Dangerous Minds pal Vinay Gupta just released a new video describing how to build and deploy Hexayurts—cheap, stable housing solutions for disaster or refugee situations—for Haiti. These cost less than $200 and can house a family of eight on a semi-permanant basis. This is a real, tangible solution for the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake—and Science for Humanity needs your help in collecting funding to test and deploy them.
The Hexayurt is a new kind of sheltering solution. To make the simplest hexayurt, make a wall by putting six sheets of plywood on their sides in a hexagon. Cut six more sheets in half diagonally, and screw them together into a shallow cone. Lift the roof on to the wall with a large group of people, then fasten it down with more screws. Seal and paint it for durability. Your basic hexayurt is complete. This shelter will last for years in most climates and costs less than $100. This basic design can be improved with proper windows, doors, room partitions, stove fittings and other architectural features. More durable materials could give it a very long life.
It may be ideal for a variety of disaster relief situations.
Willing to kill for a shot at reality TV fame? A new documentary that aired tonight in France, The Game of Death (Le Jeu Du Mort) featured 80 pathological participants who thought they were taking part in a new reality TV show called Zone Xtreme. They were unwitting participants in a spectacle that closely resembled psychologist Stanley Milgram’s infamous “shocking” experiments of nearly forty years ago that tested how far human obedience could be taken. This is worse.
In the fake show, fake “contestants” played by actors were forced to answer questions. If they answered incorrectly, one of the participants would be asked to give the contestant an electric shock. No shocks were actually administered; the actor contestants pretended to get electrocuted.
Egged on by the beautiful TV hostess and an apparently bloodthirsty studio audience shouting “Punishment!,” only 16 of the 80 participants stopped before reaching the final, lethal 460 volt shock. People apparently kept up the shocks even when the contestant appeared to be dead or unresponsive.
French Documentary Shows Normal People Are Willing to Kill on Television (/Film)
And just when you think that you’ve seen everything the Solar System has to offer… well, you haven’t.
NASA is close to proving that a brown dwarf star code-named “Nemesis” is hiding somewhere in our Solar System, and, um, occupies itself by shooting comets at us. Apparently this is what killed the dinosaurs. What. The hell. Did our corner of space just turn into an 8-bit side scrolling shooter game? What is this, R-type? What the hell is going on?!?!
We’ve always assumed our sun was the only star in our solar system, but maybe not. We could be in a binary system, with a brown dwarf hiding in the Oort cloud. And it could be bombing us with comets.
The star, referred to as Nemesis, or “The Death Star,” has been theorized for a while. But now NASA’s new satellite, WISE, could be able to prove its existence for the first time. The theory was developed to explain the waves of mass extinctions on Earth, every 26 million years for the past 250 million years. Comets may be to blame for these die-offs — and the Death Star may be aiming them at us.
(I will note that this star has been known by Indian and Tibetan astrology for thousands of years—where it is called “Ketu”):
In Hindu mythology, Ketu is generally referred to as a “shadow” planet. It is believed to have a tremendous impact on human lives and also the whole creation. In some special circumstances it helps someone achieve the zenith of fame. Ketu is often depicted with a gem or star on his head signifying a mystery light.
The Association for Autonomous Astronauts was a group dedicated to the individual, autonomous exploration of space, and wresting control of the right to space exploration away from NASA and giving it to the masses. Started, I believe, by Temple of Psychick Youth stalwart John Eden, the group was a situationist response to the militarization of space in theory and practice. They apparently had a lot of excellent parties. Stewart Home wrote about them in his anarchist compendium “Mind Invaders” back in the day.
The Association of Autonomous Astronauts is a worldwide network of community based groups dedicated to building their own spaceships. The AAA was founded 23 April 1995. Although many of their activities were reported as serious participation in conferences or protests against the militarization of space, some were also considered art pranks, media pranks, or just an elaborate spoof. The AAA had numerous local chapters which operated independently of one another, with the AAA effectively operating as a collective pseudonym along the lines of Luther Blissett (nom de plume).
The Association’s ostensible five-year mission, a reference to Star Trek, was to “establish a planetary network to end the monopoly of corporations, governments and the military over travel in space”. Artists who became involved were often connected to the zine scene or mail art movements. The five year mission’s completion was marked at the 2000 Fortean Times conference, although some chapters have continued activities to the present day. Several AAAers have experienced zero-gravity training flights.
Writer Tom Hodgkinson described them as “a loose bunch of Marxists, futurists, and revolutionaries on the dole”, going on to explicate their mission as “reclaim[ing] the idea of space travel for the common man”. To the AAA, he said, “space travel represented an ideal of freedom”. Annick Bureaud of Leonardo/OLATS viewed their work as “space art” that “combine[d] freely space, cyberspace, raves, esoteric things, techno-music, etc.”, calling attention to “how they recycle ... key images (the MIR Space Station, the astronauts on the Moon, etc.) ... mixed with science-fiction (and specially Star Trek) buzz-words or images” and then subject these “sacred icons” to “iconoclastic treatments”
Theorist Brian Holmes commented the AAA like this : “The ideas sound fantastic, but the stakes are real: imagining a political subject within the virtual class, and therefore, within the economy of cultural production and intellectual property that had paralyzed the poetics of resistance.” in his book “Unleashing the Collective Phantoms”
GOOD magazine’s latest post in their series on transportation covers the Mars 500, a Russian training exercise to prepare astronauts for hitting Mars. (European and Chinese astronauts are also included. Apparently America has dropped the ball on this one, along with the rest of our approach to the space program, until we pick it up again.)
Ever since the dawn of the space age, we’ve been preparing for a red-planet mission. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s, Europeans and Russians locked themselves into tiny capsules for hundreds of days at a time to simulate a Martian mission. Locations were selected for remoteness and desolation, whether that meant the Atacama desert in Chile or the iciest reaches of Canada.
Yet those extremes pale against Mars 500, a test that will begin in the middle of this year in Moscow, inside a warehouse on the campus of the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems. There, a crew of seven men will lock themselves inside a series of rooms no bigger than a tiny house for 520 days—the approximate amount of time a return trip to Mars would take, with a 30-day layover on the planet. If they last, each crew member will get a bounty, possibly upwards of $100,000. What are we hoping to learn from this exercise? And, really, why would anyone want to do that?
Think of Mars 500 as something like the original Real World, minus the sexual tension and booze, with a few details changed:
“This is the true story of seven strangers (three Europeans, three Russian cosmonauts in training, and one Chinese)...
…picked to live in a house (that looks like the lovechild of a Quonset hut and the International Space Station)...
Tectonic creates music and maps in real time by earthquakes as they occur across the globe. A system using Max/MSP, Google Earth and Ableton Live processes a stream of real-time data that is translated into and audio ’sculpture’.
When an earthquake occurs, seismic data is relayed to the system, sound is produced and Google Earth immediately flies to the coordinates of the latest earthquake giving us a visual representation of the newest developments. As multiple earthquakes occur daily, the sculpture builds, enmeshing itself in a complex soundscape of textures and tones that constantly changes and evolves.
Interesting development—New Scientist reports that two scientists at the University of Ottawa have discovered how to shape nanoparticles with colored light. Amazing indeed…
How many chemists does it take to change an LED light bulb? Two – and they’ve shown that choosing its colour selects the shape of nanoparticles growing out of a solution of silver.
Kevin Stamplecoskie and Juan Scaiano at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, can grow silver particles shaped as hexagons, rods, triangles, spheres or dodecahedrons by shining green, red, orange, violet and blue light on the liquid respectively.
Being able to select the shape of nanoparticles is important because it changes their properties. For example, silver nanoparticles are used to make bacteria-killing clothing – and truncated triangular particles are the deadliest.
The lingering mystery, though, was who was behind the site. The question was answered on Saturday when Andrey Ternovskiy responded to the questions we sent to an e-mail address on Chatroulette. Mr. Ternovskiy said he was a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow.
“I was not sure whether I should tell the world who I am mainly because of the fact that I am under age. Now I think that it would be better to reveal myself,” Mr. Ternovskiy wrote.
I asked Mr. Ternovskiy about the origin of the idea for ChatRoulette, how he manages the technical challenges of running the site, whether he viewed it as a business, and about the way some people were using Chatroulette in, as he put it, “some not very nice ways.” Here are his e-mailed responses, slightly edited and condensed: