Concrete casts new light in dull rooms

Light-transmitting concrete Letting the light in

Light transmitting concrete is set to go on sale later this year.

The days of dull, grey concrete could be about to end. A Hungarian architect has combined the world’s most popular building material with optical fiber from Schott to create a new type of concrete that transmits light.  Read more…



Appropriate Technology: Fridge w/o electricity

I love stories of successful implementation of “appropriate technology“.  Here’s a refrigeration device that uses no electricity being set up in northern Nigeria.  It is built by placing a clay pot inside a slightly larger pot and filling the gap with sand.  By wetting the sand, the evaporative properties create a significant cooling effect (much like the old water bags on the front of jeeps kept water cool).  Food that used to last only days, now lasts weeks.

A side issue is that young girls that used to be saddled with the daily duties of retrieving fresh produce for the family, now are increasingly able to attend school.

read about it…


BLEEX — the Berkeley Lower Extremities Exoskeleton

Click on this to see what the future of backpacking may look like.

Robotic legs could produce an army of super troopers

(03-10) 13:39 PST BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) —

Move over Bionic Man and make room for BLEEX — the Berkeley Lower Extremities Exoskeleton, with strap-on robotic legs designed to turn an ordinary human into a super strider.

Ultimately intended to help people like soldiers or firefighters carry heavy loads for long distances, these boots are made for marching.

“The design of this exoskeleton really benefits from human intellect and the strength of the machine,” says Homayoon Kazerooni, who directs the Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory at the University of California-Berkeley.

The exoskeleton consists of a pair of mechanical metal leg braces that include a power unit and a backpack-like frame. The braces are attached to a modified pair of Army boots and are also connected, although less rigidly, to the user’s legs.

More than 40 sensors and hydraulic mechanisms function like a human nervous system, constantly calculating how to distribute the weight being borne and create a minimal load for the wearer.

“There is no joystick, no keyboard, no push button to drive the device,” says Kazerooni, a professor of mechanical engineering. “The pilot becomes an integral part of the exoskeleton.”

In lab experiments, says Kazerooni, testers have walked around in the 100-pound exoskeleton plus a 70-pound backpack and felt as if they were carrying just five pounds.

Eventually, the device could help rescuers haul heavy equipment up high-rise buildings or turn tired troops into striding super soldiers.

What it won’t do is turn you into a Borg, the gadget-happy gladiators of “Star Trek” fame.

“The exoskeleton is not going to magically transform people into killing machines,” says Kazerooni, known to his students as Professor Kaz. “They’re really good, it turns out, at enabling firefighters, soldiers, post-disaster rescue crews to carry heavy loads over great distances for hours.”

So, no cyborg cops. But at least you get Terminator togs.

Video of the BLEEX in action, which can be viewed at, shows a steel-spiked symbiosis of man and machine, marching about to the techno-industrial drone of grinding motors. The next step for the BLEEX team is making the power source quieter and stronger and miniaturizing components.

BLEEX is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon research and development arm, and was among the projects being showcased at a DARPA tech symposium this week in Anaheim.

The project is one of scores in the field of robotics, which ranges from industrial machines that assemble cars to orthotics, surgical devices that activate or supplement weakened limbs or functions.

Excitement about robotics was fanned by this week’s DARPA-sponsored Mojave Desert race for fully autonomous vehicles, and the field is making strides worldwide.

In Japan, a leader in robot research, Sony Corp. has developed a child-shaped walking robot, known as Qrio, and Honda Motor Co. has also developed a walking, talking humanoid robot. This spring, some Japanese companies plan to start marketing a “robot suit,” a motorized, battery-operated device intended to help old and infirm people move around.

The current favorite in the DARPA race came out of Carnegie Mellon University, where professor Matthew Mason is working on intelligent robots including the Mobipulator, which uses its wheels to move things as well as for locomotion.

“There’s just too much to do,” says Mason. “Every time that there is an advance in computing, there are just so many more things that it becomes possible to do. Robotics is really about interfacing computers to the physical world so that their sensors give them a better concept of what’s going on around them — they can make interesting things happen instead of just sitting there in their little beige boxes.”

Kazerooni isn’t offering test drives of the exoskeleton. But if he were, Mason would be interested.

“It looks really exciting,” says Mason. “I’d like to try it on myself.”

©2004 Associated Press

Nova Spivack: The Future of the Web

originally from Creative Chaos – Dina Mehta’s Blog

Nova Spinack’s vision of the future of Social Networking Software:

Content : Lifelogs” & Personal Portals – All information about a person and their experiences is automatically logged for their personal use. Semantic routing of content delivers relevant information to interested parties automatically – everyone gets their own portal.

Communication : Universal Communications –Persistent identity and relationship management across all devices, software, and networks enables seamlessly integrated synchronous and asynchronous communications.

Collaboration : Group Minds – Anyone can know what everyone knows; everyone can know what anyone knows. New levels of collective intelligence are enabled by fusion of Semantic Web with distributed agents and knowledge management tools.

Community : Emergent Communities – Communities spontaneously emerge and self-organize around memes (hot topics). Communities are decentralized; no longer “hosted” in any single location or controlled by any single service provider

Commerce : Intelligent Marketplaces – Intelligent commerce agents interact semi-autonomously in a decentralized global marketplace. Self-optimizing trading networks

In the second article, he ties this evolution into implications for the Metaweb, along a matrix of degrees of information connectivity and social connectivity. 

“The Metaweb is emerging from the convergence of the Web, Social Software and the Semantic Web.”

A larger image can be viewed here.

Why the blue jay’s feathers are blue… or not blue…

Blue Jay feather with light shining from above

Blue Jay feather with light shining from underneath.  Notice how all of the blue has disappeared.

except from:
Young Naturalists: The Nature of Feathers By Val Cunningham
Have you seen a bright red male cardinal or a blue jay in your neighborhood? The colors you see on these birds form in two different ways: by pigments and by structures.

Pigment colors. Most feather colors are produced by pigments called carotenoids or melanins. Both kinds of pigment absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect the rest. We see the reflected light as color.

Carotenoids reflect bright yellow, red, and orange light. Cardinals get carotenoids from seeds they eat.

Most birds get their color from melanin, the same chemical that colors our skin. Birds make melanin from chemical building blocks within their bodies. Melanins produce black, gray, or brown colors. Melanin also strengthens feathers. As a result, black wingtips are stronger than white ones are.

Structural colors. The other kind of feather color is not a pigment color. It is what we see when light hits the parts of the feather (structure). We see feather color because light reflects from or scatters through thin layers of cell walls in the barbs.

When the structure of a feather reflects all of the light, we see white. White is a structural color. Blue and most green colors are also structural. Blue jays look blue, but their feathers have no blue pigment. A blue jay’s feathers have melanin below the surface under a layer of bubblelike cells. These bubbles reflect and scatter blue light waves, and melanin absorbs the other colors of light. That’s why the blue jay’s feathers look blue in sunlight. But in the shade, the melanin shows up better, and the feathers look blue-gray.

Iridescent colors, such as a male hummingbird’s brilliant throat patch, also are structural. Iridescent feathers have several layers of bubbles. In some birds these layers are twisted, absorbing or reflecting various wavelengths of light. The layers reflect light as a soap bubble does, with colors shifting as your point of view changes.

Invisible colors. Many birds have patches of feathers that reflect ultraviolet light. Birds can see ultraviolet light, which humans can’t see. So what we see as a black or blue bird might look much more colorful to other birds. A female bird might choose a mate based on the brightness of his ultraviolet feathers. 


Mark Lombardi – Cartographies of Capital

cover for Resisting Virtual Life by Iain Boal

My work buddy, Terence, and I went to see Iain Boal speak on the subject of Mark Lombardi’s drawings this evening.  Here’s the online billing:

Guest Speaker: Iain Boal
Drawing power: Mark Lombardi and cartographies of capital

March 4, 7pm
Meet in the Grand Lobby
Iain Boal is a social historian of science and technics, with a special interest in visual culture and the technologies of information and communication. Boal is currently director of the Colloquium on Environmental Politics in the Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley. Boal will discuss Lombardi’s works on view with the reference of early works of Hans Haacke. He wrote the catalogue essay for Mark Dion’s 1999 show at the YBCA, Where the Land meets the Sea . A special exhibit at Tate Modern in 2000 was based on his research into Henry Moore’s Chicago sculpture commemorating Enrico Fermi’s 1942 chain reaction experiment at the birth of the atomic age. His new book on the extinction of the commons in capitalist modernity, entitled The Long Theft: Episodes in the History of Enclosure, will be published by City Lights Press.

The lecture got a slow and noisy start in the lobby of the Yerba Buena Center and Iain began by trying to set up some ideas about the medium selected by Lombardi to present his ideas and to consider the relational lines and arrows used to relate each of the entities in his drawings.

Then there was a time to peruse the drawings, but I had already seen them (see my previous blog: Mark Lombardi: Global Networks) so Terence and I wint to the conference room and got a seat.

Iain proceeded to show us various examples of charts that influenced Lombardi, such as Hans Haacke’s Manhattan Real Estate Holdings and Oliver North’s diagram of the Iran-Contra dealings.  Unfortunately the lecture was cut short because the museum had to close at 8.

Most of the material he covered can be found in  more detail in a book titled, “Mark Lombardi: Global Networks”.

I looked on the internet and found many references to Iain Boal’s work:

GIA – Government Information Awareness

Open Government Information Awareness

My friend Ray Lear sent me an email today with a single link to this site (  It is a non-government based site that collects information from various information sites and aggregates it into an informative series of links.  It is still in development, but you can go read about it and see how it develops.




SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data.  The program dials up a computer at UC Berkeley and collects a single packet of data at a time for analysis.  The data comes from radio signals collected at the Arecibo Radio Observatory.  The program runs while your computer is idle (usually whenever your screensaver kicks in).  The project has over 4 million participants all dedicating their unused/idle computer time to the analysis of radio signals from outer space that might indicate a source of extraterrestrial intelligence.

I have been a member of SETI@home since September of 1999 and although I barely participated in the first year and a half, I have racked up over 50,000 hours of cumputing time to the project.  As of today, I have processed almost 4200 packets of data at an average of 12.5 hrs per packet.  I have completed more work units than 98.887% of the others in the project but that still leaves me with 15 others who have a rank of 54,518th place.

My current stats: 

My results as XML:

I encourage you to participate also at: