Visual Inspiration: Photovoltaic Facades

Solar power technologies are advanced enough that they are increasingly being integrated into buildings during construction, not just added onto existing ones. For example, there’s a way to make thin enough, light-weight enough, and transparent enough solar cells to embed them into windows. Some cells even have color, which makes inventive facades a definite possibility!

Below are some colorful glass facades and/or windows, some actually photovoltaic, others made from regular glass or other sun control materials, to illustrate just a few possibilities SFF creators might want to consider.

 

SwissTech Convention Center in Ecublens, Switzerland

Using dye-sensitized solar cells or DSSC (also known as Grätzel cells), the world’s first multicolored solar facade was built at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Although the technology is 30 years old already, the building is only from 2014.

EPLF Chris Blaser Facade External

EPLF Chris Blaser Facade Internal

 

Biochemistry building at The University of Oxford in Oxford, UK

The facade is made up of glass fins that emulate the colors of the historic buildings surrounding it.

Flickr Andy Matthews UOxford Biochemistry

 

Clapham Manor Primary School in London, UK

A new wing added to an existing Victorian school. No solar glass as far as I can tell, but the combinations of solid and fritted, on one hand, and clear and colored glass, on the other, allow for some environmental control.

de Rijke Marsh Morgan Clapham-Manor-Primary_04

 

Environmental education center El Captivador in Alicante, Spain

Designed by CrystalZoo, the roof tiles of the sustainably built environmental education center flow from bright reds via oranges to yellows.

Twitter CrystalZoo El Captivador

 

Xicui entertainment complex in Beijing, China

GreenPix, a photovoltaic Zero Energy Media Wall, built for the Xicui entertainment center before the 2008 Beijing olympics, was the largest color LED display in the world at the time.

GreenPix 00_08(c)SimoneGiostra-ARUP-Ruogu

 

Gare de Perpignan in Perpignan, France

An atrium with semi-translucent photovoltaic ceiling panels plus regular colorful glass (as far as I can tell).

Wikipedia Projet_BIPV_-_Gare_TGV_de_Perpignan

 

Kuggen building, Chalmers tekniska högskola in Gothenburg, Sweden

Designed by Winngårdh Arkitektkontor for the Chalmers University of Technology, Kuggen has a movable sunscreen and six floors, each shielding the floor below.

Flickr magro_kr Chalmers Kuggen

 

At the moment, it seems that next to cost, fairly low efficiency is the biggest problem with building-integrated photovoltaics. (Although, the efficiency problem might soon be solved.) Fortunately, both are something that SFF writers can easily deal with. 🙂

Images: External EPLF facade by Chris Blaser via Flickr, internal EPLF facade by RDR_FernandoGuerra via Flickr. Biochemistry building at U of Oxford by Andy Matthews on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Clapham Manor school by Jonas Lencer / Philip Marsh Alex de Rijke via de Rijke Marsh Morgan. El Captivador by CrystalZoo on Twitter. GreenPix by Simone Giostra & Partners. Gare de Perpignan by Laurent Lacombe / Issolsa via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0). Kuggen by magro_kr on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 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?

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National Museums Scotland Online

National Museums Scotland have made their collections available online.

First, you can tour the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh through Google street view. Around 20,000 objects on display at the permanent galleries can be seen this way.

Google Arts National Museums Scotland Screencap

In addition, over 1,000 objects from the National Museums have been added to the Google Arts & Culture online collection. They are arranged in groups that work much like online photo albums. Clicking on an image opens a detailed view of that item with additional information.

Four separate museums form the National Museums Scotland: in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland and the National War Museum, plus the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian and the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride.

This is so great! I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit the National Museum of Scotland in person, but that was years ago and I couldn’t get to everything I wanted to see. Now I can patch those holes in my not-quite-a-bucket-list. 🙂

Image: screencap from National Museums Scotland Google Arts & Culture webpage

Gleaned from Bodleian Libraries Workshop on Ultramarine Blue

Did you know that the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford have a Tumblr micro blog? I didn’t until just recently. And oh my, it’s a treasure trove!

Bodleian Libraries Ultramarine Young Man Blue Rock Bodl MS Elliott 287 fol34a

A short post gives a few tantalising details on lapis lazuli, the mineral that was ground down to get bright blue pigment for example for illuminating Medieval manuscripts:

“In his travels Marco Polo vividly described the cold province of Badakhshan, a prosperous land where horses that descended from Alexander’s horse Bucephalus were once bred and where priceless rubies and the finest lapis lazuli were found.

“Since ancient times lapis lazuli has been sourced in this remote region, north-east of modern Afghanistan, and exported over vast distances. Its mines on the steep Hindu Kush Mountains, above the Valley of the Kokcha River, can only be reached through a tortuous and dangerous route.

“Lapis lazuli consists of a large number of minerals, including the blue mineral lazurite, the white mineral calcite and golden specks of iron pyrites.

“A laborious process transforms this composite mineral into the pigment ultramarine; various grades of ultramarine can be obtained, from the purest extremely expensive deep blue, composed mostly of lazurite particles to the pale grey so-called ultramarine ash.”

 

Tumblr Bodleian Libraries Ultramarine Workshop Screencap

The conservators at Bodleian (Anita Chowdry, David Margulies and Marinita Stiglitz) learned how to make pigment from scratch in a two-day workshop, and shared their notes in a longer post.

Bodleian Libraries Ultramarine Detail Bodl MS Arab d98 fol1b

Both the historical process and conservators’ efforts are fascinating! Did you know, for instance, that before explosives were developed, lapis lazuli was mined with the help of large fires and cold water?

Visit the Tumblr post for more photos, and read more in the Bodleian blog post “Exploring Ultramarine”.

Found via MedievalPOC on Tumblr.

Images via Bodleian Libraries: Young man picks a blue rock, Bodleian Library, MS. Elliott 287, fol. 34a. Workshop image collage screencapped from Tumblr. Detail of Bodleian Library, MS. Arab. d. 98, fol. 1B.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

An Extant Map as Evidence of Native American Cartography

In the U.S., and indeed more widely in the Anglo-American world, Meriwether Lewis and William Clarke are known for their two-year expedition of the Louisiana territory (purchased from France in 1803) and the land beyond the “great rock mountains” in the west.

Less commonly remembered in cursory mentions is the extent of Lewis and Clarke’s interactions with local Native Americans. (Apart from Sacagawea, who is known at least in the U.S.) The whites didn’t just exchange gifts or talk about trade or clash with the local population; they received invaluable help and information (like when the expedition wintered with the Mandan people in present-day North Dakota).

Now it seems that western historians need to re-evaluate that extent.

According to The Jefferson Watch, cartographers have identified at least ten places in the journals of Lewis and Clarke where the captains talk about the maps by Native American hosts to help them figure out the lay of the land.

Christopher Steinke, at the time a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, found one of those maps at the archives of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris. It was drawn by Inquidanécharo, a chief of the Arikara (in French, Ricara), who was apparently also known as Too Né.

LudditeLabs on Twitter did some of the heavy lifting and linked to the BnF digital copy of the map:

BnF Gallica Inquidanecharo Map Missouri Valley

An article by Steinke is available at JSTOR, where this abstract comes from:

“The Bibliothèque nationale de France contains a hitherto unnoticed map attributed to Inquidanécharo, a Ricara chief. Lewis and Clark knew him as Too Né, an Arikara village leader who accompanied them upriver to the Mandan and Hidatsa villages in 1804. The map, which Too Né showed to playwright and artist William Dunlap when he visited Washington in 1806, is the most detailed surviving Indian representation of the Great Plains from this period. It invites scholars to reorient early American exploration and cartography from indigenous perspectives. Too Né interpreted his map as a work of history and cartography and situated the American explorers in the historical and religious landscape of the Arikara people.”

In “Here is My Country”, Steinke outlines some of the main features of Inquidanécharo’s map, and recounts some history surrounding it. He also lists a few other Native American maps from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

What most struck me, though, is that Native American maps seem to have contained more information than just geographical details—they also depicted cultural connections and ethnographical information.

I knew Native Americans used symbols and pictograms, and had to have—like people everywhere—a way of talking about and remembering locations outside their immediate surroundings. I had no idea, however, that Native American cartography was as polished or wide-reaching as it was (a hint for the Finnish school system), let alone that their maps might still be extant. Fascinating!

Found via bluecorncomics on Twitter.

This post has been edited to correct a typo.

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

A Science-Fictional Personal Transportation Drone Is Almost a Reality

On Twitter, CNET shared a video of test flight footage of an apparently functional, autonomous passenger drone. Take a look at it here:

The model is called Ehang 184. There’s a longer test flight video on EHANG’s YouTube channel:

EHANG 184 AAV Manned Flight Tests by EHANG on YouTube

There’s been some buzz—quite understandably, too, for the drone looks pretty neat—but the vehicle doesn’t seem to have been ready for the international market quite as soon as some western news outlets have reported. It sounds like the battery life is still rather limited, too. Fortunately the limitations of the current tech do not have to restrain a science fiction writer—just think of how much cell phone batteries have improved in the last ten years alone.

My goodness, it’s exciting to be living now! 🙂

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?

Some Interesting Early Photo Portraits

I’m not a fan of the Victorian age per se, but watching Murdoch Mysteries has piqued my interest somewhat. Here are some intriguing photographs from the later 1800s to early 1900s.

From a set of unscripted photos taken in the streets of 1890s Norway by Carl Størmer, a young woman with books:

Imgur Carl Stromer Young Woman w Books 1890s
Young woman with books, photograph by Carl Størmer via Imgur (Oslo, Norway, 1890s)

All of the subjects in this set are remarkably relaxed. Love the contrast to the stiff studio portraits of the era!

(I’ve had trouble finding a more detailed source, unfortunately. Possibly Størmer’s photos are gleaned from the 2008 book 80 millioner bilder: Norsk kulturhistorisk fotografi 1855-2005 [’80 Million Pictures: Norwegian Culture-Historical Photography 1855-2005′], edited by Jonas Ekeberg and Harald Østgaard Lund.)

Finnish ladies and gentlemen on a ski trip in the 1890s:

Helsinki City Museum N252030 Hiihtoretkelaiset
Hiihtoretkeläiset ryhmäkuvassa (‘ski trip participants in a portrait’), photograph via Helsinki City Museum (Helsinki, Finland, 1890s, image number N252030, CC BY 4.0)

Judging by their attire, they are indeed ladies and gentlemen. What struck me is that, apparently, it wasn’t at all odd for the upper class to go skiing in their regular daywear.

Speaking of sports and Victorians, from 1891, here is high school dressage equestrian Selika Lazevski by Félix Nadar:

Black Female Equestrians Felix Nadar Selika Lazevski
Selika Lazevski, photograph by Félix Nadar courtesy of Ministère de la Culture, France, via Black Female Equestrians (Paris, France, 1891)

What an arresting portait!

A Victorian couple from Leeds trying not to laugh while getting their portraits done in the 1890s:

Twitter Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Couple Trying Not to Laugh
Victorian couple trying not to laugh while getting their portraits done, photograph via Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies on Twitter (Leeds, England, 1890s)

It’s like a photo version of a blooper reel! 🙂

Two Victorian ladies making a life-sized snow lady, also from Leeds in the 1890s:

Twitter Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Making Snow Lady
Two Victorian ladies making a snow lady, photograph via Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies on Twitter (Leeds, England, c. 1890s)

With the correct corseted posture, dress ruffles, and hairdo. Wow, ladies, what a great job!

Nellie Franklin photographed holding a parasol in Tallahassee, Florida, between 1885 and 1910:

Florida Memory Nellie Franklin with Parasol HA00227
Nellie Franklin with parasol, photograph by Alvan S. Harper via Florida Memory (State Library & Archives of Florida) (Tallahassee, Florida, between 1885 and 1910, image number HA00227, public domain)

This photo clearly references painted portraits as ancestors of photographic ones.

A young man in a wheelchair:

Yale Robert Bogdan Disability Collection Wheelchair
Young man in a wheelchair, photograph via the Robert Bogdan Disability Collection at Yale University’s Medical Historical Library

Victorians certainly loved their wheels! I wonder exactly how one would’ve operated this chair—there’s clearly a handle bar connected to the front wheel, but if grabbing it with both hands, where does the propelling force come from?

A Sami woman from Finland photographed at Ellis Island in the U.S., so presumably immigrating, around 1905-1914:

NYPL Digital Augustus Sherman Sami Woman 418041
Laplander / Sami woman from Finland, photograph by Augustus F. Sherman via New York Public Library digital collections (Ellis Island, New York, NY, c. 1905-1914, image ID 418041, public domain)

I wish the portrait hadn’t cut off at the waist; I would’ve liked to see the rest of the details of her dress (the belt looks especially interesting). I know that nowadays Sami outfits (gákti) are unique. Each is made for its wearer to reflect the personal / family history and area (and possibly the people as a whole?). I don’t know, however, how far back in time that practice goes.

Anyway. These old photos give fascinating glimpses of western life only about 100 years ago. So similar and yet so, so different.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

 

 

British Library’s Exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic Now Online

The British Library has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to bring online their physical exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

British Library Google Harry Potter A History of Magic Exhibition

Apart from various aspects of the story and the movie series, the exhibition covers for example illustrations, the history of real-world magic, and early sketches and notes by J.K. Rowling. In addition, on display are a number of items from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

My favorite feature is perhaps the section covering the real-world history of various Hogwarts classes, closely followed by the animals and fantastical beasts section.

Found via Helsingin Sanomat.

Image: screencap from the Google Arts & Culture page for the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Texts from Shakespeare Characters: Do You Bite Your Thumb at Us, Sir?

This panel from a slew of Texts from Shakespeare Characters totally cracked me up:

Tumblr Texts from Shakespeare Characters Do You Bite Thumb

random Capulet loser: [thumbs up emoji]

phone owner, NOT a Capulet loser: “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”

An insightful combination of Shakespeare and modern tech and culture. Dare I say it: thumbs up!

Image: Texts from Shakespeare Characters from SparkNotes’s SparkLife, found via Abbie A. Aaronson on Tumblr

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

Pacific Rim Uprising Trailers

Pacific Rim Uprising opens in four weeks (March 23, 2018) and even the second trailer has been out for a few weeks now. First things first, though:

Pacific Rim Uprising – Official Trailer (HD) by Legendary

And here’s the second trailer:

Pacific Rim Uprising – Official Trailer 2 [HD] by Legendary

Pacific Rim Uprising is directed and co-written by Steven S. DeKnight; other writers credited with the screenplay are Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin. I have seen some of DeKnight’s writing and directing for Dollhouse and possibly even story editing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The rest of the writing team are entirely new to me however (apart from having at least heard of one of Snyder’s latest producing credits, The Handmaid’s Tale).

While I’m mostly not in the mood, now and then I like lots of smacking monsters around and busting buildings. But not only that—destruction without a reason gets tiresome faster than you can say marmalade sandwich. Among the falling skyscrapers and lurching jaegers in these trailers I’m left wondering about the human stories.

The features of the first Pacific Rim that most strongly attracted me to the story were specifically that—human stories. One was Learning to Work Together and the other was the respect that Raleigh Becket showed Mako Mori. I’ve seen interviews with Guillermo del Toro and the design team where everyone kept calling Mako Raleigh’s “love interest”. Come on, dudes. Reducing a character to her gender and relationship to a male character is the worst kind of dismissal. She has a name and you know it, not to mention that Mako would kick your butt eight days in a week. (It’s sad when a fictional character has to take his creators to school on how to respect women as people.)

I really hope Uprising will be a case of Never Trust a Trailer, and the movie will be at minimum tolerable. Granted, the first trailer is more people- than fight-heavy, so that’s a reason to stay positive. At the very least we’ll see more of Rinko Kikuchi, John Boyega—looking forward to seeing what kind of depth he has—and Tian Jing, whose performance in The Great Wall I enjoyed but for whose character there was pitifully little to do in Kong: Skull Island.

This post has been edited for clarity.

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

Computer Issues 2

For a good long while, I’ve been having unpredictable hiccups when submitting comments on other people’s blogs. It’s gotten so bad that I routinely copy & paste my comment in a text document before submitting it in case it’s eaten up by the hungry Internet Mawster.

SATW Computer Technician Snippet

Sometimes logging in and out helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes disabling my ad blocking software helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Et cetera, et cetera.

Flames on Side of My Face

This past week takes the cake, though: now I can’t even like a post reliably anymore. Clicking on the little star just doesn’t necessarily register regardless of whether I’m logged in and browsing a blog, or reading a post through my subscription feed, or running around the house howling at the full moon.

I might be a tad bit… miffed.

alan-rickman-table-throw

Ohwell. I dare say I’ll find a workaround at some point.

Rant over.

Images: Computer Technician, detail of a Scandinavia and the World comic by Humon. Flames on the side of my face via Two Bossy Dames. Alan Rickman table flip via Natalie Luhrs at Pretty Terrible.

When the suckage just sucks too much.