Tech Tuesday 11/7/17 – Hulk Edition

Better pickings this time around. Enjoy folks!

Aero/Space

Aero1 – Last pics of Saturn’s rings before the plunge.

Aero2 – The new Hall thruster is setting all kinds of records!  To be fair, this is still pretty new tech, so beating records isn’t as hard as, say, squeaking out a fraction of a percentage more performance out of a turbofan, or something else we’ve been messing with for a hundred years or more, but still.

Aero3 – I just have a strange, call it romantic, fascination with airships.  Riding on one is most definitely on my bucket list.

Aero4 – NASA is looking at how Lobster’s look at you, right before you drop them in the boiling pot and start looking for the butter…

Architecture

Arch1 – In some ways, it has to be an exciting time to be an architect, what with advances in materials and construction techniques.

Arch2 – Because why should we limit architecture to just Earth.

Bio/Med

Bio1 – Another super vaccine (last time it was for the Flu).

Bio2 – Taking a closer look at how lungs work in micro/zero gravity.  Well, yes, we know they ‘work’, but will they keep working long term, or will they need help along the way.  This would all be so much easier if we would just hurry up and develop artificial gravity (the techno-whizz-bang kind, not the spin the ship kind).

Bio3 – I don’t know if we will ever beat dying of old age, but anything that can make getting old suck less is a good step in my book.

Bio4 – Hey, look, the Lenksi experiment is in the news.

Bio5Gut bacteria have their tiny little flagella into everything in our bodies.

Bio6 – Brain scans can identify suicidal people.  Yeah, can’t imagine how that could go wrong…

Bio7 – Sometimes I really wonder what the hell is wrong with headline writers.

Bio8 – Wasn’t this the plot of a Spider-Man movie?

Energy

Enrg1 – Sandia is using fractal patterns to improve solar efficiency.  I’m surprised we haven’t seen a lot more with regard to fractals and solar power.

Enrg2 – Another day, another story about making better batteries.

Enrg3 – Looking at giant clams to figure out how to scale algae bio-fuel production.

Environment

Env1 – As I’ve said before, models are tricky things.  If you have bad assumptions, or bad data, your model will produce bad results.  PS If this turns out to be true (it’s only one study), it does not bode well for climate change.

Env2 – Another bit on vertical farming with pink LEDs.  I like how they are exploring how much they can flicker the LEDs to maximize growth and energy savings.  Speaking of pink light...

Materials

Mat1 – Wait a minute, are you telling me that if you irradiate plastic with gamma radiation, it can make concrete stronger?  Does it turn green too?  Or make the concrete green?  No, you can’t claim that grey concrete is proof just because there was a grey hulk, we gotta start at green.

Mat2 – Graphene and silver make for bendy touch screens.

Mat3 – To make glass not shiny, make it not smooth.  Yes, there is an element of “Duh!” in this, but the approach taken is novel, and leaves the glass transparent enough to see through.

Physics

Phys1 – Cambridge is putting Dr. Hawking’s PhD thesis online under Creative Commons.  I heard a rumor the demand was so great when it posted it crashed the server.

Phys2Attoboy!  That is a quick laser pulse, I must admit.

Phys3 – Using superfluid helium to detect dark matter.  Superfluid helium is strange stuff, so I wouldn’t bet against this.

Technology

Tech1 – Remember MH370? What if we could have drastically narrowed down the search radius by listening?  New tech is using hydrophones to find ocean impacts anywhere in the world.  With video.

Tech2 – Nissan rolls out it’s first fully autonomous auto.  I can see a few obvious sensors, but otherwise it’s unremarkable.

Tech3 – Now that’s a good idea.  It’s about time the design moved away from “something cobbled together in college shop” and onto, “this is how to do it right”.

Tech4 – For entry, buzz my finger!  No, it’s not a fart joke!  How old do you think I am, 12?  Wait, no, don’t answer that…

Tech5 – A handheld infrared spectroscopy device that will allow people living in marginal areas to test for all kinds of food and water contami… wait, no, it’s for cops to use to test for drugs… sigh.  I suppose it has to be sold to someone who has money to spend, and on the bright side, it will hopefully cut down on the number of confectioners and herbalists getting arrested for having powdered sugar or oregano in their cars.

Tech6 – On the brighter side, Bill and Melinda are at least trying to help third world populations with sanitation projects.

Tech7 – This strikes me as a place where some machine learning will go a very long way.

Wacky, Weird, and Wonderful

WWW1 – Saudi Arabia is planning it’s own version of Dubai.

WWW2 – Sinking a ship to help for a coral reef is old hat.  Attaching a giant octopus sculpture to the ship so that it looks like something out of Captain Nemo’s nightmares not only creates a nifty place for coral to grow and divers to explore, it will most surely confuse the hell out of alien archaeologists as the explore the ruins of our civilization.

WWW3 – A kombi I can dig.

Image by Trev Grant


Associate Editor

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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91 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday 11/7/17 – Hulk Edition

  1. [Bio7] Um, OK:

    Compound based on iridium kills cancer cells by filling them with deadly version of oxygen when activated by laser light – without harming healthy tissue

    Deadly Version of Oxygen is the name of my progressive metal band.

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  2. [Aero2] – One more example of nominative determinism. “Scott Hall, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering at U-M, carried out the tests at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland”

    [Mat2] -That press release seems to claim a bit more than is warranted if I’m reading it right. The silver + graphene manufacturing process they’re talking about is only for the electrode that gets attached to the glass substrate. To get an actual bendy touch screen you still need a bendy substrate. Plastic scratches too easily for smartphone use, but it could absolutely go on something like Willow Glass.

    [Mat3] – I saw this one on Boing Boing yesterday. I’m curious how robust the nano patterns are against finger swipes (damage, grease entrainment, etc) and whether they would work with the chemically strengthened glass that is used in most phone screens. Still, it could be useful for reducing Fresnel losses on the unexposed side of glass in sealed systems like solar cells.

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    • I think you are right about Mat2, but the article wasn’t exactly clear about it, and I don’t have access to the paper. I doubt the process would result in the screen shown in the image, that is way too thick. Willow Glass, on the other hand, is pretty cool. First I’ve heard of it.

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  3. [Aero2] I thought I’d drop in the random reminder that the EM Drive still, apparently, works. Which is both awesome and upsetting. I think a number of physicists are now poking the thing with metaphorical sticks, trying to figure out any plausible mechanism that can generate thrust.

    Or poking at NASA’s testing, trying to figure out how they could have screwed up.

    (Fun fact: I know people who had to fabricate some sensor rigs for that test. They had quite a bit of difficulty vacuum and temperature hardening sensors good enough to pick up on thrust levels that low).

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      • Speaking of which, I really need to study more science stuff. The other day a couple of my friends nerd-sniped me, got me interested in Galois theory again, and now two weeks later I’m reading a book on category theory.

        ADHD — it’s a heck of a drug.

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      • In the case of the EM drive, I don’t think you’ll find any flaws in basic physics (or not so basic physics). Everyone’s certain momentum is being conserved, for instance.

        You put energy in, work is done, thermodynamics isn’t violated. The confusion is how it’s applying force, exactly.

        So I suspect it’ll end up being something akin to “One weird trick you can do with virtual particles” or something like that, or — still more likely — some weird experimental error. (Although as more people test the thing, that’s decreasing in liklihood).

        In this case, my fingers are crossed for it being “One weird trick you can do with physics” because even un-optimized (it’s really unlikely that the current configuration is the most efficient, given nobody is 100% sure how energy is being turned into thrust), it produces enough thrust to work.

        And reactionless drives are the Holy Grail of rocketry. Of course, that also makes it sort of the perpetual motion of rocketry, meaning there’s a zillion “reactionless drives” that don’t work.

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      • So your theory is that it’s…a rocket? You know, moves by tossing something very light very fast out the back end, or something very heavy very slow out the back end?

        Yeah, that’s the problem. It doesn’t toss anything.

        There’s nothing to toss. They bounce around some EM radiation in a resonator cavity and the thing apparently (by the best tests NASA could come up with, and NASA was pretty certain it was BS) generates thrust. It’s not doing it thermally, it’s not somehow pushing off the earth’s magnetic field, it’s not doing it using some weird trick with air (they tested it in vacuum, various temperature regimes, and in various orientations).

        The closest to “rockets as known to man” I’ve seen anyone hypothesize is that it somehow manages to orientate and use virtual particles for the brief span they exist, like an ion drive with imaginary ions.

        Honestly, at this point I’m not sure if someone’s trying to figure out it’s an aetheric drive built by one of the Sons of Ether.

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        • That’s my theory, I would have to sit down with some EMF guys to really work through it. If it is ejecting some tiny amount of EF, there would have to be a way to pick it up. It would run fine in a vacuum.

          EF doesn’t have much mass, and it doesn’t appear to be ejecting it very fast, or all this would be more pronounced.

          As a side note, cavity resonance is a pretty gutless wonder in producing thrust to start with, but it can be helped along.

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          • If it is ejecting some tiny amount of EF

            What does “EF” stand for here? I tried googling “EF mass” to decode the acronym, but I don’t believe the EM Drive runs by tossing out an unusual form of Catholic worship out the back end.

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            • Electron Field, which has mass. Now how it is ejected, what part, how much, I admittedly only have ideas.

              Maybe we could try worshiping somewhere else, but when it comes to thrust, I’ve been baptized in the holy church of mass and acceleration.

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              • If it fired electrons out the back end, it’d be an ion drive. (And an electron field…is an electron. Well, QFT views an electron as an excited state of a field, but same same)

                I don’t think you’re getting the “reactionless” part of the drive. It’s not tossing anything out the back end. That’s one of the things they tested for, and also there’s no actual source for crap to toss out the back end.

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                • I suppose you are correct, I am not buying it as a reactionless drive. My assumption is it is moving mass in a way not anticipated.
                  If it’s not pinching a electron field and throwing it, then it’s probably throwing electrons, for whatever value can be attributed.
                  Electron guns in open air have a pretty short mean free path, so I am not sure how to compare that to some open air ion drives.

                  In vacuum the functions are pretty well known. The electron gun in vacuum will move mass without the requirements of additional gas, although the mass is very little.

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                  • Well, you not buying it as a reactionless drive is understandable. Nobody does, and yet it works.

                    However, it’s not throwing electrons out the back end. You realize electrons don’t form ex nihlio, right? It’s an empty cavity. There’s no reaction mass to throw. And also they can actually track anything coming out the back end.

                    To throw electrons out the back end, you have to give it electrons and then shove them out the back end. Nobody’s giving the thing electrons. It’s got no source of mass to throw, and nothing’s coming out the back end.

                    An ion drive is a reaction drive, which requires feeding it reaction mass. Unless the EM fields in there are stripping matter off the resonating cavity itself, there’s nothing TO throw. And if they were, we’d notice the energetic matter coming out the back end. NASA has very sensitive instruments and I can promise they were looking for anything coming out the back end.

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                    • These discussions are always interesting. I am aware of what you have mentioned. The only thing that gets fuzzy is when we talk ion engines, as those can change how they function significantly between designs.

                      The designer claims it is not a reactionless device, so I guess I am in good company. He mentions high Q and I think if that follows in the doppler shift to increase or decrease frequency that leads to change in electron velocity then he probably is using electron mass.

                      In a way the claim that it doesn’t require propellant or mass is misleading in that Watts of energy are being input, and if your resultant is your moving electron mass, then it becomes one of those logical fallacy problems. I guess to strip it down to basics: ‘is electron mass a propellant?’. Since electron guns have already been reviewed as a thrust device, My opinion is yes, YMMV.

                      Whether you have a magnetron or whatever weird antenna thingy pointing and sending waves, microwaves and such at a metal plate inside a resonator cavity, It gets kind of a thing about how electron emission could work there. I mean it’s not like there is a lack of metal and opportunity.

                      The real interesting problem is if it is working fully closed system as claimed or if it is leaking electron mass. If there is a claim in change of velocity of the electrons internally, I would expect a counter velocity change to eventually, somewhere, cancel that out in a closed system. That’s a problem.

                      It’s not a obvious electron gun. I could see why there is no real reason to test it as an electron gun. It’s not going to make a nice clear beam like a designed device would produce.

                      Assuming the output would look a lot like noise from the input I don’t know how you isolate the measurements on a electronic/signal level.

                      I would probably start by putting a phosphor plate close behind the back plate and see if it glows while in a vacuum at full power.

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                      • Assuming the output would look a lot like noise from the input I don’t know how you isolate the measurements on a electronic/signal level.

                        Well, you start by hanging it in hard vacuum in a room as cold as possible (which is really, really cold). Then you point a ton of sensors at it.

                        That’s what you do after the obvious tests like checking whether something is coming out the back end.

                        Which is what NASA did. They hung it in an incredibly cold room (as close to 0 K as you can really get on earth for a room that big, in hard vacuum) and pointed a ton of sensors at it. They measured thrust, in significant (in the scientific sense) amounts, and no matter come out the back.

                        Again — there are no electrons coming out the back end, because no source of electrons are coming in the front end.

                        I guess to strip it down to basics: ‘is electron mass a propellant

                        Yes. An electron has mass and therefore would be a type of ion drive. That’s how reaction drives work — you transfer momentum by shooting something out the back end (and conservation of momentum says if you toss something out the back in, you’re also moving yourself forward). With light things like ionized atoms, you shoot them out very, very fast.

                        The problem with the EM Drive is there is no “something coming out the back end” so no one understands how it generates thrust, because either momentum is not conserved OR there’s something really squirrely going on. Energy is clearly conserved, but they’re not sure what it’s pushing against.

                        And yes, they’d notice a stream of energetic electrons zapping out the back end of thus sufficient to generate even the tiny amount of thrust this thing generates. Because they’d have to be highly energetic, or else being expelled in truly staggering quantities. Electrons don’t weigh much, and the EM drive ain’t light.

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                        • Well, If we can agree that electron mass on it’s own is a propellant there is no need to continue talking ion drives or ionized gas. The reactionary mass is electron mass or on the QFT side electron field mass.

                          If electron mass is enough to produce thrust then all is left is to determine if it is a closed or leaking system.

                          The magnetron is in the front. I assume you know how electrons function in a magnetron, at the front, of this device.

                          If they say they didn’t find electrons coming out the back, then I’m sure they didn’t find electrons coming out the back.

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                          • The RF cavity, the thing the magnetron fires into, is closed.

                            So when they’re talking exhaust that can’t be measured, they’re talking microwave photons — in short that the closed walls might be transparent at that particular wavelength, and that somehow the shape of the cavity creates an destructive interference of photons that end up with a lopsided result and thus thrust.

                            Thrust that tunnels through a metal wall to push on the other side.

                            You can see why it’s annoying physicists. They’re pretty sure it’s experimental error somehow, but can’t find it. Because if it’s not, it’s some weird third degree quantum screwery.

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                            • Ha, yes I know many of the reasons why it’s frustrating. I wasn’t sure if the magnetron cavity had to be closed on this particular device. There is mention of the resonance with the cavity, so in the end I don’t know if it matters.

                              Even if it just converts cleanly to microwaves, waves are still bouncing off that back plate, which creates a lot of other conditions.

                              As long as it uses electron mass, and momentum is conserved it’s not too screwy, just regular Newtonian stuff. We may have to brush up on the way we think about electron mass and electron fields.

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                              • No, see if you fire into a closed chambers they’ll bounce off one wall and into another, and the system will balance — it’s closed — and so you don’t get thrust.

                                That’s the basics. To go faster than you’re going now (in space), you have to throw something off the rocket. You have to shed mass. If all the motive force is coming from sending energy into a closed bucket, how are you shedding mass?

                                Which is why, if it works, people are proposing weird stuff. Temporary mass you toss off before it disappears. Photons that mostly destroy themselves, but the ones that are left have a bias in one direction — and penetrate the walls and escape.

                                If you’re not dumping mass, then you’re pushing off something — then you’re like a car. What can you be pushing off in space?

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                                • I think the claim is that the magnetron produces the photon waves, as the frequencies slows from the shape of the cavity, the electron velocity increases. Now what I find in some descriptions is the electrons then interact with the front plate.

                                  I suppose if the magnetron cavity was fairly open you would get the returning electrons/photons interacting with the mass of the electrons in the magnetron.

                                  I can understand both concepts, but i don’t buy either. My wager is still on electron mass exiting the back plate.

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                            • The scale differences certainly complicate measurement: watts, or tens of watts, in; microNewtons out. Any stray bits of thermal imbalance or odd magnetics are likely to produce more force than that.

                              Also brings up the interesting question that even with several orders of magnitude improvement in performance, it still needs MWs or tens of MWs of electricity to produce enough thrust to move big masses around in reasonable times. That’s going to be a fun design problem all by itself.

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                              • It adds up pretty quickly in space, and not lugging reaction mass around is pretty sweet. Plus, you know, if it works and they can figure out why they can optimize.

                                But yeah, the small amount of thrust has been a real issue in testing (hence me hearing people complain about trying to get sensitive enough instruments to work in not just hard vacuum, but as cold as you can get it — which, for NASA, means “pretty close to deep space”).

                                You can’t optimize the design to produce more thrust because nobody knows why it’s thrusting. They can — and have — designed experiments to rule out every other form of thrust they can think of (pushing off the earth’s magnetic field, thermal oddities, running it with and without power, varying the power, etc) — and come up with results that basically say “yes, it’s producing real thrust in every orientation.

                                Hence me thinking they’ll eventually toss one into space and see what it does over six months.

                                Nobody, not even NASA, is convinced it works. NASA released their results because they ran out of ways to test it and couldn’t say “It doesn’t work”. (As best I can tell, they held onto the results for several months after the testing was done, running internal reviews trying to figure out where they’d screwed up. They weren’t able to find any thing, and neither has anyone else).

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    • the EM Drive still, apparently, works. Which is both awesome and upsetting.

      If it’s real then we colonize the galaxy in a few thousand years.

      And the Fermi Paradox issue becomes much more, or much less, of a thing.

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    • Just wanted to note that I shared this info with two of my STEM student workers who’d never heard of it before and we all spent considerable time reading back through the literature and trying not to squee too loud at the circ desk.

      Can’t believe it’s still holding up….

      Anyway, thanks for mentioning it.

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          • Yep. Not to mention, you know, if it works it does may exploring space a lot easier. (I mean sure, you have that ground-to-LEO issue still).

            Depends on efficiency. I suspect that if it works, figuring out HOW it works might lead to a more efficient design. It might not get up there with NASA’s latest ion jets, but it doesn’t need to if you’re not hauling reaction mass.

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            • First, I think we haven’t proven it works outside of the margin of error.

              2nd, if it does work… we’re exploring the local stars within the century, and within a million(ish) years we’ve totally settled/explored/conquered the galaxy, and there had better be a happy answer for Fermi’s Paradox.

              Happy answer is it’s really, really hard to get to this state in evolution. Unhappy answer(s)… may mean we’re extinct.

              And speaking of unhappy, as far as I can tell, a reactionless drive makes near-light speed weapons cheap and easy. Imagine history if Physics let the bronze era make fusion weapons.

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  4. Bio6- This sounds like a really impressive achievement in Press Release-ology. It hits all the marks for taking speculative, very basic research and making it sound like far far more than it is. Even reading through the PR this sounds a bit out there: it’s a small N study though that is common with brain imaging, there are likely different paths to suicide depending on diagnosis and various medical problems so just using people with suicidal tendencies is pretty vague and you would need to follow a large number of people over years to see who actually suicides.

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    • I’d have to read the actual work to be sure (and sounds like the work itself is sufficiently outside my wheelhouse that I wouldn’t be able to evaluate it), but it more sounds like they’ve demonstrated that your anti-aging technology has to be paired with highly effective anti-cancer therapies to be effective. Which I think most people reasonably informed about cell biology would have guessed at. So it may be more a story that you need to work both sides to promote the happy medium (which usually what you’re doing in medicine anyways) rather than the thing being impossible.

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    • You can prove anything mathematically if you don’t limit yourself to premises that are true. They could have saved themselves some time and just started by assuming A ^ ~A. As far as I can tell from the article (and to be fair, science journalism is terrible, so this may not be an accurate description of the paper), the premise here is that aging is caused by senescent cells growing too slowly and cancer by cancer cells growing too quickly, and you can only selectively destroy one or the other. Left unexplained is why you can’t use one treatment to selectively destroy cancer cells and another to selectively destroy senescent cells, allowing healthy cells to dominate.

      In fact, both problems are under active research, and progress is being made. Slower than I’d like, certainly, but there’s no evidence that either is impossible.

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    • Now that they’ve figured out how to manage the color, LEDs are one of those technologies that will cause things to shift. I mean, in my house, right now, I have maybe a half dozen incandescent bulbs, which are mostly holdovers from the previous owner. The rest are LEDs, and only a few of those are the brilliant blue-white color LEDs were once limited to. The rest are warm white (2700K range). Can’t even really tell they are LEDs.

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  5. [Tech5] One of the festivals I attended this past summer had on-site spectroscopy for testing drugs. The cops on site had promised they wouldn’t bust people for bringing in their drugs to test – they were, thankfully, more interested in preventing overdoses than padding their arrest numbers.

    I guess this device is intended for screening, not full analysis, so it might not be useful in that kind of scenario – figuring out whether you’re looking at the drug claimed with some harmless filler, or the drug claimed, some harmless filler, and a tiny bit of fentanyl…

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  6. Arch1:
    And now, for a dissenting view…

    Let’s be really honest with ourselves: a brief glance at any structure designed in the last 50 years should be enough to persuade anyone that something has gone deeply, terribly wrong with us. Some unseen person or force seems committed to replacing literally every attractive and appealing thing with an ugly and unpleasant thing. The architecture produced by contemporary global capitalism is possibly the most obvious visible evidence that it has some kind of perverse effect on the human soul.

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      • I’ve become a bit tongue in cheek regarding architectural style wars.

        While I dearly love traditional and traditional-inflected work, much of art and architectural criticism is premised in the idea that there is a zeitgeist, and room for only one true authentic expression so any contrary one becomes threatening to our understanding of our place in the world.

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        • I’m a traditionalist in the whole ‘form follows function’ vein. This is not to say I can’t appreciate stylistic and artistic accents/flair in a design*, only that if the flair is going to significantly impact the cost of the project, it should have some function to justify the cost. This is why Frank Gehry just bugs me, he has designs whose form is just… form. The function, if there is one, is secondary to the form. It irks me.

          *Spent a long weekend at Disney’s Grand Californian, a hotel done in a craftsman style, with lots of accents and features in that style. So yes, the beams had decorative ends that jutted out into space, but they were still beams. And floors had hand-cut marble tiles laid into decorative floral patterns, but it still functioned as a floor. That kind of thing.

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          • I’ve taken a cruise on Disney’s boats. They were done with unified, specific styles. The one we were on was Art Deco, and I believe the other one was done Art Nouveau.

            My wife — very much more in tune with that sort of thing than me — was rather impressed by how well done it was, and how they had not just clearly picked a theme, but that the ship had clearly been done with the same design team with the same unified vision.

            I think Disney’s two new cruise ships continued this (I believe one was done in each style). Disney, if nothing else, seems to understand the power of a singular, coherent “style”. (They also have ridiculously good customer service.)

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          • It is ironic, that contemporary architecture does exactly what the Modernists hated
            They hated that a building’s shape had no relationship to what it did, or how it was constructed.

            Yet very few contemporary buildings have any “dialogue” or visible interaction between their construction, use, and shape..

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            • Yet very few contemporary buildings have any “dialogue” or visible interaction between their construction, use, and shape..

              Yes!

              Here we are in an age when we have materials and techniques that grants us a freer hand in design than every before, and to me it seems like Architects are spending more effort trying to be… how do I say this? Pretentious artists who get upset when people don’t appreciate their vision, because the building is painful to be in.

              They forget to other people have to use the space, not just their egos.

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        • I never ceased to be amazed about how many otherwise progressive people have their aesthetic preferences trapped in the Victorian era. There is a lot of good old-form architecture. I love a good Colonial style house or Brooklyn Brownstone if I could ever afford it. But I also love modern art and find it just as beautiful as a Turner. I have a general loathing of the Pre-Raphaelites which seems counter to most. People find the Pre-Raphaelites to be pretty, I think they are too false and idealized to be such.

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          • I have a general loathing of the Pre-Raphaelite

            Because you are a leftist in good standing, I will let that one go.

            There is a surprisingly large amount of pre-modern sentiment in leftist thinking.
            Many of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement were socialists, like William Morris.

            The architect Leon Krier has made a lot of sharp explanations of how capitalism and modernism are linked.

            But of course, aesthetics take on the meaning we assign them.
            Remember how Classical architecture meant both democracy for Jefferson, and fascism for Speer.
            When I look at contemporary architecture I see consumerism, the aesthetic of personalized luxury and brand consciousness.

            But of course there isn’t any argument that can supercede your own eyes, and overrule what gives you delight and fulfillment.

            Which leads me to conclude that my aesthetic judgment is like yours, a personal preference in a world without a guiding zeitgeist.

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            • I just can’t get over how clean and pretty their version of the Middles Ages is. It is a fantasy land that never-existed. I love a lot of older artists like Turner but much of 19th century art is nothing for me until you get to the Impressionists and their desire to paint En Plein Air.

              It isn’t Turner but I see a lot more beauty in a Richard Serra sculpture or a Donald Judd piece than a pre-Raphaelite painting of a noble knight or what not.

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              • Yes, it is and its one that even I have be cautious about, since a lot of nasty assumptions about class and culture can be hidden among the beauty.

                However one feels about it though, it is striking that the mass production and consumption of modernity is found so lacking, don’t you think?

                That even as our lives have gotten better in many measurable ways, there is something lacking and unfulfilling.

                What I find fascinating is how AI, robotics, and the internet may be changing how we manufacture things.

                For example, is it possible that AI driven 3D printing can bring about Distributism, a decentralized way of making things?

                For example, mass production became efficient by reducing variety and individual choice; You could have a Model T in any color you wanted, so long as it was black.
                And it gained efficiency by mobilizing massive numbers of workers in a single facility, all headed by a single centralized command structure.
                At its height, I believe the River Rouge assembly plant has something like 100,000 workers.

                But AI and robotics turns this on its head; it doesn’t cost more to make things individually than it does en masse.

                Like for instance, what if your local Ford dealership also could make and assemble Fords as a franchise, the way MacDonald’s hamburgers are? The plans and specs for the cars are available online, and 3d printers and AI driven machines mill the parts to a custom specification selected by each customer from their home.

                And what if the cost of robotic assembled cars was cheap enough to allow local artisans and craftsmen to do the paint and upholstery of the car?

                AI, robotics, 3D printing, combined with a universal basic income could make this happen.

                In my romantic imagination at least.

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          • ” how many otherwise progressive people have their aesthetic preferences trapped in the Victorian era.”

            I can’t bring myself to be moderator-level bothered about how you talk about architecture and fine art preferences, at least not today, but just for the record? This is an unnecessarily condescending way to phrase this point.

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  7. Not strictly tech but i did see it on the intertoobz. The elections seem to be going rather well for the D’s in Viriginia and other places. A socialist seems to be winning a state house seat in VA which is also notable and cool. Also first transgender state rep. Let the grist be gristed.

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    • Good results big picture in NJ: won governors house, held or increased control in House and Senate. My area went GOP (though that’s largely fiscal cons in the NYC suburbs) but margins shrunk with same candidate slate as ‘15.

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      • The Dems appear to have done very well in all the places where they were already strong: NE urban corridor and the parts of the West where they’re dominant or have been gaining ground.

        The most interesting result I’ve seen in Colorado was the Douglas County school board election (the county and school district share the same borders). Back story… Douglas County is by far the highest income county in Colorado. For a decade, the school board has been trying to create a voucher program that would allow district funds to go to private schools, including schools associated with churches. Every proposed program has worked its way up to the state supreme court, where the program was knocked down due to the state constitution’s ban on taxpayer money going to anything affiliated with a religious organization. Last time it looked like the board was going to appeal to the US Supreme Court. Then Scalia died and the board declined to spend another million or two of the district’s dollars with a 4-4 tie the best outcome they could realistically hope for.

        My understanding of “the new plan” was that with Gorsuch in place, and Trinity Lutheran Church decided, the board would revive the voucher program, take it up through the courts again, all the way to the SCOTUS this time. Yesterday, “the new plan” got kicked in the head when four anti-voucher candidates won seats on the board and are now the majority.

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