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— urbantick

Tag "nature"

NASA satellites are observing the wild fires around the world. From satellite images the occurrence and spreading of bush fires are clearly visible. In a summary of the fires over the last ten years

The visualisations show fire observations made by the MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, instruments onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The data on fires is combined with satellite views of vegetation and snow cover to show how fires relate to seasonal changes. This is really the interesting part. The visualisation beautifully shows the change over a long time period and the movements in the landscape based on the shift, growth and burning of nature. Even though bush fires are devastating disasters the visualisation shows ohw they integrate with the other elements.

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Temporal dimensions are only visible as fractions and over a very small scale. There are very clear limitations to the recognition of temporal changes to the human senses. This ranges from about 18 frames per second to the movement of a snail. Everything that is faster or slower is only to be registereed in comparison to a reference point.

Like the slow movement of the tide with ebb and flow it is one of the natural rhythms beyond the direct human perception. It can be registered for example by reference points such a the sand castel that is washed away by the water or the appearance of rocks and sand banks.

With the help of timeLapse photography phenomenon at the slow range of the spectrum beyond the capacity of the human eye can be visualised. This is for example the growth of plants and the changes in plant size and orientation.

This is generally not only down to the capacity of registration, technically, by the eye, but also to the very different speed of the human character. The capacity can reach out to aspects such as for example patience or concentration. At slow motion distraction are pretty influential and make the registration pretty hard.

Adam Gregory show in his clip ‘Asparagus’ exactly this sort of movement as the growth of asparagus in the field. It shows an amazing change and movement speed up and easier to recognise. It unveils a a process normally not accessible by the naked eye.

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Rising water levels are a real concern for large areas around the world close to he sea. The treads posed by the water are many, with tsunami waves as recently occurred in Japan following the devastating earthquake or simple flooding due to a combination of heavy rain and a storm.

In London this second scenario is a real concern and could potentially effet vast areas along the river Thames. The current water defence infrastructure in place is very soon to be out of date and needs replacement with a refreshed strategy on how to deal with potentially massive water masses moving in. The problem of course sharply rises together with every centimeter of sea level rise.

Image taken from the londonist

Extensive scenarios have been drawn out, both in terms of planning and post apocalyptic visionary.

An interesting visualisation here is using the tube maps as a reference point going back in history and projecting the changes in the nature of the river in to a possible future. The animation both introduces the Thames as a reference point, but at the same time highlights the river as a constant element of negotiation. This taking place both over time in real world with building project and through out usage, but also graphically in terms of its representation as part of the most iconic of maps, the London Tube Map.

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A post by Annick Labeca, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.

Image by footprintnetwork.org / United Arab Emirates’ Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity.

Click the image and read this contribution on DPR-Barcelona

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We are living in a really fast world these days. At least this is what people tell you. I am not sure, haven’t experienced anything other than this before you might think to yourself. The routine is in place and you follow it, however it might speed things up a little. To know the sequence of actions and the context they take place will help to execute them quicker. But probably only if the destination is clear. Take your commute to work. It is a routine and you are really good at it. Fast here, up there with a few steps, into the bus, out and across and your there. However there is very little your interested in between. It is about going from A to B. There is not much roaming around. The routine together with the clear target speeds things up. Time runs quick, everyone around you is in the same situation, they follow their routine target and therefore move quick too. The passage of time is here measured in relation to the activity of the fellow travellers. This makes the time go really quick and everyone seems to be in such a hurry. The perception of time changes and it seems to speed up and you end up being late, because everyone else seems to be quicker.
Being trapped in such a short term time experience mode, it becomes really different to relate to longer term time phenomenon. Already the structure of the day is difficult to grasp. It will get dark at some point but will realise when we get there. Time frames beyond this are out of reach without proper assimilation. Take the tide for example. It changes twice a day and still it is almost impossible to relate to as a ‘fast’ living citizen. This phenomenon featured earlier in posts, see HERE.
Other timescales moving at a different pace are way beyond and all we see are key frames. Take the plant on your windowsill. Does it look the same everyday? I bet it does, to you. At least I only realise something happened when it flowers. I most likely wont see the tiny first bud, maybe realise when their quit big and the next time the flower has opened. But something is happening in between, the plant moves and changes, grows and moves.
TimeLapse can be a brilliant tool to visualise this kind of change. Where better to look than at the BBC. In their Live Series they produced these astonishing visualisations capturing this change at a different pace. In an only 60 second shot they compress the growth of a range of flowers in a stretch of wood over a whole season. It took them a year to to produce this short clip. THe result is astonishing and most likely the most complex scene in natural filming.

The rest of the parts are accessible here: Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five
This is documentation on how it was produced.

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’A huge earthquake rocked the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. Thousands are feared dead.’ Those are the sad news we are currently hearing across the media and increasingly through out the internet. The blogging and especially the micro blogging community is playing an increasing role in spreading and informing about events. Only last year several events grew very big in these media, such as the swine flu case and the Iranian demonstrations against the results of the presidents election.
The earth quake has, as it looks at the moment almost completely wiped out the infrastructure of a anyway struggling country and this dramatically complicates possibilities to brig in help. So currently most of the news are coming from outside and satellite observation and analysis.
There are first satellite images now also appearing on Google Earth. The Satellite GeoEye passed over Haiti yesterday morning (14th) and the imagery has been passed on to Google.

You can download the KML file HERE to see the imagery in Google Earth on your desktop. Details on the Google Latitude blog.
Also on facebook large groups form to inform, support and find people. One group with 170’000 members is the Earthquake Haiti. They also give advise if you want to provide support or donate. It is advised to make sure any donations go to a properly registered organisation. Fears over false companies and fraud are also sweeping the internet simultaneously. Some options her, the British Red Cross Haiti Appeal, Oxfam Haiti Appeal, advice from the White House in Washington.

Some first map mashups also emerge. There is twitter (on trendsmap) or also youtube mashups. The best content focused mashup is produced by ushahidi which seems to be as factual a possible even though it is partly crowed sourced. It serves at the same time as communication board as users can post requests to find missing family members or friends. This is helpful until official information have caught up. Since then all the information has to be consumed with care and a portion of skepticism.

Image taken from GoogleMapsMania / screenshot of the haiti.ushahidi information mashup

Help and support is under way from all over the world. MapAction for example, they featured on the blog in an earlier post on mapping, have deployed a four man team early on Wednesday. Also the united state have deployed a aircraft carrier carrying helicopters that and support material. It arrived early this morning and will be used as a hub according to the NYtimes. Other countries also have sent rescue teams and supply. However there is some reluctance to help simply because of the extend of the disaster tat creates together with the already difficult condition before hand a definitely unpredictable situation. No one knows where to start quite literally, the country has to be built up from scratch seems to be the common tone of the reports. In terms of media coverage, I was struck by the extensive use of dead bodies to illustrate the disaster and its extend. Maybe it is only a feeling but I haven’t recognised this type of media coverage since the Yugoslavia conflict, where too dead bodies and extreme violence was widely used in media coverage. I do understand that the disaster, pain and horror have to be communicated, but maybe there is still a boundary. An image like some of those are for me not doing the right job.

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On the news today is the newly discovered rotating dining room built by the roman ruler Nero about 2000 years ago. He reigned from AD 54 to 68. It seems to be an extraordinary discovery in terms of architecture, as archeologist have not seen pillars of similar size in any other ancient roman structure before. The newly discovered structural pillars are about four meters in diameter, the BBC reports.
The Telegraph has details of the interior, writing “The hall is said to have had a revolving wooden floor which allowed guests to survey a ceiling painted with stars and equipped with panels from which flower petals and perfume would shower onto the tables below. ”
The use of the structure was interpreted with the help of written source describing such a rotating room. The dining area was described by the ancient historian Suetonius in his Lives of the Caesars. He wrote, “The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually, night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies,”

The rotation mechanism is imagined to have been powered by streams of water to archive the continuous movement.
Observing the characteristics and the movement of stars and the moon has a long tradition. A lot of this has influenced human culture from the beginning and the identification with these elements has gone as far the assignment of the zodiac sign to periods of the year. In a lot of cultures the rules, king or Pharaoh are identified as good like and to demonstrate such a relationship this dining room must have impressed the guests. The close relationship of with these influential objects where a source of power, but also firmness and dynamic, a great source to shape the desired identity. In an earlier post on the early Egyptian concept of the rebirth this subject is also explored.
However, as we know from our experience the movement of these bodies is rather slow in comparison to the speed of human activity. Often we have difficulties to actually adapt to such large scale movement as for example the tide. It is too slow to actively recognize and then suddenly is different. As to imitate the movement of stars or to be in sync with the rhythm of day and night the mechanism would need to be rather sophisticated to slow down with the use of gears or similar. I believe it was rather a conceptual imitation and therefore would require the guests to understand the concept.

Image by minasodaboy on flickr – the panorama on the Schlithorn

Today a number of similar dining rooms exist al over the world mainly in famous locations, such as on top of the mountain – the Schilthorn restaurant Piz Gloria in Switzerland location for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Servicethe Space Needle’s restaurant in Seattle, or the restaurant on the CN Tower in Toronto,
As an element of identity it was and still is a great feature.

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In my earlier master thesis work on cycles I wrote about different kinds of natural cycles. One of the examples was the yearly event for ant colonies when the drones leave the nest.
Today was this day again, at least in our garden and around the house here in London. Hundreds of ants (black garden ant (Lasius niger)) winged individuals flying in the air in search of a mating partner. Then the female ants loose their wings and find a place to start a new colony, were as the males die.
Both female and male winged ants are produced by the colony as reproducers and it is a big effort for the colony to bring up this large number of individuals that will once ready leave the nest, but are not taking part in the supporting activities.
The date and time they leave the nest depends heavily on the conditions. It is mainly the temperature that is important. This is to ensure that the ants can fly (not raining) and that after the female ants loose their wings they have enough time to find a new nesting place.
“Disparities between local weather conditions can cause nuptial flights to be out of phase amongst widespread populations of L. niger. During long-lasting, hot summers, flights can take place simultaneously across the country, but overcast weather with local patches of sunshine results in a far less synchronised emergence of alates (winged individuals).” (from wikipedia)

Image by urbanTick – ant discarding the wings

Great information on ants on antblog or The Kurt Kuene Antpage. The ant bible would be The Superorganism by Bert Hoelldobler and E.O. Wilson. They do not agree on everything, but they make a great team. They have published a number of books including The Ants in 1997.
Ants have featured earlier this year in a blog post, in relation with tracking and how they leave informations on their trail for fellow ants.

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For now I am looking over to biology to find out about how this filed is approaching the topic of cycles and rhythms.
Your garden tells you the time, if you look closely. First observations on biological clock in plants where made in the 4th century B.C. by Androsthenes of Thasos. He participated in the expeditions by Alexander the Great in Asia. He described the daily movement of the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica). Its leaves move up during the day and down during the night. A similar movement can be observed in the common bean plant. (Refinetti, R., 2006. Circadian Physiology 2nd ed., Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.)
In 1745 Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish biologist described in his Philosophia Botanica (1751) that different flower species open their flowers at different times of the day. He distinguished between three groups of flowers:

Meteorici – flowers, which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions.
Tropici – flowers, which change their times for opening and closing according to the length of the day.
Aequinoctales – flowers, which have fixed times for opening and closing. (Note that these are unaffected by the weather conditions.)

Only Aequinoctales are suitable for use in a flower clock. (After BBC h2g2)

Image from Wikipedia – book cover “Systema Naturae” by Caroli Linnaei, 1760

The floral clock would be starting from 3 am with the Goatsbeard, followed by a Dwarf Morning Glory at 5 am to a Scarlet Pimpernel at around 9 am to a Day lily at 8 pm you can get flowers to open around the clock. For a full list have a look at Linneaus’ Flower Clock or on Wikipedia. The bees and many other insects must be well aware of such patterns. This might even translate into a busy working schedule inside the beehive as certain dependencies arise. Bees seem to have a clever “dance” to inform other about sources and maybe the time is an important aspect related to this communication? Anyway what I have not found so far, is a clever interpretation of why flowers only open at certain times, but maybe the insects are otherwise just too busy?
Also Michael Jackson had a floral clock on his Neverland Ranch. Although it was not a real floral clock in the sense of a biological clock, it rather is a mechanical clock decorated with flowers.
Maybe in flowers and plants you would have guessed that they respond to the rhythm of the sun, as they directly depend on it for energy and growth. Most of us would also have heard about the flowers that follow the path of the sun, such as the sunflowers, so not much of a surprise. But if looking at mammals, including humans it might come of more of a surprise that similar patterns can be studied.
The key word here is circadian clock. A definition from medterms.com “Circadian: Refers to events occurring within a 24-hour period, in the span of a full (24-hour) day, as in a circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythmicity is a fundamental property possessed by all organisms. These rhythms are driven by an internal time-keeping system: a clock. Changes in the external environment, particularly in the light-dark cycle, entrain this biologic clock. Under constant environmental conditions devoid of time cues, rhythms driven by the clock show a period near, but usually not exactly equal to, 24 hours.” The word “circadian” is a 20th-century invention. It was coined by Franz Halberger in 1959 from the Latin “circa” (around) + “diem” (a day). Halberger was the founder of modern chronobiology and the chronobiology centre and a scientist at University of Minnesota.

Image by Franz Halberger – book cover “Introduction to Chronobiology” by Franz Halberger,1994

The circadian rhythm was in the eighties mainly studies in relation with sleep and sleep disorder. Scientist were looking at how new born babies need time to grow into the grown up cycle of sleeping at night and being awake during the day, or why teens stay up late and have difficulties getting up in the morning and why elderly people often wake up when it is still pitch black outside but can’t go back to sleep. Extended research, including experiments with people spending weeks in the dark, has shown that the daylight plays a big part in normal sleep pattern. The human body seems to be capable to sync with the light-dark rhythm of the planet. Responsible for keeping track of the time is the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), a bundle of nerves located in the brain’s hypothalamus (see Kim Kiser Minn Med, Nov 2005). This region does not tell the time, it simply keeps track of it. The clock is not centralized but distributed and inherent in all cells, but is regulated to stay in sync. Steven Strogatz describes in his book Sync three different levels of sync related to the human body. The first is on the level of cells that are mutually synchronized. The next level it is the organs that stay in sync. This does not mean that they are all active at the same time, but they each keep their allocated rhythm whit in the system. As the third level Strogatz describes the synchronization between the bodies and the environment around us. On this third level he does no go into detail what this might be and how this might manifest. But logically it must have real life consequences in social space but also physical space.
A gene for the biological clock in a mouse was identified and cloned in 1997, the first such gene to be identified at the molecular level in a mammal.
New research on the circadian clock’s role in the organism suggests that the process controls almost all behaviors and physiology. In a surprising revelation, a new study suggests that the function of ALL genes in mammals is based on circadian rhythms. Up to now scientists believed that about 10 percent only are influenced by the body clock. The importance of the daily rhythm is only now uncovered.
Scientists believe that the main sync to orchestrate the vast number of independent elements that follow this rhythm is the daylight cycle. A number of studies have shown that if not exposed to the cycle of day and night, e.g. stay in the dark for a longer period of time, the sync slowly drifts off. It will automatically reestablish itself once back to exposure. (See article at the dailygalaxy)
New research has now also tried to explain the differences in life span in connection to the circadian rhythm. NYU dental professor Dr. Timothy Bromage was doing research on the growth of tooth enamel when he discovered these cycles of tooth and bone growth. The rhythm seems to vary from organism to organism and seems to have a direct impact on life span. For example, rats have a one-day interval, chimpanzees six, and humans eight. During the 37th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, Bromage said, “The same biological rhythm that controls incremental tooth and bone growth also affects bone and body size and many metabolic processes, including heart and respiration rates. In fact, the rhythm affects an organism’s overall pace of life, and its life span. So, a rat that grows teeth and bone in one-eighth the time of a human also lives faster and dies younger.” (See article at Physorg)
A very interesting field I tapped in here and this short introduction is certainly not covering all the crucial points of circadian rhythms in biology. There is a lot more to discover especially in relation to the third level of sync as described above, where it is about the sync between bodies and the immediate or wider environment. This exactly where my UrbanDiary research should plug in. In this context I see the GPS traces, together with the mental perception of the rhythms and the geographical/physical surrounding.

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In terms of cycles the tide is one of the most direct and powerful examples. While being away for a few days I enjoyed roughly fourteen tide cycles. The constance and continuity is very impressive together with the force. Assuming all of us have once tried to defend a sandcastle from the incoming wavs or keeping the little channel connected to the water as the tide goes out. The task is doomed, but only for the moment. There will be a next timeframe where it is possible again, this is the fascinating aspect of the rhythm. The problem with this is that our ability to deal with these time spans is limited. We very much life in the here and now and the speed and repetition of the tide is somehow just about out side our time perception. On one hand it move too slow in order to be properly perceived on a short term basis and it suddenly reaches your towel. On the other hand the cycle of two high tides is too long to be directly related in our experience.
Therefore the timeLapse is a good tool to get to grips with the rhythm, enjoy.

tl_tideHD_090702 from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Music “fire whistle’ by Jorya at mp3unsigned

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