A new house for the Design Museum in London

If you had the opportunity to walk near Holland Park, you probably are familiar with the location where the Commonwealth Institute used to be: a Grade II listed building dating back to the 1960s. The building was designed by Robert Matthew/Sir Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, architects, and engineered by AJ & JD Harris, of Harris & Sutherland.

The building is the new house for the Design Museum. The museum was founded in 1989, originally located by the River Thames near Tower Bridge in London, and recently relocated to Kensington opening its doors on November 24th, 2016. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design. The new location also houses the Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning, 202-seat Bakala Auditorium and a dedicated gallery to display its permanent collection, accessible free of charge.

I recently visited the museum and had the opportunity to attend the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition currently being shown. The exhibition showcases designs produced over the previous twelve months worldwide.The entries are nominated by a number of internationally respected design experts a, falling into the seven categories of Architecture, Transport, Graphics, Interactive, Product, Furniture and Fashion. Since 2015 there have been six categories: architecture, fashion, graphics, digital, product and transport. Beazley Insurance came on board as exhibition sponsor in 2016.

I was very pleased to see at least two entries from Mexico. One of them is the work of the mexican Alejandro Magallanes for the Almadía publishing house, a small but innovative publisher based in Oaxaca, Mexico. I highly recommend reading the post in Yorokobu entitled “Las portadas exquisitas de Alejandro Magallanes”.

Name: Almadía book covers design
Designers: Alejandro Magallanes
Paragraph description:
The front covers for the Almadia book series was conceived when Magallanes looked into the archives and origins of the Almadia publishing house. Creating a bold design, the covers add an element of craftsmanship whilst providing an object that the reader would like to behold.

The other entry from Mexico was Yakampot, a fashion brand that aims to become an international name while embracing the cultural heritage of the country’s womenswear.

Also notable are the entries from Jonathan Barnbrook for the design of David Bowie’s last album “Blackstar”, as well as the Space Cup that enables astronauts to drink from a cup rather than a straw, developed on the International Space Station. The cup was a result of addressing the microgravity effects faced by fluids while at zero-gravity. The project “Capillary Effects of Drinking in the Microgravity Environment” (Capillary Beverage) studied the process of drinking from specially designed Space Cups that use fluid dynamics to mimic the effect of gravity.

Designers: Jonathan Barnbrook
One line description:
The album cover uses the Unicode Blackstar symbol creating a simplicity to the design allowing the music to be the focus and the creation of an identity that is easy to identify and share.
Paragraph description:
The album cover uses the Unicode Blackstar symbol creating a simplicity to the design allowing the music to be the focus and the creation of an identity that is easy to identify and share. Designed using open source elements, the artwork for the album became open sourced itself following Bowie’s death enabling fans to engage, interact and use it.

Name: Space Cup
Designers:
Mark Weislogel: Innovator (IRPI LLC/Portland State University)
Andrew Wollman: Designer (IRPI LLC)
John Graf: Co-Investigator (NASA Johnson Space Center)
Donald Pettit: NASA Astronaut Innovator (NASA Johnson Space Center) Ryan Jenson: Sponsor (IRPI LLC)
One line description:
Using capillary forces to replace the role of gravity, the Space Cup enables astronauts to drink from a cup rather than a straw and was developed on the International Space Station.
Paragraph description:
The Space Cup was designed and developed using scientific results of experiments conducted aboard the International Space Station. The cup is designed to exploit passive capillary forces to replace the role of gravity in an earth-like drinking experience, but in the low-gravity environment of space. Sealed drink bags are normally sipped through a straw to avoid spilling in space. The Space Cup however uses surface tension, fluid wetting properties, and a unique shape to drive the liquid toward the astronaut’s mouth while drinking.

The Winton Gallery opens at the Science Museum

During the recent Christmas and New Year break I had the opportunity to visit the Science Museum (yes, again…). This time to see the newly opened Winton Gallery that housed the Mathematics exhibit in the museum. Not only is the exhibit about a subject matter close to my heart, but also the gallery was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. I must admit, that the first I heard of this was in a recent visit to the IMAX at the Science Museum to see Rogue One… Anyway, I took some pictures that you can see in the photo gallery here, and I am also re-posting an entry that appeared in the London Mathematical Society newsletter Number 465 for January 2017.

Mathematics: The Winton Gallery opens at the Science Museum, London

On 8 December 2016 the Science Museum opened a pioneering new gallery that explores how mathematicians, their tools and ideas have helped shape the modern world over the last 400 years. Mathematics: The Winton Gallery places mathematics at the heart of all our lives, bringing  the subject to life through remarkable stories, artefacts and design.

More than 100 treasures from the Science Museum’s world-class science, technology, engineering and mathematics collections help tell powerful stories about how mathematical practice has shaped and been shaped by some of our most fundamental human concerns – including money, trade, travel, war, life and death.

From a beautiful 17th-century Islamic astrolabe that used ancient mathematical techniques to map the night sky to an early example of the famous Enigma machine, designed to resist even the most advanced mathematical techniques for codebreaking, each historical object has an important story to tell about how mathematics has shaped our world. Archive photography and lm helps capture these stories and digital exhibits alongside key objects introduce the wide range of people who made, used or were affected by each mathematical device.

Dramatically positioned at the centre of the gallery is the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ aircraft, built in 1929 for a competition to construct a safe aircraft. Ground-breaking aerodynamic research influenced the wing design of this experimental aircraft, helping transform public opinion about the safety of ying and securing the future of the aviation industry. This aeroplane highlights perfectly the central theme of the gallery about how mathematical practice is driven by, and in uences, real-world concerns and activities.

Mathematics also defines Zaha Hadid Architects’ design for the gallery. Inspired by the Handley Page aircraft, the gallery is laid out using principles of mathematics and physics. These principles also inform the three-dimensional curved surfaces representing the patterns of air ow that would have streamed around this aircraft.

Patrik Schumacher, Partner at Zaha Hadid Architects, recently noted that mathematics was part of Zaha Hadid’s life from a young age and was always the foundation of her architecture, describing the new mathematics gallery as ‘an important part of Zaha’s legacy in London’. Gallery curator David Rooney, who was respon- sible for the Science Museum’s recent award- winning Codebreaker: Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy exhibition, explained that the gallery tells ‘a rich cultural story of human endeavor that has helped transform the world’.

The mathematics gallery was made possible through an unprecedented donation from long-standing supporters of science, David and Claudia Harding. Additional support was also provided by Principal Sponsor Samsung, Major Sponsor MathWorks and a number of individual donors.

A lavishly illustrated new book, Mathematics: How It Shaped Our World, written by David Rooney and published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, accompanies the new display. It expands the stories covered in the gallery and contains an absorbing series of newly commissioned essays by prominent historians and mathematicians including June Barrow-Green, Jim Bennett, Patricia Fara, Dame Celia Hoyles and Helen Wilson, with an afterword from Dame Zaha Hadid with Patrick Schumacher.

Leonardo da Vinci – The Mechanics of Genius

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

Leonardo da Vinci

The Science Museum in London is currently showing “Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius”, giving us a chance to investigate both the facts and the misconceptions that surround Leonardo.

  • 39 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons
  • Large-scale reproductions of Leonardo’s famous drawings and sketches
  • 13 Interactive games and 10 multimedia installations
  • Modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology

 

Google’s and Gerty’s logos are quite similar

I have recently updated my applications and hit confused when trying to launche my book reader Gerty and instead of opening the book(s) I’m currently reading, I found staring at Googles’s search bar…

I am sure that is something neither of them would like, but hey… Just pointing it out. The similarity is superficial, but enough to get confused when looking at small icons in a screen. Check it out:

Ballet Folklórico de México in London

What do I think when I hear the name “Ballet Folklórico de México“? Well, I think of colourful clothes, big smiles, joyful music and great “zapateado”. I also think of Sunday TV and weirdly enough, school. I do remember the end-of-year festivals at school, when señorita Caballero would choreograph some traditional dances for us.

BalletFolklorico

BalletFolklorico_DancerI was thus very pleased to see in the Guardian Weekend, that Ballet Folklórico was coming to London, and that it would be the first time in 20 years that they would be in the British Isles. I had never seen them live, so it was a great opportunity to do so, and boy was I pleased to have done so!

They had their show at the London Coliseum, the home of the English National Opera, and it was a great venue to hear some well-known songs. I was expecting great dancers, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear live music from start to finish.

 

The programme was divided into 9 distinct parts, going from Mariachis to pre-hispanic dances and indeed a lot of zapateado:

  • Los Matachines: as many cultural expressions in Mexico, La Danza de los Matachines (also known as “Moros y Cristianos”) is a clear mix of European and pre-hispanic influences. It is a popular dance in religious festivals in the North of the Country. The interpretation presented in London was simply superb.

BalletFolklorico_Matachines

  • Guerrero-Guerrero: The name of one of the Mexican independence heroes; one of the states in the country is named after him and perhaps best known for places such as Acapulco. The company presented three parts here Solo de Mariquita, Las Amarillas and El Gusto.
  • Mexican Revolution: There is no November 20th parade in Mexico without the mention of Adelita and Las Soldaderas. This makes reference to the brave women who joined the fight during the Mexican Revolution in 1910. I really liked the reference to the railways as an important means of transport for los revolucionarios. BalletFolklorico_Adelita
  • Charrería: Sometimes dubbed the “Mexican National Sport”, Charrerías incorporate equestrian competitions and demonstrations, specific costumes and horse/cattle trappings, music, and food. I was truly amazed by the lasso skill of the main Charro who never stopped dancing.
  • Fiesta en Tlacotalpan: Tlacotalpan is a town inthe state of Veracruz. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the Ballet Folklóriko celebrated the traditional 2nd February Candelaria party with a Carnival. It was great to see real mojigangas on the stage. Even La Bamba made an appearance!
  • Los Quetzales: A quetzal is a magnificent bird with beautiful plumage. And with just a few movements, I felt transported to Puebla de los Ángeles. Great headwear and lots of colour!BalletFolklorico_Quetzales
  • Danzón and Jarana: Once again the mixing of cultures in Mexico brings a fantastic result and in this case Europe, Africa and the Caribbean give us dances such as Danzón and Jarana, from Veracruz to Yucatán.BalletFolklorico_Jarana
  • Danza del Venado: And from the South of the country, to the Sonora Dessert in the North. La Danza del Venado (or dance of the deer) is a visceral performance representing the hunt of a the deer by the Yaquis. Truly magical performance!
  • Jalisco: If Mexico is known for anything in particular, it would definitely have to be for teh recognisable sombreros, and Mariachi music from Jalisco. How did I enjoy the Jarabe Tapatío, La Negra and Viva México.

What a great way to finish a fantastic performance. People could not be stopped from joining in from their seats. I am truly glad that I had a chance to join la fiesta while El Ballet Folklórico de México came to visit London. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did!

BalletFolklorico_Jalisco

Shelf Life – The Tiniest Fossils

Really thrilled to continue seeing the American Museum of Natural History series Shelf Life. I blogged about this series earlier on in the year and they have kept to their word with interesting and unique instalments.

In Episode 6 we get to hear about micropaleontology, the study of fossil specimens that are so tiny you cannot see them with the naked eye. The scientist and researchers tell us about foramnifera, unicellular organisms belonging to the kingdom Protista and which go back to about 65 million years. In spite of being unicellular, they make shells! And this is indeed what makes it possible for them to become fossilised.

Interestingly enough these fossils allow us to used them as ways to tell something about ancient climate data. As Roberto Moncada pointed out to me:

According to our expert in the piece, basically every representational graph you’ve ever seen of climate/temperatures from the Earth’s past is derived from analyzing these tiny little creatures.

The Tiniest Fossils are indeed among the most important for climate research!

One more year in Pictures – Project 365

This is the 2013-2014 instalment of the Project 365. I can’t believe it has been three years of this already. I hope you enjoy!

Here is a link and you can find a video below:

Project 365 – 2013/2014

[shashin type=”album” id=”2″ size=”small” crop=”n” columns=”max” caption=”y” order=”date” position=”center”]

Science is beautiful exhibition

When I first heard about the plans that the British Library had about an exhibitions called Science is Beautiful I got very excited. I did even make an entry in my diary about the date that it was planned to be opened. Closer to the time I even encourage Twitter followers and colleagues to go to the exhibition.

lorence Nightingale's "rose diagram", showing the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East, 1858. Photograph: /British Library
lorence Nightingale’s “rose diagram”, showing the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East, 1858. Photograph: /British Library

The exhibition promised to explore how “our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.” So I finally made some time and made it to the British Library today… the exhibition was indeed there with some nice looking maps and graphics, but I could not help feeling utterly disappointed. I was very surprised they even call this an exhibition, the very few images, documents and interactive displays were very few and not very immersive. Probably my favourite part was looking at “The Pedigree of Man” and the “Nightingale’s Rose” together with an interactive show. Nonetheless, I felt that the British Library could have done a much better job given the wealth of documents they surely have at hand. Besides, the technology used to support the exhibits was not that great… for example the touch screens were not very responsive and did not add much to the presentation.

Sadly I cannot really longer recommend visiting the stands, and I feel that you are better off looking a the images that the Guardian has put together in their DataBlog, and complement with the video that Nature has made available. You can also read the review that Rebekah Higgitt wrote for the Guardian.

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The Harwell Dekatron is alive… alive!

If you happen to have a chance to visit Bletchley Park do not miss the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Computing where you will be able to see a large collection of computers of all sizes and ages. A recent addition is the Harwell Dekatron / WITCH which came back to like on November 20th, 2012.

The Harwell Dekatron or WITCH is the World’s oldest original working digital computer dating from 1951. WITCH is an acronym that stands for Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell. The computer aquired this name when, in 1957,  it was offered in a competition to an educational establishment. The competition was won by the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire College of Technology.

The machine uses “dekatrons” for its volatile memory (think of is as RAM) and it works on a decimal system, as opposed to the binary. The dekatrons are visible and thus one can literally see the state of the memory when the machine is operating. This sounds great when trying to explain how a computer works!

More information can be obtained here