Tag Archives: 2014

Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper protects the amazon from fire

rainforest guardian skyscraper protects the amazon from fire

Proposed by chinese designers jie huang, jin wei, qiaowan tang, yiwei yu and zhe hao, the ‘rainforest guardian skyscraper’ towers over the amazonian landscape, protecting the region from the constant threat of fire and drought. the lotus-shaped design, which received an honorable mention as part of eVolo‘s 2014 skyscraper competition, primarily functions as a water tower, but is also a weather station, scientific research center and an educational laboratory.

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom
sectional drawing indicating spatial arrangement

according to NASA, fires have destroyed 3% of the amazon rainforest over the last 12 years. these outbreaks are hard to predict and even more difficult to control. the ‘guardian’ serves as a device capable of preventing, monitoring and combating fire.

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom
the design primarily functions a water tower, but is also a weather station and scientific research center

the proposal directly captures rainwater that is subsequently filtered and stored within ancillary reservoirs. aerial roots with a distinct sponge-structure absorb liquid without disturbing the region’s delicately balanced ecosystem. in the case of flames, firefighters fly to the scene and extinguish the inferno with the previously collected water. research labs enable scientists to monitor climate change and the stability of the environment. these spaces also act as exhibition galleries for tourists promoting environmental awareness.

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom
the scheme directly captures rainwater that is subsequently filtered and stored within ancillary reservoirs


rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

rainwater collection systemrainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the ‘aerial root’rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the extinguishment processrainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the water-cycle regulating processrainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the ‘rainforest firefighters’


This map shows where the world’s 3 biggest arms exporters are sending their weapons

US Russia China Global Arms Imports Map

Click to the picture for higher resolution

The US, Russia, and China are the world’s largest arms exporters. They took the largest slices of a growing pie: The global arms trade was 16% larger in 2010-2014 than it was in 2005-2009, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

China in particular saw its share of global exports explode. It became the world’s third-largest exporter accounting for 5% of the arms trade in 2010-2014. In comparison, China sold 3% of the world’s arms in 2005-2009.

But China still lags far behind the export powerhouses of the US and Russia. Washington sold 31% of all global imports during the 2010-2014 period, while Moscow made up 27% of the global trade.

The global arms trade highlights where the US, Russia, and China hold geopolitical sway — or want to. Predictably, the NATO countries — with the exception of Russian-leaning Hungary — Mexico, and east Asian countries jittery about a rising China all purchased their arms from the US, and not the other two big exporters.

Likewise, the former Central Asian Soviet republics all purchased their arms solely from Moscow, with the curious exception of Uzbekistan.

Generally, China and Russia are more willing than the US to send weapons to countries with spotty human rights records. Angola, Iran, and Sudan all purchased weapons from both Russia and China.

China has also used its arms trade to build influence in sub-Saharan Africa, a part of the world Beijing covets for its natural resources and its growing labor and consumer marketplaces — as well as for power projection.

China sent weapons to 9 sub-Saharan countries and was the only one in the top three to send arms to South Sudan, a country whose oil industry and international standing are both threatened by an ongoing civil war.

India provides another example of the role the arms trade plays in geopolitical influence. New Delhi frequently threatens to lean closer to Russia or the US in order to incentivize arms transfers from the other country.

For instance, India is co-building its fifth-generation fighter with Russia — and at the same time, the US and India may cooperate on the construction of aircraft carriers.

During the 2010-2014 period, Asia and Oceania was a big recipient of arms imports accounting for 48% of global weapons purchases.

Putin couldn’t make Russia a great power, so he made it a geopolitical racketeer

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Minsk, BelarusCeyhan Aydogan/Andolu Agency/Getty

What in the hell is Vladimir Putin up to? It’s perhaps one of the most important and salient questions of 2014. Russia-watchers and Russians have spent much of the year debating what’s behind Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine, his meddling in eastern Europe’s Baltic states, his support for anti-American dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and the headaches he is generally causing Western leaders.

Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University who studies Russia, suggested an answer: Putin is remaking Russia from a former world power into a geopolitical racketeer.

Galeotti is not the first person to suggest this theory, which is gaining traction even among Russia experts who tend to be more sympathetic to Moscow, but he put it awfully succinctly in a great interview with the Swiss-based International Relations and Security Network.

Galeotti made his point when asked how Russia’s role as an international actor had evolved since the end of the Cold War (I’ve added line breaks and bold for emphasis):

Russia is now regarded not as ineffective but as toxic; it has shown that it can act, but above all as a spoiler.

Its main tactic in eastern Ukraine, in Syria, and elsewhere is not to fix problems, nor even to build coalitions, but to create problems in the hope that this grinds down the will of the other party or parties until they decide that making some kind of deal with Moscow is the least-worse option.

These are, in the short term, effective tactics, but this is the geopolitics of the protection racketeer and it wins no friends, earns no soft power. It has empowered those who say this current regime in the Kremlin is dangerous and can only be contained or, ultimately, confronted.

The problem that Putin was trying to solve is this: when he came into office in 2000, Russia had sunk from its former status as a global power to a disgraced, weakened, shell of itself. The world was dominated by the West, Russia’s former enemy and rival. How was Russia going to find its place, and its former glory, in that world?

At first, Putin tried to make Russia part of the Western-dominated world, buddying up with Western leaders (remember his friendship with George W. Bush?) and joining into international organizations. Russia was going to make the new system work for it.

Putin visits then-President George W. Bush at his family's home in Maine (Charles Ommanney/Getty)

Putin visits then-President George W. Bush at his family’s home in Maine (Charles Ommanney/Getty)

That didn’t work out. Putin still saw central and eastern Europe as a contest ground for Western versus Russian influence — not totally without reason, as new countries joined NATO — which led into the old dynamic of competition.

Crises in the Caucasus and the former Yugoslavia became points of tension. But Putin couldn’t win them outright; Russia was just not strong enough anymore, and in any case seemed to always pick the losing side. Putin’s great power ambitions were just not going to happen.

So he tried something else. If Russia couldn’t maintain geopolitical relevance on its merits, it would force itself onto the world stage by acting as a spoiler to the great powers of the West, mucking up their plans until they had no choice but to acknowledge Russia’s influence.

When Western powers pressured Iran to curb its nuclear program, Russia built Iran a nuclear reactor. When Western powers weighed bombing Syria to punish Assad for mass-murdering civilians, Putin handed Assad air defense weapons and installed some Russian sailors at a Syrian port to act as human shields.

When Edward Snowden released American secrets, Putin welcomed him into Russia and then maneuvered him into staying. When North Korea allegedly hacked Sony Pictures, Putin invited Kim Jong Un to Moscow.


Partly this about pride — Putin asserting Russia as relevant and important any way he can, even if just by trolling Western powers — but partly it’s also about strategically preserving the last shreds of global Russian influence and interests.

Still, as Galeotti notes, this a strategy that works in the short-term but is a long-term loser. Every time Putin acts as a geopolitical spoiler or racketeer, he’s spending away some of the international stature and credibility that Russia has accrued over centuries of actual power and influence.

He’s making himself, and Russia, more distrusted and isolated. His solution for Russian weakness is to make it even weaker.

President Obama hinted at this, subtly but acidly, when he referred to Russia as a “regional power” in response to a journalist’s question this summer about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The line wasn’t just an insult of Putin — although it was certainly that — but a summation of the inevitable end result of Putin’s use and misuse of Russian power.

Proposal for torre antena santiago by architects of invention

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom

architects of invention have presented ‘halo santiago’, a proposal which was awarded third prize in the ‘torre antena santiago competition’.

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom

the tower is envisioned as a landmark structure for the santiago, a beacon for the city and its people. the concept behind the design references chile’s vast amount of active volcanoes, forming a dynamic smoke-plume extrusion which twists and rises towards the sky.

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom

at night, the light emitted from a circular viewing platform is reminiscent of the wide glow from an active eruption, viewed as a halo hovering above the mountain’s peak.

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom

the halo shape has always been considered a feature which highlights and inspires awe across subjects such as photography, painting and religion – the viewing platform suggests this optical form, elegantly suspended by cables.

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom

rather than entirely dominating its surroundings, the structure shares the mountainous terrain with the neighboring statue of saint mary, while the homogenous materiality of the antenna presents a sculptural form,

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom


at night the light emitted is reminiscent of the wide glow from an active volcano eruption

torre antena santiago architects of invention designboom

project info:

competition: international public competition antenna tower santiago
award: third place
project name: halo santiago
architects: nikoloz japaridze, anton khmelnitskiy, daniel lareau, petras isora, yakim milev, vano ksenashvili, dato canava
location: san cristobal hill, providencia, santiago metropolitan region, chile
senior team: ignacio hernandez, mauricio mandler, alvaro dieguez, cesar goldsmith, carlos flores, alexander weiss
structural engineer: engenuiti enginieers
project year: 2014

The Best Films of 2014

Grand Budapest Hotel

Halfway through 2014, our top three critics found themselves in a rare moment of agreement: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was one of the year’s best films so far. Several months later, Wes Anderson’s delightful comic caper still ranks high on two lists, while rating an honorable mention on a third — a sign, perhaps, of the impossibility of total unanimity in a year of such rich and diverse cinematic pleasures. (Other movies that scored top-10 mentions from at least two of our critics: “Foxcatcher,” “Winter Sleep,” “Gone Girl,” “Interstellar” and “Selma.”)

Here are our critics’ choices for the year’s finest achievements in film:

Justin Chang’s top 10 films of 2014 | Read more
1. Boyhood
2. Under the Skin
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Winter Sleep
5. Foxcatcher
6. Bird People
7. Gone Girl
8. Selma
9. Mr. Turner
10. Interstellar

Peter Debruge’s top 10 films of 2014 | Read more
1. Calvary
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
4. Love Is Strange
5. Le Week-end
6. While We’re Young
7. Li’l Quinquin
8. Force majeure
9. War of Lies
10. Class Enemy

Scott Foundas’ top 10 films of 2014 | Read more
1. Goodbye to Language
2. Citizenfour
3. Winter Sleep
4. Inherent Vice
5. Foxcatcher
6. The Immigrant
7. Gone Girl
8. Interstellar
9. Selma
10. American Sniper

Could Bitcoin affect the 2014 midterm elections?

Could Bitcoin affect the 2014 midterm elections?

bitcoin-pins.jpg (1440×720)

The next big thing in campaign fundraising is being pioneered by a politician you’ve never heard of.

Mark Warden, a state representative from New Hampshire, is the first sitting U.S. elected official to accept bitcoins as campaign contributions.

“I run in a lot of libertarian circles, so I’d already heard of Bitcoin,” said Warden, now in his second term, reflecting on his 2012 campaign. “But then one of my staffers, who set up my website, he asked to be paid in Bitcoin. So I said sure. Then he recommended setting up a wallet and accepting campaign donations that way.”

Facebook To Buy Oculus Rift For $2 Billion

sydney kramer business insider oculus rift

Facebook is buying Oculus Rift, a startup that makes virtual reality video game headsets in a $2 billion deal.

Oculus doesn’t make a consumer product yet, but its headset for video game developers has completely changed the way many feel about video games.

The device is nearly impossible to describe, it makes you feel like you’re truly immersed in a virtual environment.

The question now is: why would Facebook buy a video game hardware company?

According to a Facebook post from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the company plans to expand Oculus beyond gaming:

After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.

Developing…refresh for updates.

Here’s the press release:

Facebook today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Oculus VR, Inc., the leader in immersive virtual reality technology, for a total of approximately $2 billion. This includes$400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook common stock (valued at $1.6 billion based on the average closing price of the 20 trading days preceding March 21, 2014 of $69.35 per share).  The agreement also provides for an additional$300 million earn-out in cash and stock based on the achievement of certain milestones.

Oculus is the leader in immersive virtual reality technology and has already built strong interest among developers, having received more than 75,000 orders for development kits for the company’s virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift. While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology, and Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas.  Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.

“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

“We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world,” said Brendan Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR. “We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”

Oculus will maintain its headquarters in Irvine, CA, and will continue development of the Oculus Rift, its ground-breaking virtual reality platform.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.