IdeaFestival

Need a Home? Print it. Dini's fantastic machine

While 3-D printing has advanced from idea to prototype to machines often used in rapid modeling, an ability to print buildings is an entirely new category of cool. Absorb the suggestion made at the end of this paragraph.

In a small shed on an industrial park near Pisa is a machine that can print buildings. The machine itself looks like a prototype for the automotive industry. Four columns independently support a frame with a single armature on it. Driven by CAD software installed on a dust-covered computer terminal, the armature moves just millimetres above a pile of sand, expressing a magnesium-based solution from hundreds of nozzles on its lower side. It makes four passes. The layer dries and Enrico Dini recalibrates the armature frame. The system deposits the sand and then inorganic binding ink. The exercise is repeated. The millennia-long process of laying down sedimentary rock is accelerated into a day. A building emerges. This machine could be used to construct anything. Dini wants to build a cathedral with it. Or houses on the moon. 

Or think of it as permitting graphic designers to become architects, or one really interesting way to put recycled plastics to use. The web site The Pop-Up City also located this video (in Italian) of the machine in action.

If these ideas interest you, the festival will present some innovative thinking on architecture at IdeaFestival 2010, "Gandhian Engineering" and Reimagining a City Through Design.

Wayne

Philippe Petit video: the "Theater of Balance"

From the Gothamist: What would it be like to take a wirewalking class withe Philippe Petit? The wirewalking artist Petit will be at IdeaFestival 2010, no doubt talking about his "Theater of Balance." 

Philippe Petit from Gothamist on Vimeo.

Wayne

Time travel and the mistake-free life

It's not the kind of question one would expect to hear to conclude a discussion on the physics of time travel, but after watching Princeton astrophysicist Richard Gott (who described "the space colonization imperative" two years ago at the IdeaFestival), and Cal Tech theoretical physicist Sean Carroll (who will speak this year on the many dimensions of time) talk about the intricacies of time travel on the Science Channel show, Through the Wormhole, Morgan Freeman, who hosts, asked the following question. "If we could go back in time to fix our mistakes, would we ever learn anything?"

Wayne

David Toop: What is the sound of silence?

3QuarksDaily explores in an interview with sonic curator and author David Toop the "core absurdity" of writing a book about the sounds of silence - those pregnant moments when we're suddenly taken by a work of art or when we scared ourselves silly as children alone in bed at night. Speaking to his experiences, first as a visual artist and later in life as an academic, Toop addresses the dangers of "compartmentalization" while talking about those moments of pause.

This particular passage goes to the heart of why I think the IdeaFestival is important.

In our society, there has tended to be a very strong compartmentalization of different experiences, different cultural forms, different genres. We can talk in a very broad sense and say art is separate from science, for example, or body is separate from mind, or we can talk in a specific sense and say one certain form of dance music is separate from one form of, say, heavy metal. I don't really buy those compartmentalizations. I understand why they exist, how they've come into being and why they're convenient, but it's not the way I think, it's not the way I experience the world, it's not the way I believe things should be. What I hope for my books is that somebody could pick one up and, for example, if they're looking at Ocean of Sound, they find a chapter about Kraftwerk and think, 'Oh, I like Kraftwerk because I like techno music,' and then they're reading about Sun Ra. They've never listened to any jazz in their life. Equally with this book, somebody could say, 'I'm interested in ghost stories' or 'I love Charles Dickens' or whatever, and the next thing they know they're deep into listening to the sound of leaves underfoot.

Comparing those moments of connection or anticipation to something we might hear is a first for me, and reminded me of "being deep into listening" when snow falls down hushed, or when hearing a wooded valley respiring accordion-like when the wind is just so, or when, through backyard telescope, a silent train of light that has sojourned tens of millions of years falls finally, fatally, to my eyes. True, I often wonder who's there.

How do we know that feeling?

Toop's book is "Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener."

Wayne

Hat tip: Jen-Luc Piquant Image: Dominic's pics

Heavy, rough and hard

"When you pick up an object, you might think that you are manipulating it, but in a sense, it is also manipulating you."

"Not Exactly Rocket Science" at Discover describes how the things we touch affect our judgements, and it comes from what might seem like an unlikely source.

Key graphs:

According to [assistant marketing professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management Joshua] Ackerman, these effects happen because our understanding of abstract concepts is deeply rooted in physical experiences. Touch is the first of our senses to develop. In the earliest days of our lives, our ability to feel things like texture and temperature provides a tangible framework that we can use to understand more nebulous notions like importance or personal warmth. Eventually, the two become tied together, so that touching objects can activate the concepts that they are associated with.

This idea is known as 'embodied cognition' and the metaphors and idioms in our languages provide hints about such associations. The link between weight and importance comes through in phrases such as 'heavy matters' and the 'gravity of the situation'. We show the link between texture and harshness when we describe a 'rough day' or 'coarse language'. And the link between hardness and stability or rigidity becomes clear when we describe someone as 'hard-hearted' or 'being a rock'. (link supplied)

Gently mocking academics for thinking of their bodies as mere "transport for their heads," Sir Ken Robinson humorously works the same conceptual terrain when he argues for the importance of the performing arts in education. We must move to understand. Similarly, roboticists seeking intelligent behavior now know that sentient, reflective action depends on contact with the world. And awash in confusion, newborns will eventually find their mother's breast and eyes for affirmation and comfort. All this is good.

But marketing? Who told them?

Wayne


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