August 2011
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Month August 2011

X Marks the Spot

From National Geographic

On August 9 the sun shot out an X-class solar flare, the most intense type of flare, aimed directly at Earth. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of the flare in extreme ultraviolet light.

The megaflare unleashed charged particles from the sun, which can boost auroral displays but can also disrupt GPS and communications signals when they reach Earth.

NASA warned that the August 9 flare could cause scattered radio blackouts, but that an associated coronal mass ejection—a dense cloud of solar particles—would miss the planet, minimizing risks to satellites and the power grid.

Image: NASA/SDO/AIA

Ludo, Los Angeles

From unurth

Philips Pavilion

Via ArchDaily, by Oscar Lopez

Architects: Le Corbusier & Iannis Xenakis
Location: Brussel’s World’s Fair; Brussels, Belgium
Project Year: 1958
Engineer: Hoyte Duyster

Not wanting to be outshone by the Americans and their developments with color television, the Philips Electronics Company decided to step away from displaying commercial goods and instead create a unique experience for the thousands of people that would be attending the Expo. The experiential space was created by putting together an international team consisting of an architect, an artist and a composer to create a pavilion displaying electronic technology in as many forms as possible, serving arts, culture, and the overall betterment of humankind.

The Philips electronics company turned to the office of Le Corbusier for the final commission of the pavilion. Le Corbusier replied by saying that, “I will not make a pavilion for you but an Electronic Poem and a vessel containing the poem; light, color image, rhythm and sound joined together in an organic synthesis”. Le Corbusier would take on the sole task of developing the interior of the vessel, leaving the exterior design of the pavilion to the responsibility of his protégé designer Iannis Xenakis, whom was also trained as an experimental composer and thusly would also create the transitional music that guided you into the formal space of organized sound.

For the composer of the Poem Electronique, Le Corbusier commissioned Edgard Varèse, choosing him over other well know composers of the time such as Benjamin Britten and Aaron Copland, both of whom the Philips company preferred over Varese. Le Corbusier gave minimal input into the details of how the interior of the pavilion would work, instead giving only a vague concept of what the experience should accomplish. The basic guidelines given to both Xenakis and Varese were that the interior was to be shaped in a manner similar to the stomach of a cow, with the form coming from a basic mathematical algorithm. The concept was that audience members would enter in groups of 500 at ten-minute intervals, for two minutes, as the audience filed in through a curved passageway, they would hear Xenakis’s transitional piece before entering a room that would go into darkness, enveloping the audience in a space of light and sound for eight minutes while an accompanying video displayed images along the walls of the pavilion. At the end of the eight-minute piece, the spectators would exit, digested, through another exit while the next group filed in.

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National Parks From Space

Via Wired, by Betsy Mason

Death Valley National Park
Location: California, Nevada
Established: Oct. 31, 1994
Size: 5,270 square miles
Visitors in 2010: 984,775

Death Valley’s Badwater Basin is the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. It is the hottest, driest place in the country, with an average high of 115 degrees Fahreneheit during July. Temperatures exceeding 120 are not uncommon, and on July 10, 1913, the temperature reached 134.

More info at nps.gov. Image: USGS/NASA.

Denali National Park
Location: Alaska
Established: Feb. 26, 1917
Size: 9,492 square miles
Visitors in 2010: 378,855

Denali contains the highest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet in elevation. The peak is officially recognized by Alaska as Denali, but is known as Mount McKinley to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The first known ascent of Denali’s main summit was in 1913. More than 1,000 climbers visit the mountain each year, but historically only a little over half of the summit attempts are successful. More than 100 people have died on Denali.

Images: Above: Space Imaging. Below: University of Maryland Global Land Cover Facility.

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Madagascar Jellyfish

From National Geographic

Looking like a multihued jellyfish, the Betsiboka River in northwestern Madagascar flows into Bombetoka Bay, which then empties into the Mozambique Channel.

In this recently released satellite picture, sandbars and islands between the “tentacles” appear rust-colored due to sediments that washed into the streams and rivers during heavy rains.

Image: JAXA/ESA

Vhils, Venice, CA

From unurth

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Help Choose the Year’s Best Microscope Photos

At Wired

Photomicrographer: Jose R. Almodovar, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus
Specimen: Utricularia gibba, bladderwort
Technique: Darkfield

Photomicrographer: Torsten Wittmann, University of California, San Francisco
Specimen: Bovine pulmonary artery endothelial (BPAE) cells fixed and stained for actin, mitochondria, and DNA
Technique: Epi-fluorescence; multi-image stitching

Images: Courtesy of Nikon Small World

Rick Perry Really Only Cares About $$$

From NY Times

Tracking the Flow of Money

The administration of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate, has doled out millions of dollars in grants that benefit some of his most generous donors. State money awarded to G-Con, a pharmaceutical start-up, provides an example of how state grants appear to be paying dividends for some major Perry contributors.

Dark Passage

Bad Architecture

For Nikos Salingaros, the persuit of formal or critico-ideological concerns in place of adapting to nature and the needs of ordinary human beings defines “bad architecture” which makes people uncomfortable or physically ill. Salingaros’s targets were the star postmodern architects who emphasized meaning at the expense of the concrete experiences of the people who used their buildings. Take Bernard Tschumi—from the premise that there is no fixed relationship between architectural form and the events that take place within it, he drew a socio-critical conclusion: this gap opens up the space for critical undermining. Architecture’s role is not to express an extant social structure, but to function as a tool for questioning that structure and revising it. Salingaros’s counter-argument would be: should we then make ordinary people uncomfortable and ill at ease in their buildings, just to impose on them the critico-ideological message that they live in an alienated, commodified, and antagonistic society? Koolhaas was right to reject what he dismissively calls architecture’s “fundemental moralism,” and to doubt the possibility of any directly “critical” architectural practice—however, our point is not that architecture should somehow be “critical,” but that it cannot not reflect and interact with social and ideological antagonisms: the more it tries to be pure and purely aesthetic and/or functional, the more it reproduces these antagonisms.

Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times, Architectural Parallax, p. 273-4