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05 Dec 16:08

Hogan McLaughlin Spring // Summer 15

by Samantha
Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring // Summer 15 Pre-orders are currently open for a brief window with an expected holiday shipment. Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15 Hogan McLaughlin Spring/Summer 15
18 Dec 19:34

Corporate Disruption using Snowden Style Moral Warfare

by John Robb

In light of he Sony hack, here's some earlier GG thinking on disrupting corporations.

The most interesting aspect of the Sony hack?  

As we anticipated, nobody cared.  Not the public.  Not the government.  

In fact, most people made fun of the victims and the information released was widely reprinted. 

Why did wasn't there a response?  Three reasons:

  • the attack was bloodless and it wasn't aimed directly at the decaying infrastructure of the nation-state,
  • the wealthy victims don't evoke any empathy with a jaded/abused middle class, and
  • the ability of the nation-state to provide security is diminishing very rapidly (as Snowden showed, they can't even protect themselves).

What does this attack mean?

  • Moral warfare against corporate targets works.   Snowden showed it worked against the NSA.  It is working against Sony due to the mendacity and simple nastiness of the personalities involved.  As a result, Sony, and everyone associated with Sony will suffer economically.  The company is now toxic, further everyone damaged by the hack is going to sue it.  In fact, the damage from these leaks may be severe enough to tank the company.  
  • This is survivable for the attackers.  The lack of punishment for this attack in addition to the earlier example seen with Snowden, shows that it's possible to conduct this type of attack repeatedly without evoking a 9/11 level manhunt.  
  • We're going to see this again and again and again.  JP Morgan was hacked at the root level last year.  All of their e-mails and data may end up being bought and used in a moral war against the company in the future.  We may also see some innovation.  For example, it can be focused on a single individual with ease.  I suspect an attack like this could destroy the net worth of a billionaire if done in the correct way.  Not only that, most people would probably laugh at the victim's descent if the right target is chosen.
18 Dec 15:56

*Well, there it went.  A rehearsal, with an empty capsule, for...



*Well, there it went.  A rehearsal, with an empty capsule, for an Indian manned space flight.  The launch was successful.

http://scroll.in/article/695451/India’s-latest-space-rocket-is-no-‘jugaad’

 

17 Dec 00:00

Payloads

With a space elevator, a backyard full of solar panels could launch about 500 horses per year, and a large power plant could launch 10 horses per minute.
16 Dec 16:49

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15 Dec 17:00

Design of the Week: Kinematics Dress

by General Fabb

This week’s selection is Nervous Systems’ startling Kinematics Dress. 

The problem of 3D printed fashion for many years has been the lack of sufficiently flexible materials. Thus, the fashion you’d often see involved “hard” objects, such as jewelry, belt buckles, head adornments or various rigid attachments. These items have also been far too small to make up an entire fashion outfit, as the build volumes of 3D printers are typically far smaller than most humans. But recently we’ve seen several folks experimenting with a new approach to flexibility: linkages. 

We first saw this approach in London at Digits2Widgets lab, where they had created 3D prints with almost fabric-like qualities. However, it was only a small section. Now we see the brains at Nervous Systems, Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, have used a similar technique to produce an entire dress with appropriate flexibility. 

Rosenkrantz explains: 

We’ve created a large object from a 3D scan of a person that is much larger than a 3D printer. And then we’ve used a physics simulation to fold up the dress into a small form that can fit inside the machine for fabrication. So the entire idea of this hinges on when we take it out of the machine it can unfold into a dress. 

That’s the key: enabling printing of an entire fashion piece within a limited print volume. That requires flexibility, but so does the dress itself when worn. Creating a dynamic “chain-mail” like object does the trick. 

And does it have flexibility! Please watch the video to see the natural motion provided by this ingenious approach. 

As you’ll see in the video, it was uncertain whether the experiment would succeed. Could you really 3D print a folded dress? Would it unfold without breaking? Fortunately, the experiment was a complete success. 

The work was produced at Shapeways’ Brooklyn factory, where their EOS machines printed the dress in nylon. The dress has now transferred to New York City’s MOMA for permanent display. 

We believe this is a milestone in 3D print design, as it now opens up a broad range of possibilities for fabric-like fashion design. Nervous System were one of the first to produce computer-generated 3D printable jewelry some years ago; it looks like they’ve broken through another barrier this week. 

Via Shapeways

11 Dec 09:00

scienceisbeauty: Cladogenetic tree of representatives of all...





scienceisbeauty:

Cladogenetic tree of representatives of all living organisms.

High-res PDF

Via Texas Citizens for Science

11 Dec 17:48

*Optical illusions for computer vision...

20 Nov 19:01

Art Arm

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: "Untitled #13," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

San Francisco-based designer and architect Andrew Kudless is always up to something interesting, and one of his most recent projects is no exception.

For a new group of small works called "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014), Kudless is exploring how robots might make visual art—in this specific case, by combining the instructional art processes of someone like Sol Lewitt with the carefully programmed movements of industrial machinery.

[Image: The robot at work, from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

In Kudless's own words, "The work is inspired by the techniques of artists such as Sol Lewitt and others who explored procedural processes in the production of their work. The script, or set of rules, as well as the ability or inability of the robot to follow these instructions is the focus of the work. There is almost a primitive and gestural quality to the drawings created through the tension between the rules and the robot’s physical movement. Precisely imprecise."

[Image: "Untitled #16," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

These giant robot arms, he continues, "are essentially larger, stronger, and more precise version of the human arm. Made up of a series of joints that mimic yet extend the movements of shoulder, elbow, and wrist, the robot has a wide range of highly control[led] motion. The real value of these robots is that, like the human arm, their usefulness is completely determined by the tool that is placed in its hand."

So why only give robots tools like "welding torches, vacuum grippers, and saws," he asks—why not give them pencils or brushes?

[Image: "Untitled #6 (1066 Circles each Drawn at Different Pressures at 50mm/s)," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

The results are remarkable, but it's specifically the unexpected combination of Lewittian instructional art with industrial robotics that I find so incredibly interesting. After all, Kudless ingeniously implies, it has always been the case that literally all acts of industrial assembly and production are, in a sense, Sol Lewitt-like activities—that conceptual art processes are hiding in plain sight all around us, overlooked for their apparent mundanity.

It's as if, he suggests, every object fabricated—every car body assembled—has always and already been a kind of instructional readymade, or Sol Lewitt meets Marcel Duchamp on the factory floor.

With these, though, Kudless throws in some Agnes Martin for good measure, revealing the robot arms' facility for minimalist lines and grids in a graceful set of two-dimensional drawings.

[Image: "Untitled #7 (1066 Lines Drawn between Random Points in a Grid)," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

Kudless explains that "each of the works produced in this series was entirely programmed and drawn through software and hardware":
None of the lines or curves was manually drawn either within the computer or in physical reality. Rather, I created a series of different scripts or programs in the computer that would generate not only the work shown here, but an infinite number of variations on a theme. Essential to the programming was understanding the relationships between the robot and human movement and control. Unlike a printer or plotter which draws from one side of the paper to the other, the robot produces the drawings similarly to how a human might: one line at a time. The speed, acceleration, brush type, ink viscosity, and many other variables needed to be considered in the writing of the code.
Various drawing styles were chosen to showcase this.

[Image: "Untitled #15 (Twenty Seven Nodes with Arcs Emerging from Each)," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

[Image: "Untitled #3 (Extended Lines Drawn from 300 Points on an Ovoid to 3 Closest Neigh[bor]ing Points at 100mm/s)" (2014) from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

[Image: "Untitled #12," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

[Image: "Untitled #14," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless].

There are many more drawings visible on Kudless's website, and I am already looking forward to "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 2."

You can also purchase one of the prints, if you are so inclined; contact the Salamatina Gallery for more information.

(Very vaguely related: Robotism, or: The Golden Arm of Architecture).
28 Nov 17:40

Space Noir

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: The International Space Station at night, photographed by astronaut Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

The European Space Agency recently released a group of photos taken by astronaut Alexander Gerst showing the International Space Station at night. The only real contextual information provided is that "the six astronauts on the weightless research centre live by GMT, and generally sleep at the same time."

[Image: Photo by Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

Gerst—so close to Geist!—thus took advantage of the downtime to produce some images that make the ISS look uninhabited, a dead mansion rolling through space.

[Image: Photo by Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

This is perhaps what it would look like to arrive somewhere in the middle of night, hoping to say hello to your comrades, only to find that you've actually boarded the Mary Celeste.

[Image: Photo by Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

The dimly lit corridors of this house of sleeping astronauts take on the atmosphere of film noir, as if this is secretly a crime scene, still flickering with the last lights of its drained batteries, and these are the first photos to be taken upon arrival.

[Image: Photo by Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

Small details take on narrative suspense. Why was that cupboard door left open, its contents bare for all to see? And are those objects messily scattered about, as if a struggle has taken place, or is this just the normal state of things in zero-g?

Where is everyone? Imagine performing forensic crime-scene analysis in the absence of gravity, three-dimensionally reconstructing a moment of violence by tracking objects back along all of their possible trajectories; you would need holographic models of every legally admissible collision and variation.

[Images: Photos by astronaut Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

In any case, to browse more of astronaut Gerst's collection, you can basically start at this image and click backward through the rest; one or two, unfortunately, feature other astronauts drifting around, perhaps staring down at the earth through the red eyes of insomnia, which ruins the illusion of this being a ruin, but the photos are still worth a glimpse.

[Image: Photo by Alexander Gerst, courtesy of the ESA].

Finally, proving that international scientific organizations have an active sense of humor, the photos were actually released on Halloween.
01 Dec 07:31

shapeshifting: Lee Mawdsley



shapeshifting:

Lee Mawdsley

02 Dec 18:59

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02 Dec 19:13

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09 Dec 08:43

asylum-art: Negative Space : Mungo Thomson Photographic...















asylum-art:

Negative Space : Mungo Thomson


Photographic mural, 44’ x 126’ 2010.

21 Nov 21:36

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21 Nov 22:18

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09 Dec 09:17

"The End of Sitting" -- Dutch design a chairless office

The Weirdest Proposal Yet for the ‘Office of the Future’

  • BY MARGARET RHODES  
  • 12.08.14  |  
  • Dutch design firm RAAAF has built an installation in Amsterdam called “The End of Sitting.”

"A couple years ago, after research about the health risks of prolonged sitting came to light, a wave of standing desks hit the market. Big companies like Ikea and Steelcase have rolled out standing desk designs; others are even attached to treadmills or recumbent bikes. While these certainly get workers up and off their derrieres, once an employee selects one of these models (and presumably goes through the company’s facilities manager to get it installed) she’s married to that particular product and posture.

“What if we had an environment without chairs and tables, and we don’t think in these archetypes, but in terms of activities?” asks Ronald Rietveld, a partner at the Dutch studio RAAAF. So When the Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands put out a call for local designers to think about new versions of shared office spaces, RAAAF turned in blueprints for “The End of Sitting,” a glacier-like series of boulders and surfaces that would replace traditional office furniture. “I think he didn’t expect the plans we came up with,” Rietveld says. “We are really focusing on a longer-term vision.” (…)

04 Dec 02:27

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04 Dec 06:13

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08 Dec 20:36

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09 Dec 18:15

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07 Dec 19:00

Fabbaloo Visits iGo3D

by General Fabb
Jakkyn

There's something dissociative about seeing a 3D printer with a roll of Verbatim filament, since I first knew the brand as a provider of 5 1/4" floppies and cassette tapes...

iGo3D is a German-based retail chain specializing in 3D printing  gear. We took a close look at their operations. 

Currently iGo3D has retail locations in various locations in German-speaking countries, but new expansions to Poland and Russia are said to be in the works. 

You’d think the stores cater to consumers, as they display multiple personal 3D printers, operate a 3D scan booth and have the capability to 3D print figurines of scanned customers, but it turns out that’s not always the case. 

In the German market, at least, iGo3D’s primary customers are small businesses and professionals. It may be that German consumers have not yet discovered the thrills of personal 3D printing, but German business certainly has. Specifically, they’ve found personal machines, though small, are often perfect for “first drafts” of products and components, which might be printed on larger commercial 3D printers when finalized. 

iGo3D also provides a gateway for those new to 3D printing. They’ll train people on how to use a machine - before the machine is purchased by the prospective customer. That way the customer can deeply explore the technology, software and specific machine before making a purchase decision. It’s like a very long test drive and seems appropriate for newbies.

A discussion with Michael Sorkin, one of iGo3D’s founders, made it clear to us that the company is on a mission to bring 3D printing technology to everyone. Their focus on user “experience” is a strategy that appears to work and could lead to iGo3D shops soon blossoming across Europe and elsewhere. They have momentum: from only two staff last year, they now have 36. 

We’re very impressed with iGo3D. The stores have a clean, friendly look and somehow appear “environmentally green”, even though there’s nothing in particular in that regard in the store. The chain is well-managed and tries to focus on user experience, rather than specific equipment. We believe this is entirely necessary for the majority of the public, who have yet to truly understand what it means to own a 3D printer. 

If you happen to have an iGo3D store nearby, you must drop by for a visit.

Via iGo3D

null

09 Dec 11:38

NASA's Kon-Tiki Moment

NASA’s Kon-Tiki Moment

“So we’ve … now finally done something for the first time for our generation,” the Lockheed Martin manager for NASA’s Orion spacelaunch said.   And that’s true.  It’s the furthest NASA have sent a capsule since 1972.  It came back at a screaming 8G, more than any Apollo vessel pulled on re-entry, and nearly three times the G of a Shuttle reentry.  But it did come back.  It’ll be seven years…

View On WordPress

06 Dec 07:33

rocketumbl: FORTIS Exoskeleton *I was wondering when the next...













rocketumbl:

FORTIS Exoskeleton

*I was wondering when the next Segway would finally show up

01 Dec 20:58

Not Very Uplifting

by Jamais Cascio

What responsibility do we have for the things we make?

At its root, this is a fairly straightforward science story. Neuroscience researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Copenhagen successfully transplanted human glial progenitor cells (hGPCs) into a newborn mouse (here's the technical article in The Journal of Neuroscience, and the lay-friendly version in New Scientist). While glial cells are generally considered a support cell in the brain, positioning, feeding, insulating, and protecting neurons, they also help neurons make synaptic connections. The hGPCs out-competed the mouse glial cells, basically taking over that function in the mouse brain, and -- as had been found in similar research (with adult glial cells) -- the mice demonstrated greater intelligence than their unaltered fellows.

So, mice with grafted human brain support cells are smarter than regular mice. The next phase is testing with rats, which start out even smarter. The researchers insist that there's nothing especially human about these altered mice:

"This does not provide the animals with additional capabilities that could in any way be ascribed or perceived as specifically human," he says. "Rather, the human cells are simply improving the efficiency of the mouse's own neural networks. It's still a mouse."

However, the team decided not to try putting human cells into monkeys. "We briefly considered it but decided not to because of all the potential ethical issues," Goldman says.

(...A statement that somewhat undermines his whole "it's still a mouse" argument -- after all, wouldn't it still be a monkey?)

As always, I'm mostly interested in the "what happens next?" question. It's likely that rats with hGPC will show increased intelligence; same with dogs. And just because this set of researchers won't add the hGPC special sauce to monkeys doesn't mean that somebody else won't do it. And maybe even throw in a few neuron precursors for flavor.

But even sticking with hGPCs, the fact remains: we're making these non-human animals demonstrably smarter. We are, in a very limited fashion, uplifting them (to use David Brin's terminology). They will be able to understand the world a bit (or even a lot) better than others of their kind. And at some point, we may well even end up with test subjects significantly smarter than typical and able to demonstrate behaviors unsettlingly close to our own.

What rights should any of these types of uplifted animals have? Do we need to spell out a greater set of rights for the human chimera mice in the news report? Or as we create increasingly more-intelligent-than-typical animals, will there a point at which they could no longer be limited to the rights given to all scientific research animals? At what point would it become a crime to kill them, no matter how humanely or in accordance with ethical standards? It would be easy to draw the line if the uplifted animals exhibit human-like behavior -- complex communication, for example, or the creation of art -- but what about intelligence-boosted animals that exhibit forms of higher intelligence that don't readily map to human-specific behavior but are clearly beyond what a typical animal of that species could do? When do we give them a say in their own lives?

This connects in fairly obvious ways to the ongoing efforts to provide more expansive rights to the Great Apes or Cetaceans, but it's equally an issue for the Magna Cortica project. What it's not is a science fiction question for our distant descendants. This is happening now, and these issues need to be addressed now.

30 Nov 15:42

http://techwearist.tumblr.com/post/103984529103



 

26 Nov 13:43

Is this the beginning of the end of the nation state? - 25/11/2014

Is this the beginning of the end of the nation state? - 25/11/2014:

"For about AU$70 and a thumbprint you can now become an e-resident of Estonia. It’s the first country in the world to offer what it calls a digital identity to foreigners. Some people say it may be the beginning of the end of the nation state."

25 Nov 14:42

Today’s Bulletin

by Ryan Oakley

The Smooth Talking Optics Man appeared in displays of liquid-crystals during Monday Night Prime Time to justify murder and incite a riot. He assured The Public that The Public was to blame for The Public’s continued belief that the murder of an unarmed member of The Public by a well-armed member of Control Force was a criminal injustice rather than an unavoidable and legally sanctioned tragedy. Just, you know, one of those things. Nothing anyone can do. I wouldn’t worry about it. He promised to correct the public’s misunderstanding by releasing secret information to the same public that he had just publicly indicted. His eyes glowed red throughout his speech and he only paused to answer questions from unknown reporters while catching bloated, corpse-grown flies with his forked tongue. He wore a charming black and white ensemble with a purple neck piece. SPQR.

The until-now secret information showed that the murderous member of Control Force believed he was being attacked by a demon with the strength of Hulk Hogan who could bulk up and run through bullets. His wounds from this frightful encounter consisted of a mild discoloration on the nape of his neck. These delusions were said to justify the final ten shots. The final ten shots.

The final ten shots.

While neither forensics nor a single witness of The Just One of Those Things have been able to confirm the presence of a demon (only that of a dead unarmed child left in the road for four and half hours and the uniformed man who admits to killing him) it remains possible that the officer himself was possessed by the ghost of Appius Claudius or his client Marcus Claudius, who infamously kidnapped Verginia in 451 BC.

More likely, however, is that the officer and these two ancient Romans were possessed by the same demon, The Vile Old Ghost, who often causes civic unrest by abusing power. The Vile Old Ghost wears the bodies of petty, disgusting human males just as these males wear their petty, disgusting uniforms. Men who may be susceptible to astralnotic infection by The Vile Old Ghost should never be allowed any authority. They should never be entrusted with badges, guns or uniforms. Yet they often are. These baubles attract them. They provide camouflage.

The Vile Old Ghost is said to feed on the delusions of Control Force. These delusions are poisonous to human life. The 20th century attests to that and, frankly, not much else. Control Force currently seems to be experiencing a pandemic of these delusions. They have become a farm and a feast for The Vile Old Ghost.

Control Force must be quarantined.

Control Force must be eradicated.

Control Force is not human.

The Public has spent over a hundred days attempting to convince Control Force that both they and Control Force are humans rather than demons and performing loving rituals to exorcise The Vile Old Ghost from Control Force, thereby restoring whatever is left of Control Force’s humanity. After the Prime Time Incitement, The Public responded to the withholding of any possible zone where justice may emerge by forming into a variety of groupings. There, they once again asserted their humanity. Sometimes angrily.

Control Force, who had already been dispatched in a preemptive state of emergency to provoke these groupings into disorder, reacted to the assertion of their potential humanity by, once again, displaying their preference for exoskeletons and synchronized violence to even the most rudimentary human morality. Control Force interprets morality as a non-compliance and justice as a threat. YOU HAVE BEEN ORDERED TO DISPERSE. Control Force tear gassed human neighborhoods. THIS IS AN UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY. Control Force marched in ant-like formation. YOU WILL BE ARRESTED. 

Control Force flooded the area with racist actions and delusions thereby constructing a series of zones over capitalist scaffolding. (They even turned The Target parking lot into a staging area, thereby making Target a legitimate target.) This polluted habitat is poisonous to all life except for Control Force. They thrive in it. They grow The Profitable Misery there.

From the safety of their exoskeletons, Control Force reinforced their founding delusion that people are property and property is people and both should be valued as such. A reporter attempting to spread this delusion was chased from one scene by a a teenage girl kicking a plastic bottle towards the camera crew.

Control Force ordered the humans to disperse so that Control Force could continue to hunt them at its leisure over the coming years. Their misery will be used to grow the hateful delusions most enjoyed by The Vile Old Ghost. They will be fined to support this.  

Distant bystanders combed the data leaking from The Affected Area for iconography. Promising images were found. The demon is the reason for the season.

season's greetings

ADVISE CAUTIONS AND HOPES

 

23 Nov 10:52

Let's put the future behind us

by Charlie Stross

To the eternal whine of the superannuated free-range SF geek ("dude, where's my jet pack? Where's my holiday on the moon? Where are my food pills? I thought this was supposed to be the 21st century!") can be added an appendix: "and what about those L5 orbital space colonies the size of Manhattan?"

Well, dude, I've got your L5 colony right here. In fact, they turned it into a vacation resort. I just spent a day checking it out, and I'm back with a report.




As William Gibson remarked, the street finds its own uses for things: he might have chosen to generalize the observation by noting that if a thing is big enough and fantastic enough, people and the bizarre hominid hive intelligences called corporations will come together in groups to make a use for it, even if the use they find is nothing like the function it was designed for.

Big-ass L5 space colonies as envisaged by Professor Gerard K. O'Neill in his book The High Frontier turn out to be both economically and biologically questionable. To be fair, it's not entirely his fault: he took NASA's early-1970s estimates of Space Shuttle flight rates as gospel—one flight per week, costs around $1M/ton delivered into orbit—back when they were selling it as a "space truck". At which point, hauling 50,000 tons of hardware and 10,000 workers into orbit to build a gigantic factory town churning out gigawatt range solar power stations using materials mined from the lunar regolith and positioned where they could transmit microwave power beams down to Earth 24x7 sounded like it should cost about as much as the 350-odd tons and 6 astronaut crew of the ISS. And as a solution to the 1974 oil shock, it seemed like a good idea. If we ever do get space trucks like that, it might be time to dust off those concept drawings and go for it. But in the meantime ...

The 1990s were a time of wild commercial optimism, driven by the end of the cold war, rapidly burgeoning public access to the internet, and deregulation of financial and banking controls. All of these came with an eventual crash and an ugly hangover in the following decade, but at the time funds managers poured money into whatever high-tech startup sounded good with a cocaine high. Roton, the fully reusable surface-to-orbit helicopter, got funding. VCs lined up to pour money down the rat-hole that was Netscape Communications in the hope that they could sell a web browser (while Microsoft were giving theirs away for free). And in Germany, a bunch of very serious engineers did their best to take us back to the Gernsback Continuum by setting up CargoLifter AG, with the goal of developing the CL160, a gigantic cargo airship with a payload capacity of 160 tons and a 550,000 cubic metre lift volume. (For comparison: the Hindenberg, the largest airship ever built to date, had a payload of 90 passengers and crew, their luggage, and another 10 tons of cargo. Lift volume: 200,000 cubic metres.)

All these ventures came adrift, but not before they built extraordinary things. CargoLifter AG in particular bought the defunct Soviet air force base at Brand-Briesen Airfield, 50km south-east of Berlin: and before they ran out of cash they build a gigantic airship hangar. I use the word advisedly. The hangar at Brand-Briesen, known as the Aerium, is one of the world's largest buildings: The only larger buildings are the Boeing Everett works, the Airbus A380 super-jumbo assembly hall, and a Target distribution warehouse in Washington state. (It's 360 metres long and over 100 metres high: so large you could fit a Nimitz class super-carrier inside it.) It was a suitably ambitious plant for what was essentially a plan to build an aircraft with a cargo capacity even greater than the Antonov An-225 Mriya, with vertical take-off and landing thrown in as a bonus. And so, when CargoLifter AG went bankrupt in 2004, having completed the hangar, it should be no surprise that someone, somewhere, sat up and said to themselves, "hey, we could use that!"

So here's what happens. One morning you get up early in your hotel or apartment in Berlin. You collect your swimming gear, flip-flops, beach towel, and sundries. Then you wrap up warm, because of course it's November in Prussia and while it's not snowing yet the wind has a sharp edge to it. You head for Zoologischer Garten station (or maybe the Ostbahnhof if you're on that side of the city) and catch a train, which over the next hour hums through the pancake-flat forests and villages of East Germany until it stops at a lonely (but recently modernized) platform in a forest in the middle of nowhere.

You're wondering if you've made some sort of horrible mistake, but no: a shuttle bus covered in brightly colored decals depicting a tropical beach resort is waiting for you. It drives along cracked concrete taxi-ways lined with pine trees, past the boarded-up fronts of dispersal bay hangers and hard stands for MiG-29 interceptors awaiting a NATO attack that never came. The bus is raucous with small children, chattering and screeching and bouncing off the walls and ceiling in a sugar-high—harried parents and minders for the large group of schoolgirls in the back of the bus are trying to keep control, unsuccessfully. Then the bus rumbles and lurches to a standstill, and the doors open, and you see this:

Panoramic view of the Aerium

It's hard to do justice to the scale of the thing. It's one of those objects that is too big to take in at close range, and deceptively small when viewed from a distance. It's like an L5 space colony colony that crash-landed in on the West Prussian plains: a gigantic eruption from the future, or a liminal intrusion from the Gernsbackian what-might-have-been.

And inside it—I'm going to go with stock photographs because, alas, I was too busy enjoying the saunas to go back to the lockers and fetch my camera until after sunset (at 4pm, around this time of year)—it's, well ...

Panoramic view of Tropical Islands

Welcome to Tropical Islands, Germany.

You can get the history from the wikipedia link above: in a nutshell, the Zeppelin hangar was bought from the liquidators by a Malaysian resort operator, who proceeded to turn it into an indoor theme park. They stripped off a chunk of the outer cladding of the hangar and replaced it with a high-tech greenhouse film: it's climate-controlled, at 26 celsius and 64% humidity all year round. (That's pretty chilly by Malaysian standards, but nice and comfortable for the German and Polish customer base.) There's an artificial rainforest, with over 50,000 plants and a 5km long walking trail inside. There are about a dozen different saunas, hot tubs, and a swimming pool complex: there's a 200 metre long artificial beach with sun-loungers for you to work on your tan wrapped around an artificial tropical lagoon—a 140 metre swimming pool with waves. There are bars, shops, restaurants, hotels, even a camp ground for tents: and of course the usual beachside resort song and dance show every evening.

If you want to see it from above, a pair of helium balloons with wicker gondolas wait to waft you the length of the hangar for a guided tour: like the CL160 these aerostats are never destined to leave their hangar, but they're probably more profitable.

Tropical Islands is the mother of all water parks, with a separate play area for the kinder while the teens and adults discreetly down their pina coladas or Erdinger weissbiers in the thatch-roofed bars overlooking the beach. It's safe, and clean, and organized and curated and manicured to within an inch of its life. It's got that Malaysian high concept futurist vibe going, combined with German thoroughness and attention to detail, for an experience that's pretty much what you'd expect if Disneyworld opened a park in Singapore, only with fewer dire declarations of death to drug smugglers. It is in short thoroughly enjoyable if you're in Berlin and for some reason decide you want a relaxing tropical beach-side day out in an environment that's barely less artificial than an L5 space colony.

And then the real world—the panopticon future we never asked for but somehow ended up with all the same—intrudes.

Panoramic view of Tropical Islands

Entry is ticketed: you pay the basic entry price at a turnstile and in return you're issued with a band with an RFID chip in it, like a blank-faced plastic wrist-watch. You tap it against the turnstile, and go in. The changing rooms are first: your transponder has a number on it, and this is the number of your locker. To enter the sauna area (€10 extra for the day, or thereabouts) you go through another turnstile with a contactless reader. To pay for food at the restaurants, or a temporary tattoo at the tattoo parlour, you tap on a reader. Or drinks. Or a newspaper. They've abolished cash: you can leave your wallet safely in the locker—until it's time to leave, and then you settle up the balance on your transponder at an unmanned ATM, deposit it in an exit turnstile, and leave.

Of course there's a down-side. You can imagine a hapless tourist, buying entrance with their credit card, not realizing that their issuer's mainframe will decide their card has been stolen: they enter, and like Charlie on the MTA they can never leave. Trapped forever, unable to pay the robot it's exit fee, they live feral lives trapped in the interstices of a tropical future ...

But that's just a harmless fantasy compared to the real down-side. Every turnstile you go through, every drink you buy, every experience you request, can be logged and tagged with your unique ID. Yes, you can pay cash for everything: but the resort operators still know that someone entered the sauna area then, 42 minutes later, proceeded to Bar number four and bought a pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei. And there are cameras. They've actually made wearing a tracking tag a rewarding experience. Of course it's entirely voluntary, keeping count of entrants and exits can be justified as a safety measure, and it saves you from having to carry cash around in your swimsuit ... but, but, tagging!

After you stop spluttering with indignation, you realize that it's an inevitable part of this package. Hell, Disney do it too, don't they? And now your imagination cuts loose. Let's imagine ourselves in that bright future of space trucks and (relatively) cheap orbital access, of hard-hat construction crews building out our solar future at the L4 and L5 libration points. They'll live in space colonies, derived from Bernal spheres or O'Neill cylinders, for it's too expensive to commute from Earth's surface to orbit even with fully reusable spacecraft as cheap to operate as airliners, as long as we rely on chemical fuels. These habitats will be comfortable, long-duration homes ...

O'Neill colony concept, via wikimedia

... And they're going to be as artificial as, and even more vulnerable than Tropical Islands. If someone goes nuts and tries to blow a hole in the wall of the fourth largest building in the world, well, there are evacuation routes into the car park. The failure modes for space colonies are much deadlier, so the panopticon paradise with tracking devices and cameras everywhere seems to be pretty much an inevitable corollary of such an environment. So, too, are climate control and the curation of space. The Aerium is cunningly filled with distractions and diversions, until the 5km rainforest walk seems unexceptional, even though it's folded into a space less than 300 metres long: it's as twisted and knotty as your intestines. Long-duration orbital colonists will need a sense of space: many of the same techniques—lots of interrupted sight lines, branching routes and creative environmental features—will almost inevitably be deployed. Everyone's going to be under surveillance the whole time, behaviour monitored for signs of stress. Any children are going to be shepherded, lovingly but firmly, away from harmful things like airlock doors and plumbing, protected by doors that refuse to open for the unauthorized and robots that offer alternative, more attractive diversions for the fractious and bored or merely curious.




So: I had a good time visiting the L5 simulator at Brand for my regular scheduled glimpse of our future in the off-world colonies. But I happen like novelty swimming pools, artificial beach resorts in giant geodesic structures, and spas with clothing-optional saunas. I can even kind of cope with omnipresent surveillance and being tracked everywhere: that's the real spirit of the age. I wasn't expected to strap myself into a spacesuit and go outside into the chilly darkness with its weird smell of gunpowder, diesel fumes and barbecue, working in an environment as deadly as the deep ocean. The surveillance was of the most anodyne kind, monitoring my spending and how much time I spent in each feature: not looking for tangible signs of stress with gentle but draconian enforcement waiting in the wings. And at the end of the day I could put my clothes on, pay up, and catch the train home. From L5, the best you can hope for if you can't handle it any more is that they'll lock you in a capsule with an oxygen bottle and some ration packs and fire you, screaming, at the Earth.

Anyway, this is the future, folks. It's built from the bones of the past, it's unevenly distributed, and it's already here. And while it's an interesting place to visit, I'm not sure I'd want to stay.

(The title is, of course, a tribute to Jack Womack's extraordinary historical post-apocalyptic novel of the same name.)

19 Nov 19:40

How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating a New Alternate Reality

by Sean Hollister
Jakkyn

GOD DAMNIT! This is exactly the HMD idea I've been toying with for years. I've been shopping for endoscopes and pocket projectors to put together a prototype...guess I should move faster on these things

How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating a New Alternate Reality

Don't you hate it when someone claims to have a magical new technology, but won't tell you how it works? When I saw that a super stealthy startup called Magic Leap had raised $542 million to make animals appear out of thin air, I resolved to find out exactly what was going on. Here's what I found.

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