2012年4月19日 星期四

the “maker” movement.

Making a Mark in Milan 
Events within the Salone Internazionale del Mobile are usually cloaked in secrecy, but a mood of collaboration, generosity and transparency was evident at this year's furniture fair—a sign of the Maker Movement's influence on design.

More than just digital quilting

Technology and society: The “maker” movement could change how science is taught and boost innovation. It may even herald a new industrial revolution

THE scene in the park surrounding New York’s Hall of Science, on a sunny weekend in mid-September, resembles a futuristic craft fair. Booths displaying handmade clothes sit next to a pavilion full of electronics and another populated by toy robots. In one corner visitors can learn how to pick locks, in another how to use a soldering iron. All this and much more was on offer at an event called Maker Faire, which attracted more than 35,000 visitors. This show and an even bigger one in Silicon Valley, held every May, are the most visible manifestations of what has come to be called the “maker” movement. It started on America’s West Coast but is spreading around the globe: a Maker Faire was held in Cairo in October.
The maker movement is both a response to and an outgrowth of digital culture, made possible by the convergence of several trends. New tools and electronic components let people integrate the physical and digital worlds simply and cheaply. Online services and design software make it easy to develop and share digital blueprints. And many people who spend all day manipulating bits on computer screens are rediscovering the pleasure of making physical objects and interacting with other enthusiasts in person, rather than online. Currently the preserve of hobbyists, the maker movement’s impact may be felt much farther afield.
Start with hardware. The heart of New York’s Maker Faire was a pavilion labelled with an obscure Italian name: “Arduino” (meaning “strong friend”). Inside, visitors were greeted by a dozen stands displaying credit-card-sized circuit boards. These are Arduino micro-controllers, simple computers that make it easy to build all kinds of strange things: plants that send Twitter messages when they need watering, a harp made of lasers, an etch-a-sketch clock, a microphone that serves as a breathalyser, or a vest that displays your speed when riding a bike.
Such projects are taking off because Arduino is affordable (basic boards cost $20), can easily be extended using add-ons called “shields” to add new functions and has a simple programming system that almost anyone can use. “Not knowing what you are doing is an advantage,” says Massimo Banzi, an Italian engineer and designer who started the Arduino project a decade ago to enable students to build all kinds of contraptions. Arduino has since become popular—selling around 200,000 units in 2011—because Mr Banzi made the board’s design “open source” (which means that anyone can download its blueprints and build their own versions), and because he has spent much time and effort getting engineers all over the world involved with the project.
This openness has prompted a sizeable ecosystem of add-ons. They include a touch-screen, an illuminated display and support for Wi-Fi networking. Other firms have built specialised variants of Arduino. SparkFun, for instance, has developed Lilypad, a flexible micro-controller that can be sewn into clothing (think blinking T-shirts), along with many other add-ons.
Applying the open-source approach to hardware has also driven the development of the maker movement’s other favourite piece of kit, which could be found everywhere at the Maker Faire in New York: 3D printers. These machines are another way to connect the digital and the physical realms: they take a digital model of an object and print it out by building it up, one layer at a time, using plastic extruded from a nozzle. The technique is not new, but in recent years 3D printers have become cheap enough for consumers. MakerBot Industries, a start-up based in New York, now sells its machines for $1,300. The output quality is rapidly improving thanks to regular upgrades, many of them suggested by users.
None of this action in hardware would have happened without a second set of powerful drivers: software, standards and online communities. Arduino, for instance, relies on open-source programs that turn simple code into a form that can be understood by the board’s brain. Similarly, MakerBot’s 3D printers depend on a standard way to describe physical objects, called STL, and affordable software to design them. Some basic modelling programs, such as Google SketchUp and Blender, can be downloaded free.
As for online communities, Arduino has an active forum on its website, while MakerBot runs a website called Thingiverse, which lets people share 3D designs. YouTube and other video-sharing sites offer how-to clips for almost everything. On Instructables, users post and discuss recipes to make and do all kinds of things. And then there is Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, from hand-knitted scarves to 3D-printed jewellery.
The ease with which designs for physical things can be shared digitally goes a long way towards explaining why the maker movement has already developed a strong culture—its third driver. “If you are not sharing your designs, you are doing it wrong,” says Bre Pettis, the chief executive of MakerBot. Physical space and tools are being shared, too, in the form of common workshops. Some 400 such “hacker spaces” already operate worldwide, according to Hackerspaces.org. Many are organised like artists’ collectives. At Noisebridge, a hacker space in San Francisco, even non-members can come and tinker—as long as they comply with the group’s main rule: to be “excellent” to each other. “The internet is no substitute for a real community,” says Mitch Altman, a co-founder of Noisebridge.
This sort of thing makes the maker movement sound a lot like the digital equivalent of quilting bees. But it has already had a wider impact, mainly in schools in America. Many have discovered 3D printers and Arduino boards—and are using them to make their science and technology classes more hands-on again, and teach students to be producers as well as users of digital products.
All this will boost innovation, predicts Dale Dougherty, the founder of Make magazine, a central organ of the maker movement. Its tools and culture promote experimentation, collaboration and rapid improvement. Makers can play in niches that big firms ignore—though they are watching the maker movement and will borrow ideas from it, Mr Dougherty believes. The Maker Faire in New York was sponsored by technology companies including HP and Cognizant. Autodesk, which makes computer-aided design software, bought Instructables in August.
Firms may also copy some of the unusual business models that makers, often accidental entrepreneurs, have come up with. Arduino lets other firms copy its designs, for example, but charges them to use its logo. Quirky, an industrial design firm based in New York City, uses crowdsourcing to decide which products to make. MakieLab of London is developing a platform to allow toy shops or individuals to develop customised toys and have them printed. Venture capitalists are nosing around the field. In recent months Quirky raised $16m, MakerBot raised $10m and Shapeways, a firm that offers a 3D-printing service, received $5m.
The parallel with the hobbyist computer movement of the 1970s is striking. In both cases enthusiastic tinkerers, many on America’s West Coast, began playing with new technologies that had huge potential to disrupt business and society. Back then the machines manipulated bits; now the action is in atoms. This has prompted predictions of a new industrial revolution, in which more manufacturing is done by small firms or even by individuals. “The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit,” writes Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine.
It is easy to laugh at the idea that hobbyists with 3D printers will change the world. But the original industrial revolution grew out of piecework done at home, and look what became of the clunky computers of the 1970s. The maker movement is worth watching.

2012年4月8日 星期日

Lessons From Ants to Grasp Humanity Edward O. Wilson

Lessons From Ants to Grasp Humanity

Richard Perry/The New York Times
Edward O. Wilson in Central Park. His new book has dismayed some fellow scientists.

To the biologist Edward O. Wilson, the Metropolitan Museum of Art encapsulates some of the conflicting impulses natural selection has instilled in humans: the innate drive for expression that spurs some of us to make art, the selfishness that motivates others to earn the riches needed to collect it, and the altruism that compels the donation of collections for the public good — as long as the donors’ names are inscribed on the walls too.
But asked to imagine the museum from the perspective of ants, whose intricate social world he has built a towering reputation by studying, Dr. Wilson painted a scene that was less a lesson in evolution than a chaotic free-for-all.
“To them the crowds would just be a flank-to-flank herd of enormous elephants you have to dodge around,” he said with a boyish giggle from the museum’s teeming steps during a recent visit to New York to promote his 27th book, “The Social Conquest of Earth,” which is being published Monday by Liveright. “I don’t think ants would have any aesthetic or intellectual interest in the museum, though they would certainly find a happy home in Central Park.”
An ant’s-eye view of an art museum may seem odd. But Dr. Wilson, 82, has made a grand scientific and literary career by bringing Homo sapiens and the natural world we emerged from closer together, uniting phenomena great and small under the grand perspective of evolution. “Human history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology,” he said, echoing a line from the new book, which offers a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere, rounded out with broad reflections on art, ethics, language and religion.
It’s the kind of calmly imperial claim that has been getting Dr. Wilson in trouble since the days of “Sociobiology,” the mammoth 1975 study that was hailed by many scientists as a landmark effort to explain behaviors like altruism, aggression and parental care as products of natural selection but was denounced by others as justifying racism, sexism and — “horror of horrors,” he recalled — capitalism.
That book, only a short chapter of which was about human beings, inspired one protester to dump a pitcher of water over Dr. Wilson’s head at a scholarly conference. But these days Dr. Wilson — a courtly man with a touch of an Alabama drawl and a palpable eagerness to comment on even casually encountered flora and fauna — is more likely to be hailed as the nation’s leading advocate for biodiversity and an all-around eco hero.
Not that his days as a controversialist are entirely behind him. “The Social Conquest of Earth,” presented by his publisher as the capstone work of his career, is written in the graceful style that has won him two Pulitzer Prizes but grounded in a view of evolution that has already prompted sharp criticism from his fellow scientists.
Specifically Dr. Wilson argues that the tendency toward cooperation and collaboration that has powered our spectacular success as a species is explained not by kin selection — in which evolution favors the genes of individuals who sacrifice themselves for the sake of relatives — but by group selection, the tendency of evolution to favor groups that work together altruistically, beyond what might be predicted by simple genetic relatedness.
If no one is quite ready to dump a pitcher of water over Dr. Wilson’s head, many colleagues are mystified and dismayed by his late-life embrace of group selection — a highly controversial notion among biologists — and rejection of the kin-selection theory that he helped popularize in “Sociobiology.”
“ ‘Sociobiology’ is still a very great book, and now he’s trashing it all,” said Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. “It’s crazy.” Dr. Coyne was one of more than 150 scientists who signed four letters published last spring in the journal Nature criticizing a 2010 paper by Dr. Wilson, written with the mathematicians Martin A. Nowak and Corina E. Tarnita, outlining his group-selection arguments.
But Dr. Wilson, putting on a fleece vest under his professorial green tweed jacket in preparation for a rainy walk through Central Park, seemed unruffled by the fracas, which is only passingly acknowledged in the new book. “I don’t mind it,” he said of the criticism, adding that he had full confidence in his co-authors’ complex math. “I actually expect it for any important change. No pain, no gain.”
Dr. Wilson, who retired from teaching in 1996 but remains on the Harvard faculty, was more bothered by the suggestion that his new arguments compromised his scientific legacy, which he said rested not on “Sociobiology” but on his many “fundamental” discoveries about ants and other social insects.
Certainly few living biologists can match Dr. Wilson’s record, which includes identifying some 450 new ant species, including one he turned up in a potted plant in the Washington offices of the World Wildlife Fund. (On closer re-examination, alas, it turned out to be a mere variant.) On the walk through Central Park, there was no sign of the new frog species a team of biologists recently identified on Staten Island, though the prospect of a previously unknown creature lurking somewhere in the park, he said, was “virtually certain.”
“I’d look in the soil, among the mites, or maybe the springtails,” he said, enthusiastically using his forearm to imitate that tiny bug’s rear appendage. “They are among the least understood and most obscure creatures.”
That sense of never-ending discovery fuels Dr. Wilson’s globe-trotting mission to promote biodiversity preservation, which in recent months has taken him as far as Mozambique and the South Pacific. Saving the natural world, he said, is more important to him now than winning any intellectual fights.
Not that he shies away from alienating potential allies. Religious readers, for example, may not take kindly to a chapter in the new book depicting religion as an archaic “trap” kept alive today by “purveyors of theological narcissism,” from the pope to the Dalai Lama.
“We’ve been spinning our wheels trying to talk about ways to bring the best of religion and science together,” he said in the interview, dismissing organized religion as fostering tribalism we no longer need.
And while some humanities scholars have embraced evolutionary ideas, many others will roll their eyes at his declaration, in a chapter on the arts, that the humanities will achieve a “full maturing” only when they take account of findings in cognitive science and genetics.
In conversation Dr. Wilson is more modest. Asked what sciences has to learn from the arts, he responded, “Everything.” He declined to comment on favorite pieces at the Metropolitan Museum, insisting that his knowledge is too limited to say anything very useful about individual works. (When he met Harper Lee last year, during a during a trip to his home state, Alabama, with a group hoping to establish a national park there, he had not read her “To Kill a Mockingbird,” he sheepishly admitted.)
When it comes to nature, however, Dr. Wilson remains easily and infectiously wonder-struck. Before heading out of Central Park he paused by the statue of Balto, the sled dog who became a national hero after carrying medicine to diphtheria-stricken Nome, Alaska, in 1925. “It’s good to see a monument to an animal,” he said, looking up and smiling.

The cathedrals



Luxury liners laden with souls,

 Holding to the East their hulls of stone

---W. H. Auden



The cathedrals of England, History, Hogwarts and houses of God

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The cathedrals of England (1979)

Author: Clifton-Taylor, Alec
Subject: Cathedrals
Publisher: [London] : Thames and Hudson
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Digitizing sponsor: Google
Book from the collections of: Harvard University
Collection: americana

Full catalog record: MARCXML

[Open Library icon]This book has an editable web page on Open Library.

A Point of View: History, Hogwarts and houses of God

(Clockwise) Vaulted ceiling of Exeter Cathedral; Gloucester Cathedral; St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia; St Paul's Cathedral in London

In the run-up to Easter, David Cannadine looks at a selection of the world's cathedrals and the important contribution that they have made to the broader lives of their respective cities and countries.
Perhaps it's because Easter's been approaching, or maybe it's just coincidence, but either way, there's been quite a bit of news lately about cathedrals, though it's not been very cheerful.
A few weeks ago, it was reported that what was left of Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand, which had been badly damaged in an earthquake last year, would have to be demolished. Built in the second half of the 19th Century, the cathedral had long been an essential part of the Christchurch cityscape and community, and the announcement that the surviving shell was too unsafe to be restored was greeted with widespread and understandable dismay.
Earthquake-damaged Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand was damaged by an earthquake in 2011
And just a few days ago, it was reported that England's cathedrals are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet, even when they charge for admission. Running costs amount to thousands of pounds a week, and serious restoration, of the roof, the windows, or the stonework, can run into tens of millions of pounds.
These rather gloomy tidings were much in my mind when I recently went to Exeter to deliver a lecture at the university. With time to spare beforehand, I paid a visit to the cathedral, which was, like so many of its kind, a combination of comforting familiarity and breathtaking surprise.
There's a homely and attractive cathedral close, and a welcoming if slightly unprepossessing west front. But that's no preparation for the spectacular view which opens up once you go in: a high and heady vault running the whole length of the nave and the choir, constructed in the most elaborate Decorated style of the early 14th Century.
It's a glorious vista, lifting the eye and the spirit heavenwards; and it's easy to see why the great architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, included Exeter Cathedral as one of his twelve favourite English buildings.

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David Cannadine
  • A Point of View, with David Cannadine, is on Fridays on Radio 4 at 20:50 GMT and repeated Sundays, 08:50 GMT
  • David Cannadine is a British historian, author and professor of history at Princeton University
If, like me, you're an historian by trade, there are many good reasons for visiting our cathedrals. The monuments, as on the walls at Exeter - to civic worthies, aristocratic neighbours, and local regiments - are a vivid reminder of the important part that has been played, and is played today, by cathedrals in the broader lives of their cities and counties.
And because I had the chance to listen to the Exeter choir, which was rehearsing for evensong, I was also reminded of the essential contribution that cathedrals have made, and still make, to the ancient and modern musical culture of their communities.
Edward Elgar may have lamented that he grew up poor and provincial in 19th Century Worcester, but because the cathedral was the focus of a vibrant and vigorous musical life, including the Three Choirs Festival held in collaboration with Hereford and Gloucester, it was in fact an ideally nurturing and encouraging environment for an aspiring composer.
Along with churches, castles and country houses, cathedrals are among our greatest architectural glories, and I suppose we all have our favourites among them. Perhaps Salisbury - unrivalled for its soaring spire and the grace and beauty of its setting, immortalized in the paintings of John Constable.

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Along with churches, castles and country houses, cathedrals are among our greatest architectural glories”
Or perhaps Gloucester, with its exquisite fan vaulted cloisters that have become familiar, as part of Hogworts School, to millions of people through the Harry Potter films.
Or perhaps Durham, standing high and strong on the city skyline, close by the castle - sacred power and secular power side by side, and often fleetingly glimpsed by travellers from the windows of the London to Edinburgh train.
As these examples suggest, we tend to think that the construction of cathedrals had ended by the 16th Century, and that Sir Christopher Wren's subsequent re-building of St Paul's in London was the exception that proved the rule.
And it's certainly true that when many of England's great industrial cities were given Anglican bishoprics, they often took over a large parish church and re-named it a cathedral, as in the case of Newcastle, Manchester, my home town of Birmingham, and also nearby Coventry.
A film set at Gloucester Cathedral Gloucester Cathedral doubled as a film set for the Harry Potter film franchise
But that's far from being the whole of the story, for, in many ways, the 19th Century was a great age of cathedral construction, including St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham, designed by Augustus Welby Pugin, and St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, by George Gilbert Scott.
And in the aftermath of the Restoration of the Catholic hierarchy and diocesan structure in England and Wales by Pope Pius IX, many new Catholic cathedrals were constructed, culminating in the building of Westminster Cathedral in the Byzantine style, consecrated in 1910.
If we look further afield, to what was then the rapidly expanding British Empire, the 19th and early 20th Centuries were something of a golden age for the construction of Anglican cathedrals. From Toronto to Calcutta, Cape Town to Cairo, Hong Kong to Singapore, the British built churches wherever they went.

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Great Anglican churches are among the most enduring legacies of Britain's once far-flung realms”
One of my favourites is St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. Designed in the Gothic revival style by the English architect William Butterfield, it's diagonally opposite Flinders Street railway station, and thus at the very heart of the city.
Another is the Cathedral Church of the Redemption, in New Delhi, which was constructed between 1927 and 1931 as part of Sir Edwin Lutyens's master plan for the new capital of the Raj.
Indeed, it's no exaggeration to say that these great Anglican churches are among the most enduring legacies of Britain's once far-flung realms, and when Jan Morris brought her imperial trilogy to a close, in Farewell the Trumpets, it was with an account of an evensong service in a cathedral of the old empire.
By the late 19th Century, new Anglican cathedrals were also being built back in England, beginning with Truro, designed by John Loughborough Pearson, and once again in the Gothic revival style, on which work was begun in 1880.

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St Pauls Cathedral engulfed in smoke during attacks of the German Luftwaffe on London in 1940
Two decades later, a competition was held to select the architect for the new Liverpool Cathedral, and it was won by the 22-year-old Giles Gilbert Scott, who was the grandson of George Gilbert Scott. It turned out to be an unhappy commission: the construction of the building, which was once again in the Gothic style, was fraught with difficulty, and was interrupted during both World Wars.
When Scott died in 1960, Liverpool Cathedral was still unfinished, and it would only be completed nearly 20 years later. Nor did Scott fare any better with Coventry, whose cathedral had been horrifically damaged in a German bombing raid in November 1940. Once peace had returned, he was invited to design a new building, but his highly traditional Gothic scheme was deemed inappropriate for the brave new post-war world.
The project was then thrown open to a full-scale architectural competition. The winner was a young man named Basil Spence, and his cathedral was an imaginative and exciting mixture of the traditional and the modern.
The shapes and spaces and configurations, of the nave, the choir and the sanctuary, were very familiar, but Spence also ensured that the cathedral was a showcase of contemporary British art, including Graham Sutherland's tapestry of Christ in Glory, John Piper's Baptistry Window, and Jacob Epstein's statue of St Michael and the Devil.
Coventry Cathedral Coventry Cathedral was conceived "in a spirit of peace and hope"
In recognition, but also in defiance, of the death and destruction wrought during World War II, Coventry's new cathedral was conceived from the outset in a spirit of peace and hope, reconciliation and resurrection, and to that end, Benjamin Britten was commissioned to compose a War Requiem, first performed soon after the building was consecrated, which was exactly fifty years ago, in the spring of 1962.
Like so many of our cathedrals, Coventry is an extraordinary and exhilarating place to visit, for it is, and yet it is not, a quintessentially 60s building: both of its time, yet also unique. Norman Tebbit once claimed that the 1960s was a third rate decade, full of third rate minds, which were (among other things) smug, wet, sanctimonious, naïve, guilt-ridden and insufferable.
Like the rest of us, he's entitled to his point of view, but a decade which produced Coventry Cathedral was far from being all wrong or all bad. And its abiding message, of peace and hope, of reconciliation and resurrection, is surely a good and noble one at any time, and especially at Easter time.

2012年4月7日 星期六

The Google Art Project

ON VIEW: The Google Art Project...
ON VIEW: The Google Art Project includes the head of Aphrodite from ancient Greece, Paul Revere’s Sons of Liberty Bowl, above, and Claude Monet’s ‘Rouen Cathedral.’

Google’s stroke of genius

Web giant gives ‘tour’ of world museums

By Gary J. Remal
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 -
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts hung 233 of its greatest works of on the walls of the world yesterday thanks to the technical wizardry of tech-giant Google’s latest Art Project.
“It gives you all kinds of really interesting ways to look at the works of art,” MFA’s Karen Frascona said of the effort to digitally display the masterpieces online. “There’s different angles and ways to zoom in and out. It gives you a very in-depth look.”
The museum sent Debra LaKind, director of business development and strategic partnerships, to Paris for one of two launch parties yesterday.
Piotr Adamczyk, data lead for the Google project, hopes it will blossom into an ongoing online display of revolving art work from the great museums of the world.
“The first round we needed a proof of concept, just to make sure the museums and Google could work well with each other,” he said. “Now we’ve grown and shown it scales well.”
Google is displaying a tiny fraction of the MFA’s collection of more than 450,000 works of art, Frascona said, most of the rest is already on the MFA website.
Google now displays in high resolution more than 30,000 works of art from 151 institutions in 40 countries, including those from 29 American museums and the White House.
Users can search in a number of ways, including a feature that allows visitors to virtually stroll through hundreds of museum gallery rooms.