In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

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In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

 In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

Trampolines used to be the kind of thing you assembled in your backyard, its only purpose being something that could propel your body through the air in a monotonously repetitive vertical manner. And indeed, the whole point of trampolines was that there was no point. But trampolines, it would now appear, can also be useful. As a pair of European designers have demonstrated, it is in fact possible to intertwine the fun-factor of trampolines with utility. And the world is now a better place.

First off is the proposed trampoline “Bridge in Paris,” a design that was put together by Atelier Zündel Cristea of AZC Architecture Studios. His describes his floaty bridge thusly:

It appears to us that Paris has enough bridges. Our intention is to invite its visitors and inhabitants to engage on a newer and more playful path across this same water.

In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

We propose an inflatable bridge equipped with giant trampolines, dedicated to the joyful release from gravity as one bounces above the river. Installed near the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, it is formed of inflatable modules, like giant life-preservers, 30 meters in diameter.

In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

In the central part of each ring, a trampoline mesh is stretched. The floating buoys, fabricated in PVC membrane, are attached together by cord to form a stable and self-supporting ensemble. Each module under tension – filled with 3700 cubic meters of air – develops in space with an arch-like form.

In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

Given its light-weight and flexible design, the trampoline bridge could be adapted to other rivers of various widths.

And for those looking to stay on dry land, there’s Salto Architect‘s “Fast Track” trampoline sidewalk.

In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

Assembled for the annual Archstoyanie Creative Festival in the forest of Nikola-Lenivets, Russia, the 170 foot long track “is an attempt to create intelligent infrastructure that is emotional and corresponds to the local context, giving the user a different experience of moving and perceiving the environment.” Okay, sure, but it also looks impossibly fun and crazy-dangerous.

In the future, everything will be made from trampolines

The trampoline sidewalk was designed by Maarja Kask, Karli Luik, and Ralf Lõoke.

In the future, everything will be made from trampolinesIn the future, everything will be made from trampolinesIn the future, everything will be made from trampolines

Trampoline bridge h/t dsgnwrld; images courtesy AZC. Trampline sidewalk h/t Knstrct; images courtesy Nikita Šohov & Karli Luik.


Why Smug Atheists Should Read More Science Fiction

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Why Smug Atheists Should Read More Science Fiction

You can’t be on Twitter these days without being bombarded with atheistic smugness. You know what I mean. People who can’t just profess that they don’t believe in God — they have to taunt religious people for believing in “fairy tales.” Or the Tooth Fairy. Most of the time, these are geeks who have immense respect for science… and yet, they won’t recognize a situation where they simply have no data, one way or the other.

After a while, I can’t help wishing that these people would read some more science fiction, which above all is the genre of amazement and limitless possibility.

Top image: Rendezvous With Rama, artwork by Jim Burns

Of course, science fiction is also the genre of skepticism, and there are numerous examples of fake gods cropping up in SF books and other media. But there’s also a long tradition in science fiction of transcendence, and encounters with something huge and unknowable. A lot of the best science fiction also features the realization that for all our knowledge, there are still things in the universe we don’t yet fully understand.

We talked to a bunch of theologians recently to find out what religious topics they’d like to see science fiction cover — and one thing became clear: science fiction already deals with religious issues a lot. From Carl Sagan’s take on the relationship between science and religion in Contactto all of the stories that explore the nature of humanity and the future, science fiction is frequently stepping into theological grounds. And that’s leaving aside all of the stories about humans meeting entities in space that are beyond our comprehension and apparently all-powerful.

Yep, I’m talking about Sense of Wonder.

A sense of wonder includes humility

A lot of the best science fiction includes a sense of wonder at the hugeness of the cosmos — and the flipside of that is a sense of our own smallness. And the humility that goes along with that. If you want to feel a real sense of quasi-religious awe, don’t think of the world as being 6,000 years old — think of its actual age, measured in billions of years, and the huge timescales of the universe before and after our world. And think of the vastness of the cosmos, whose mysteries we’ve only just begun to glimpse in the past century.

A lot of the best science fiction is intensely “cosmic,” conveying just how huge and unknowable the universe is, and how little we still understand it. In a sense, the huge cosmic imagery of science fiction resembles some of the best religious paintings — like the artworks of William Turner, who depicts light bursting out of the frame in a way that’s often almost too dazzling to take in. OrPieter Bruegel the Elder, whose angels are like explosions of light and energy.

Contemplating space and time in all of their massive strangeness is much like gazing into the naked face of God is supposed to be — apt to drive you mad, or at the very least to make you recognize how tiny and ignorant you are. And science fiction is full of people who see further than others — and are called mad because of it.

Someone else’s subjective experience is as valid as yours

There’s a common plot in science fiction — particularly media SF — where someone is “seeing things” or having experiences that can’t be easily verified or quantified using technology. Like a sense of “deja vu,” or hearing voices, or seeing the missing-presumed-dead Captain Kirk floating around. And a huge problem in these stories is that nobody can really know what another person is experiencing, or whether it has any validity or is just a hallucination.


Thus it is with religious experiences — other people can speak about their profound experiences of the divine, which seem immensely real to them, but may sound like a crazy delusion to the rest of us. People experience raptures and witness miracles, which can’t be documented. And there are plenty of people who’ve had out of body experiences or near death experiences, which may or may not have a neurological explanation. One of science fiction’s all-time great writers, Philip K. Dick, had a religious experience where he felt as though he saw God in 1974 — and this experience informed his increasingly weird writing for the last eight years of his life. 

And science fiction is full of characters who experience visions that are outside of linear time, or beyond cause and effect. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, the Foretellers of Gethen go into a “kind of trance” that involves “self-loss” and allows them to see something of the future through extreme sensual awareness. In Frank Herbert’s Dune, Paul has visions that are as much mystical as scientific — though they involve “a kind of Heisenberg indeterminacy,” where Paul’s seeing affects what he sees. Science fiction also has its fair share of psychics and visionaries, who are viewed as lunatics, but who see a deeper reality than the rest of us can perceive.

And in Olaf Stapledon’s First and Last Men, this sort of cosmic vision eventually leads to humanity awakening into a kind of “cosmic spirit” which encompasses all living things. There’s also tons of science fiction which deals with humanity reaching the next stage of evolution — which frequently has some quasi-religious overtones, as in some of Arthur C. Clarke’s work.

In any case, plenty of people have personal experiences, which could be immensely meaningful or could just be their own faulty perceptions. They can’t say which is which, with an absolute certainty, and neither can any of us, from the outside. Once you’ve read enough science fiction, you start to allow for at least the possibility that other people might be seeing stuff that you can’t see but which still affects you in some massive, important way.

You don’t know any more than the rest of us

Carl Sagan is frequently described as an atheist — but there’s also a quote commonly ascribed to him where he rejects that label, saying: “An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.”

Actually, atheism is at least as valid a position as religious belief — and atheism has a huge advantage over Young Earth Creationism, in that it hasn’t actually been disproved. At the same time, Sagan was an agnostic, because there was no proof either way.

Still, it’s great to be atheist — and I strongly support arguing publicly and loudly in favor of atheism as a point of view. Just, you know, don’t be smug about it. You don’t actually know any more than the rest of us, and the universe is a much stranger, more bewildering place than any of us can really begin to grasp, and the only thing that would be surprising is if we stop being constantly surprised. If you don’t believe me, just read some science fiction.

Worlds Enough and Time: Explorations of Time in Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Gary Westfahl et al.
A Companion to Science Fiction, edited by David Seed

College application fees are a barrier to getting an education

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College application fees are a barrier to getting an education

This is the time of the year when senior high school students are furiously applying for college — a process that will decide where they will spend the next several years of their life, and shape their futures. And a lot of them will face a common problem: They have the grades to get into a particular school, but they can’t even afford to apply.

Why are college application fees so high? And how much money do colleges make from charging such insane fees just to be considered?

Stanford University charges $90 per undergraduate application. The school receives over 34,000 applications a year, adding up to $3 million in revenue for the school. That’s not the highest application fee in North America, however — that honor goes to Virginia-based public university George Mason.

George Mason is home to 20,000 undergraduate students a year, with an additional 12,500 graduate students enrolled. The publicly funded university’s in-state tuition is quite reasonable — less than $7,000 per year. But meanwhile, George Mason takes in a little more than 17,500applications from freshmen and transfer students a year at $100 a pop, resulting in $1.75 million in revenue. This number is artificially inflated, however, because George Mason uses this high paper application fee to steer possible students to an online application which costs $40 less and eases the paperwork burden.

These application fees certainly pile up, especially for hopefuls applying to multiple schools. Most universities charge in the $50 to $75 range for a freshman application — the NYU system charges $70, UCLA charges $70 per application, while the University of Texas charges $75.

Prices for private schools vary dramatically, with Emory and Vanderbilt charging a mere $50. A number of private colleges, including Baylor, Drexel, and Sewanee currently waive their undergraduate applications fee for students applying online.

The individual cost may not be a big problem — but the cost can add up pretty quickly, given that students likely apply to multiple colleges. There are programs to help with application fees, but you need to be within a family with an income within approximately $15,000 of the U.S. poverty line to be eligible. For those in the middle class, applying to multiple universities can create a substantial financial burden.

And once you’re accepted, universities charge an admission fee to hold the student’s spot for the coming year — a second fee that can range from $100 to $250.

But these application and admission fees pale when compared to the fees charged by elite schools outside of North America.

Oxford University asks for $120 at the time of application, Uppsala University in Sweden requires for $135 from those outside of Sweden and the EU, while applying to La Sorbonne can cost upwards of $500 for those applying internationally.

Applying for Medical and Pharmacy School
So if undergraduate application fees are expensive, what does it cost to apply to graduate school?

Many graduate programs that are stipend dependent — particularly those in the physical sciences — waive the application fee in hopes of attracting more applicants. These applicants often teach a litany of undergraduate laboratories once accepted, providing a low-cost source of revenue for the departments.

But applying to professional schools, particular medical or pharmacy school, is quite expensive. Both venues work off of a consolidated application system — the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) and PharCAS.

The initial application to one medical school via the online AMCAS system bears a cost of $160, with $33 added for each additional school. Pharmacy school applications are even more expensive, with PharmCAS charging $150 for the first and $50 for each additional.

One of the hidden sets of fees that come along with professional schools are “supplementary” applications; applications sent by each school individually after successful screening of consolidated applications. These applications add substantial additional fees, with Harvard charging $100 while UCLA charged $80 for each of the nearly 3,000 secondary applications the school requested in 2011. These applications are typically necessary to garner an interview and acceptance into the school, with the interview itself posing additional travel expenses.

The move to online applications at the undergraduate level is certainly driving costs down — but it hasn’t yet trickled down to professional schools.

Top image via Patricia Drury/Flickr.

The only known photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is up for sale

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The only known photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is up for sale

 The only known photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is up for sale

Good news for people who don’t like their money: The only known photograph taken of the iceberg that sank the Titanic is going up for auction — and it’s expected to fetch over $10,000.

The photo, which has the imaginative title “The Iceberg that Sunk Titanic,” is being sold by American auction house RR Auction. It’s a 9.75×8-inch photograph taken by Captain W. F. Wood, who was onboard the ship S. S. Etonian at the time. A handwritten note on the front of the photo reads:

Copyright. Blueberg taken by Captain W. F. Wood S. S. Etonian on 12/4/12 in Lat 41° 50 N Long 49° 50 W. Titanic struck 14/4/12 and sank in three hours.

According to PetaPixelthere are a number of reasons that have led experts to believe that the photo is legit.

First, it was captured at a location 2-3 days (in iceberg floating time) from where the ship sank. Second, the shape of the iceberg matches the sketches offered by eyewitnesses who survived the disaster, including the lookout who first spotted the ice in the horizon.

Finally, the iceberg’s shape resembles another photo (seen in the 1976 book A Night to Remember) taken from a ship named Prinz Adalbert, which was present in the area during the day after the sinking.

RR Auction notes that the difference in appearance between the two icebergs may be “attributable to the angle of the photographer and the aftermath of impact,” and that all these reasons taken together have allowed “noted Titanic experts to establish this photograph as capturing the iceberg everyone has been talking about for the past century.”

The auction ends on December 16, 2012, so you still have time to add this to your collection. Also be sure to check out the unseen photos from the sinking of the Titanic that only emerged recently.

Photo of Iceberg that Sank the Titanic to Be Auctioned, Expected to Fetch $10K german

photo of what may be the same iceberg, shot near the sinking of the Titanic on August 15th, 1912

Saturn’s moons could comprise “a veritable arcade” of Pac-Men

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Saturn’s moons could comprise “a veritable arcade” of Pac-Men

Astronomers now know that the Saturnian system has not one, but two “Pac-Man” moons — and there could be many, many more.

Back in 2010, infrared heat maps of Mimas (also known as Saturn’s “Death Star” moon, for reasons that should be fully armed, operational and obvious), gathered by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, revealed a Pac-Man shaped heat signature on its surface (pictured up top and below, on the left). Now, Cassini has returned evidence that Saturn’s icy moon Tethys is covered in a similar pattern.


Scientists theorize that the Pac-Man thermal shape on the Saturnian moons occurs because of the way high-energy electrons bombard low latitudes on the side of the moon that faces forward as it orbits around Saturn. The bombardment turns that part of the fluffy surface into hard-packed ice. As a result, the altered surface does not heat as rapidly in the sunshine or cool down as quickly at night as the rest of the surface, similar to how a boardwalk at the beach feels cooler during the day but warmer at night than the nearby sand. Finding another Pac-Man on Tethys confirms that high-energy electrons can dramatically alter the surface of an icy moon.

Saturn's moons could comprise "a veritable arcade" of Pac-MenIt also suggests that moons with this heat signature may be more common than we realized.

“Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought,” said Carly Howett, the lead author of the paper describing the so-called “thermal anomaly,” published in the latest issue of the journalIcarus.

“The Saturn system – and even the Jupiter system – could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters.”

[Icarus via NASA]

Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/SWRI

An absolutely incredible raw image of Saturn’s swirling north pole

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An absolutely incredible raw image of Saturn’s swirling north pole

Jason Major – Universe Today

Ok, are you ready for this? I know… WOW.

This swirling maelstrom of clouds is what was seen over Saturn’s north pole yesterday, November 27, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This is a raw image, acquired in polarized light, from a distance of 238,045 miles (383,097 kilometers)… all I did was remove some of the hot pixels that are commonly found on Cassini images taken with longer exposures.

Again… WOW.

My attempt at a color composite can be seen below, plus another treat.

It’s rough, and a little muddy because the clouds were moving between image channels (not to mention the blue channel image was rather underexposed) but here’s a color-composite of the same feature, made from images taken from a slightly different perspective:

An absolutely incredible raw image of Saturn’s swirling north pole

Pretty darn cool… Cassini does it yet again!

The images above show an approximately 3,000-4,000-km-wide cyclone above Saturn’s north pole. Saturn is also known to have a long-lived hexagonal jet stream feature around its north pole as well, but that is not shown in those images as it runs along a lower latitude. Instead, you can see that HERE:



Captured with wider angle in this image the hexagon structure can be made out as well as the vortex, which sits at the center just over the pole. Saturn’s hexagon is about 25,000 km (15,500 miles) in diameter… large enough to fit almost four Earths inside. This image was also acquired today.

An RGB composite of this feature is below:



It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten such a good look at Saturn’s north pole… thanks to Cassini’s new orbital trajectory, which is taking it high above the ring plane and poles of Saturn, we now have the opportunity to view the gas giant’s dynamic upper latitudes again. I’m sure this is just a taste of what’s to come!

An absolutely incredible raw image of Saturn’s swirling north poleThis post by Jason Major originally appeared on Universe Today.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Color composites by Jason Major

Dark Knight art appears to rip the floor out of an Australian mall

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Dark Knight art appears to rip the floor out of an Australian mall


An artist created this incredible 3D chalk art for the Dark Knight Rises film in a mall in Sydney, Australia. It looks like the glowing bat symbol has eaten away the floor and the entire shopping center is crumbling into the Earth’s superheated maw. Click to enlarge!

AP photo by Rob Griffith