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.

Artificial Intelligence – Debunking Myths

Exploring around the interwebs, I came across this article by Rupert Goodwins in ArsTechnica about debunking myths about Artificial Intelligence. 

HAL 9000 in the film 2001.

It is a good read and it you have a few minutes to spare, do give it a go.

Rupert addresses the following myths:

  1. AI’s makes machines that can think.
  2. AI will not be bound by human ethics.
  3. AI will get out of control
  4. Breakthroughs in AI will all happen in sudden jumps.

It is true that there are a number of effort to try to replicate (and therefore understand) human thought. Some examples include the Blue Brain project in the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. However, this does not imply that they will get immediately a machine such as HAL or C3-PO.

This is because the brain is fat more complex than the current efforts are able to simulate. As a matter of fact, even simpler brains are significantly more complex for simulation. This does not mean that we should not try to understand and learn how brains work.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult to even define what we mean by “thought”— the so called hard problem. So finding a solution to the strong AI problem is not going to be here soon, but we should definitely try.

So, once that myth is out of the way, the idea that a Terminator-like robot is around the corner is put into perspective. Sure, there are attempts at getting some self-driving cars and such but we are not quite there yet. All in all, it is true that a number of technological advances can be used for good or bad causes, and that is surely something that we all should bear in mind.

Grace Hopper Doodle

 

Hopper

Once again Google puts out a doodle worth mentioning. This time they celebrate the 107th birthday anniversary of computer scientist Grace Hopper.
In case you do not know who Hopper is, well, let me smile say that she is the amazon woman behind COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which is still very much used today.

Grace Hopper was born in  New York in 1906  and studied Mathematics and Physics (of course) at Vassar College where she graduated in 1928. She then obtained a master’s degree at Yale in 1930 and a PhD in 1934.

Hopper joined the US Navy reserve during World War two and she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University where she was only the third person to program the Harvard Mark I computer. She continued to work at Harvard until 1949 when she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior programmer.

She helped to develop the UNIVAC I, which was the second commercial computer produced in the US. In the 1950s Hopper created the first ever compiler, known as the A compiler and the first version was called the A-O.

Hopper continued to serve in the navy until 1986 when she was the oldest commissioned officer on active duty in the United States Navy.

She died in Arlington, Virginia in 1992 at the age of 85.

Grace Hopper behind my keyboard
Grace Hopper behind my keyboard (Photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)

 

Skylon – Sci-advent – Day 2

 

skylonThe image shows the flow of hot air passing through the piping in a cooler for a new engine that is able to lower the temperature of the air lower than -140C in just 1/100th of a second.

The cooler is part of a new type of spaceplane engine demonstrated bye Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), Oxfordshire. The company ran a series of tests on key elements of its Sabre propulsion system under the independent eye of the European Space Agency (Esa).

REL’s idea is for an 84m-long vehicle called Skylon that would do the job of a big rocket but operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway. The vehicle would burn a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen but in the low atmosphere the oxygen would be taken from the air, in the same way that a jet engine breathes air.

Taking its oxygen from the air in the initial flight phase would mean Skylon could fly lighter from the outset with a higher thrust-to-weight ratio, enabling it to make a single leap to orbit, rather than using and dumping propellant stages on the ascent – as is the case with current expendable rockets. A key element is the engine’s ability to manage the hot air entering its intakes at a high speed. These gases have to be cooled prior to being compressed and burnt with the onboard hydrogen.

REL’s solution is a module containing arrays of extremely fine piping that can extract the heat and plunge the inrushing air to about -140C in just 1/100th of a second. Ordinarily, the moisture in the air would be expected to freeze out rapidly, covering the piping in a blanket of frost and dislocating their operation.

It is the innovative helium cooling loop with its pre-cooler heat-exchanger that REL has been validating on an experimental rig.

Lion and Air Display don’t like each other

vote symbol: information
Image via Wikipedia

I am generally quite happy with using a Mac and things seem to be going quite well with my machine. Nonetheless, I could not resist upgrading my operating system from Leopard to Lion… after all, Apple markets is as “the most advanced desktop operating system“. The update itself happened without a glitch, but the machine seemed to have become more sluggish. I assumed it was the number of applications that I had installed and the fact that some of them, such as Maple 9.5 and the version of PhotoShop that I had relied on the usage of Rosetta to work. I got rid of the newly obsolete software, but this did not sort the issues.

One of the more annoying issues, even more than the lack of malleability in Launchpad, was the very insufferable fact that the screensaver acquired a mind of its own: it would just spring into action on its own even when I was typing or using the mouse… After searching for a solution, the only thing that worked was to turn the screensaver off… Now, this is not ideal. But now I think I have found the answer: the problem was the limitation that Air Display has when installed in Lion.

Avatron, the makers of Air Display (a screen extension software) know about this and although they mentioned that only certain models are affected, I found that as soon as I got rid of Air Display not only my machine did not run into troubles with the screensaver but also woke up from the horrendous sluggishness it had been suffering.

How to uninstall Air Display:

  • Go to Applications -> Utilities
  • Run the “Uninstall Air Display”
  • The machine will automatically re-start
  • Et voilà

Technology of the past

PC DOS Command LineIt is amazing how much we take for granted when it comes to technology. I am still surprised that some youngsters do not know for example how to list the files in a folder using a command line, and cannot do much without a graphical interface.

This video is a great example of what how children try to make sense out of technology of the (not so remote) past. Enjoy!