quenching element of our lives. Where as Sheffield City Council have employed urban planners to remove many of the trees, to save the roads and paths, many differently minded projects are cropping up all over the world that work to include nature, not shut it out.
One such project is a 280 meter high tower in Singapore. The condominium style sky-scraper is intended to be used for all types of purpose from residential to commercial. Mixing everything up into one place does sound like a great idea. It has been done before, with the urban utopia apartments in the 1950s and 60s here in the UK. Lessons to be learned: Invest in maintenance and social life. When the estates are well looked after and the people are given plenty to do, it really can be a utopia.
The architecture companies, Carlo Ratti Associati and Bjarke Ingles Group are designing the building to house the multiple varieties of tropical flora that naturally occurs in the area. This will be interwoven between offices, homes, shops, and amenities. The garden landscape is planned to grow out from the exterior walls and up the sides of the building. This will allow passers by to witness snippets the urban jungle within.
Planned for 2021, the tower will also be kitted out with all the latest office technology, wireless as standard no doubt. Environmental controls will give residents and employees the chance to truly recreate their perfect haven, AI sensors will make sure everything is as it should be. This ultra modern experiment in natural living is perhaps one step up from another similar tower in Milan. The Bosco Vertical by Stefano Boeri houses some twenty-one thousand flowering plants and trees.
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Remember Jurassic Park? The film where a prehistoric mosquito was harvested for the dinosaur DNA in its gut. Perhaps a little far fetched and fantastical, perfect for entertaining the masses yet a stone's throw from real science, it's unlikely that anyone will be able to breed a prehistoric creature from ancient DNA. Who knows though, seemingly impossible things are achieved all the time. Just picture yourself reading this article on your device. Unbelievable eh?
This time, real scientists have discovered an actual prehistoric mini-beast encapsulated in ancient amber. Just like the film! And also, much like the film, this item gives us a 3D perfect biological image of something that has been extinct for millennia. No fancy tricks with expensive special effects in mock-up biotechnology labs, this time it's the creature inside that is causing all the fuss. Is it a spider? You decide. What's the evidence? It has 8 legs and it carries complicated web spinning apparatus. The only other point is that this creature also sports a large tail. Huh? Spiders have abdomens but not long tails, do they? Well maybe there once was a spider that did. Or maybe this creature predates modern spiders and although an arachnid, cannot be called after its modern most adapted example.
Scientists are up in arms over the debate. Biologists the world over can't get enough of this world famous eight legged spidery ancestor. There are in fact two preserved fossils of the creature, named Chimerarachne yingi, and they have been extensively studied by scientists from Harvard and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The jury is out on this specimen, either the last member of a long tailed arachnid family thought to have died out around 100 million years ago or a new type of early spider not previously known, the biology of the animal undoubtedly sheds light on the evolutionary process which gave rise to our fly eating friends.
Discovered in Myanmar, the controversial creature has been causing a stir in the web of knowledge. Whether or not the world should care more about the Rohingya crisis between Bangladesh and the home of this fantastic fossil is another story. In either case, it is good to know.
How To Keep Children Imaginative As They Grow Up? Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom | Alternative Fruit
In our verbal world of written word instructions and commands, our perception on life becomes ever more skewed towards authoritarian linguistic order. We stop thinking in terms of smells, feelings, and sounds, but more into realms of abstract symbolism that suits particular elements of life. If we don't have a word for it, it isn't considered. What we don't consider doesn't become part of the process of exploring life and all it has to offer. So as we grow more groomed into the verbal unitarian forms of thought and therefore experience, how do we manage to stay one step outside of the box?
When two thirds of prospective teachers in the USA consider memorizing answers as a better form of education than imaginative thinking (source), no wonder the world appears to struggle having an original thought. The parrot fashion mannerisms that automatically dictate how me make decisions and how we prioritise our goals have begun to sink deep into our personal psyche. As we're told the same stories with the same morals and the same behaviour, the education on what it is to be human is instilled with very page.
Imagination helps us to think subjectively and objectively at the same time. Once we have a multiple perspective on situations and people, we can begin to appreciate the dynamics of situations. With a direct positive influence on social life and sense of belonging, having an imaginative side to our personality gives us the keys to a life with much more variety and intrigue than those without it.
Author of Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms, Wendy Ostroff, has outlined several techniques for investing in the creative and imaginative potential of students in the school system. With a modern outline, taking into account for the millennial lifestyle of transmedia and digital footprints, the nest egg of ideas caters for the modern young learner. Although detailed and explained in full through the book, the key points are mentioned here.
Brighten Up – Don't take lessons so seriously. The information will find its way into the mind somehow, and as long as students feel relaxed and confident the learning will be secondary to simply being themselves.
Hold “Creative Councils” - Form think-tanks of students with visionary and problems solving minds to discuss and formulate solutions to problems. Have other children take part in the whittling down of ideas into more realistic and feasible suggestions.
Doodle Time – Art can be limitless and using doodles to free up the creative elements in the mind is an excellent and simple method of teaching. The psychological benefits of simple doodling are well documented and art therapy often makes use of this doctrine for helping clients to relax.
Make It Real – At every opportunity, translate the lesson material into something real that students can relate to. Draw on the experiences of self and students to talk about the lesson in terms of something that actually happened and can be discussed.
Have A Go Impro – When we make things up as we go along, sometimes we get a mess. Other times our minds seem to be able to create a picture from seemingly unknown connections and create something fresh and exciting. It's a great idea to encourage this in the classroom and see what everyone comes up with. It really helps students to think holistically about the subject.
Collaborative Story Telling – Get everyone to have a go at adding a few lines to a story or poem. Using each student in turn can reveal interesting groupings and networks of creative thought.
Track Google Searching – By looking back at the chain of searches while researching a topic, students can begin to appreciate how one piece of information inspires further questioning. These questions all formulate a web of knowledge around a subject. Tracking web searches helps to plot mental images of these information networks.
That's the outline, and of course everything is explained in much more precise and deep detail in the book, out now.
It was Michelangelo who said that “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Perhaps a child can be seen in this way, and within the individual is much more than a statue. With the right nurture we can produce a generation of creative heroes.
It is almost universally agreed upon that human induced climate change is extremely damaging. There are species that are struggling to cope with changes in their habitats, the usual evolutionary process simply isn't being given enough time to compensate. The weather is growing more extreme, with severe floods and storms playing a larger part in the global climate. Coastal cities are all at risk of being eaten up by the ocean.
This passive geoengineering has been taking place for many years, as industry is the main polluter of our planet. Along with combustion engines, coal powered steam engines, and agriculture, the activities of human beings are having dramatic consequences at an ever increasing rate. As land is changed for human purposes and the atmosphere is polluted with our waste, the natural planet is suffering.
One idea has been to actively use geoengineering to patch up the mistakes. Cloud seeding, for example, is an idea that has been kicking around for several decades. A plan was to use white clouds to reflect sunlight back into space. Seeded by salt crystals, the cloud could be long lived and substantial in size. This would reduce the amount of solar radiation meeting the ground. Thought to help reduce the temperature, some argue that it will not be effective.
What ever we decide to do, geoengineering is beginning to look more and more like the only real option. Unless the big polluters suddenly shut up shop and use some of their fortune to clear up the mess they've made, the climate is only going to be more stretched each year. There is a warning on the packaging however, as a new study released today in Nature Ecology and Evolution professes, if we were to mess it up then the whole world could fall apart around us.
So how do we react to this news? If you're not already glum about the environment then you really need to be headed that way, and also maybe this is the kick up the bum we need to hear to make us start really thinking about how we use energy and dispose of our waste. Business solutions like Arrow Direct who recycle computers and tablets for cheap resale are making good way, how do you do your bit for the planet?
IT might be a little too cold for a long walk out in nature this weekend, for many of us an ice cold nose tip and numb feet are too much like hard work. Like many of us, you probably turn to the various forms of electronic entertainment that adorns the home. Fair enough, that's what it's there for.
There is something to be said though, for making use of our time to explore and do things that possibly aren't catered for by the major television networks. Something fascinating and well worth your time is a fantastic video made by NASA.
Now from the cosy comfort of a centrally heated living room, we can delve into the depths of the cosmos in fabulous 3D detail. With a computer generated journey through the Orion Nebula, made precise by years of telescope observations, you can now see the star nursery up close and in spectacular detail.
Hailing from the part of the sky where we see the constellation of Orion the Hunter, the nebula is actually a giant cloud of interstellar gas. From this gas, stars are being created by the forces of gravity. We can see these star-births in all their stages of development thanks to the varying times of their beginning. There are enough birthing stars in the sky to draw a really detailed picture of the process. The same can be said of dying stars.
So why not take a trip around the galaxy, and see for yourself what is out there. The Orion Nebula video is likely the first of many that make use of the great new technology that allows us to render incredibly rich and detailed, true to life maps.
Snap! AI Uncovers 8 Planet Solar System 2,500 Light Years Away in the Constellation of Draco | Alternative Fruit
It's not only speech recognition and smart home appliances, AI is doing all kinds of jobs for us. It's suited to jobs that involve lots of numbers. AI can calculate and decipher patterns at the speed of electricity. This is why asking it to search for planets around other stars has been so fruitful. By assessing data from the Kepler telescope, the technology has discovered something that we didn't.
The funny part is, we already knew about seven of the eight worlds orbiting Kepler 90. The name comes from the telescope that discovered it. The AI found the extra one, and it so happens that it is in the same spot as the Earth, 3rd one out. Named Kepler 90i, out of alphabetical order to its neighbours, the wonky roll call goes to show how new our technology and understanding is.
This Earthly planet is around a third bigger than our own. Because of the differences in the star's output and orbital range of the system, Kepler 90i is expected to be around the same temperature as Venus. That's a rock melting 400 degrees or more. This means that it is unlikely to be anything like the Earth up close, but it does tell us a lot about what kind of worlds are out there.
But how do we know all this? Tiny fluctuations in light and gravity induced wobbles of stars are the tell tale signs of planets. Being able to detect these things at great distances is difficult. Extremely receptive giant mirrors are the key. These capture the light required to determine the give-away changes in positioning and brightness.
Together with the number crunching smart computers, able to see the patterns we miss, the telescopes and space scientists are opening the book of the cosmos and turning its pages with ever increasing velocity. We are always only moments away from another discovery, and it can only be a matter of time before we find something like the Earth.
Read more about this discovery.
What would you call a planet if you discovered one? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.
There have been many advances in biological materials over the past few years, but when obtaining the control required to create them in sufficiently complicated structures, the uses of the technology have been limited. Now however, a team of scientists have demonstrated the use of bacteria in 3D printer ink to create two distinct structures.
One of the 3D printed materials can be used to remove pollutants, having uses in the environmental sector. The other material can be used to create cellulose, which is used in the medical industry. These living materials are the first of many which utilise complicated three dimensional geometries in their structure.
What next? Bacteria is famous for having remarkable properties. They can be found in almost any environment, finding food and energy and creating a huge amount of various molecules in the process. The exact way bacteria interact with their environment can also be altered genetically, meaning that nature's palette is at our fingertips.
Medicine and technology as a whole stand to benefit from this emerging new technology, even the food industry can benefit with special materials designed to make edible molecules and ingredients. The applications of this technology stand to change the way we synthesise molecules on factory scales. Bacteria can create enzymes, proteins, salts, chalks, and long chain polymers and now that it's possible to accurately place them within complex geometries, the consistent and predictable aspect to this technology can be applied.
The main issue with recent struggles in this advance has been forcing the bacteria to remain immobile within the biomateirals. Fixing them into place using the 3D printing required specialist molecules that could hold the cells appropriately. This new technology grants scientists full control over the spatial alignments of individual cells, making this the beginning of a very exciting time in material science.
Want to know more?
Read the scientific paper on this subject.
The BBC may not be well known for cutting edge techniques and pioneering the use of new technology, perhaps we normally look to the big screen for such things. However Virtual Reality has been something they have worked with on a number of occasions.
Making use of new technology teaches us how it can be used to the best effects, and by trialling various methods and styles, we can learn about how the technology works within the given media. VR has been used in countless projects, from computer games to training simulators, but finding its niche in the media sector has been tricky.
The BBC have worked with several companies over the years to produce virtual reality media, such as the 360 camera shot “Trafficked” which looks at the scourge of human trafficking in glorious panoramic detail. There was also the highly acclaimed “The Turning Forest”, which was run with Google as a virtual reality sound immersive fairytale.
Now, the BBC have turned to the technology again. Pioneering the uses of VR for the television watching generation with the final frontier, the launch shows us an all encompassing tour of a spacewalk outside the ISS.
Taking a leap from the recent Google ISS street view, viewers can now experience the act of floating around in zero gravity with nothing but a space suit to keep the vacuum of space from reaching you.
By paring up with production teams called VR Hub and Rewind, the BBC aim to release short and powerful pieces that make full use of this inventive and inspiring technology. The spacewalk is just the first of many experiences planned for the future.
Read the press release.
Download the tour for free.
Watch the short trailer.
In order to take care of its users, and to provide a service that takes account of the intimate level of connection a person has with its interface, Facebook have been testing suicide prevention AI algorithms. In previous roll-outs, the system required a human to notify the program before any action was taken, however now it believes it can detect risk of suicide or self-harm before anyone else.
With determined parameters to choose from, the artificially intelligent program can make a choice whether a person is at risk or not. The status updates and live video feeds can all be monitored by a non human guardian, quietly checking up on everyone's mental health. Provided the data is not shared or used in inappropriate ways, there is no real change here. Facebook have been able to monitor what users upload since it began. Only this time, even more psychological insights can be gained by what computers have managed to learn about people.
Similar AI systems have been used to determine exactly what the alarm bells look like and what people generally do when they are about to harm themselves. By learning about the behaviours of people who are at risk in this way, it's possible to now guess accurately before the events may occur. Appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard the individual and in the case of Facebook, the system detects a high risk then alerts a real person who will make a trained human decision whether or not to contact emergency services.
So far the AI has only been available in the United States, and with this new upgrade the rest of the world will also get their chance to make use of this new technology. The only place where it wont be used is the European Union. Data protection laws in the EU prevent companies from having these powers. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he wants the website to act as a community, presumably seeking to care for and nourish friendships and relationships.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are an ancient set of texts which contain part of the Holy Bible. Thought to be perhaps the original version of some religious and historical texts, their origin and history are matters of peaked human interest. The world faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all take scripture from the original Hebrew writings that date to several periods in time BC.
A popular theory is that the people who wrote and then hid the scrolls within the area now known as West Bank in the Middle East were the Essenes. This mystical sect of individuals have roots that share similarity to Judaism at the time, and it's believed by some that many of the apostles of Christ could have been Essenes.
The location of the scroll findings, named Qumran, was founded nearly three thousand years ago and its peoples have changed in culture over this time due to the changing world powers in various points in history. The Essenes were present in Qumran during pre-biblical times which does suggest a likely candidacy for the origin of the scrolls.
New skeletons were uncovered in the same area recently, and these have been studied in great detail. Bone samples were taken and tested, and the skeletal remains were examined in situ. A lot more detail has been uncovered about the people who were in the area at the time of the scrolls, since the skeletons have been found to be of the same age.
The most interesting factor in the remains is that every skeleton is considered to be from a male. A few children were discovered too, however the all male population suggests that the area was used differently to a usual community. Men dominated certain trades and the military has traditionally always been male for Roman culture which was also thriving during the same period.
This leads archaeologists to conclude that the keepers of the Dead Sea Scrolls could have been a male religious sect, possibly practicing celibacy like the members of Byzantine monasteries which began to appear around 330AD. Perhaps it is a cemetery for traders who could have acquired the scrolls in some form of transaction. Another theory suggests that a military cemetery was built there, and the scrolls could have been spoils of war or taxation however none of the skeletons showed signs of war trauma or unusual mortality in early life.
Once the bones had been examined, and determined to be of the same age as the scrolls and all from males, they were respectfully buried in the spot they were found in. Knowing more about the people who lived in the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden in a set of caves in Qumran, can help scholars, theologians, and laypeople alike to feel a little closer to the books which frame so many aspects of our lives.
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