Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spartan Sleeper: Disaster-Relief Bed from Cardboard Boxes

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Spartan Sleeper: Disaster-Relief Bed from Cardboard Boxes: [ Filed under Furniture & in the Beds category ]

Emergency architecture is once again in the limelight, with the devastation in Japan at the forefront of global concern. But someone has to think beyond cool concepts and consider the nuts-and-bolts requirements for staying alive, safe and healthy too.

The French designers of NOCC created this unassuming sleeper composed of four precut cardboard panels that can be readily made either at the site of a disaster or easily shipped as needed (minimal tools for assembly and fastening are included). In bed mode, the units are built to deform in the middle rather than at the edges, thus conforming to the shape of a sleeping human form in the center.

Modular combinations work as beds for various sizes and ages, but also can be stacked or separated to form tables, stools and other simple furniture objects. Storage slots built into the top can be used to stash personal items up off the ground, too.

While perhaps not the most comfortable cot in the world, cardboard does provide some give under pressure and the structures formed here are made to not buckle under human weight. So the next time someone shows you a bare-bones architectural solution for emergency use, consider what kinds of things it could or would be filled with, too.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Bigger and Better: The World’s Largest

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Bigger and Better: The World’s Largest: [ By Marc in Gadgets & Geek Art & History & Factoids & Travel & Places. ]

Giant objects are fascinating. The amount of time, effort, and expense that goes into something as banal and fantastic as a pencil that has to be moved by a crane is incredible. It’s no wonder that giant roadside attractions, and fun creations have such a hold over our attention.

Biggest Beer Cans

(Images via sillyamerica, hbd, fabricsgraphicsmag, oddee)

For anyone who has rejected the notion that 12 oz cans should be the standard for drinking beer, welcome to heaven. These beer cans are gigantic in scale and delicious in appearance. Any beer lover wishes they had one of these in their backyard, preferably with a tap.

Giant Balls of Twine

(Images via atlasobscura, facethewind)

The largest ball of twine created by one person is the Johnson Twine Ball, coming in at a whopping 12 feet in diameter, and weighing over 10,000 lbs. The largest twine ball built by a community? The nearly 18,000 pound twine ball in Cawker City, Kansas.

Huge Wine Bottles

(picturebugs, elitechoice, popfi, yenra, thelargest)

It’s strange to see something as classy as a bottle of wine supersized into something monstrous. Creating the enormous bottles for these displays is difficult enough, but filling them to the brim takes several barrels.

Shoes for a Giant

(Images via forumgarden, jgoodsonline, guinessworldrecords, metro, frndszone, thewondrous)

The entrants for world’s largest shoes are realistic enough to make one feel like an ant. The detail and craftsmanship is incredible. It’s certainly surreal seeing a shoe the size of a large truck being pulled on top of an 18 wheeler.

This Pencil Big Enough?

(Images via thegoldbrick, kedarphotography, richardpettinger, geoffeg)

It is now possible to feel the terror that a blank piece of paper feels every time we prepare to write. A pencil so large that it has to be maneuvered with heavy machinery, this huge monument was created in celebration of a 76th birthday. It has the volume of over 18,000,000 normal number 2 pencils.

Enormous Guns

(Images via techeblog, boardgamegeek, whatsthelatest)

Chances are these guns are the biggest on the range. Unable to be fired without a stable platform, these weapons are definitely more for show than performance. With that said, the punt shotgun can definitely get the job done.

World’s Biggest Fork

(Images via evangel, photobucket)

Springfield, MO is home to the world’s largest fork. It’s interesting to experience what our poor food experiences everyday.

Biggest Elevators

(Images via popsci, gizmag)

The largest elevators in the world are located in the Mitsubishi building in Japan. Able to carry up to 80 people at one time, these conveyors are all about efficiency.

Red Tides: When Tiny, Toxic, Single-Celled Animals Attack!

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Red Tides: When Tiny, Toxic, Single-Celled Animals Attack!: [ By Steve in Animals & Habitats & Food & Health & Nature & Ecosystems. ]

Red tides kill huge schools of fish, poison oyster and shellfish beds, and leave swimmers’ skin itchy, irritated and inflamed. Is this fearful phenomenon a case of nature running amok, or is human activity at least partly to blame?

Roll Tide!

(images via: Water Babies, Alan Guisewite and Underwater Times)

Crimson tides are cool when you’re sitting in a stadium cheering on your team. In the ocean or the odd freshwater lake, not so much. Though they may appear exotic and beautiful – especially at night in some cases – red tides often mean bad news for sea creatures and those who consume them… like us.

(images via: Island Nature, Life In Freshwater and CNRS)

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions. Red tides aren’t tides per se, and their appearance bears no relation to the sea’s natural tidal cycle. The term “red tide” originated at a time when observers didn’t have the technology to look closer – MUCH closer – at what was tinting the water red.

(images via: Expateek and Worth1000)

Though it’s probable that red tides have been appearing for many thousands of years, if not longer. The toxic red tides that continue to plague Florida’s coasts in modern times were first documented in the ship’s logs of 16th century Spanish explorers. Speaking of plagues, the phenomenon may have been noted even earlier, in the Bible’s Old Testament. The first of the Ten Plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians was described in the Book of Exodus thusly: “… and all the waters that were in the river turned to blood. And the fish that were in the river died, and the water stank.”

Whip It, Whip It Good

(images via: Marine Science, Underwater Times and Pixdaus)

With the invention of the microscope, biologists were for the first time able to determine the nature of red tides and the type of tiny creatures that produce them. Turns out the culprits are dinoflagellates, a type of protist or single-celled creature that has characteristics of both plants and animals. The term “dinoflagellate” is derived from the Greek word dinos, meaning “whirling”, and the Latin word flagellum which translates to “whip.”

(images via: Coastal Care, Sir Francis Drake Highschool, Rashid’s Blog and Green Prophet/M.Godfrey)

Basically, these tiny creatures propel themselves through the water by whirling and whipping a threadlike extension of their bodies. Though some dinoflagellates are semi-transparent and colorless, others are tinted various shades including red. When the populations of dinoflagellates boom; or “bloom”, as is often stated, their abundance can change the hue of large expanses of ocean to red, pink, purple, orange, gold – and every hue in between. The spectacular red tide bloom just above was caused by dinoflagellates of the species Noctiluca Scintillans, and occurred just off the coast of New Zealand.

(image via: NASA Earth Observatory)

Red tides are often reddish but their color depends on both the concentration and the type of the responsible protists. Photosynthetic algae can burst into huge greenish blooms that can be seen from orbit. Red tides and other harmful algae blooms (HABs, for short) have also been spied by satellites, as the image above shows: check out Florida’s southwest coast.

(images via: Microbial Life, Growing Algae and NASA Earth Observatory)

Being the color of blood alone was enough to worry ancient mariners but the effects of red tides sealed their reputation as harbingers of death and destruction – to sea life, at least. Some (but not all) of the dinoflagellates responsible for red tides produce a potent neurotoxin that is released when they’re ingested. A single dinoflagellate pumps out a tiny amount of toxin, but multiply that by multi-billions and you’ve got poison in the poisson… pardon my French.

Selfish Shellfish

(images via: Slate, Smithsonian NMNH and FEIS)

Massive fish kills – at times numbering in the millions – are often associated with red tide events but it’s what lies beneath that concerns health-conscious seafood consumers. Commercial shellfish such as clams, scallops and oysters can survive red tides but in doing so, they concentrate the neurotoxins in their tissues.

(images via: Lonelee Planet and Serious Eats)

Eating contaminated shellfish (which aren’t red, by the way) can induce symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), the effects of which are similar to those induced by toxins ingested in poorly prepared Fugu (Puffer fish) at sushi restaurants.

(images via: Kleepet, The National Academies and LIFE)

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) has been noted on both the east and west coasts of the United States and a range of dinoflagellate species have been implicated as the original source of the toxins – the species of dinoflagellate known as Alexandrium Fundyense is blamed for red tides in the American northeast coast and the Gulf of Maine.

(images via: Texas Parks and Wildlife, BC/CDC and Alaska Tsunami Papers)

It’s not even necessary to EAT contaminated seafood in order to be adversely affected by red tide toxins. The red tide organism Karenia Brevis, which blooms on a near-annual basis in the Gulf of Mexico, exudes a neurotoxin known as Brevitoxin. Winds blowing inshore can pick up the toxin as an airborne aerosol, causing people living up to several miles inland to suffer respiratory irritation, coughing, sneezing, and tearing. The aerosol can affect marine mammals such as seals, manatees and whales as well. The Humpback whale shown above right washed up on a Massachusetts beach after feeding in a red tide.

(images via: Coastal Care)

In response to the perceived dangers red tides can cause, both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regularly issue and update online status reports on red tides along their respective coastlines.

Don’t You Make My Red Tide Blue

(image via: The Jetpacker)

“Red tides at night, red tides at night, oh OH…” Can you see a red tide at night? Yes and no… the customary red hue is invisible by night but a different color is often easily and spectacularly evident: blue! many red tide organisms are also bioluminescent – that is, they produce and emit ghostly blue light through through a chemical reaction that occurs within their bodies.

(images via: The Olsons, Comcast Forums and Photoshelter)

Wave action, stormy weather and other sorts of disturbance will provoke these tiny creatures to pump out blue light, but swimmers should keep in mind light isn’t the only thing dinoflagellates can produce.

(image via: Panoramio/Joeyrigatoni)

Waves washing onto beaches can also bring dinoflagellates onto dry land. The tiny creatures can remain alive for some time on or in wave-soaked beach sand, and tales have been told of beachcombers leaving eerie blue footprints as they stroll along the seashore.

Red Tides, Dead Zones… Red Zones?

(image via: Harmful Algae)

Red tides and other algae blooms are prompted by a sudden influx of nutrients into lakes or oceans – yes, even lakes can experience red tides, as seen in the photo of an Italian alpine lake above.

(images via: WIRED and Mongabay)

Nitrate- and phosphate-rich agricultural runoff is one such nutrient source. Not only can runoff spark red tides, over a period of time the result can be a marine “dead zone” like the one in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

(images via: Esquire and Shorecrest)

Excess fertilizer, untreated sewage, farm waste and other organic material washed down the Mississippi river pour into the Gulf, cause massive algae blooms, and deoxygenate the water as billions of protists die and sink to the ocean floor. Similar scenes occur with regularity on the coasts of dense urban conglomerations such as Hong Kong (above).

(images via: Daily KOS, National Geographic and

Nutrients aren’t always organic or farm-related, however. Scientists have established a distinct correlation between windblown dust from the Sahara Desert and algae blooms in coastal Florida waters: the iron oxide in the dust acts as a nutrient to certain types of algae.

(image via: National Geographic)

El NiƱo events and natural upwelling of nutrients caused by ocean currents also play a role in the formation of red tides but it can be stated that without human activity, there would be a corresponding reduction in the frequency and severity of many red tides and algae blooms.

I Sea Red

(images via: Coastsider, Harmful Algae and Daily Telegraph)

If red tides have one saving grace, it’s their redness: it acts as a giant, liquid STOP sign for those who would normally enjoy seafood and shellfish oblivious to any consequences. To that we can probably add their often quite astonishing beauty, as illustrated in the many striking images that accompany this article.

(images via: MSauder and North County Times)

Better red than dead? Absolutely – not a single human fatality has occurred over the long history of Florida’s frequent red tides so look, admire and enjoy nature’s colorful show… and don’t plan any clambakes.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Spaces That Shine: Steel & Copper in Interior Design

Spaces That Shine: Steel & Copper in Interior Design: [ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Furniture & Interiors. ]

Bold and industrial, prominent metals in interior design are more often seen in large commercial spaces – but how do they translate to the home? Fans of the luster and shine of steel, aluminum and copper can bring the modern minimalism of these metals into living rooms, kitchens and entire indoor spaces with these 12 metallic interior design ideas, from striking details like fireplaces and water fountains to larger applications like walls and ceilings.

Ribbed Metal Ceiling

(image via: contemporist)

Cost-effective and totally unexpected, the ribbed metal ceiling in this Coconut Grove, Florida home by Mateu Architecture echoes metallic elements used in the kitchen and outside the house.

Stainless Steel Mosaic Wall Tiles

(images via: memois)

Stainless steel tiles aren’t unusual in bathrooms or as back splashes in modern kitchens, but it’s their use here to cover an entire living room wall that puts them in a whole new light. Shimmering and textural, this tile application creates an eye-catching accent wall.

Japanese Aluminum Modular Kitchen

(image via: blue star aluminum)

Shiny metal is much more than just an accent in this modular kitchen. Calling to mind commercial kitchens in which every surface must be easily sanitized, but on a smaller scale, the minimalist result is clutter-free and contrasts nicely with a natural wood floor.

Penny Tile Floors

(images via: studiogblog)

At about $2.50 per square foot, paving your floor with money is not as extravagant as it sounds. Though they’re now made mostly of zinc, pennies still give off a beautiful copper sheen, and their natural patina lends a variegated result that is rich and subtly shiny.

Ultramodern Steel Sofa

(image via: modern chair design)

Looking like it was carved from one solid block of metal, this curving sofa in a shape reminiscent of a sea shell is definitely a bold way to bring metals into your living room.

B3 Monoblock Kitchen

(image via: design awards)

Seemingly seamless, the B3 Monoblock by Bulthaup so strongly resembles a solid block of metal that it causes people to wonder whether you hauled it up to your apartment with a crane. Custom-made of high-grade stainless steel, these lustrous kitchen islands are totally lust-worthy.

Steel Stairs

(images via: weburbanist)

Since stairs are often located in the heart of a home, they provide another opportunity to stun with steel. These three creative sets of metal stairs in unusual designs certainly stand out.

Aluminum Walls

(image via: dezeen)

For this prefabricated home in Kanazawa, Japan, architecture firm Atelier Tekuto formed the interior spaces using molded aluminum rings, left unfinished so that the wall and ceiling surfaces of the home are entirely metallic. The architects cut energy costs by 80% by putting the reflective qualities of aluminum to good use, installing small LED lights directly into the ceilings and walls.

Contemporary Steel Fireplace

(image via: man_of_steel, luxury housing trends, tktdw)

A column of steel stretching from floor to ceiling makes the living room fireplace an even bigger draw. These three examples include minimalist matte cold-rolled steel, a more artistic reflective stainless steel surround and a free-standing modern fireplace that even includes storage space.

Copper Water Wall

(image via: indoor fountains online, best home gallery)

Water fountains are perhaps one of the easiest ways to bring metallics into your home in a big, bold way – in many cases, you simply hang the fountain on wall brackets and plug it in. Other installations can be more complex, like built-in water walls. The reflective qualities of the metal give the falling water even more sparkle.

Industrial Metal Apartment

(images via: dornob)

Taking the whole ‘metallic interior’ theme to an intense extreme, this apartment design in Moscow by designer Peter Kostelov is startlingly industrial – some might even say prison-like. But even if you consider this much metal to be overkill, you can’t say that the space isn’t visually engaging with its patchwork of textures, visible welds and exposed rivets.

Void Masonry: Entire Home Made of Steel

(images via: dornob)

Atelier Tekuto’s beautiful all-metal house may be even more extreme than the metal apartment interior, but at least it’s light-filled with a grid of glass openings in the steel sheath. The steel boxes in the metal walls aren’t just visually striking and convenient for storage; they’re load-bearing, and also designed to regulate indoor temperatures as the seasons change.