Thursday, September 27, 2012

3d Print Everything!!!

At long last it actually looks like we are getting close to being able to have an affordable really good at home desktop 3d printer.   Forget the MakerBot2, forget all the crappy at home FDM 3d printers that you have debated over maybe getting.  This at home SLA printer actually looks like it is really, really good.  For those of you that are familiar with the 3d printing process, you will appreciate quite a few things in this video.  In addition to the fact that the print resolution is a very high quality, the build material looks like it is incredibly efficient and easy to manage.  This thing has definitely moved to the top of the wish list.

Check out the Kickstarter page for this thing.  They obviously are getting a lot of support as they have well surpassed the goal of $100,000.

And here is the company website.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Bit O' Speedpainting

Here are a few quick (about an hour each) paintings done in photoshop.

Having done most image work over the past few years through rendering 3d models, the goal of these is to start to get into a more quick and looser way of developing content.

And yes, there is a dragon in one of these.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Neutrino Detectors are the Coolest

Many of you may have heard recently that there may be something in the universe that moves faster than light.  The neutrino.  This discovery has the science community scratching it's head because if that is the case, it throws a very large wrench into Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the physics community as a whole.

Birthed in the center of stars, neutrinos are an incredibly enigmatic little piece of the cosmological puzzle.  First off, they don't react much at all with matter.  In fact, they react so little, that one neutrino would have to pass through 5 million light years of lead before there is even a possibility for it to bump into another particle.  To quantify that relative to human beings, every second, trillions of neutrinos pass through your body without having any interaction whatsoever with the particles that make you, you.  I know that the movie 2012 talks about neutrinos melting the earth from the inside out, but that is just not the case.  From what is known in the science community, neutrino interaction is very rare.  Which leads us to the topic for this blog which is the various neutrino detection facilities around the world.

Now my personal interests in neutrino detection is twofold.  On one hand there is the scientific relevance of the research which I find to be incredibly fascinating.  However, given that the majority of my personal scientific knowledge of neutrinos is based on whatever I can glean from reading internet articles and  the occasional scientific journal,  I am not what you would call an expert on the matter.  So I will not attempt to give insight into the implications of neutrino research.  The other aspect of neutrino detection that I find to be incredibly fascinating are the facilities that are created to detect the presence of neutrinos.  They are pretty much awesome, freaky places.

Neutrino detection facilities are located deep underground or underwater to isolate the detector from cosmic rays and other background radiation.  The Super Kamiokande (pictured above) for instance is located under Mt Kamioka in the Mozumi Mine in Hida, Japan.  It consists of a cylindrical stainless steel tank that is 41.4 m (136 ft) tall and 39.3 m (129 ft) in diameter holding 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water. Mounted on the superstructure are 11,146 photomultiplier tubes which are incredibly sensitive detectors of light.  These detectors multiply the current produced by incident light by as much as 100 million times.  In the case of the Kamiokande, neutrinos are detected when a neutrino interacts with a particle in the water which in turn releases what is known as Chernekov Radiation (Chernekov radiation is seen in the glow that is produced by nuclear reactors).  When this interaction occurs in the Kamiokande (and it rarely does) the photomultipliers record the event simultaneously, allowing a 3d digital depiction of the resultant radiation, allowing scientists a glimpse at how neutrinos behave when they interact.

As for now, the implications of the neutrino are not fully understood.   Much like the research into the Higgs Boson, dark matter, anti-matter, etc, there are hopes however that the understanding of the neutrino will help to advance the quest for linking quantum mechanics and general relativity together into a theory of everything.  In any case, like many particle physics research facilities (Cern, Fermilab,etc), neutrino detection facilities are some incredibly cool structures simply for the aesthetics created as a result of their function.

Super Kamiokande


South Pole Ice Cube Detector

Borexino Detector

Super Kamiokande
Sudbury SNO Detector
Chernekov Radiation (Not Nuetrino Detector)

Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 ModeMachine Demo Reel

A collection of Archviz work from 2009-2012.  

Many thanks to the offices and people involved in the production of the projects included in this video.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ghost Organs

This is an incredibly interesting video from a while back discussing some cutting edge research into the potential to grow genetically specific human organs on the framework of another person's used organs.

One of the big problems with organ transplants is that in order for a human body to accept a donor, it must be a perfect genetic match for the person in need.  Meaning, someone may be in need of a new heart, and there may be 10,000 donor hearts sitting on ice waiting to get used, but if they are not genetic matches, they are of no use to the person in need.  But scientists, aided by some incredibly simple household items, may be unlocking the door to universal organ transplants, potentially saving the lives of countless people seeking out donor organs.  Have a look. It is definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Plain and simple, Tigers are awesome.  Unfortunately, being as awesome as they are,  they are also sought after by poachers.  Add to that, they also have to deal with the fact that humans have pushed most tigers out of their natural habitat.  Currently, the Bengal Tiger (those pictured in this post) have dropped to numbers hovering around 4,000, most of which are kept in captivity.  

"In India, where about 60 per cent of the world's wild tigers still roam, the human population has grown by 50 percent in the past 20 years. Over the past 40 years, China's population, the largest in the world, has more than doubled; and 99 per cent of China's original forest habitat has been destroyed.

In order to live in the wild, tigers need water to drink, animals to hunt, and vegetation in which to hide. As the mountains, jungles, forests, and long grasses that have long been home to tigers disappear, so, too, do tigers."

Unfortunately, tigers are not a special case here.  Countless species are on the verge of extinction due to the negligent expansion of human civilizations.  What is going to have to happen for us to have to get it in through our thick skulls that our planet will not continue to sustain our current mode of growth?  The fact that we (in terms of earth's evolotuion) in a very  short amount of time have the ability to nearly eliminate entire species of animals that have roamed the earth for millions of years is incredibly frightening.

Anyhow, here are some awesome pictures of Bengal Tigers take by The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) in an effort to raise awareness.

You can visit them here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Get your brain into a computer

White Matter Fibers:  Human Connectome Project
One of the more interesting research projects taking place right now is the Human Connectome Project (HCP).  The goal of HCP is to construct a digital map of the human brain called a Connectome.  The intended goal of the HCP is to paint a picture of just what exactly takes place in a healthy human brain, as well as contribute a body of work that will help in researching multiple brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

The process is one that is anything but simple.  There are more than 90 million neurons in a typical brain, with over 150 trillion synapse associated with these neurons.  For a successful connectome map to be created all neurons and synapse must be accounted for in the representational model.  However, once the map has been made, it can be locked into a digital model, essentially a virtual clone of the scanned human brain.  As of now, the technology for scanning the brain and creating these maps takes time, but it is getting faster as the research continues.
Eventually (and this is just my assumption) , given a large increase in computing power over the next few years, one of these digitized brains will be so well mapped and constructed that it will be able to function within the computer that it resides.  A virtual copy of human mind.  A digital brain transfer.  The idea of it reminds me of a really bad Emilio Estevez movies from the early 90's called Freejack.  The whole movie is built around the idea of storing a brain inside of a computer while the search (led by Mick Jagger of all people) for a new human host for the brain takes place.  Although a rather forward thinking movie for the time, it failed to recognize that once the brain becomes digitized and a fully functioning consciousness exists in the virtual realm, there would be no need to return to the human body.  The potential for this new virtual brain would far supersede even the greatest of intellects.  For this new digimind would essentially be one with the entire global network that it would undoubtedly exist within.  The implications for such a being would be one of immeasurable proportions.

Freejack (1992)

The world as we know it exists through the personal filter of own minds.  What we think we "know" is purely the electronic network that is our brain; our connectome.  Once that neural circuitry can break free of the constraints of the human body, our species may finally be able to make the leap into a state of existence that for now can only be left to the imagination.  Space travel, living for 1,000,000 years, a fully collective consciousness, time travel.  Through the connectome, we may have the possibility to achieve not only these things but many, many, more.

For actual information on the HCP from the people that really know what they are talking about, please visit


All brain mapping images provided by the Human Connectome Project

Monday, September 17, 2012

Owens Lake

Recently, while doing some web research, I discovered an interesting bit of California history that I had never heard of. 

Just east of the Sierras and west of Death Valley there is a place called Owens lake.  At one point this saline lake was a healthy 12 mile wide 50ft deep lake, with a thriving ecosystem.  It existed as such for millions of years and showed no signs of letting up.  In 1913, that all changed.

As the city of Los Angeles was really starting boom, and Hollywood(Land) was poised to be the epicenter of the entertainment industry there was a problem that was beginning to surface that really needed to be addressed.  Water.  Where was Los Angeles going to get it?  The answer lie just a few miles to the north at Owens Lake and the river that it fed

Deemed to be for the "Greater good" of the people of our nation, the Owens River was diverted through a massive infrastructural network of aqueducts to bring all of its water to Los Angeles.   Rather than feed the ecosystem it had provided water to for millions of years, it was now feeding the growth of the what historian Kevin Starr has called “the most exquisite invented garden in history."

For the many years that followed the Owens River diversion, the city of Los Angeles recieved 100% of it's water supply from the Owen's River, and as a result, the 110 square mile lake gradually dried up to become what it is today, a wasteland of toxic dust.

In 1987, the EPA declared the area surrounding Owens to be  "the worst dust pollution problem in the United States", and shortly after ordered that the city of Los Angeles take care of the problem.  The LADWP came up with some really off the wall solutions as to what they could do to fix the issue. They suggested coating the lakebed with sewage, or treated solid waste; they suggested layering the lakebed with tires; they considered spraying chemicals on its surface, and experimented with several others, all of which were found to increase rather than relieve the toxicity of the lakebed. The solution ended up being a return of water to the lakebed in order to keep the dust at bay. A sprinkler system was installed with the goal of seeding salt grass throughout the area.  The result of this is what can be seen today.

The dried up lake bed now consists of multiple parceled off pools of water (the salt grass didn't take) each of which has it's own varying degrees of different types of toxicity.  This is why some of the lakes are a blood red, emerald green, and electric blue.  While beautiful in the color that the metal and salt deposits in the water produce, it is a reminder of the consequence that nature pays in order for our civilization to "thrive".  This bears a similar mark to the recent draining of what was once the 4 largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea, .

Aral Sea Before and After

The monetary cost of trying to bring back Owens lake was a whopping $540 million dollars, with $17.5 million per year dedicated to keep the operation running.  The environmental consequence is one that we cannot put a price to.  Since the return of water to Owen's, birds have begun to return to the lake.  Normally, this should be a sign of rebuilding, however the water that the birds have returned to is poison, and thus the returning birds have begun to die as a result of the toxic pools that now comprise Owens Lake.  

While I love the city I live in, it is often a bit disappointing to find out what the cost was in order for it to become what it is today.  I would like to think that the mode of thinking that led to the destruction of Owen's belongs to a moment of history that we have moved past, however, given what recently took place in the Aral Sea, I don't think that is the case.

For more information on Owens, the following website tells the story in greater depth

Friday, September 14, 2012

John Berkey

Most widely know for creating the original poster for the first Star Wars film, John Berkey is responsible for some of what I see as the most captivating science fiction imagery around.  While most sci-fi artists tend to look to Syd Mead as a source of inspiration when it comes to futuristic imagery, I always opt for the work of Berkey to get the gears in my own mind spinning. 

Besides being evocotive imagery, there are a couple specific things about the work of John Berkey that I really appreciate.  The first being his ability to visualize incredibly complex and unforeseen possibilities with regard to science fiction landscapes.  Keep in mind a lot of his work was done in the late 60's early 70's.  No computers, no Star Wars, Alien, or any other commonly referenced sci-fi film to look to.  Instead he was creating the imagery that would later become the basis for what a lot of those films looked like.  

The second thing that I really appreciate about his work is the mastery of scale and composition.  The shear immensity of the landscapes that he created make each of his paintings difficult to look away from.  What is really great about them, is that upon close inspection into the backgrounds that provide this grand scale, the brushstrokes dissolve into seemingly insignificant blips on the page, inconsequential in their solidarity.  However, in aggregate, these blips combine to create incredibly rich fields of color, texture, and depth.  

To put it simply, John Berkey is awesome.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mindless Sketching

If you have ever produced renderings, you are all too familiar with the moments of sitting and staring blankly, watching pixels change as a preview render comes to life on the screen.  In small doses, these moments are easily forgotten.  In the event that you are producing a large number of images, those small moments start to take up a large majority of your life.  The solution?  Mindless sketching. While you endure the painfull wait of render previews, draw the dumbest stuff you can think of.  In fact, don't even think about it.  Let your brain go on autopilot and see what happens.

This post contains 3 11x17 sheets of these sort of brainless drawings.  Most of them are pretty ridiculous, some are kind of fun.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SCIARC Thesis 2012

Every year after visiting the sci-arc thesis presentations there are inevitably discussions that follow.  Was it good? Was it bad? What direction is the school heading in? This year was no exception, however the questions were not as easy to answer.

In my opinion, the past couple of years at sci-arc were fairly predictable as far as what kind of work one should expect to see (at least with regard to the grad program).  The camps of each professor were clearly defined, and the formal techniques had become so perfected that they had slipped into the realm of caricatures of the projects that had preceded them.  But there was a force that was creeping slowly into the scene.  A force that now seems to have begun to push the school in a new direction. That force was the undergrads.

Led by a group of professors that had not yet developed a defined cult following, the undergraduates of the late 00's were able to explore outside of the constraints of what had begun to limit the progress of  those in the graduate program. This was a breath of fresh air, because for the first time in a while, the work coming out of the school was starting to seem different again.

I am happy to say that in 2012 many of the graduate students at sci-arc seem to have taken a cue from the happenings within undergraduate program.  It actually appears that there are new explorations taking place outside of the realm of software formal gymnastics.  I have a suspicion that the addition of the Robot Lab has a lot to do with the shift that we are seeing at the school. One of the most interesting projects this year (a re-interpretation of Eisenman's Diagram Diaries) took full advantage of this new resource by using the robots to slice and dice with a hotwire an insane amount of foam, as well as produce an overabundance of incredibly beautiful drawings.

Here is my interpretation of this year's thesis. Are they weird? Yes.  Is it architecture? MMMMaybe.  I will not say if it is good or bad, for that is a subjective point. In any case, it was incredibly clear that this year's thesis students actually performed an honest investigation into things strange and unknown. Where that is going for now is not completely clear, but there finally appears to be an unpredictable movement taking place which is fantastic to see.  However, as the school begins to change, and students begin to break free of the cyclical trends that have been dominating the sci-arc grad program for some time, there is a very important question that needs to be asked of both the students and the school as a whole.  Is sci-arc graduating students that are ready for the architecture profession?

Being a graduate of sci-arc myself, I know the pros and cons of what a sci-arc education means when it come to finding a job in architecture.  On one level, sci-arc students are at a great advantage to all other recent graduates. They are fresh out of an environment that pushes design to places that most schools don't tread on, and it is done more often than not through design execution of the highest standards of aesthetic excellence.  But does that make sci-arc students ready for  a job in architecture?  In many cases, recent sci-arc grads fall short when it comes to spatially rationalizing a building, beyond the external form and effect of a design proposal.

So where does this leave the sci-arc graduate? Are they architects?  Industrial designers?  Visual effects artists?  The answer is often unclear, and I think that is a bit of problem.  As is the case with many students upon graduating (and I will lump myself into this pool) there are often desires to step away from the profession of architecture and explore options in an alternative profession such as film, industrial design, photography, fine art, automobiles, etc.  The issue with this is quite simple.  Sci-arc is not a school specific to any of these professions.  It just kind of pretends to be one.  Would it be too crazy to propose that rather than fight to keep the moniker of "Architecture School", sci-arc just accept the fact that many of their students have ambitions outside of architecture, and adapt the school to foster these alternate trajectories.   Art Center does this quite well, and I think it is a model that sci-arc could take some cues from in the years to come.

In any case, the work from this year's thesis students hold a large amount of promise. Hopefully in the next few years (given a continuance in what just took place) students will be able to crystallize this new direction for the school and build upon the tradition of sci-arc being one of most captivating, on the fringe architecture/design schools around.