David Michael Reyes, an analogue collage artist

Monday, 27 February, 2017

Artwork by David Michael Reyes

Although some of his work in the past has been digital, for the moment David Michael Reyes considers himself to be a strictly “analogue” collage artist. Whatever way he works though, it all looks great to me.

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The Growroom, a spherical layered garden for places with no garden

Monday, 27 February, 2017

Garden sphere, by IKEA

The Growroom, designed by Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husumto, of Space 10, an idea lab that is part of Swedish design and furniture company IKEA, could allow people who only have small gardens to grow an abundance of vegetables.

The sphere shaped structure consists of five layers of plant boxes, which probably means a fair amount of produce can potentially be grown.

The Growroom can’t be bought in flat pack format, not yet at least, meaning you’ll have source the required materials and tools yourself, but plans can be downloaded here.

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The prologue to Alien: Covenant. With Michael Fassbender in one piece

Monday, 27 February, 2017

Alien: Covenant, the sequel to 2012’s Prometheus, graces cinema screens in May. In the meantime, director Ridley Scott has released a prologue to Covenant.

Here, those aboard deep space vessel Covenant are enjoying a final meal, before going into cyrosleep for the long voyage to a planet in a distant solar system, that they intend to colonise.

All looks to be well. But is it?

Michael Fassbender features, as you can see. But wasn’t he in several pieces, when we last saw him in Prometheus? Scott has hinted though that Fassbender plays two roles in Covenant.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Covenant and Prometheus will tie together.

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Sally Teixeira, Perth, Australia, based artist

Monday, 27 February, 2017

Artwork by Sally Teixeira

Sally Teixeira is a Perth, Australia, based art and design teacher turned artist, who draws inspiration for her paintings from street art, and the work of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

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Animal agriculture, the primary cause of environmental destruction?

Monday, 27 February, 2017

Seven “earth-like” planets, including three that may be habitable – to some forms of life – might be orbiting Trappist 1, a dwarf star about forty light years from the Sun.

It is unlikely any of these planets are remotely similar to Earth though. The planets in the Trappist 1 solar system are not a destination we can pack up and move to, if the human race needed to, for whatever reason. Even if we were capable of travelling there, which we are not.

The message is simple. We have to look after our own planet, in order to ensure our survival.

That’s a point also made in Planet Earth – As We Eat Our Way To Extinction, a clip produced by Zeezee Branson, and Gary-TV.com, an Israeli video production company. The argument here is animal agriculture, and meat consumption, is the primary cause of environmental destruction.

Whatever your opinion there, environmental conditions continue to deteriorate on Earth. There is, quite literally, no escaping these problems, they have to be dealt with.

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Guido Taroni, a photographer based in Milan, Italy

Friday, 24 February, 2017

Photo by Guido Taroni

Guido Taroni is a photographer based in Milan, Italy, who has been exhibiting since 2009, and has a knack, I think, for finding the perfect framing for a photo.

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Will film streaming mean the end of commentary tracks?

Friday, 24 February, 2017

Film streaming has a number of advantages over DVDs. Not having to worry about the disc being damaged, to the point playback is hampered, or doesn’t happen at all, is one of them.

But to everything there is a cost. Streaming may spell the end of commentary tracks, that often feature a movie’s director, and prominent cast members, says Andrew Egan, writing for Tedium.

This would be unfortunate if commentary tracks were no more. Often a lot can be learned about a film from the sometimes candid thoughts of those involved in its production.

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Kevin Chevalier, Paris based freelance illustrator

Friday, 24 February, 2017

Illustration by Kevin Chevalier

Kevin Chevalier is a freelance illustrator based in Paris, who crafts some incredible drawings. This is one of his black and white works, though most of his images are colour.

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NASA finds seven earth size planets, but are they anything like Earth?

Friday, 24 February, 2017

After days of keeping us in suspense about a new discovery, NASA let the cat out of the bag, in the early hours of yesterday morning. The TRAPPIST optic robotic telescope, located in Chile, recently identified a dwarf star, about forty light years distant from Earth, that is host to seven planets around about the same size as Earth.

Come on now, you didn’t think they were going to announce that an alien civilisation had been found, did you?

This is still a significant discovery though. Particularly as three of the seven bodies orbiting TRAPPIST-1 – the star also takes its name from the Belgian operated telescope – are within its solar system’s so-called Goldilocks, or habitable zone, an area capable of supporting life, that is neither too hot, nor too cold.

It is this bit that is especially of interest, as it means these planets may habour water in liquid form, and, as a result, potentially life of some sort. And that is obviously an exciting prospect. But talk we may one day be able to emigrate there is well wide the mark, to say the least.

There is, you see, a big difference between a planet that is “earth-like”, and one exactly like Earth. Or a planet that could be called an Earth twin, or Earth analog. For example, Proxima b, an exoplanet within the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, is considered to be earth-like, as it is a rocky, or terrestrial planet.

It might have some sort of atmosphere, and possibly there could be liquid water on its surface. But Proxima b may be far from habitable, at least as far as humans are concerned. As Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star, which are relatively cool, Proxima b would need to be quite close, to be within the habitable zone.

This sort of proximity however could mean Proxima b is tidally locked, meaning the planet’s rotational period matches the time it takes to orbit the star. This result here is only one side of the planet would ever face the star.

Therefore, the sunny side of Proxima b would be quite warm, whereas the night side would be extremely cold. The only spots that might be conducive to life, would be near the day-night terminator. In addition, the planet is also exposed to stellar wind pressures far greater than those that Earth experiences.

Not all that earth-like, after all. So while some form of life may manage to eke out an existence there, it would hardly be suitable for human occupation. The same conditions could well apply to the planets within the Goldilocks zone of TRAPPIST-1, given it to is a relatively cool dwarf star.

At the very least, they’re quite possibly tidally locked. If we’re looking for a new planet to settle on then, it needs to be an Earth twin. This is a planet, as the name suggests, that is identical in almost every way to ours. And if there are at least one hundred billion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, then it stands to reason some proportion must be virtually identical to Earth.

But an Earth twin candidate needs to be more than a terrestrial planet, orbiting within the habitable zone of its solar system though. In their book, Rare Earth, published in 2000, US paleontologist Peter D. Ward, and Donald Brownlee, a professor of astronomy, outlined the criteria necessary for a planet to be classified as an Earth twin:

The right distance from a star; habitat for complex life; liquid water near surface; far enough to avoid tidal lock; right mass of star with long enough lifetime and not too much ultraviolet; stable planetary orbits; right planet mass to maintain atmosphere and ocean with a solid molten core and enough heat for plate tectonics; a Jupiter-like neighbor to clear out comets and asteroids; plate tectonics to build up land mass, enhance bio-diversity, and enable a magnetic field; not too much, nor too little ocean; a large moon at the right distance to stabilize tilt; a small Mars-like neighbor as possible source to seed Earth-like planet; maintenance of adequate temperature, composition and pressure for plants and animals; a galaxy with enough heavy elements, not too small, elliptical or irregular; right position the galaxy; few giant impacts like 65 million years ago; enough carbon for life, but not enough for runaway greenhouse effect; evolution of oxygen and photosythesis; and, of course, biological evolution.

That’s an extensive list. Some astronomers think two percent of the Milky Way’s planets may be Earth twins, meaning there could be two billion such bodies. Given the exacting conditions required for their existence though, I think the actual number may be far smaller.

It could a very long time, therefore, before any announcement is made regarding the discovery of a truly earth-like planet, that is, an Earth analog. It also means we have to take greater care of our own Earth. Clearly we’re not going to be emigrating anywhere else in any hurry.

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Still-motion animation of Otto Lilienthal, the flying man, in flight

Friday, 24 February, 2017

The exploits of Otto Lilienthal, a German aviation pioneer living in the nineteenth century, who made the first successful flights in a glider aircraft, have been brought to life. In a sense.

Amsterdam based filmmaker Johannes Hogebrink assembled photos taken during one of Lilienthal’s flights, and created a still-motion animation of the endeavour.

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