27 November 2012

How war changes people

Something a bit more serious this week. When photographer Claire Felicie's son planned to join the marine's she spent a lot of time thinking about what impact that might have on him. As a result of that she came up with a plan to photograph the faces of 20 Dutch Marines before, during, and after their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Only 12 months passed between the first and the last photo, but the lives of these men saw a lot of action. Ms Felicie wanted to see if the marks war left on these men could be seen on their faces.

It's clear there are environmental factors (sun, wind...), but are there other changes as well?

More photos & commentary here.

As a writer this raised some interesting thoughts about character building, and on how events in the characters lives (both on & off the page) might be written on their faces.

20 November 2012

Make your life easier

I came across this list and I just had to share, after all who doesn't want to make their lives easier? The compiler of this list calls them life-hacks, which I also rather liked :)

There are 99 on the list but here are a few of them:

And I think I really better stop there :)
I just wish there was a quick & easy way to get a book to write itself - sadly no smiley face tennis balls are going to do the job for me.

14 November 2012

Cool inventions

2 very cool inventions this week and the shades of sci-fi that surround them: an inner ear implant that uses biology to recharge, & self-fixing concrete.

Technology that uses people as power - shades of The Matrix anyone?   :)
No we haven't quite got that far yet, but we have got to a place that should make huge breakthroughs in medical science.
"A team of surgeons, neuroscientists, and electrical engineers has developed a cochlea chip that extracts electrical signals from the inner ear to power itself.
The chip is the latest in a series of inventions aimed at creating entirely self-sufficient, self-powering implants that will remove the need for external power and enable permanent surgical implantation in some cases. This year alone, Stanford University announced the creation of its radio wave-powered heart implant and infrared light-powered retinal implants."
 Ever seen someone who looks a bit embarrassed about their hearing aid - that could soon be a thing of the past. Get these things small enough and soon no one will know you're wearing one.
On a different sci-fi tack, where does this leave us for things like super-soldiers with super hearing?

From ears to concrete. There is now experimental concrete that self-heals it's own cracks.
"The concrete contains limestone-producing bacteria, which are activated by corrosive rainwater working its way into the structure... Micro-cracks are an expected part of the hardening process and do not directly cause strength loss. Fractures with a width of about 0.2mm are allowed under norms used by the concrete industry. But over time, water - along with aggressive chemicals in it - gets into these cracks and corrodes the concrete...
"So the spores remain dormant until rainwater works its way into the cracks and activates them. The harmless bacteria - belonging to the Bacillus genus - then feed on the nutrients to produce limestone.
The bacterial food incorporated into the healing agent is calcium lactate - a component of milk. The microbes used in the granules are able to tolerate the highly alkaline environment of the concrete.
"In the lab we have been able to show healing of cracks with a width of 0.5mm - two to three times higher than the norms state," Dr Jonkers explained."
What about the sci-fi overtones you ask? Well, as I read this article images from sci-fi movies with cities in decay came to mind. If the concrete self-healed those cities would look quite different.
How eerie if the city is far more perfectly preserved – although I imagine the plants would still get involved.

06 November 2012

fly away - printed plane

Ever spent hours & hours building a model plane? Painstakingly cuting & glueing? ever thoguht of just printing one out and going for it? Two student engineers have done just that.
And, okay, I'd better confess that I'm not the model plane kinda gal, but printing one out - that sounds pretty cool... and not quite a simple as I've made out.

Two University of Virginia engineering students got to build an unmanned aerial vehicle, using 3-D printing technology. "In other words, a plastic plane, to be designed, fabricated, built and test-flown between May and August. A real-world engineering challenge, and part of a Department of the Army project to study the feasibility of using such planes."

So not just printing out, but designing as well. Of course once they've designed it, (and it's working), there's nothing to stop anyone else, say the military, from prinitng them out and just going for it.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, "dressed" in U.Va.'s colors. The plane was built entirely from parts from a 3-D printer.

This whole 3D printing idea is rather sci-fi when you think back ot hte good old dot matrix. All those years ago, while pulling those horrible little hole strips off the side of sheets of papaer, I never would have guessed that one day printes would be playing in 3D.

"Three-dimensional printing is, as the name implies, the production or “printing” of actual objects, such as parts for a small airplane, by using a machine that traces out layers of melted plastic in specific shapes until it builds up a piece exactly according to the size and dimensions specified in a computer-aided drawing produced by an engineer."

All so simple, and if you break it - just print a new one :)