Brief #8 - okładka

Robots building houses and the architecture inspired by sponges

The structure of the deep-sea sponge skeletons could inspire the technology for stronger and more durable architecture, like buckle resistant bridges. According to the newest research, Euplectella aspergillum species has an intricate skeletal structure that is exceptionally strong – it performs better than the comparable configurations humans use for lattice-style bridges. It has a tubelike skeleton in the shape of a square grid with diagonal reinforcements.

The scientists from the Living Materials Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder enriched concrete with a polymer called PEG-PVA that is currently used in time-released pharmaceutical pills. As a result, they received concrete more resistant to the temperature swings. Daily temperature changes make water freeze and expand and then contract when it thaws. The regular concrete is porous and absorbs water which makes its surface flake and peel.

In Great Britain, construction of a first-ever robot-built house just started. The robot uses a digitized version of the architect’s design, and it builds the house twice as fast as the human bricklayers. The technology has been in development for four years. Construction is one of the last industries that isn’t using robots.

Abandoned art and the “mini-festival” in Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival organized a three-day “mini film fest” as a “declaration of love” for culture. The organizers want the festival to help the region in tough times and an encouragement for the cinema industry. In the absence of most international movie stars, the spectators were invited to walk the famous red carpet. The organizers plan to hold the next edition in May 2021, as it was usually done, and they hope it will have a usual, full program. It remains unsure whether it will be possible.

A group of artists initiated a project that would map all the abandoned art events of 2020. They intend to create a time capsule that keeps a record of the cultural activities that were lost due to the pandemic. It allows the page visitors to click on the given project and learn about it. The idea is to show what we’ve lost during that year in terms of artistic value, as the world usually focuses on the economical one. The research made in Australia in April 2020 showed that even 75% of those employed in the creative and performing sectors might lose their jobs.

Alarm Will Sound is an American music ensemble of artists from five states who used online tools to give a web concert together. Each of the performers had to be logged to two different video conferencing applications at the same time to implement the project, feed the sounds with the external tools to ensure quality and work with delays, and… face the lack of score in front of the musicians. Tyshawn Sorey, the composer and conductor had to write and draw signals on the index cards. The video is accessible via the YouTube webpage.

Turkey vs Greece dispute and alleged terrorism in Venezuela

Turkish authorities stated that they would extend seismic exploration in the disputed area of the Eastern Mediterranean until November 4th. Greece called it an “illegal move” that is breaking international law. Three Turkish ships are prospecting for mineral resources (gas and oil) south of the Greek Rhodes island. As a counter to Turkish actions, the Greek government plans to expand its trade, energy, and military cooperation with Israel, Cyprus, and other countries in the region.

President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duerte, removed a six-year ban on oil exploration in the South China Sea. The decision opens a way for cooperation between the Philippines and China in mutual extraction projects if the two countries are able to get over the overlapping territorial claims in the region.

According to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the Amuay oil refinery in the north-west of the country was damaged as a result of a terrorist attack. A month before, Venezuelan authorities arrested Matthew John Heath, a U.S. citizen. They charged Heath with terrorism, weapons trafficking, and conspiracy. President claims that the U.S. conspires with his political opponents to remove him from power, while the government struggles to provide domestic oil from the beleaguered country’s industry. In the last months, Venezuela started to import oil from Iran.

A future space war, the law in space, and the new rogue planet

The scientists postulate an international agreement to prevent or limit a space war that may occur in the future. With the U.S. creating its Space Force last year and more and more countries growing the capabilities of launching satellites, the danger of tensions in the orbit is on the rise. The U.S. officials feel that their country is threatened since more than one-third of the functioning satellites belong to it. The early-missile-warning system relies on only ten satellites and military command and control on six satellites. The officials fear a “space Pearl Harbor” as there aren’t real means of defending them. Until now, countries failed to form a universal, binding set of rules for the way they act in space.

While Elon Musk revealed the plan of creating a self-sustaining city on Mars, his company SpaceX will not abide by international law while there. The terms of use of the Starlink – a set of satellites revolving around Earth to be used for providing the internet on Mars as well – state: “(…)the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities”. It offers to settle disputes in good faith and via “self-governing principles” instead.

Astronomers have spotted a “rogue” planet floating in our galaxy. Having mass roughly between Earth and Mars it is the smallest of such lone planets found to date. Scientists believe that the so-called rogue planets were ejected from their planetary systems through gravitational interactions and they could be a great source of knowledge about the history of planet systems. The new planet was found thanks to “gravitational microlensing” that comes as a result of bending the light of more distant stars. This kind of observation is extremely rare.

No more protection for the Grey Wolf and an encounter with an elusive chameleon

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it aims to terminate the protection of the grey wolf as it is “neither a threatened nor endangered species”. The conservation groups around the country oppose the decision, stating that the move is premature and the U.S. still lacks a national wolf recovery plan. One of the groups, Defenders of Wildlife, informed of its plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over that decision. There are 6000 wolves across the 48 U.S. states now, and the animal has been considered endangered since 1978.

The scientists from the mixed German-Madagascar expedition to the north of this African island claim that they have encountered a Voeltzkow’s chameleon. The animal wasn’t spotted in a hundred years. It is elusive, and its lifespan is very short – they are believed to be born, grow and die during the few months of the rainy season. It is also the first time when the female of the species was documented. Today, deforestation in Madagascar threatens its habitat.

The pace with which humans are killing the North Atlantic right whale is faster than previously thought, according to the new modeling. Only 356 whales remain – a significant decline since last year’s 409 – and only about 70 of those are breeding females. The scientists say that the species still can be saved – in the past their numbers were even lower. “But we have to stop killing them – we’re killing them at an alarming rate” – claim the researchers.

“Writing the future” and tattoos as a mark of the journeys

A tattoo is a part of travel, and for hundreds of years, travelers have marked their journeys with ink. The word “tattoo” derives from the languages of Polynesia. Europeans first made traveler tattoos to mark their pilgrimages to Holy Land in the 1600s. Razoouk family from Jerusalem claim that their family has been tattooing people since 1300. In Borneo, young men who went through the rite of passage and left their communities received tattoos as a sign of their journeys into the other settlements and the wilderness. In nineteenth-century Japan, the fine art galleries were also tattoo parlors.

Japanese more and more often oppose the deeply held prejudices that link tattoos with the crime world. They decorate their bodies with colorful and elaborate designs, often referring to the traditional tales. Tattooist Shodai Horiren says: “Your house gets old, your parents die, you break up with a lover, kids grow and go. But a tattoo is with you until you’re cremated and in your grave. That’s the appeal.”

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts opened the exhibition: “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation”. It covers the key importance of the visual arts for the beginnings of hip-hop culture. It also presents the “post-graffiti” – a movement of New York’s artists adapting the street work for display in high-end galleries, as well as in music videos and fashion.