Solar Foods is an International NASA Space Foods Winner

Solar Foods, a Finnish food tech company from Lappeenranta, Finland, has been selected as one of the international winners of the Phase 1 of NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge.

Solein Foods Selection Image 08

Solein is a protein made from electricity, air, and carbon dioxide, plus added nutrients. The process involves fermentation, and produces a nutrient-rich powder whose macronutrient composition is very similar to that of dried soy or algae.

Ten teams were honored in the international and 18 in the U.S. section of the challenge.

Congrats!

Image: Solein foods by Solar Foods.

Scenes from Among the Trolls

Forbidden Studios is an independent game development studio based in Turku, Finland. Their first game is in development now. Recently the studio shared a few more pictures from Among the Trolls on Twitter:

Among the Trolls Forest w Birch

All of the scenery looks absolutely lovely, very much like home, which I’m not used to seeing in a video game, and they prompted me to go look for more. Below are a few other shots that reflect a location firmly based on traditional Finland:

Among the Trolls Cabin Interior

A traditional cabin with what’s clearly a ryijy wall hanging. Nice.

Among the Trolls Sauna

It’s a sauna! Ha! 🙂

I’m now looking forward to hearing more about the story. At this writing the description only says “Among the Trolls is a first-person survival action adventure where the strange mysteries of Nordic forests are unraveled.”

On the basis of the current demo video, among other things you can pan for gold and have a sauna bath; at least two things that are highly unusual. (In fact, a sauna bath provides more sisu in game, which can save your life when all else fails. How fabulous!) On Twitter, Forbidden Studios also shared a clip of rune singing, which is clearly a reference to the Kalevalaic poetry. More unique Finnish goodness!

There might be one potential problem, unfortunately. If the Forbidden Studios gallery and Twitter stream are anything to go by—and they might not—there is only one woman in the plot. (The protag’s grandmother Elina Kantola, who has disappeared along with her husband Aarne.) It could be a stylistic choice; it’s not at all uncommon for Finnish storytellers to focus on lone men in the woods. If true, however, that’s a problem for me.

As fantastic as it is to see the kinds of environments I grew up with reflected on screen, if there aren’t female characters beyond the obligatory Smurfette / wife / girlfriend / (grand)mother type, I’m not interested. At this point in my life the lack of multiple individual, nuanced women in a story is as hard and immediate a turn-off as horror and dystopia are.

Images by Forbidden Studios: Forest via Twitter. Cabin interior via their website. Sauna scene screencapped from the video demo.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Agatha Christie’s Hjerson: A Poirot Spinoff

Fans of Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot probably remember Poirot’s friend, writer Ariadne Oliver. Her popular detective, Sven Hjerson, happens to be a countryman of mine.

Astoundingly—to my mind at least—Sven Hjerson is going to get his own series! Produced in Sweden, the series is called Agatha Christies Hjerson (unsurprisingly, Agatha Christie’s Hjerson in English). The series was created by Patrik Gyllström; he has also written some of the scripts along with Jakob Beckman, Martin Luuk, and Björn Paqualin, and there are two co-directors, Lisa Farzaneh and Lisa James Larsson. Hjerson is starred by Johan Rheborg and Hanna Alström, the latter of which has some international renown as the Swedish Princess in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

C More Agatha Christies Hjerson S1

The titular character Hjerson is a Swedish-speaking Finn who has had a long career as a criminal investigator in Sweden and now lives a retired, uneventful life in the Ă…land Islands. A Swedish reality tv producer Klara Sandberg is on the lookout for a new hit series and decides on Hjerson as her new star. Naturally, murders ensue.

Agatha Christie’s Hjerson is a C More original production. The series was filmed in Stockholm and Ă…land Islands (Ahvenanmaa) and is described as a combination of Christie and Nordic noir. Season one consists of four 90-minute episodes, which for tv have each been split into two parts.

So far the IMDB reviews are not flattering. Have you seen Hjerson? Do share!

Image via C More

On the Move

You may have noticed that we’ve been posting less often recently. Also, usually in the beginning of June we write a blog anniversary post, but this obviously isn’t one. This year, we just don’t have the requisite spoons, because we’re moving. Not just houses. Not just states. Not just countries. Continents.

My Finland in the Sky

Gosh, even saying that out loud wearies me out. A trans-Atlantic move is challenging at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic.

If you have well-wishes to spare, we’d appreciate it if you sent one our way. Please and thank you.

Announcements from your hosts.

The Connection of a 8th-Century Saint and Finnish May Day

In Finland, May the first is known as vappu (Finnish) or as vappen (Finnish Swedish), and it is one of the four biggest holidays in the country. Sometimes it’s translated into English as Walpurgis night (as opposed to May Day). I’d always just shrugged my way past that weird translation until I ran into the history of vappu: the phrase comes from Saint Walburh’s Day.

Saint Walburh was an English nun, missionary, and abbess in the 8th century. She was a part of Saint Boniface’s famous mission to German lands beyond the old Rhine-Danube frontier. The tidbit on Walburh below comes from Kathleen Herbert’s work:

“For example, St. Walburh trained at Wimborne in Dorset, then went with her two brothers to join the German mission. She became abbess of the double monastery of Heidensheim, which had a distinguished scholarly record. Her feast day is May 1st, so in her district the rites of Spring become traditionally celebrated as Walpurgisnacht. This is not a sarcastic joke but a tribute to her power, ranking her locally with such mighty ones as St. Michael and St. John the Baptist.”

– Kathleen Herbert, Peace-Weavers & Shield-Maidens: Women in Early English Society

Clearly Saint Boniface is the more prominent character of the two in history, but it’s intriguing to me that Saint Walburh’s name is still, well over a thousand years after her death, attached to a spring festival celebrated on the day of her canonization. (Granted, it helps that May Day had long been celebrated as one of the transition points in the yearly cycle; cf. Beltane).

So, in a minor way, even though we mostly don’t care or remember in the middle of everyday hullabaloo, we keep passing her name to future generations. That’s more than Saint Boniface can boast in Finland.

I sometimes wonder how much else in our culture that’s passed on without remark has similar hidden histories. I suspect more than we’d imagine.

Juhannus Bubbly Sm

Anyway. Hyvää vappua! Glada vappen! Happy May Day!

Herbert, Kathleen. Peace-Weavers & Shield-Maidens: Women in Early English Society. Anglo-Saxon Books, 2013, p. 44.

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

Bounceback Boys Parkour Their Way Through Wintry Helsinki

Parkour! In Helsinki! In the winter! Jumping into mounds of snow!

HELSINKI WINTER TAKEOVER (PARKOUR) by Bounceback Boys on YouTube

Wow! Lots of impressive stunts here; I admire the Bounceback Boys’ skill. (My fear of heights, however, would like a word with the young men… LOL!)

Found via Helsingin Sanomat. (NB. Finnish only.)

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Custom Bookcases with Carvings for a LotR Collection

Now this is a treasure, preciouss! A Finland-based company built these amazing custom bookcases for a collection of figurines and other materials from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

FB Puustikki LotR Bookcases

Many (if not all?) of the bookcases also have carved crowns. Here’s the Rohan one:

FB Puustikki LotR Bookcases Rohan

There are also metal shields that function as handles:

FB Puustikki LotR Bookcases Dragon

Puustikki talk about their project a bit on Facebook:

“Finally we’re able to publish photos of these custom made, epic showcases for LOTR and Hobbit figurine collection. Probably the biggest collection in Finland and now it’s also displayed in showcases it deserves! This whole thing is 100% handmade out of solid oak and we wanted to use glass doors to maximize visibility into the cases. Each one of the showcases has distinct features to corresponding races/nations; carvings on the top and a custom made steel handle.

“Height of these wooden marvels is 250cm, so they barely fit into a regular house! [sic]”

 

Puustikki is run by carpenter Jarkko Pilvinen and jeweler Juho Manninen. The makers pull their inspiration from history and historical fantasy. At this writing, their online store includes drinking horns, a picnic table and benches, beds, dragon pegboards, runed coasters, and jewelry, among others.

My goodness! Astounding, aren’t they? Stylistically, a lot of their other wares are not our style at all, but as a maker myself, I really admire and appreciate the consideration and effort that went into all of their designs.

Check out the Puustikki website or Instagram for more.

Images by Jukka Alasaari Photography via Puustikki on Facebook

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Quotes: The Swan of Tuonela–You Must Have Seen That?

Like I mentioned, I’m reading all of the Hercule Poirot books in English for the first time. I’ve come across one reference to Finland already, but here’s another one:

“Affair with a dancer? But of course, my dear—he had an affair with Katrina. Katrina Samoushenka. You must have seen her? Oh, my dear—too delicious. Lovely technique. The Swan of Tuolela [sic]—you must have seen that?”

– Ambrose Vandel in The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie (original emphasis)

The Swan of Tuonela is a tone poem about the realm of the dead by composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), and part of his Lemminkäinen Suite of Four Legends from the Kalevala. Considering his international fame at the beginning of the 20th century, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was mentioned in a book published in the 1930s, but I confess I was a bit startled.

Christie, Agatha. The Labors of Hercules. New York, NY: Berkley Books, 1986 [orig. published 1939], p. 62.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Visual Inspiration: Dark Nights in the North

During my years in the U.S., I’ve been asked more than one variation of the question “Is it always cold?” in Finland. (The short answer, of course, is No; the long answer is It depends on your definition, and when and where in Finland you are. It CAN be cold, but “always”, no.)

What southern people don’t usually realize is that it’s not the winter cold but the long dark that affects you most. (Of course, as a counterpoint, we do also have the magical light summer nights.)

Besides, the dark isn’t all bad. Away from light pollution there is the Milky Way on clear nights, and the further north you go, the higher are your chances of seeing northern lights. The latter can range from faint whisps to quite a light show.

For your potential worldbuilding inspiration, here is a small selection of Flickr photos roughly from around where I grew up, including travel destinations in the north.

Flickr Juho Holmi Ritosuo 2

Flickr Juho Holmi Northern Lights over Oulu

Flickr Timo Newton-Syms Northern Lights

Flickr Heikki Holstila Northern Lights II

For me, and indeed most other Finns, winter starts some time in November to December, depending on the temperatures each year. And even though technically I didn’t grow up with the polar night (when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all), it was quite dark especially before the snow fell—which is exactly why getting snow on the ground was such a relief.

Flickr pikkuanna Rantavehnää

Flickr pikkuanna Hiihtolatu

Images via Flickr: Ritosuo 2 and Northern Lights over Oulu by Juho Holmi (CC BY-ND 2.0). Northern Lights by Timo Newton-Syms (CC BY-SA 2.0). Northern Lights II by Heikki Holstila (CC BY-ND 2.0). Rantavehnää and Hiihtolatu by pikkuanna (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

Living in a Science Fictional Present: Food from Air, Water from Sunlight

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this” is my favorite line from the movie The Martian. The amazing thing about our species is that we do that every day, and every once in a while it pays off in a phenomenal way. Below are two cases that have the potential to do just that.

Researchers at the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. have created a process for making protein from air. Specifically, it uses carbon dioxide, water, and electricity, plus added nutrients.

Solar Foods Solein Protein Powder Sm

Apparently they’ve had a test installation running since June. The resulting protein powder, dubbed Solein, looks like flaky meal and reportedly tastes like wheat.

Read more at Yle news (Finnish only), or in English at The Guardian or Solar Foods website.

Professor Peng Wang from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia lead a study introducing a strategy to produce fresh water. Essentially, a distillation unit attached to photovoltaic panels evaporates seawater at relatively low temperatures more efficiently than conventional solar stills and yet generates electricity at the same time.

BBC News Wenbin Wang Solar Panel Water Purifier Concept

More at BBC News and journal Nature Communications.

Images: Solein protein powder by Solar Foods. Combined solar panel and water purifier by Wenbin Wang via BBC News.