Robots Test Tools For Myanmar’s Farmers

March 31, 2014

Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.

An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.

Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.
The country’s farmers are showing their approval by opening up their wallets—Proximity Designs reports that they will sell 31,000 irrigation products in fiscal year 2013. They say their work has also resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in rice yield.

“Including the newest one I bought, I have three treadle pumps,” said farmer Aung San. “I made about $1,200 last year, so I bought more land to expand my plot. That’s why I bought another pump.”


Giant Machines Boring Tunnels Under London (…and in many other places)

March 31, 2014

By the end of 2014, London will have added 42 km of new underground rail tunnels as part of the Crossrail project. Here’s how the eight tunnel boring machines work.

These machines, manned by a 20-person crew, are working 24 hours a day under London’s streets.

Top Image: Crossrail tunnel-boring machine Victoria lowered into the shaft next to TBM Elizabeth at the Limmo site in London’s Royal Docks area. Courtesy Crossrail.

Text and Image via SINCANADA


Autonomous Paintings

March 7, 2014


Echo Yang explores the current popularity of generative design processes, where computer software iterates endless variations, by turning old school analog devices like tin windup toys, a Walkman, an alarm clock and other machines into instruments of self-generated output.



Don’t just sit there!

January 22, 2014

The health hazards of sitting

“We know sitting too much is bad, and most of us intuitively feel a little guilty after a long TV binge. But what exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we park ourselves for nearly eight hours per day, the average for a U.S. adult? Many things, say four experts, who detailed a chain of problems from head to toe.” Via Washington Post


Happiness and Its Discontents

January 22, 2014

As a critical theorist working at the intersection of Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist and queer theory, I make observations about human life that are speculative rather than empirical. That may explain why my definition of character pertains to what is least tangible, least intelligible about our being, including the inchoate frequencies of desire that sometimes cause us to behave in ways that work against our rational understanding of how our lives are supposed to turn out.

If identity captures something about the relatively polished social persona we present to the world, then character—in my view—captures something about the wholly idiosyncratic and potentially rebellious energies that, every so often, break the facade of that persona. From this perspective, our character leaps forth whenever we do something “crazy,” such as suddenly dissolving a committed relationship or leaving a promising career path. At such moments, what is fierce and unapologetic about us undermines our attempts to lead a “reasonable” life, causing us to follow an inner directive that may be as enigmatic as it is compelling. We may not know why we feel called to a new destiny, but we sense that not heeding that call will stifle what is most alive within us.

Text by Mari Rutti at The Chronicle Review. Continue THERE


Inside the Cosmonaut Survival Kit

December 11, 2013

NASA spent nearly 20 years developing a form of space ice cream that astronauts found palatable. Meanwhile, the Soviet space program was working on stuff like this:

That’s the NAZ-3 survival kit. It was designed in 1968 for the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, the reliable workhorse of space flight which is still in use today. As outlined on this interesting site about the Russian space program, the kit contained the following from top left to bottom right:

- Makarov pistol and ammunition
- wrist compass
- 18 waterproof matches with striker
- machete; fishing kit
- strobe light with spare battery
- 8 fire starters
- folding knife
- antenna
- 3-pair wool gloves
- signal mirror
- NAZ-7M type medical kit
- penlight
- R-855-YM or R-855-A1 radio
- two “Priboy 2S”, ПРИБОЙ-2С radio batteries
- three wool balaclava hoods.

The pistol was intended to scare off “wolves, bears, tigers, etc.” on the event of a crash landing.

Via The Appendix


“10 Songs that Saved your Life”

December 8, 2013

Inspired by the project “ten songs that saved your life” and encouraged by my good friend Angel Rafael Vázquez-Concepción (artist/curator/provocateur/head of Cranium Devices (Facebook)), I chose a selection of 10 songs that “saved my life.” These musical pieces are some of the most significative songs of my life to this day. Each one of these following tracks was responsible for changing my mindset in some way, rescuing from (or comforting me during) dark moments, inspiring creative change, provoking goosebumps, changing my perception of the world, or how I move through it (dancing). In one way or another, I always find myself returning to them.

(…in the order they were heard)

01. Silvio Rodríguez – Testamento

02. Fela Kuti – Alu Jon Jonki Jon

03. Sergio Mendes – Tiro Cruzado

04. Pink Floyd – Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict

05. Michel Camilo – Suite Sandrine I

06. Steve Reich – Drumming (Parts I-IV)

07. Björk – Possibly Maybe (Lucy Mix)

08. Yma Sumac – Chuncho

09. Stereolab – Come and Play in the Milky Night

10. To Rococo Rot – A Little Asphalt Here and There

There are much more, but the deal was 10.