Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Billions and billions of bacterial landscape architects pruning — no less in environments poisoned with antibiotics — other bacterial landscape architects, dead or alive, to form dazzling arabesque parterres. The self-organizing embroidery of organisms in constant Darwinian mode.
Look for them in the spring catalogues of Martha Stewart Living.
Yet More Gardens-in-a-Petri
Interstate-5 / Invisible-5
Friday, February 24, 2006
This is absolutely amazing! Available in April 2006, the Invisible-5 Audio Project is “a two-CD, self-guided audio tour along Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It uses the format of a museum audio tour to guide the listener along the highway landscape.”
Available now as an appetizer is the audio tour for Bayview Hunters Point / San Francisco.
Once wisher for a similar set for the entire American interstate highway system and navigable waters. Tocqueville x Steinbeck x Huckleberry Finn on your iPod. Or even for the New Grand Asian Silk Road.
The iconography of extraterrestrial landscapes
From the Geologic Map of the Uruk Sulcus Quadrangle of Ganymede in which “[a]lbedo, surface morphology and texture, and crater densities were the principal characteristics used to distinguish one unit from another, following planetary photogeologic mapping conventions. Crosscutting relations were used to determine the three-dimensional relations between units. However, unlike the terrestrial planets, for which the techniques for planetary geologic mapping were developed, Ganymede has landforms that, apart from impact craters, are largely structural features. Although every effort was made to identify individual material units, the map has as much in common with tectonic maps as with geologic maps on which units are distinguished in terms of lithology and age. Thus, on this map some units of the same apparent lithology and age are distinguished from one another by different surface features.”
One cannot help but imagine that a thousand years from now, after Ganymede has long been terraformed and colonized, our ancestors may be in the midst of a civil war borne out of border disputes and conflicting claims of territorial legitimacy, the legacies of an imprecise quadrangle map.
Future Jovian israeli-palestinian warfare as a function of geomorphological abstraction. Terrorism as an offspring of ancient mapping iconography.
USGS Astrogeology Research Program
Thursday, February 23, 2006
So while BLDGBLOG continues its fascination with Martian viro-invaders, Social Fiction has been expanding its microbial menagerie: godless ecologies simmering with selfish codes and data silently contesting for survival — fractal, pointillist, and mercilessly lethal.
“Trees and ferns often grow in fractal forms,” this website tells us. ”Bacteria colonies can, too.”
For instance, these colonies of Bacillus subtilis:
Which is why someone should market them alongside these Gardens-in-a-Bag and the equally portable Flowers-in-a-Can. Certainly our reliably adventurous and near-future spacefaring Dubai sheiks can be convinced to invest in these instant landscapes, perhaps even finance viral hunting expeditions to new Edens, where not only new bird and frog species lay uncatalogued but prized super-strains of Avian flu and Ebola-HIV hybrids also await collection and classification by CDC-licensed landscape architects.
And if they happen to run out of test tubes, an unfortunate landscape architect can just as easily be converted into a greenhouse, his body then FedExed off to the manufacturing plant, whence every crevices are swabbed, tissues dissected, and bubbling fluids bottled. Afterwards, the samples are cultured and espaliered with nutrient agar and antibiotics before finally beging shipped off along major air traffic routes to waiting WHO-certified gardeners.
(Or maybe the expedition encounters a malicious band of orchid hunters and transnational ex-CIA miner-loggers. Everyone's sweaty, no shower in weeks, and the constant high pitched droning of the forest has made all trigger-happy and quite insane. The Hot Zone meets Adaptation meets Aguirre.)
Meanwhile, these are some examples of rotex fractal growth found in colonies of Bacillus subtilis (B 168): “The colonies grow by the movement of bacteria droplets, filled with bacteria spinning around a common center. Smaller droplets explore the space left by the larger, leading droplets.”
“Under adverse conditions, B 168 usually grow in compact clusters, because the bacteria are immobile. However, if the colonies are grown for very long periods, they sometimes exhibit a new mode of branching growth.”
These varying branching patterns occur by modulating environmental parameters.
So simply arrange them atop your coffee table. Nothing will bring your guests to chat ironically about post-9/11 bioterrorism faster.
Yet More Gardens-in-a-Petri
Public Smog is “a public park composed of intangibles and built in the economic realm of carbon offset trading. Offsets purchased and controlled by the public will be inaccessible to polluting industries. The park will exist as a construct of heightened air quality occurring in this unfixed public space. The park's size will vary, reflecting shifting financial control of carbon offset shares, compounded by naturally occurring seasonal fluctuations in air quality.”
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
More asteromo aftershocks: these microscopic slivers of the moon -- extracted from a report by the Lunar Regolith Materials Workshop, organized by NASA “to establish requirements for the production and distribution of terrestrial analogs of lunar regoliths.”
As luminous on earth as it is in the firmament.
Might we soon expect self-illuminating lunar regolithic hardscaping, ionized and prismatic? A future market in moon pavers irradiated with the solar wind. Mini-auroras in the backyard. That or I'd settle for a sequel to Bedrock: The Film.
More shimmering microscopic moon rocks here.
“Ground truth”: or, Wanted: Fake Moon Dirt
Brave New Edible Estates
In 1930, British statesman Frederick Edwin Smith imagined a society in which “[i]t will no longer be necessary to go to the extravagant length of rearing a bullock in order to eat its steak. From one ‘parent’ steak of choice tenderness it will be possible to grow as large and as juicy a steak as can be desired.”
A couple of years later, Winston Churchill reiterated Smith's prediction: “Fifty years hence we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”
Not much happened in the intervening years, but last year, according to The Guardian, “Researchers have published details in a biotechnology journal [Tissue Engineering] describing a new technique which they hailed as the answer to the world's food shortage. Lumps of meat would be cultured in laboratory vats rather than carved from livestock reared on a farm.
“Scientists have adapted the cutting-edge medical technique of tissue engineering, where individual cells are multiplied into whole tissues, and applied them to food production.'With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply,' said Jason Matheny, an agricultural scientist at the University of Maryland.
“According to researchers, meat grown in laboratories would be more environmentally friendly and could be tailored to be healthier than farm-reared meat by controlling its nutrient content and screening it for food-borne diseases.”
And it goes on: “Vegetarians might also be tempted because the cells needed to grow chunks of meat can be taken without harming the donor animal.
“Experiments for NASA, the US space agency, have already shown that morsels of edible fish can be grown in petri dishes, though no one has yet eaten the food.
“Mr Matheny and his colleagues have taken the prospect of "cultured meat" a step further by working out how to produce it on an industrial scale. They envisage muscle cells growing on huge sheets that would be regularly stretched to exercise the cells as they grow. Once enough cells had grown, they would be scraped off and shaped into processed meat products such as chicken nuggets.”
So, while you're growing your new replacement face and the new patio addition, you'll be cultivating and harvesting coqs au vin and stuffed roast turkeys and chicken caesar salads in your front yard in the meantime. The American lawn meets vegetable garden meets farm meets abattoir.
P.D. Edelman et al., “In Vitro-Cultured Meat Production.” Tissue Engineering (Volume 11, Number 5/6, 2005)
Ian Sample, “When meat is not murder.” The Guardian (13 August 2005)
Press Release from the University of Maryland (6 July 2005)
Semi-Living Food and “Disembodied Cuisine”
Monday, February 13, 2006
Another from the USGS Landsat Project: “A vast alluvial fan blossoms across the desolate landscape between the Kunlun and Altun mountain ranges that form the southern border of the Taklimakan Desert in China's XinJiang Province.”
“Ground truth”, or: Wanted: Fake Moon Dirt
Monday, February 13, 2006
Again, while in the process of searching for images of the Asteromo, I came across this year-old article from Space.com: “If humans are going back to the Moon for real, there’s need for counterfeit lunar materials. Known as simulants, tons of fake lunar soil is likely needed to assure that future explorers can sustain their stay on Earth’s neighboring Moon.
“Any thought of setting up machinery that converts lunar regolith — that’s the Moon’s topside rug of rock and dust — into building materials, solar cells, or fuel, water and oxygen supplies — demands a lot of beforehand work.”
Quoting the article further: “Tons of lunar simulant, called JSC-1, were produced years ago under the auspices of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, hence the name. Made from volcanic ash of basaltic composition, JSC-1’s composition mimicked many of the attributes of lunar mare soil samples.”
To establish “ground truths,” as it were, with local landscapes simulating alien landscapes.
Not really following a direct line of thought here, but I wonder when will the moon have its own USDA Soil Survey Map — or these fake moon dirt their own taxonomic classes — in which landscape architects can check their potential agricultural productivity (how many bushels of corn, for instance, can they yield); floral and faunal habitation (hardwood or coniferous or herbaceous); structural support capacity (dwelling with basements or dwellings without basements); gradient (good, moderate or severe); hydrological management concerns (wetness, slow refill, erodible), etc.
So that an avowed soil survey map addict can curl up in bed, coffee in hand and maybe some post-rock in the background and why not with these soil maps as well, and just have a good read.
Everyone knows what I'm talking about, right?
Leonard David, “Wanted: Fake Moon Dirt.” SPACE.com (24 January 2005)
Sunday, February 12, 2006
From the USGS Landsat Project: “This early spring view shows a rectangular maze of collective farms near the city of Komsomolets in northern Kazakstan. The walls surrounding the farms are actually dense rows of trees that serve as windbreaks. Snow has piled against the trees, which along with the accompanying shadows gives the scene a 3-dimensional appearance. The windbreaks were planted shortly after collective farming began in northern Kazakstan in the 1950’s, when it became evident that wind erosion of the soil was a problem. Also shown is a major roadway extending from lower right to upper left, crossing the Tobel river near Komsomolets, which appears as a dark circular patch mid-way up the left border of the scene.”
Conceived in the 1960s by architect Paolo Soleri, who coincidentally started the desert techno-ashram Arcosanti, an Asteromo is “an asteroid for a population of about 70,000 people. It is basically a double-skinned cylinder kept inflated by pressurization and rotation of the main axis...the weight of a person will vary from zero at the axis to a fraction of his earthly weight on the ground. He will be able to fly without the need of any power devices.” In other words, to get around this outside-inside ellipsoidal earth, you do a starting jump and then simply float away, guided perhaps by a tether system emulating the trajectories of honeybees. Here where the earth is the sky is the earth, your office might be directly above/below your home, that is, if such distinctions still exist in this spacebound utopia.
For those preferring not to fly, there will be “Dantesque promenades at different levels of physical prowess — from weak (center) to strong (periphery),” which leads us to wonder if there will be class stratification in this arcology-in-space based on gravity.
While Soleri's design involved metal-clad cylinders, a prior plan by futurologists Dandridge Cole and Donald Cox proposed using actual asteroids, fusing and sculpting them with the heat from solar mirrors to form the gigantic geodesic interior chamber “in much the same way as a glassblower shapes a small solid lump of molten glass into a large empty bottle.”
As described here, future landscape architects will knock out an asteroid out of its gravitational orbit and then “[d]rill a hole down the middle of [the] asteroid — about a kilometer (3,280 feet) in diameter — and pack the cavity with water ice. Reseal the ends with the original material and heat the mass with giant mylar-film solar mirrors. By the time the heat reaches the center, the mass will be semi-liquid and the explosively expanding steam that results when the ice at the core is heated to the same degree will inflate the molten asteroid like a balloon.”
Moreover, attendant to Asteromo is Cole's concept of the Macro-Life: “This vehicle or creature of the Macro-Life could move (with rocket propulsion), grow (given to a food source under shape of natural resources drafts from other asteroids), could answer to the stimuli through its optical sensors and electronic, to think with the brains of its human colony and its computers, and, finally, reproduce.”
So one asteroid then two then four and pretty soon Earth will have its very own Kuiper Belt of geosynchronous bioplanetoid organisms in constant mitotic cell divisions.
And in death, they'll simply drop down to Earth in a blazing, funerary meteor shower towards their cratered necropolis.
Where the earth is the sky is the earth
Hill of Crosses
While browsing around here for images to use in a previous post, I was reminded of the Hill of Crosses near the city of Siauliai, Lithuania.
From the Catholic Church of Lithuania: “In the beginning of the 20th century the Hill of Crosses was already widely known as a sacral place. In addition to many pilgrims visiting, it was also a place for Masses and devotions. The Hill of Crosses became of special importance during Soviet times – this was the place of anonymous but surprising persistence to the regime. The Soviet government considered the crosses and the hill a hostile and harmful symbol. In 1961 wooden crosses were broken and burnt, metal ones used as scrap metal and stone and concrete crosses were broken and buried. The hill itself was many times destroyed with bulldozers. During the 1973–1975 period about half a thousand crosses used to be demolished each year without even trying to do this secretly. Later the tactics became more subtle: crosses were demolished as having no artistic value, different 'epidemics' were announced forbidding people to come into the region or the roads were blocked by police. The Hill was guarded by both the Soviet army and KGB. In 1978 and 1979 there were some attempts to flood the territory. Despite all these endeavors to stop people from visiting the Hill, crosses would reappear after each night.”
The New York Times recently had an article on the proliferation of roadside memorials, which indeed seem to dot — if not now, then soon will be — each and every mile of America's highways and byways.
Usually DIY affairs crafted out of crosses, balloons, teddy bears, flowers and Ziplocked photos but now can also be purchased commercially from online sources such as roadsidememorials.com, they are the very intimiate and very public lamentations for loved ones killed in auto accidents. They mark and sanctify where death had occured.
“Something happened in American culture when the Vietnam Wall went up and there was an outpouring of offerings in front of it that no one was expecting. It became more acceptable to express personal grief in these public areas.”
But those expecting Varanasises to start materializing alongside the Lincoln Highway or L.I.E. or the Dan Ryan Express or some other concrete Ganges meandering through the American landscape may have to temper their daydreams for a bit, as anything in the US that rests on some mercurial internal logic, such as memorializing our dearly departed, will invite twitchy, bureaucratic fingers to rein all of that in with central, regulatory control.
Take for instance Montana and California. While they don't object to memorials, they only allow them “if alcohol was a factor in the crash.” Wisconsin and New Jersey, meanwhile, “limit how long the memorials can remain in place.” And “Florida, Colorado and Texas will erect a nonreligious marker at the scene of a death. Missouri allows memorials but encourages victims' families to participate in the state's adopt-a-highway program instead.”
Also, “Delaware is taking a different approach, establishing a memorial park near a highway exit in hopes of discouraging the roadside shrines. The park will include a reflection pool and red bricks — provided free to the loved ones of highway accident victims — with names inscripted to honor the dead.”
Still, parts of the US are quite receptive: “Often called descansos, a Spanish word for 'resting places,' roadside memorials are most common in the American Southwest. Most researchers believe they descend from a Spanish tradition in which pallbearers left stones or crosses to mark where they rested as they carried a coffin by foot from the church to the cemetery. Because of this heritage, the memorials are protected in New Mexico as 'traditional cultural properties' by the state's Historic Preservation Division.”
A few things:
1) It's only a matter of time (if not already) before roadside memorials become as iconic as the Land Survey grid, the gas station and the clover-leaf highway interchange — that is, a crucial part of the parageographic experience of the American landscape.
2) We should definitely reinstitute the ancient practice of siting cemeteries along traffic arteries: the celebration of death again a part of daily life. Besides the occasional shuttered malls, exuberant auto dealerships, and monolithic grain elevators, the ride up to Chicago from points southern can be intensely boring, even the political billboards and “Adult” signage have lost their amusement value after several passes.
But what if Interstate 57 looks decidedly Roman or Subcontinental — or imagine a hysterical combination of a Hindu cremation ritual, a New Orleans jazz funeral march, Jim Crace's quivering, and a High Baroque Requiem mass plus the nonstop visual, aromatic and aural assault from this thanatological mixture. The drive can be much livelier, in other words.
3) Why not a pyramid or a baker's tomb or statues in relief and in the round or an Eisenman or the winning entry in the Annual International Roadside Memorial Student Design Competition?
4) In a hundred years or in the next decade, pilgrimage routes crisscrossing the country will be very much well-established with all the varying roadside caravansaries stitched scenographically together — a tourist circuit populated by fans of vernacular America and by readers of Roadside(memorial)america.com.