I recently began reading “Bicycle Diaries” by David Byrne. The book is basically a meditation on culture, politics, art and life in general, explored via Byrne’s travels through the world’s cities via bike. As I’m sure Byrne intended, his writing reminds me of the act of riding itself. Not the type of competitive riding, where you dress up in tight-fitting clothes and ride in a peloton. No, the type of cycling that frees you to explore, to spend hours riding inefficient routes through cities and towns. The kind of riding that gives you a whole new sense of place. Byrne hits upon truth that has been essential to me since I first grabbed a set of handle bars and put my feet to pedals. Bicycles are fantastic, beautiful and empowering machines–life would be less good without them.
Washington, DC, where I live, is in the midst of a bicycle renaissance. I hate to use the word, but it’s awesome to see. Chunky red and yellow City Bikes ply recently painted bike lanes from Arlington to Capital Hill to Georgetown. And everyone, or almost everyone, is riding. Old people, young people, businessmen in suits and women in heels are indulging in the pure joy and freedom of hopping on a bike and pedaling the streets and trails of the city and suburbs.
Bicycles and cyclists are causing a small revolution in the region. City and transportation planners are integrating bikes into their plans. Walk out of any Metro from Anacostia to Arlington and you’re likely to see a half full rack of red bikes. Who would have thought fifteen years ago that such a simple technology would hold so many answers to the regions transportation woes?
I know I’m a bit of an idealist when it comes to cycling. Even I don’t expect bicycles to solve the problems associated with suburban sprawl and traffic congestion. However, by getting butts on bikes we’re making strides. We’re sending a message about our priorities, and maybe we’re even doing a little something to stem the rising tide of obesity in the nation’s capital. Or maybe we’re just giving more people the means to engage life on their own terms and not to be tied down to bus schedules or the high price of gasoline.
Patterns exist all around us. Finding and interpreting them is most often a matter of close observation and creative, thoughtful documentation. In North Carolina’s Museum of Natural Sciences, Sosolimited and Plebian Design have found an interesting, engaging and quite beautiful way of using technology to demonstrate recurring patterns in nature.
Read the full post here. Excerpt below…
Some time ago Sosolimited and Plebian Design set out to create a large scale transparent LCD sculpture for a science museum atrium. Each pixel was designed as a piece of glass that could independently change the transparency of: from opaque black to transparent. The sculpture was designed to curve up through the atrium of the museum and display down-sampled patterns from nature, along with a high fidelity soundtrack. Almost two years later, its wonderful to see this project finally come to life.
“Patterned by Nature” was commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for the newly built Nature Research Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The exhibit celebrates our abstraction of nature’s infinite complexity into patterns through the scientific process, and through our perceptions. It brings to light the similarity of patterns in our universe, across all scales of space and time.
The 90’x10’ “ribbon” winds through the five story atrium of the museum and is made of 3600 tiles of LCD glass. It runs on roughly 75 watts, less power than a laptop computer. Animations are created by independently varying the transparency of each piece of glass. The content cycles through twenty programs, ranging from clouds to rain drops to colonies of bacteria to flocking birds to geese to cuttlefish skin to pulsating black holes. The animations were created through a combination of algorithmic software modeling of natural phenomena and compositing of actual footage.
An eight channel soundtrack accompanies the animations on the ribbon, giving visitors clues to the identity of the pixelated movements. In addition, two screens show high resolution imagery and text revealing the content on the ribbon at any moment.
Patterned by Nature was created by Plebian Design, Hypersonic Design & Engineering, and Sosolimited.