# Design & Innovation

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Why do we surround ourselves with digital tools like computers, tablets and smartphones, but still carry a notebook, sketchbook or stacks of paper around? This is what Magnus Wanberg, the CEO and founder of reMarkable, asked himself a few years ago. And the answer was that paper is the ultimate tool for thinking in a time when we are bombarded by a continuous flow of communication, reminders, tweets, emails, texts, and headlines: it lets our mind work without restrictions or distractions, and it makes us focus. Still, because it is disconnected from the digital world, it is also not optimized for the time we live in. And this is why in 2013 Magnus and his team set out to create a connected and limitless digital paper experience, a digital paper tablet for reading, writing and sketching, conceived for those who cherish the simplicity and power of working on paper. Now, after three years spent developing and perfecting a digital paper tablet that delivers the experience of real paper in close collaboration with E Ink, reMarkable is finally here. ReMarkable’s 10.3” display is designed for reading, writing and sketching without interruptions, but what’s truly unique about it is the technology behind it: while other companies have tried to create paper tablets, none solved the so-called ‘slow ink’ issue, also known as or high latency.Basically, in order to make the handwriting and sketching experience as natural as possible, ultra-low latency is imperative; thanks to a breakthrough proprietary technology known as the CANVAS display, reMarkable has managed to deliver a 55ms latency pen-on-paper experience. Finally, whenever you need it to reMarkable connects to the digital world, so that your words or sketches are instantly synced to reMarkable’s cloud service and made available on all your devices. 

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A designer who’s also an avid baker, a digital agency looking for new and exciting projects and a deep love for chocolate: these are the basic ingredients for Complements, a unique project that will certainly appeal to anyone with a penchant for cool design and sweet flavors. These modular chocolates - the result of an all-Australian collaboration between Sydney-based design-oriented Bakedown Cakery and  Universal Favourite, an independent brand, design and digital agency from Darlinghurst - come in beautiful colors and patterns and can be actually stacked like Lego bricks to create one's own flavor/color combinations. The creative process started with designing an original modular shape that was 3D printed into positives and then turned into chocolate moulds. The agency then created the look of the chocolates, experimenting with color, finishes and patterns, and eventually Jen from Bakedown worked her magic developing the flavours and making the chocolates into the real deal. Shortbread/yellow, matcha/green, blueberry/purple, black & white/cookies & cream and single origin dark/black are just a few of the many flavor/color combinations for the basic pieces that represent an invitation to use one's imagination and start building the perfect match, turning the simple act of eating chocolate into an authentic aesthetic experience

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Rediscovering the conviviality of dining out with your family although you’re facing serious work and financial problems. That’s the idea behind Ruben, the Milan restaurant owned by Fondazione Pellegrini, a charitable organization linked to the homonymous company specializing in catering and food supplies. This nice and welcoming eatery in the city’s western suburbs has been conceived as a corner of warm home feel, offering everyone who is temporarily facing a difficult situation that moment of normalcy and serenity that can make a difference. This amazing idea is the brainchild of entrepreneur Ernesto Pellegrini, who dedicated the place to the memory of Ruben, a man who used to work on his family farm and later (after the farm was confiscated) ended up living on the streets and sleeping in a wooden cabin, where he eventually freezed to death. In the name of Ruben, people in need can apply to obtain a 60 days valid renewable card to access the restaurant and dine for just one euro (accompanied by their children under 16 years of age if necessary). All further costs are covered by the Foundation and the work of its volunteers. The restaurant sits 500 people divided into two shifts, it offers two different menus to meet different tastes and needs - including special options for vegetarians, vegans and religious diet requirements - and the ingredients are all high-quality, the same used in the other restaurants of the company. Open since 2014, Ruben continues to brighten up the evenings of those who, despite not being in the position to resort to the services of homeless shelters and canteens – at least not yet – are experiencing some serious hardships and difficult situations. 

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The moon is our only natural satellite, our closest planet, our neighbor – but will it ever become a second home to us Earthlings? Some believe it will, and that it is to the moon we should turn our gaze in order to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children, expanding to it our social and economic sphere. This may sound like a threat, and in a way it is: as a matter of fact, by the end of this year, men will set foot on the moon again, only this time it will be a commercial mission, with the long term goal of mining for minerals that are rare on Earth, such as niobium, yttrium and dysprosium. The mission, authorized last July by the American Federal Aviation Administration, will be carried out by Moon Express, a private company founded by a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in 2010 - the first to get the necessary permissions for the launch of a space mission for commercial purposes, but certainly not the only one willing to embark on such an enterprise. In addition raising 45 million dollars and taking part in the l Google Lunar X Prize, a space competition organized by the X Prize Foundationand sponsored by Google - Moon Express has developed a lander in collaboration with NASA, signed an agreement with the aerospace corporation Rocket Lab for the launch of three robotic spacecrafts and eventually moved to the NASA Space Center in Cape Canavera. And now it is ready to become the first private company to travel out of the Earth’s orbit, opening "a new era of low cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests ", as stated by CEO Bob Richards. Whether you think of this as the promise of a better future or as the threat of a mere exploitation of the moon, we all need to come to terms with the fact that the mineral resources of our satellite are worth much more than we may expect, and that according to Moon Express co-founder and chairmain of Moon Express Naveen Jain, in 15 years, the moon will be an important part of the Earth’s economy.  

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The advancing of the desert in sub-Saharan Africa is not fresh news: already in the 1950s, during an expedition to the Sahara, British forester and environmental activist Richard St. Barbe Baker launched the idea of building a green barrier against desertification. But it was only in 2005, when the project was relaunched and approved by the Conference of Leaders and Heads of States members of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, that his dream finally started to turn into reality. Two years later, in 2007, the Great Green Wall project, which involves more than 20 countries of the Sahel-Saharan region, was launched with the ambitious goal of creating a 15 km wide and almost 8,000 km long green strip, from Dakar on the Atlantic coast to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden. An unprecedented enterprise supported and financed by several regional and international organizations, including the African Union, the World Bank, and the French government, owner of most of the former colonies.In addition to curbing the expansion of desertified areas, the project aims to promote sustainable agriculture, farming and food security in the involved areas, but also to create new jobs and business opportunities, thus giving a good reason to stay to the millions set to migrate to Europe. The figures concerning the objectives achieved so far are pretty impressive: 15 million hectares of degraded land restored in Ethiopia, more than 11 million trees planted in Senegal, 20,000 new jobs created in Nigeria... And the epic project continues with the aim of changing the lives of millions and millions of people living in the Sahel region, and of building a better world for the generations to come. The story of the Great Green Wall.  Film: venturethree. Music: Almok. 

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When it comes to healthy and health-conscious food, California is always at the forefront - just think of the rise of raw vegan haute cuisine, which has become so fashionable worldwide over the last years. It is therefore no coincidence that the latest reincarnation of the old fast food, an extremely innovative healthy & tech concept, comes from the San Francisco Bay Area. The name is Eatsa and it is the brainchild of designer Scott Drummond and developer Tim Young developer, two innovators whose goal was creating a completely new way of offering healthy and quality food at affordable prices, with a formula revolving around technology and a compelling image.So, how does it work? Eatsa offers a variety of salad bowls all made with quinoa, a highly sustainable food requiring few resources to be produced and widely used in vegetarian cuisine because of its high protein and amino acid content, which makes it a complete staple food, able to excellently absorb sauces and flavors. In each bowl, quinoa is accompanied by fresh vegetables, spices, eggs or cheese, and the manu also offers fruits, desserts, tea and coffee. But the most innovative aspect is the shopping experience, fully automated from purchase to payment, yet not impersonal thanks to a high degree of customization. Orders are made on the in-store iPad the store or with the App on your phone, by building your own with the fresh available ingredients, and you can pick it from a personalized cubby with your name. The system is also able to remember the customers’ tastes, saving previous orders and customizing the menu, and it accepts ingredient suggestions from the Eatsa customer community. A fast experience built around slow values such as health, quality, attention to details, sustainability and personalization. 

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Beer gardens on rooftops are quite the latest fad in Tokyo and Osaka, but in recent years the high-rise complexes in the city centre have benefited from some green trends in urban planning, accommodating eco-friendly oases, namely hanging gardens and bee yards. The so-called Green Project has brought about a number of improvements, first and foremost the reduction of CO2 emissions and of air temperature in the urban heat island, a decrease in the energy demands of cooling and heating systems, flood and fire prevention, purer air and a better environmental consciousness. So far, the Green Project has been cost-effective, too. Ark GardenCompleted in 1986, Ark Garden is the overall name of several gardens in Ark Hills and its surroundings, with about 40k plants scattered on the hanging garden of each building, each one differing in concept, and rows of cherry trees: the Four Seasons Garden, the Suntory Hall Roof Garden, the Back Garden and the Main Garden. In spring and autumn, from the surrounding buildings, it is possible to admire a beautiful garden with over 5,000 flowers of about 100 different species, laid out in a Union Jack pattern. Sorado Farm EbisuSorado Farm is a vegetable garden located atop Ebisu JR Station, Tokyo. Here the sky, sora, meets the soil, do, hence the name. Seeds and tools are available and customers can rent out plots to harvest their own vegetables and fruits. Plots for personal use are available in different sizes: 3x2m, 5x2m and 6x2m. In case you want to apply for an allotment, you still have time until 28 February. Osaka HoneyGreen urban planning is not exclusive to Tokyo. The NPO Umeda Honey Bee Project created bee yards in Umeda Chayamachi in 2010 and within the premises of Shitennō Temple in 2015. In the midst of the high-rise buildings, flowers thrive with very little pesticides. With high-quality nectar comes high-quality honey, rich in flavour and probably the sweetest in the world. The collaboration with some of the most famed food professionals has generated a number of Osaka Honey-based and branded sweets, such as kasutera sponge cake and Japanese sweets and kompeitō dragées. 

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It was the year 1958 when Carlo and Giovanni Moretti, having inherited the family business, an artisan company specialized in the production of glasses in Murano, Venice, had the idea of renewing it by combining the traditional know-how of glassmaking masters with their passion for marketing and design. This was the beginning of a story that even today, nearly 60 years later, continues to be told by Carlo Moretti, an "artisan factory" producing objects created by experimenting with shapes and materials, renowned among critics and collectors, hosted in homes as well as in museums, and distinguished by a diamond point engraved signature which makes them unique. Accompanied by a certificate which includes a serial number and basic information on the manufacturing techniques, proving their artisan quality, these objects are produced in limited quantities, mouthblown and hand finished. Yet their crystal-clear personality is also enhanced through the way in which it is presented, promoted and communicated. We spoke about all these themes with Antonio Ceschel, CEO of the company. SJ: What drew you to the Carlo Moretti brand?AC: I got to know the brand through a natural evolution of my professional career, yet as soon as my knowledge of the company became deeper I discovered the uniqueness and the passion that distinguishes it at all levels. It is a highly contagious passionSJ: The rediscovery of artisan brands is a remarkable counterpart to fast consumption. Where does Carlo Moretti stand in this dialectic between craft/niche and mass market production?AC: It is not easy to convey all that distinguishes Carlo Moretti, especially to those who have never visited the company. Our flagship stores and the customers who have in some way fallen in love with the brand are the main standard-bearers of our identity. We support communication within the store, with videos and an interactive touch screen monitor available to all the visitors. We believe that all senses should be involved, and this is why we invite our customers to touch our objects: while on the one hand it may slow the spread and growth of the business, on the other hand direct physical interaction with the objects is crucial to establishing a lasting relationship with the brand and to communicate our passion to the public. SJ: The Carlo Moretti objects express a uniqueness that significantly pushes the boundaries of their artisan nature towards the concept of art works. How do you see this relationship?AC: Considering ourselves an "artisan factory", we are immersed in a creation process which often solves productive issues with alchemy rather than with science. In our world, design co-exists with glass, a material that literally dominates the space; through the different stages of manufacturing, design becomes a synergic action involving an idea, the skill of the glassmaking masters and the material. Each object lives its own life and it ends up in the hands of the customer as a single piece. We like to think that this uniqueness is linked to the stories of our customers, of their families and of the generations to come. And we like to think that, in a way, all of this is "art". SJ: The story of Carlo Moretti is tied to that of the island of Murano and the tradition of master glass blowers. But through time the island has changed a lot: what is left of authentic Murano?AC: The island's history has certainly seen a contraction in terms of brands and companies, yet for a cultured and sensitive visitor the opportunities to visit well-estabished glassmaking companies and attend demonstrations are many and of high quality. Local products are constantly improved in terms of product design and quality, with unchanged respect for the ancient art of glass blowing and the know-how of the masters. SJ: What is your relationship with the city of Venice?Venice is a city that should be lived to the full, so rich in events, art and culture. Unfortunately, though, I believe that these qualities are not always conveyed in the right way; this is a bit of an Italian attitude – failing to communicate the country’s excellence, especially to the younger generations. This causes a lack of pride and a weakening of our sense of belonging. Yet it suffices to travel a bit around the world to realize how everything that is related to style, quality of life and beauty in general often has an Italian origin. I think even Murano greatly suffers from this lack of communication; its uniqueness and identity have not been promoted as much as they would deserve. 

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The future of luxury (hence of perfumery) lies in craftsmanship”: this is one of the many enticing mottos (another one of favorites being “we believe it is more humane to test cosmetics on New Yorkers than on animals”) from the manifesto of Le Labo, a niche perfume brand that was born in Grasse, the capital of perfumery in the French Riviera, and raised in New York, where founders Edouard Roschi and Fabrice Penot opened the first boutique in 2006. The great thing about Le Labo, which currently own 22 boutiques and less than 40 corners worldwide, is that it works with a community of craftswomen and craftsmen who contribute to and shape its world - perfumers, lab technicians, candle pourers, rose harvesters… And this is why the result is a collection of authetically artisan fragrances. Each location is designed as a fragrance lab open to the public, where customers can smell and touch raw materials. The collection comprises 15 unisex perfumes freshly handmade to order: this means that the essential oil concentrates remain separate from the alcohol until the moment of purchase. Only then, do the lab technicians proceed to the final formulation of the perfume: oil concentrate + alcohol + water. Le Labo also offers 8 soy-based wax candles created with top-quality ingredients and an amazing ‘city collection’ created to pay tribute to the cities they have shops in - Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.  These 9 scents are strictly available only in the city they belong to and nowhere else, not even online, so that  you have to go physically to the stores in those cities to be able to purchase them for the first time. Every year in September, though, they are available in all Le Labo boutiques for the month. Quite an old-fashioned system, don’t you think? 

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There is always a brief moment of hesitation that catches us just before eating our delicious bite of sushi. Basically, the kinds of concerns that rapidly cross our minds belong to two categories: the fear of ingesting some badly preserved fish and that of contributing to the extinction of bluefin tuna. As for the first problem, unfortunately we can only rely on good luck; yet as for the second one, something can definitely be done, and the work of young American chef of Sino-Japanese origins Bun Lai is there to prove it. Chef Bun is in charge of Miya’s, the first sushi bar in the US, founded by his mother back in 1982 in New Haven, Connecticut – and his cuisine is completely respectful of the sea and of the planet, entirely based on sustainable ingredients. Which is certainly no easy job, since making sushi without resorting to fish from endangered species requires continuous research, creativity and effort. Chef Bun chose to make his cuisine even more sustainable by not only giving up bluefin tuna and other endangered species, but also contributing to curbing the dominance of invasive species in our ecosystems, turning them into ingredients for his delicious sushi. While the Atlantic bluefin tuna has been driven to the edge of extinction due to over-fishing, in the U.S. alone there are over 50,000 established invasive species resulting in over $100 billion a year in economic damages. Hence the idea of shifting the human appetite to invasive species - and away from more popular and over-fished species. And this is precisely the philosophy behind some of Miya’s best-selling signature dishes such as the applewood smoked Asian carp ribs, the blue catfish roll with okra, apricots, and black eye peas, the Florida lionfish sashimi and the Kanibaba, Chef Bun’s ‘crown jewel’, an Asian shore crab cross a potato skin stuffed with invasive blue catfish topped with toasted Vermont Creamery cow’s milk cheese, and lemon dill sauce. Yet Bun Lai’s research in terms of health and sustainability is not limited to fish, because often even other sushi ingredients can be insidious, unhealthy or unsustainable. Sushi rice, for instance, is usually highly processed and sweetened, whereas Miya’s sushi is made from unsweetened brown rice. Fruits and vegetables used at Miya’s come mostly from local organic farms, including their own - especially for the wild plants - cheese is made by cheese makers that promote the best practices in dairy farming, and even  their pickled ginger and soy sauce are homemade and free of food coloring and artificial flavors. An all-round commitment that earned Bun Lai the well-deserved Champion of Change award from the White House for  doing extraordinary things to make a difference in the community, with the aim of building “a world where the human appetite is restorative rather than exploitative of nature that we depend on to thrive”. 

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The great sci-fi dream of a vehicle able to smartly navigate city traffic and ride along highways or on rough and difficult terrain with no driver made its appearance in the human imagination back at the beginning of the twentieth century. The very first experiments in the field of autonomous cars, controlled via radio impulses caught by an antenna - a bit like modern toy cars - date back to the 1920s - a time when cars themselves were still rather primitive. However, it was only around the 1980s that the first autonomous vehicles equipped with computer vision and robotic control began to be developed – the most famous example being ALV, the Autonomous Land Vehicle funded by DARPA, which performed the first public road-following demonstrations. In the 1990s, the experiments continued and multiplied all around the world, but it was in Italy, and particularly at the University of Parma, that something truly amazing happened in 1997: researcher Alberto Broggi launched the ARGO project, enabling a modified Lancia Thema to travel in autonomous driving mode for 1,900 km along the highways of northern Italy. The technology consisted of a stereoscopic camera system - basically a couple of low-cost b/n cameras installed near the windshield, whose images were analyzed by a computer and sent to an electric motor that controlled the steering. Thirteen years later, in 2010, Broggi – who had in the meantime become a professor and founded VisLab, a start-up later purchased by Silicon Valley-based company Ambarella - promoted the first intercontinental journey of an autonomous vehicle, from Parma all the way to Shanghai Expo. Meanwhile, all major car manufacturers continued adding autonomous functionalities (such as parking assist and adaptive cruise control) and testing driverless car systems, and University researchers developed several projects of autonomous vehicles able to ride in the traffic of the world’s big cities. 2014 was the year of Google’s self-driving cars; the internet giant equipped various existing car models (and also developed its own driverless car model) with an alternative technology, a laser allowing the vehicle to generate a 3D map of its environment. The commercial availability of Google’s self-driving cars was estimated for 2020. In the meantime, Google has already released a new driverless car prototype with neither steering wheel nor pedals. 2020 is also the expected date for the availability of the first Nissan autonomous car, as anticipated in 2013 during the launch of the electric Nissan Leaf equipped with self-driving technology. More recently, Volvo and Tesla Motors, the innovative Californian electric car company led by visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk, raised the bar even higher. In 2015, Volvo anticipated that by 2017 the inhabitants of the city of Gothenburg, in Sweden, would be able to buy the new version of the company’s XC90 SUV equipped with a Level 3 automation system, which allows drivers to safely turn their attention away from driving tasks within known, limited environments such as freeways. And finally, a few weeks ago, Elon Musk announced that all Tesla cars are already provided the necessary hardware to be fully autonomous (Level 5 automation), consisting of cameras and ultrasonic sensors. In fact, the Autopilot technology system already operates in "shadow mode", sending data back to Tesla for software improvement. Therefore, according to Musk, in one year’s time we will have cars that can perfectly drive themselves, with software that will need to be updated regularly just like that of computers and smartphones. And so our daily life will be a little bit closer to what we once knew as science fiction, pushing forward the limits of imagination and technology. 

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Getting to know a city by following the unusual thread of architectural styles and eras: that’s the simple and brilliant idea behind the beautiful city maps from Blue Crow Media, a London-based independent publisher dedicated to creating thoughtfully designed and carefully curated city maps and apps. Blue Crow’s latest creature is the Constructivist Moscow Map, a two-sided, dual language, folding map featuring over fifty leading examples of Constructivist architecture in Moscow - office and administrative buildings, schools and institutes, garages, workers’ clubs, bathhouses, industrial canteens, residential quarters and experiments in communal housing – emblems of the avant­garde that was one of the most intense and creative art and architecture movements of the 20th century in Russia. Among these are iconic edifices such as Melnikov House, the Narkomfin complex, Shukhov Tower and the Izvestia Building. Curated by Natalia Melikova of The Constructivist Project and Nikolai Vassiliev of DOCOMOMO Russia, which both campaign to protect the architecture of the era, the map includes details for each structure include the location, years built, and architects responsible along with photographs by Melikova. The Moscow map is the third architecture map published by Blue Crow Media after the Brutalist London Map and Art Deco London Map. The Brutalist Washington Map will be published in October 2016, followed by Berlin.  

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A big beautiful, bright house, so simple to build that you can do it by yourself – provided that you are willing to take on quite a bit of hard work - considerably less pricey than a conventional home, perfectly self-sustained in terms of electricity, heating and cooling, independently managing sewage treatment and even allowing for food production. This visionary and innovative concept is not the brainchild of some contemporary guru - it actually dates back to 1972, when the American architect Michael Reynolds built the ‘Thumb House’, his first sustainable home in Taos, New Mexico, entirely made of old beer and pop cans. In a way, the Thumb House was the debut of Earthship Biotecture, a company specializing in the design and construction of off-the-grid sustainable homes built with natural and upcycled materials and able to self-produce the energy required for home management. Over the last forty years, through ups and downs (the latter including Reynolds being stripped of his credentials by the State Architects Board of New Mexico), Earthship homes have crossed the boundaries of New Mexico to spread everywhere in the world thanks to supporters and fans who gave birth to an actual global ‘movement’ whose principles can be found in Reynolds’ books. In the meantime, the company’s customizable projects served as a practical guidance for the actual implementation of an apparent utopia: taking part in the evolution of the way humans live on this planet by evolving existing methods of living to respect and safeguard the planet. A gentle revolution, practically achieved home by home thanks to these passive solar homes with minimal to no reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels, constructed to use energy from the sun and rain water harvesting and built with simple techniques  and often upcycled materials such as old tires filled with sand, which are typically used for the walls. From the ‘Simple Survival Model’, affordable, safe and easy to build - and therefore also suitable for high-risk places or areas affected by natural disasters (Earthship has already launched and completed several projects in this regard) - up to the most complex and luxurious projects, you can either build your own Earthship home independently without specific skills - as shown by the story reported of this Canadian retired couple that built its own beautiful self-sufficient house – or request construction services. So how does it work? Earthship provides a complete list of designs that can be customized to include the modifications requested for permit obtainment, with construction drawings, building instructions and various books. To get an idea of what you might achieve, take a look at the amazing for-sale Earthship homes. The company also has a Biotecture Academy offering extensive training in Earthship design principles, construction methods and philosophy. Photo creditsCover image: an Earthship house in Taos, exterior, photo by Amzi Smith under CC BY-SA 3.0 licenseAn Earthship house in Taos, interior, photo by Amzi Smith under CC BY-SA 3.0 licenseThumb House: photo by David Hiser, U.S. National Archives and Records AdministrationA Brighton Earthship house: photo by Dominic Alves under CC BY 2.0 license  

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Headquartered in Adachi, Tokyo, Namiki Precision Jewel Co.,Ltd. started out as a manufacturer of synthetic sapphire jewel bearings for electrical measuring instruments. In 1983 the company pioneered the world’s smallest vibrating alert component, with a 10mm-diameter motor. In the wake of the IT revolution, Namiki became the most relied-upon suppliers of components for a great deal of computer makers worldwide. 

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Are you afraid of needles? Fear no more. Japanese company Terumo devised a needle as thin as a mosquito’s proboscis, causing considerably less pain than a mosquito bite. A blessing for needle-phobic patients all over the world, NanoPass Pen Needles were actually created by Okano, a small-scale company headquartered in Sumida, Shitamachi, Tokyo. Unlike standard syringes, the NanoPass Needle is a stainless steel cylinder 20mm long, with a gauge of a maximum 0.25mm. That means it cannot be more painful than a mosquito bite. Its main use is insulin injections for diabetics, fast, easy and painless. This innovation won NanoPass Needle a Good Design Award from the Japanese Industrial Design Promotion Company in 2005. Okano Industrial Corporation is currently developing a extra-thin battery case for hybrid cars. 

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When it comes to technology, Japan has jewels in the crown aplenty, some very well known, others enjoying quiet success on an international level, as is the case with the high-quality whistles made by Nodakakuseisha – kakusei literally means “crane’s voice”. Everyone gets extremely excited on such an occasion as the FIFA World Cup. No matter how loud the sound of cheers or vuvuzelas, the voice of a Nodakakuseisha whistle will carry over the stadium, to be heard clear and clean as a whistle throughout the venue. From the 1982 tournament on, the whistles officially adopted by FIFA have been made by this small company based in Tokyo. Established in 1919, Nodakakuseisha originally produced musical toys, such as harmonicas, glockenspiels and accordions. However, at the request of New York buyers, the company began to manufacture referee whistles in 1968. From that moment, Nodakakuseisha whistles began to be exported to the United States for educational, military and law enforcement purposes. In 1973 they made their first appearance at the Cologne FSB Trade Fair for Sports. Nodakakuseisha’s high quality has been widely recognises ever since, from the Americas to Europe and the Middle East, with more than 15m pieces sold to 45 countries. Nodakakuseisha also supplies the Paris Metropolitan Police and the NATO troops. It is fundamental for a whistle to be heard over the din or from a distance. Nodakakuseisha makes whistles for any purpose: high-pitched whistles for sports like soccer and volleyball, mid-range whistles for stationmasters and police officers and, finally, low-range whistles for rugby. 

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Omron Sleep MeterThe new Sleep Meter HSL-101 developed by Omron is a stylish device that records the information of your sleep by means of a radio wave detector, when placed on the bedside table. All you have to do is press the “Good Night” button before going to sleep to get the detector started, and then “Show/Wake Up” when you rise. All the information on displayed, how many hours you have slept or how often you have wakened up during the nightASICS Running WatchesThis watch will keep track of the distance and heart rate while you’re running, with a sensor strapped to your chest. If you set your data and gender, you will find the best training for youBody Fat MeterTanita has created a revolutionary device that measures the thickness of the subcutaneous fat in the belly area. Style Leader SR-901 will display five levels of fat: “0.1 cm”, “up to 0.4 cm”, “up to 1.4 cm”, “up to 2.9 cm”, “over 3 cm”. This device will inspire you to lose the extra fat and sculpt your absKETTO, A Glucometer That Needs No PrickingGlucose is commonly measured by taking blood samples, usually pricking your finger. Easy to use and beautifully designed, KETTO will tell you how much sugar you have in your blood within 60 seconds, with no needles and absolutely no pain. The results will be sent to your smartphone or to your cloud. Inner Scan Dual Body MeterTanita has also created a breakthrough device that allows you to check on the condition of your muscle fibers. Working on two frequencies, Tanita Body Meter will give you precise information about the volume and condition of your muscles. It comes in a stylish design and supports Bluetooth.

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Nanan is a French artist born in 1978. Since 2009 he has started assembling disused mechanic spare parts with sculpted and hand-painted components. Adding the light from an old car on top was the stroke of genius that turned these sculptures into anthrophomorphic creatures halfway between a Star Wars droid and Gyro Gearloose’s bulb. The result is Urban Lights, a series of sculptures that seem to come to life and observe the world through their huge, innocent eye.These art toys draw on the uniqueness and on the power of condensing a truly original point of view on contemporaneity that belong to art, whereas from the toy world they inherited the instinctive playfuness and sharp characterization that turned them into odd metropolitan characters. Nanan then took the basic features of these figures and added new characterizations to create new collections. Arms, legs and plastic postures are the main traits of the At Home little robots, tiny superheroes on the verge of launching an attack to an imaginary villain lyig in ambush beyond the kitchen table. The B-Boys collection is an ode to play and nonsense, with a set of colorful Buddhas suspended between their seraphic expression and the impetus of their street gang look. The Girls&Boys characters have a car light for a head, but their human proportions and poses are so accurate that you hardly notice it. If you don’t mind feeling watched, Nana’s art toys are great company; their playful attitude is a memento as well as an ironic glance on the widespread desire of seeing and being seen. 

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In Japan, June is synonym for tsuyu, the rainy season. Let’s face it with some useful and, at the same time, stylish items. Evereon’s Eco-Friendly Plastic UmbrellaIt is very unlikely for this brolly to be turned upside down or torn apart, even by the strongest gusts of wind. Its frame is made of durable resin and its replaceable plastic canopy makes it environmentally friendly, too. Rain PopSuppose it’s raining and you want to have dinner in your favourite restaurant. If you take your umbrella with you, it will be in the way or it will slip off the table. So annoying. If you leave it at the entrance, the odds are you won’t find it again. Rain Pop can save the day. Just put this rubber knob on the end of the grip and you will be able to hang your umbrella everywhere. An Umbrella Blossoming On Rainy DaysA colourful design can turn a rainy day into fun. This Kids Umbrella is coated with a special dye, which will react with water creating colourful patterns such as blossoming flowers and rainbows. It makes the perfect gift. As Flat As A SmartphoneWaterfront has launched Pokeflat, an umbrella that folds into the shape of a thin smartphone. As the name suggests, it will even fit in your pocket. It doesn’t take up much space and it’s stylish. Use Your Computer To Dry Your ShoesIt feels so uncomfortable to be wearing wet shoes. However, you can now get your shoes dry if you have a computer or any other kind of USB outlet at your disposal. Connect the Thanko Shoe Dryer to a USB port and put it in your shoes. They will get dry in no time. The Thanko USB Shoe Dryer comes in the shape of a dog or a frog.

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Strange as it might seem, in the digital era it takes well-organized physical spaces to foster innovation and stimulate ideas. While until a few years ago everything that was new and futuristic happened in remote and secluded places like the Silicon Valley, a new movement is emerging in the big cities of the world, where leading institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups and business incubators in geographic areas called ‘innovation districts’, promoting innovation in actual and vibrant communities. The IDs are establishing a new urban model based on knowledge exchange, allowing giants and pioneers to work together and trigger innovation by transforming the way buildings and whole districts are designed. They offer physical compactness, accessibility, and connection, and a mix of housing, jobs and amenities where a very diverse population can live, work and play. These spaces housing new and well-established companies, institutions and subjects, often located in redeveloped or  formerly neglected areas, are bound to be the background of the foundation of a new economy, ready to face the challenges of the post-crisis era. While innovation districts are emerging in many cities in the United States and throughout Europe, London’s Knowledge Quarter in King’s Cross is particularly remarkable. Located in a small area in the heart of London around King’s Cross, the Euston Road and Bloomsbury, the KQ is the focal point for one of the greatest knowledge clusters anywhere in the world: 21 museums and galleries, 27 libraries and archives, and 66 knowledge-based institutions, from The British Museum and the British Library to the new Alan Turing Institute for Data Science. “Within a few hundred metres” says their website, “you can find knowledge resources ranging from the world’s earliest books and manuscripts to the latest fashion and creative designs and cutting-edge medical research”.This area, home to the University of London and The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, is quite crucial to British history and culture: on these same streets, Virginia Woolf and the other member the Bloomsbury group used to hang one century ago. And now the district is ready for a new cultural Reinassance, so be sure to drop by on your next visit to London - the doors are open for everyone: visitors, students and locals.

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This spring, the first section of the Hokkaidō Shinkansen has opened, stretching 184.4 km from Shin-Aomori Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station and connecting the three islands of Hokkaidō, Honshū and Kyūshū by means of a 2,326.3 km high-speed railway network. It now takes four hours to get from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto in Hokkaidō, and about 6.5 hours to get from Tokyo to Nantan-Kagoshima in Kyūshū. There are sixteen-car Shinkansen connecting Tokyo and Osaka, departing every 5-10 minutes, so you won’t have to worry about missing your train. And you won’t have to worry about time either, because trains always depart and arrive on time all over the country. You can relax and enjoy the view from your window. Furthermore, a maglev (magnetic levitation) line connecting the two cities is scheduled to be launched in 2027. Hokkaidō ShinkansenOn March 26, the Hokkaidō Shinkansen was launched between Shin-Aomori Station and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. Trains now operate between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto via Sendai, serving both JR East and Jr Hokkaidō, by the name of Hayubasa. Hayate is the name of trains operating between Morioka, Shin-Aomori, and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. Lavender is now combined with the distinctive colour green for the JR Hokkaidō Shinkansen. Yamabiko and Nasuno will continue connecting Tokyo, Sendai and Kōriyama. Tōkaidō -ShinkansenOn the occasion of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the first Shinkansen, began serving the Tokyo-Osaka corridor. Marked by the colour blue, the Tōkaidō-San’yō Shinkansen reaches speeds of 285km/h, with sixteen-car-trains departing every 5-10 minutes. With an unexcelled service and no delays, this high-tech diamond has topped the rankings of world’s high-speed trains. While riding the Tōkaidō-San’yō Shinkansen, you can enjoy the majestic view of Mount Fuji. The trains serving the Tōkaidō-San’yō Shinkansen Line are Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. Nozomi - the fastest - will take you from Tokyo Station to Hakata, Kyūshū, in about five hours, with no transfer needed. Kyūshū ShinkansenMarked by the colour red, the Kyūshū Shinkansen will take you from Fukuoka to Kagoshima in about an hour and a half. World-famous designer Eiji Mitooka decorated the interiors in an exquisite Japanese style, with traditional leather and fabric seats, bamboo blinds, camphor and maple wood flooring and rich gold leaf embellishments. The Kyūshū Shinkansen Line is subdivided into two sections:  the Kagoshima Route, stretching from Hakata to Kagoshima, and West Kyushu Route, connecting Hakata and Nagasaki. The trains operating on the Kyūshū Shinkansen lines are Mizuho, Sakura and TsubameHokuriku Shinkansen and Jōetsu ShinkansenSince its opening in March 2015, the first direct connection between Tokyo and Kanazawa has immediately become an extremely popular route. The line, connects Tokyo and Osaka by way of Jōshin’etsu and Hokuriku and it is marked by blue and gold. The design was done by from Okuyama Kiyoyuki – also known as Ken Okuyama - the first non-Italian to design a car for Ferrari. The Hokuriku Shinkasen Line is served by Kagayaki, Hakutaka, Tsurugi and Asama trains. It is the perfect ride for a trip to Kanazawa, nicknamed “Little Kyōto”. The line connecting Takasaki and Niigata is called Jōetsu Shinkansen Line and is served by Toki and Tanigawa.

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After launching an electric bicycle on the Austrian market a couple of years ago, Ikea is now about to launch its very first chainless two-wheeler. The name is Sladda - Swedish for ‘drifting’, and it should be available in the UK by August starting at around 500 euros. Officially, the idea behind this new venture of the Swedish giant is to invite customers to choose cycling over driving, thus stimulating a more sustainable lifestyle choice. Designed by VeryDay Studio, Sladda is a unisex city bicycle for amateur cyclists featuring a a belt drive which replaces the regular chain and a back-pedal brake system. It is built on a lightweight aluminium frame, easy to pack, and it honestly looks gorgeous. Furthermore, the new Ikea bicycle can be properly accessorized thanks to an easy ‘click system’ which allows you to add bags, baskets and other endless accessories (we are pretty sure the accessory range will soon be enriched as it always happens with their furniture), and even upgraded with a super-useful towing trailer which will instantly turn it into a cargo bike. It won’t probably be large enough to carry Ikea furniture packages, but it still helps.

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A few years ago Lego released a special brick set called Lego Architecture Studio dedicated to architecture ethusiasts and professionals and developed to help them create their own models by drawing inspiration from world-famous buildings and architectural milestones. Ever since then, plenty of artists and aspiring architects began to unleash their creativity and some design studios even built Lego models for their own projects. Recently, though, a German artist named Arndt Schlaudraff gained quite a reputtion for building some gorgeous Lego archtitectural models thanks to his Instagram account - lego-tonic  - where he posts accurately shot photographs of his work, which focuses mainly on Modernist and Brutalist architecture.  After buying his first Lego Architecture Studio set, Arndt began to build reproductions of famous buildings such as Villa Hutheesing by Le Corbusier in Ahmedabad or the Salk Institute by Louis Kahn in California, along with installations inspired by the work of other artists and architects, providing further inspiration for his followers in a sort of ongoing virtual creative workshop.  What impressed us most of his account is not just the way he shows how individual creativity can draw unexpectedly unique results from mass-produced objects - it is his creative use of the social network, which becomes a useful tool for sharing ideas and inspiration. As Arndt himself told to Dezeen,”I don't understand the concept of people who post selfies all the time and collect 500,000 followers. I think you have to do something creative that inspires other people.I do like to get inspired by other people's creative output as well. That's actually the idea of the Bauhaus. To create a thinktank and cross-fertilise each other with your own creativity".

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“The human hand is the ultimate input device, it’s extremely precise, it’s extremely fast and it’s very natural for us to use it,” says Ivan Poupyrev from Googles Advanced Technology and Projects Group (ATAP), founder of Project Soli, whose aim is to capture the possibility of human hands, the incredible capability and fineness of using our hands and applying it to the virtual world. The idea is to break the tension between the ever-shrinking screen sizes used in wearables, as well as other digital devices, and our ability to interact with them by enabling new types of touchless interaction. How? With the help of a radar, the Soli sensor, that can track sub-millimeter motions at high speed and accuracy and surprisingly fits onto a chip and an be used even inside small wearable devices. Interpreting human intent through full gesture recognition is basically the point of the whole project; once you recognize the archetypes of controls – like the volume knob or the physical volume slider – they  become very clear actions, and the hand can both embody a virtual tool and act on it at the same time. Having created the hardware to sense these interactions, the Project Soli team is now putting them to work to explore how well they would work on devices, and planning to release a development kit that will allow developers to create new interactions and applications.

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Murano, 1958. Young Carlo and Giovanni Moretti decide to turn their family business, a firm specializing in the production of glasses, into something new and different, mixing their passion for design and marketing with the traditional know-how of glass artisans.The result is an authentic "artisan factory", where objects are born from experimentation in terms of shapes and materials, and manage to stand out through very accurate marketing strategies. The concept turns out to be the right one to lead the firm towards the future, and so today, nearly 60 years later, the Carlo Moretti brand still evokes objects known among collectionists and exhibited in museums, distinguished by a diamond point engraved signature which makes them unique.Produced in limited quantities, mouthblown and hand finished, these objects always come with a certificate which includes a serial number and basic information on the manufacturing techniques, proving their artisan quality.We spoke to Manuel Gomiero, Carlo Moretti's CEO & Partner, to learn more about Murano and how an artisan factory works. SJ: Each object by Carlo Moretti is the result of a process which includes the factory, the artisan know-how, contemporary design and the idea of 'limited edition', which somehow evokes the art world. Can you tell us something more about the hybrid nature of your products?MG: In the very beginning, Carlo Moretti only made "Murano crystal" transparent objects. Carlo, who was a designer and a product manager at the same time, basically focused on shapes, and it was back then that he created some of the most iconic objects of the collection, those which still do epitomize the Carlo Moretti brand. After a while, though, the market started to require color, and that's how the "variation on a standard" concept was born: the company started producing the most remarkable shapes in terms of design in different colors using several techniques from the Murano glass tradition.Some objects turned out truly beautiful, and so they decided to make them in limited quantities only. Today, the Carlo Moretti collections include table art objects, gifts and furnishing accessories. Last year we also launched our first lamp catalogue, which draws inspiration both from our rich historic archive and from the ideas of our new design team. Furthermore, our artisans specialize in hot applied decoration, which is probably the secret behind the unique identity of our collections. SJ: What is left today of old-time Murano?MG: Murano glass is 1,000 years old, it was born long before motor cars. In the beginning it was made in Venice, then due to various problems including frequent fires the furnaces were moved to the small island of Murano. So Murano is basically an island of small glass factories which managed to preserve its early 20th century industrial charm, particularly loved by tourists.Nevertheless, I'm afraid that soon the glassmaking industry will have to move again, presumably to the mainland, in order to meet the European environmental standards and to modernize production.Murano will go on being the glass island, with small shops, workshops, museums and showrooms, and the former industrial spaces will probably leave some room for new hotels and restaurants. SJ: Can you tell us your own vision of Venice and maybe suggest some hidden parts of it that we should discover?MG: Although Venice is mainly perceived as an arts capital with major museums, exhibitions and events, what I truly love about it is the way you can wander around randomly and lose yourself only to discover new and unexpected views, most of them honestly breathtaking. I like Venice in every season and under every shade of light. Oddly enough, the most unknown part of Venice is probably its incredible lagoon, such an amazing and pristine place!  It is a world apart, and a 'slow' destination indeed. You should definitely explore it. SJ: Do you ever manage to take things slow in life?MG: Sure, every morning when I wake up and take some time for myself, listen to music and excersise a bit to kep my heart in good shape.

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21 lines, 469 stations, 660 miles of track. With approximately 5.6 million passengers a day, the capacity and the size of New York City’s subway system is truly impressive, and yet the Big Apple is one of the few global metropolises without comprehensive cell phone coverage in its subway. To help New Yorkers know where they’ll be able to make their next call or send the next text while underground, the Subspotting project has gone through the trouble of capturing the cell phone reception in the entire subway system and visualizing the existing ‘pockets of connectivity’ to create a comprehensive map. The result is a visual portrait of the electromagnetic fields of New York City’s underground – a map that highlights the system’s dead spots, stretches of spotty signals and available pockets of connectivity. The concept for Subspotting originated from a collaboration between Daniel Goddemeyer of New York City–based research and design practice Object Form Field Culture (OFFC) - an avid New York City Subway rider himself - and German-based programmer Dominikus Baur. While the original data collection was pretty complex and took many steps, the outcome is a user-friendly app which provides up-to-date information to New York City Subway riders about the available cell phone reception and WiFi signals in the subway, also indicating stretches where the line runs aboveground along the way. Until the vast network of New York City’s underground is truly connected, this app will certainly be of great help to anyone riding the subway every day.

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Eight days have passed since we all got the sad news of David Bowie's death, barely two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his 26th studio album Black Star. And probably because we all secretly suspected he was some kind of an alien like Ziggy Stardust, one of his most remarkable personas, it is so hard to realize that he was actually mortal and he is gone for real. The fact that he is now practically ubiquitous does not help - these days, his face, his name, his music inevitably pop up everywhere on the web and the social networks, and that's exactly how we bumped into a slightly forgotten memory of the Thin White Duke: the time when he launched his own ISP service BowieNet (thank you Popular Science for reminding us of this). As die-hard fans will probably remember, back in 1998 BowieNet started offering access to the internet attached to a vast archive of Bowie photos, videos, interviews, exclusive content, and even a BowieNet email address. To make a long story short, before Napster Bowie had already sensed that  the future of music distribution was online, and long Facebook he managed to create a embryonic social network - a community of music enthusiasts where users could create their own page and interact with one another.  But then again this does not come as a surprise - after all Bowie was the first major artist to distribute a whole album in its downloadable digital version before its physical release (Hours…, 1999). BowieNet operated for over 10 years and it was later replaced by the new Bowie website; a 2012 message on their official Facebook page eventually announced that the old BowieNet was once and for all kaput. These days, the memory of that far-sighted enterprise feels somewhat sweet and comforting - as is the huge heritage of songs, videos, images, footage, and words that the Black Star has generously left us, which will certainly help us not to miss him too much for many years to come.

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What could possibly have persuaded developer Ilya Kreymer and media arts foundation Rhizome to create a website that turns a contemporary web page into its 1990s version? Nostalgia for a time when the net was definitely uglier and much slower, when every graphic element was a reference to travelling or ‘surfing’ - as opposed to today's web browsers, which want to be invisible, merging with the visual environment of the desktop? Or maybe just the thought of offering the so-called ‘digital natives’ - provided that they do exist - a window on the origins of the World Wide Web, when the Internet was still something completely separated from the ‘real’ world, and allowing them to see how web browsers from different time periods influence the user experience? Whatever it was, this ‘archaeologic’ journey into a comparatively recent past is just amazing: check out Yahoo's home page from October 1996, using Internet Explorer 4.01, or  just enter a web address, select your preferred browser, a date, and Oldweb Today will take you to the archived version closest to your request, allowing you to experience the page the way it  was meant to be experienced back then.

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P.A.T.H.Philippe Starck’s prefabricated technological “positive energy” home produces 50% more energy than it consumes, and it promises to bring you comfort, state-of-the-art tehnology, accessibility, safety, and good design. It comes in 35 versions with different facades, a range of roofing types, as well as a variety of interior finishes and fixtures, such as light fittings, floor finishes, bathroom tiles, and many other possibilities to fully personalize it.  Waste HouseThis cute Brighton house located inside the University campus is Europe's first permanent public building made almost entirely from material thrown away or not wanted. Foundations made from ground-granulated blast-furnace slag support a framework comprising salvaged plywood beams, columns and timber joists rescued from a nearby demolished house. Other materials include old vinyl banners that you might see tied to street lamps during festivals, thrown-away bricks, as well as “rubbish” including old plastic razors, denim jeans, DVD’s and video cassettes, that are being slotted into wall cavities to help with insulation in the house. Old toothbrushes are also being used in the wall cavities, while the kitchen worktop is made from second-hand coffee grinds & plastic coffee cups. Haus WDesigned for a young couple and their two children, Haus W is an award-winning prefabricated eco-friendly residence in Hamburg by Krausschönberg studio. Large, beautiful, convenient and accessible, the building is separated into an upper and a lower part. The lower volume is partly ‘sunken’ into the ground, while the upper one consists of rooms of various heights corresponding to their individual function. The house produces thermal energy and relies on other sustainable solutions such as reclaimed wodd panels for insulation and huge windows for natural lighting. Orchid HouseThis beautiful building in the Brittish Cotswolds is possibly the most expensive eco-house worldwide, since it has been sold for around 9 million euros. Designed by Sarah Featherstone from Featherstone and Young studio, it is inspired by the local wild orchids as far as its curvy form is concerned, and it aims to generate more energy than it consumes by making use of an efficient geothermal heating system.

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When Freddie Grubb came to the Stockholm Olympics in 1912 he was known for braking the 100-mile time-trial record as well as for being a keen vegetarian who rode for  the Vegetarian Cycle and Athletic Club. He went back home with a couple of silver medals, he pursued his cycling career for a few more years and then he finally retired from racing, establishing a bicycle manufacturing business. After several ups and downs throug the years, today the Freddie Grubb brand is back to being an icon for bicycle enthusiasts, yet it is not about fastness anymore, its main assets being elegance, artisan quality, and customization. With slightly retro-looking frames featuring a clean and sophisticated design and handmade brakes, Freddie Grubb’s connoisseur’s bicycles are available at the brand’s flagship store in Islington, one of the emerging neighborhood in East London, a fascinating area of repurposed industrial buildings and Georgian houses.The Freddie Grubb workshop is located in South London, not far from Greenwich, at the confluence of rivers Thames and Ravensbourne – yet another emerging area where urban requalification managed to preserve the original traits of the landscape, including flatboats and warehouses. So in a way Freddie Grubb draws inspiration from the essence of 20th century London to create light and conteporary urban bicycles with a vintage flair.

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What if synthetic biology became a hobby just like electrical engeneering? What if we had the chance to experiment with (harmless) bacteria, learn how to make medicines, fragrances, yeasts and even harvest DNA thanks to our small portable biolab? What may sound like a sci-fi (and possibly alarming) prospect is actually already a truth thanks to the project of canadian designer Julie Legault, who collaborated with the Media Lab at MIT and launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to develop Amino, a kit that looks like a record player but actually contains a veritable miniature biolab. The idea is to allow everyone to make simple synthetic biology experiments with a complex and yet user-friendly piece of hardware which includes very sophisticated sensors and tools, thus having a hands-on experience of the subject and learning the basics – a great opportunity for students, makers, and for anyone willing to understand synthetic biology better. The kit is conceived as a computer with its own software (the Amino ‘Apps’) and it works with three elements: living cells, a ‘DNA program’, and growth liquid. One of the Apps that are currently available is called Amino Glow and it allows you to create a sort living nightlight starting from a non-dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria to be combined with synthetic firefly DNA. The user needs to grow and select the bacteria by combining them with the synthetic DNA and using an antibiotic for further selection. Only the surviving ones will then be inserted into Amino's main tube and glow. Of course, Amino’s creators are already working on new Apps that will allow for more ‘practical’ uses such as growing yoghurt bacteria or creating your own living pigment.

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The Design Live Show di Birmingham, which closed its doors on October 11, was the occasion for the presentation of a very unique verison of Toyota’s Lexus IS car, a full-size, almost-fully-functional replica of the IS sport sedan made from 1,700 laser-cut sheets of corrugated cardboard. To create this homage to the master craftsmen working at Toyota’s plants (known as takumi, or artisans) who are responsible for passing along their skills to other team members, the company engaged Lasercut Works, specializing in the experimental use of lasercut in the field of fashion and design.   By using corrugated cardboard as a material, the team was able to recreate every single detail of the original car, from the body to the interiors, from the doors to the headlights.And although the origami car is just a prototype, hearing the engine start and being able to actually get on the car makes the experience almost real. So how did they do it? Basically, the digital 3D model of the car was divided into sections, and each section was then digitally rendered as 10mm-thick slices. By feeding the data into a laser cutter, the single pieces were obtained and finally asssembled by hand one at a time with water-based wood glue in a process that took three months to complete. While there are currently no plans for production, the Lexus IS Origami Car is a superbly beautiful incitement to to think differently and more creatively in design.

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Sometimes looking back to the past can help us solve future issues, like the scarcity of food resources. At least that’s what the Smart Floating Farm project seems to suggest. A brainchild of Javier F. Ponce from Forward Thinking Architecture in collaboration with Jakub Dycha, this amazing project is a futuristic solution ispired by ancient Atzec floating gardens – basically a multi-layered floating platform which combines aquaculture (fish), hydroponics-aeroponics (crops) and photovoltaics (solar power & other renewable energies). Since the world population is predicted to grow to 9.1 billion in 2050 and food demand is expected to raise by 70% by the same year, the idea of increasing production certainly makes sense, yet we will also need to develop new local and self-sufficient farming techniques. And that’s the aim of these floating farms that can be located close to areas where food is more needed, thus allowing for the elimination of expenses and carbon footprint from transportation. The project is a flexible one able to adapt its dimensions to the local food production needs and can be located close to many mega-cities or dense populated areas with water access (sea-lakes-rivers) like NY, Tokyo, Singapore, Mumbai, Montreal, or Sydney.

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What would our world look like if the oil industry gets its way in the Arctic? That’s Greenpeace’s latest challenge to Shell, the oil company which could soon begin drilling for oil and gas in Arctic waters.To raise awareness on this issue, Greenpeace asked renowned montage art duo Kennardphillipps, famous for having been producing art in response to the invasion of Iraq since 2002, to create a short film visualising this threat.The artists searched through thousands of real-life photos of oil disasters and used them to create three new landscapes which are at the heart of the film - three alarming reinterpretations of artworks by Andrew Wyeth – Christina’s World, William Bradford – An Arctic Summer: Boring Through the Pack in Melville Bay and David Hockney – Pearblossom Highway.Side by side, these classic landscapes and their oily reinterpretations offer a dystopian mirror, evoking a powerful sense of the risks that the Arctic and its incredible wildlife might be running, even according to experts and to a report by the US government itself, which states that the chance of “one or more large oil spills” occurring over the lifetime of Shell’s operations in the Arctic is 75%.In the meantime, a growing international movement of people fighting against Shell’s plan has already taken action: six volunteers scaled its oil rig and camped out on it for nearly a week as it travelled across the Pacific. In Seattle, where Shell chose to base its Arctic kit, local people in hundreds of kayaks and canoes took to the water to tell the company it’s not welcome in their city.

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It looks like a spaceship that’s just landed on Earth from some distant galaxy, but it’s actually a tiny and energetically self suficient portable house. The name is Ecocapsule and the look instantly makes you think of a future scenario when we will all live in newly conceived forms of dwellings allowing us to survive anywhere, even in extreme conditions. Designed by Nice Architects studio in Bratislava, in Slovakia Ecocapsule is an unelievably small (around 4,5 x 2,4 x 2,5 meters) and sophisticated piece of machinery powered by a built-in 750W wind turbine complemented with a 2,6 square metre array of solar cells. A dual power system and a high-capacity battery able to support you for almost a year in many off-grid locations ensures that you will have enough power during periods of reduced solar or wind activity. The bathroom includes a shower, a composting toilet and a built-in rainwater and dew collecting and filtering system producing potable water. According to its inventors, Ecocapsule can comfortably house two adults – provided that they get along just fine – and it provides everything that’s essential for a comfortable prolonged stay: a built-in kitchenette with running water, plenty of storage space, and a foldable queen size bed. With its essential wooden interiors and shiny metal surface, Ecocapsule will appeal even to design enthusiasts, and what’s more important it fits into a standard shipping container and can be easily transported anywhere in the world. It can be shipped, airlifted, towed or even pulled by horses, acting like a caravan, a dépendance, a movable office, an independent research station and even an emergency housing or a humanitarian-action unit. “The luxuries of a hotel room are now also available in wilderness” say the designers. And it looks like this might actually be something pretty similar to our future houses.

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Collecting water from the air and surviving in hostile environments just like some plants and insects do: that’s the spark behind one of the most amazing and virtually revolutionary projects of the last few years, Warka Water a super-light tower structure collecting potable water by harvesting atmospheric water vapor through a plastic net.Warka Water has been conceived for Africa, and particularly for Ethiopia, where drinking water is scarce but the day/night temperature difference is sharp enough to produce humidity.In the Ethiopian village of Dorze, the first tower, constructed with the funds gathered through crowdfunding, has been installed a few weeks ago and is already in use with astonishing results: thanks to the rainy season, almost 5,000 liters of water have been collected in just two days.Warka Water is the brainchild of Italian architect Arturo Vittori, owner of international design studio Architecture and Vision, who drew inspiration not only from nature and its perfect machinery, but even from Ethiopian local traditions, vegetation (warka is the name of a local tree), artisan techniques and vernacular architecture.As a matter of fact, Warka Water integrates local materials such as bamboo and natural fiber ropes; the shape incorporates traditional Ethiopian basket-weaving techniques; the dew condensation enhancing system has been designed by studying the Namib beetle’s shell, lotus flower leaves, spider web threads and the integrated fog collection system in cactus.We asked architect Vittori to give us an idea of the changes that his invention might bring to everyday life in Ethiopia and in all those countries where water scarcity is an issue. SJ: Warka Water can produce and distribute around 90 liters of potable water a day: how many people can benefit from it, and in what terms?AV: This actually depends on how people decide to consume drinking water, so it’s very variable and determined by habits, age, and culture. Usually, 2 liters of drinking water a day per person are enough, yet in some communities livestock is considered so important that people will give drinking water to the animals, although we obviously advise them against doing this. SJ: How did the local community in Dorze react to the construction of the first tower?AV: The tower has been there only for a few weeks and yet the first reactions were honestly enthusiastic. People immediately ‘adopted’ the tower as a public space, and soon became fond of it even because they actively took part in the construction, supplying materials and labor. Kids were particularly fascinated by the whole thing. SJ: What kind of scenario can we expect in case this technology should catch on? AV: The economic, social, and cultural changes that this technology could bring might actually be huge. Women, who currently spend most of their time collecting water, might devote themselves to other activities, and take better care of the children - who are also involved in the search for water and could instead go to school. Child mortality, which is often connected with drinking unsafe water, might drop significantly. So what we could expect is a population growth, a better life quality and a more widespread awareness in terms of hygiene. Speaking of hygiene, we are planning to turn our towers into education and information centers on water usage, helping people understand the difference between potable and unsafe water. In terms of economy, the construction and the maintainance of the towers might offer working opportunities to the local communitySJ: Who will fund each new tower once you start large-scale production?AV: We are still doing field tests so there is no precise plan yet, but of course the funds might come from governements as well as from private citizens, donors, NGOs and other  local and international organizations. The estimated cost per tower is about $ 1,000 –depending on where it will be manufactured. Whoever is interested in donating can contribute through our website.

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Now that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara FrancoliNow that the wheat ears are starting to grow, the landscape of the Porta Nuova district, in Milan, is truly turning into something charming and surreal, with the wheatfield that sprouted last February right in front of the skyscrapers of new Downtown Milan slowly taking shape.The Wheatfield is actually a land art work by American artist Agnes Denes, who did something pretty similar in the heart of Manhattan, New York City, back in 1982. Sowed with wheat and alfalfa last February by over 5,000 voluntary workers, the 54,000-square-feet field is a space designed for the city and open to the city.You can simply take a walk along the dirt path and enjoy the view, or become a proud urban farmer and take part in the huge harvest party planned for half July, when thousands of Milanese citizens and tourists will gather among the golden wheat ears and the blue alfalfa flowers to celebrate.The Wheatfield has been conceived to help people reflect further upon the main theme of Expo 2015, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, as well as upon the rural past of our country and the need to find new and sensible ways of reclaiming unused urban spaces - since this area has been closed to the public for over 50 years.The field is part of a wider urban farming project called MiColtivo. The Green Circle and launched by Fondazione Riccardo Catella in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Confagricoltura, which also includes a 4,000 square meter vegetable garden and orchard in the Isola district designed to raise awareness on biodiversity. The garden is already hosting plenty of educational events for kids and families.Photo credit: Barbara Francoli

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Although Los Angeles has never been what you would call a bicycle-friendly city, over the last few years a lot has been done to offer urban cyclists some quality space. Today, with around 400 miles of bike lanes and paths and the best climate on earth - which allows you to ride without having to worry about rainy and cold weather - you would expect a high rate of bicycle commuting, and yet cycling in Los Angeles accounts for less than one percent of all work commutes. Still, if you look back to the citys past history, there was a time when someone in LA planned to build an elevated cycleway which in a way anticipated modern automotive freeways. This is a fascinating story dating back to 1899, when young Philadelphia-native enterpreneur Horace M. Dobbins launched a revolutionary project whose aim was to connect downtown LA to the burgeoning modern suburb of Pasadena, north of the city, through a 9-mile-long elevated cycleway featuring diversions, amusements, places of repose, and tollbooths. The fact that the whole business concerned bicycle traffic should not surprise you: the 1890s saw one of the biggest bicycle booms of all times in the USA, driven by several significant developments in bicycles. Besides, Henry Ford had not launched the first internal combustion engine, and motorcars were not a mass means of transport yet. The story of the California Cycleway is superbly told by Dan Keppel in his book Latitudes: an Angeleno’s Atlas, a guide to the heart and soul of the city through maps and essays. In the end, the California Cycleway was not completed; the bicycle boom quickly died out, the existing Pacific Electric Railway lines connecting Pasadena to Los Angeles gained the upper hand and the motorcar season begun. The structure was later dismantled and all that is left today of that visionary enterprise is a bunch of old and charming photographs. As for Mr. Dobbins, his talents were not entirely wasted: in 1900 he became the mayor of Pasadena. 

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In the age of Google Maps and GPS its hard to believe that there are still places on Earth letf outside our maps, and yet this is absolutely true, and not just for some remote island, the oceans and the forests. There are whole villages and favelas whose topography is still totally unknown to us, places densely inhabited  by vulnerable people who live at the mercy of wars, violence, epidemics, and natural disasters. For more than 10 years, the  OpenStreetMap collaborative project has been trying to create a free editable map of the world, thanks to the contributuon of amateur mappers and GIS professionals who constantly add and update data that will then be available for several websites, mobile apps and hardware devices. The Humanitarian Open Street Map division (HOT) does even more by mapping in response to crises occuring all around the world to help NGOs and other responders to bring relief to the afflicted areas. From an unprecented collaboration among HOT, Médecins sans Frontières, and the American and British Red Cross, a new system is now offering further opportunities for  mapping the world. It is called the Missing Maps Project and the great thing about is that in order to contribute you do not need to be a mapping professional, nor on the spot. Volunteers can do something that isn’t just giving money, and they can do it remotely, sitting in front of their own computers. How is that possible? First of all, contributors need to take satellite images often made available from  sources such as US government agencies and Microsoft, and plug them into OpenStreetMap. The second step is a tracing the outlines of buildings, roads, parks and rivers with the point-and-click and removing the image, which is then printed and posted to volunteers based in the city who will write down the names of streets and buildings. Finally, the maps are posted back to Missing Maps HQ in London, where more volunteers fill in the names on OpenStreetMap, and the result wiill be a brand new open source city map, available for NGOs and other organization who can use them as soon as the crisis happens, thus saving time and lives. Definitely an ingenious tool for practical solidarity.

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When a country with high CO2 emissions like China decides to build a couple of massive pollution-scrubbing skyscrapers, things seem to be looking up a bit on the environmental hazards front. Planned for construction in Wuhan, "the city of a thousand lakes" in central China", the Phoenix Towers have been designed by London-based Chetwoods studio, and at 1km high they will be the tallest pair of buildings in the world. Besides looking impressively high, the towers will feature state-of-the-art sustainable technologies such as lightweight photovoltaic cladding, thermal chimneys, suspended air gardens, wind turbines, water harvesting/recycling, waste recycling via biomass boilers, and hydrogen fuel cells at ground level. The towers will generate their own power requirement while contributing to the surrounding district, and they will house a mixture of offices, hotels, residential units, shops and leisure facilities, as well as unique features such as the world’s tallest kaleidoscope. The spectacular design, a homage to the mythological Chinese phoenix which combines male and female principles, includes huge suspended globes connected by skywalks that will house restaurants and other catering facilities.

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According to a recent survey by Greenpeace involving 190 cities in China, at least 90% of them is in the grip of severe air pollution, with fine particulate (PM2.5) levels abundantly exceeding the limits. These figures are pretty impressive, and yet they are stll figures; witnessing what people experience on an everyday basis when coping with unbearable smog  levels is something that can help us all understand much better what its like to live in a polluted country. Thats the idea behind one of the latest campaigns by Grenpeace, aimed at raising awareness on air pollution in China and at calling for stronger enforcement of national and local action plans for air quality improvement in the country by commissioning a short film to awarded Chinese film director Jia Zhangke, who won the Leone d’Oro at Venice Film Festival back in 2006 with Still Life. Smog Journeys is a delicate and eloquent portrait of everyday life in China as seen through the eyes of two different families, a working class family from the coal mining province of Hebei, and another from a middle class family in Beijing. Both areas are strongly suffering from air pollution, with over 100 hazy days a year and PM2.5 concentration up to four times above the OMS guidelines. We really loved  Smog Journeys because, in spite of its dramatic subject, it is neither crude nor unpleasant - it essential and sophisticated, just as you would expect from the work of one of the most appreciated figures of Far Eastern cinema. Seven minutes well spent to become aware of a problem that might soon be ours too unless we decide to act now. Because clean air doesnt come to those who wait. Words: F.S.

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Did you know that  there are 4,000 different ecosystems across the planet? We are all familiar with huge ecosystems such as forests, oceans and deserts, but what about the small and tiny ones? Until today, seeing the Earth through magnifying lenses to read its amazing environmental diversity was no easy task. Not anymore, though, because USGS (the US Geological Survey, a scientific agency of the United States government that studies the landscape of the United States and its natural resources) and ESRI, a leading mapping software company, just released ELUs, the first ecological land units map of the world. ELUs is an extraordinary and detailed portrait our planet including a systematic division and classification of the biosphere, which will turn into a powerful tool for scientists, land managers, conservationists, and developers to improve global resource management, planning, and decision making - and even driving people in general to discover the Earths diversity and richness.portrays a systematic division and classification of the biosphere - See more at: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/esri-insider/2014/12/09/the-first-detailed-ecological-land-unitsmap-in-the-world/#sthash.0QeftUvd.dpufortrays a systematic division and classification of the biosphere using - See more at: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/esri-insider/2014/12/09/the-first-detailed-ecological-land-unitsmap-in-the-world/#sthash.0QeftUvd.dpuf By better understanding the ecosystems, by knowing them in deep, we will be able to identify their resources, their rarities, and the main risks they are running - such as environmental degradation.such as environmental degradation And since ELUs is based on constantly updated data, as more current input layers become available we will be able to keep a close eye on how our ecosystems are evolving, estimating our impact on the environment and monitoring even the minute consequences of climate change - in other words, being aware of what we have and of what we might lose.current input layers become available  Words: F.S.Photo: ESRI

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Do you remember the very first Prince of Persia? It was the year 1989 and every nerd worthy of its name was super-busy saving the Sultans daughter from the evil vizier, completely entranced by the then-cuttig edge videogame. 26 years later, game design has evolved to unprecedented levels of sophistication, and yet we sometimes miss those pixelated characters, those adorably bidimensional settings, those repetitive, bleeping soundtracks. If the same happens to you, heres the good news: Prince of Persia, along with some 2,400 videogames from the MS-DOS era, is now available online thanks to Internet Archive, the webs greates library of digital contents. So how does it wok? Simply go to the MS-DOS game archive and click on your favourite title to play the game online through your browser – Jason Scott, the guy who did a great deal to spare these small gems of digital archaeology from extinction, said that all programs should be fully-functioning. Just like in the old days, youre gonna have to learn how to play through trial and error, randomly hitting keys until you find the winning moves and  combos. In other words, youll be super-busy. And it will be 1989 once again.   Words: F.S.

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How will we manage to have enough to eat in the future? The question is becoming more and more urgent as new urban farming projects on rooftops and skyscrapers spring up in the big cities of the world. Considering that by 2050 the world population will have grown so much that the global demand for food is expected to be 60-70% higher than today, providing enough food for everyone is not going to be an easy task. Not to mention the fact that climate changes are exacerbating the scarcity of arable land and fresh water for agriculture, while the rising sea level contributes to flooding of extensive areas of fertile land with salt water. One thing is for sure: we need to find some innovative and feasible solutions, and we need to do it right now. Speaking of innovative solutions,  Jellyfish Barge, a project by Antonio Girardi and Cristiana Favretto of Studiomobile, certainly is a brilliant one. The idea is to offer - mostrly to coastal communities - the opportunity to grow their own food with no need for soil, fresh water and chemical energy consumption thanks to a self-sustained floating greenhouse called "jellyfish" because of its 70 square meters octagonal wooden base, sitting on 96 repurposed plastic drums. The Jellyfish Barge has been built with affordable materials and simple technologies. It purifies salt, brackish or polluted water using solar energy and it allows you to grow basically all kinds of vegetables thanks to a high-efficiency hydroponic cultivation method that provides up to 70% of water savings compared to traditional hydroponic systems. Furthermore, the Jellyfish can be controlled remotely and it is modular - as a result, it can be customized to the needs of each community, family or business. A truly ingenuous way to deal with the growingly difficult challenges of the next future. Photo: © Studiomobile

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Professor Stephen Hawking, author of popular science book A Brief History of Time, is probably the most well-know scientist alive - both for his works and for the tenacity he has always shown in spite of his health conditions. Back in 1985, Hawking, who was already suffering from a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, lost what remained of his speech due to a tracheotomy he underwent after contracting pneumonia. Ever since then, his ability to speak is strictly bound to technology - namely to a speech synthesiser  called  the Equalizer developed by Californian company WordPlus. The good news is that this technology has just been replaced by a new system that will soon be able to help Professor Hawking as well as 3 million people afflicted with motor neuron diseases and quadriplegia to dramatically improve their ability to communicate. After meeting Intel founder Gerald Moore in 1997 Hawking had his computer-based communication system sponsored and provided by Intel. The partnership worked quite perfectly until 2011 - by then, though, Hawkings disease had gotten so bad that whereas in the 1980s he could produce up to 15 words a minute, now he could barely produce two. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Intel Labs immediately started to develop a new system and has been working on it for three years to find a solution which would suit mr Hawkings deep- seated habits. The new system, created with the support of London-based startup SwiftKey, is equipped with a software that predicts what Hawking is typing as he selects the letters, similar to autocomplete on modern smartphones. As a result he will need to digit barely 15-20% of the words, interacting with web browsers as well. The open-source software will soon be available for developers who are interested in building on the software to help other MND sufferers, Intel even offered Hawking the chance to replace this old and slightly robotic computer generated voice (which has been used by British Telecom and Pink Floyd as well) with a more naturalone, but he refused on the ground that it has become his "trademark"Words: M.S.

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Have you ever dreamed of an affordable computer, no larger than a credit card and yet powerful enough to run a desktop operating system, a connected media center able to play HD movies, or to control every appliance in your home? Then you have probably dreamed of Raspberry Pi. Developed by four Cambridge researchers, the Raspberry is a powerful micro-computer that can be used both as a desktop computer and as a controller for automated tasks or domotics. But let’s take a step back: it was the year 2006 when Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft started to be concerned about the dramatic change in the perception of computer science by young people. Whereas back in the 1990s almost all of the applicants who asked to join their lab had at least some basic programming knowledge, now even the most proficient ones barely had a few web-development skills: in a society which was more and more silicon driven, the actual level of proper IT culture was declining. Raspberry Pi was designed to fill this gap: a very simple board and an inexpensive processor (the ARM, a British project from the 1980s that came into the limelight in the 2000s thanks to the rise of smartphones) allowed them to create a full-featured computer, capable of running a light version of the Linux operating system sold for less than $40. The revolution had just begun. Backed by a large base of enthusiasts, the Raspberry evolved from being just a learning device (the basic version of the Raspbian OS includeas a word processor, a spreadsheet and a browser, and it allows you to learn a few software developing skills) to being a real icon, a simple device capable of working as a media center (by simply connecting it to your TV with an HDMI cable), as an automation tool for your home (by simply connecting it to any appliance with analog pins), educating and entertaining your kids, and even turning your old 1970s cassette player into a connected device. If you’re into the maker movement you’ll probably know Arduino: think of the Raspberry as an Arduino on steroids: it is more complex to program, but way more powerful. To learn more about what you can do with a Raspberry Pi in real life, check out Makezine and Instructables. The possibilities are almost countless, two of the most interesting examples being Raspitab, a Raspberry-powered tablet, and Pi-Top, a kit for building your own Raspberry-powered notebookWords: Simone LippolisPhoto: www.raspberrypi.org

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Strange as it may sound, two-thirds of the worlds population still live with no internet access. We tend to forget that, but then from time to time we are reminded of this huge and unfair digital divide -after all the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the Internet a basic human right. The Internet Giants have been trying to beam Internet access from the sky to every single place on earth for some time now - take Googles baloon-based Project Loon or Facebooks drone- and satellite-based Internet.org. Lately, though, a global broadcast data startup called Outernet (incubated by the MDIF American impact investment fund) launched a project which moves from quite a different assumption: the idea of  collecting all world’s knowledge, just like the Library of Alexandria, and to spread it through “a universal information system available to all of humanity.” As Outernet CEO and founder put it, in some places Internet connectivity costs ten times the average monthly income, so bypassing traditional pathways becomes a priority. And the alternative pathway already exists - radio waves, encompassing the whole world. As the name suggests, Outernet is a service that operates outside the net, taking content from the Internet, broadcasting it via satellites, and delivering offline versions. To connect to the signal you need a satellite antenna-fitted receiver which then creates wi-fi links, allowing the data to be copied to smartphones and computers. The high speed signal currently broadcasts 200 MB per day to antenna-fitted receivers, but in the near future the speeds should increase to broadcast 1 GB of content per day, and eventually at least 100 GB. The mobile signal, coming in early 2015, will require a much smaller antenna for reception. As for the content, the system continuously broadcasts a collection of the most valuable information from the web according to Outernet and its users, who can request content to be broadcast via the companys website, Facebook page, email, Twitter account, SMS, or traditional post. This includes all kinds of monthly updated information - such as Wikipedia entries and copyright-free e-books from the Project Gutenberg website - and time-sensitive content such as news bulletins and disaster alerts, updated several times an hour. In instances where an individual or organization chooses to schedule a broadcast date for their content, Outernet offers a fee-based priority feature clearly marked as such in order to differentiate it from other items in the archive. This provides a source of revenue along with donations and volunteering. If successfull, Outernet will be a major step towards free global connectivity - and a truly game-changing idea.

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You might think that Dubai - the global capital of luxury, of futuristic skyscrapers in the sea, of ski slopes in the desert -  is the least probable option when it comes to eco-friendly cities. And yet the city of a million lights does have a green heart. Or at least its on its way to having one. Among the citys green initiatives is an ambitious project promoting sustainability launched back in 2009 by Dubais Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing , which includes a couple of very important activities: the DTCM Co2 Reduction program and the Dubai Green Tourism Award. The first commits to reducing Co2 emissions by 20%, and the second one is a prize awarded to excellent examples in terms of sustainability. Both are devoted to improving the ecological performance shift of the tourism industry in Dubai and encouraging hotel establishments and service providers to invest in green programmes and systems. And something is actually happening, because the DTCMs plea was taken up by lots of local businesses - not just in the tourism industry - which came up with greener solutions and more sustainable concepts of luxury. Among the remarkable new projects is the first sustainable mosque in the world designed with energy efficiency in mind by Suhail Mohammen, a young and talented student from Alhosn University, and built with environmentally friendly materials. Toyota Camry hybrid cars, powered by petrol and electricity, are already part of Dubai Taxi’s fleet, consuming 33% less fuel and also reducing carbon emissions by 33% when compared to conventional vehicles. But the next green wonder of Dubai is bound to be the so-called Da Vinci Tower (also known as Dynamic Tower) designed by Israeli-born architect David Fisher (who graduated in Florence back in 1976, hence the towers name), an 80-floor, 1,378 ft tall and energetically self-sufficient moving skyscraper which will be able to rotate independently, thus  constantly changing shape. The movement will be e powered by wind turbines and solar panels, which will also provide all the energy needed by the towers 200 apartments, and the rotation will improve the apartments air control, minimizing the need for AC systems. Furthermore, the Da Vinci Tower will  be the worlds first prefabricated skyscraper: 90% of the tower will be built in a factory and shipped to the site, reducing the construction time and the number of workers required at the work site - and thus making the whole construction process faster and safer. Words: C.L.G.Photo: Dubai Tourism

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It is a common belief that one personal computer for every person is needed in order to inspire economic growth, alleviate inequalities and bridge the digital divide. Thus, many organisations are focused on providing PCs to those that cannot afford one, but they barely make a dent in the incredible demand. Nissan Bahar and Franky Imbesi, the entrepreneurs behind the start-up Keepod, found a different solution to the problem and came up with the idea of a whole operating system running on a USB flash drive. Thanks to this amazing concept, they managed to raise more than $40,000 on fundraising site Indiegogo, providing the cash to begin a campaign to offer low-cost computing to the two-thirds of the globes population that currently has little or no access. The Keepod device is a very low cost solution: by having the OS on a USB, the software is effectively separated from the hardware, reducing the computer to nothing more than a vehicle. So basically there is no more need for a personal computer to have personal computing - and there is no need for every child, or adult, to own their own computer.People can share refurbished computers that would have otherwise ended up in landfills, and because the technology leaves no footprint on the host computer, user data is protected and personal information are never left behind.Of course, the resulting benefits for the community and the environment are potentially immense. Keepod currently has several projects ongoung in Africa and the Middle East; everyone can contribute by either giving & getting devices (you can buy one and give one for $14) or starting an official Keepod Point and distribute Keepod devices.

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More and more people commuting to work within the city opt for a scooter to manoeuvre through traffic, yet the problems do not end once you reach the office: what about parking spaces? Are they convenient and safe enough to avoid theft? The answer will often be no. One possible solution to these and other troubles is a scooter prototype recently developed in Hungary which promises to a imprint a sustainable shift to urban mobility. The prototype is called Moveo and its a portable electric scooter conceived to be light and handy enough to be folded and carried around like a trolley bag.   Designed by Antro, a Hungarian non profit organization focused on sustainable mobility, Moveo weighs barely 25 kilos and it is equipped with a battery which guarantees a range of 35 kilometers at a  maximum speed of 45 kilometers per hour - just perfect to ride around the city. And it is also dirt-free, since the wheels and brakes get completly covered once the scooter is folded, so your office clothes are safe. Moveo has not been officially launched yet, and its still early days to say when it will be available to the public - it all depends on the fund raising campaign and investing partners -  but Antro already announced that they will produce at leasr 15,000 pieces per year at a price of around 4,000 dollars eachWords: C.L.G.Photo: Moveo

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Fusion is probably the only technology that might truly change the destiny of our planet and hold back global warming, providing us with clean and virtually inexhaustible energy - thats why weve been eagerly following the exciting developments of this research field for some time. The latest piece of news from the fusion front is truly amazing, because it sets a precise timeframe for the advent of this technology: the next 10 years. Apparently, within the year 2024 the world will see the first low-cost compact fusion reactor, which will be the size of a jet engine and able to power everything, from spaceships to airplanes to cities. After a series of top-secret experiments, Skunk Works, Lockheed Martins experimental technology division, developed a concept that will allow them to build devices 10 times smaller than previous reactors thanks to magnetic confinement. In other words, to mimic the energy created by the sun and control it here on earth, Skunk Works is creating a concept that can be contained using a magnetic bottle. The bottle is able to handle extremely hot temperatures, reaching hundreds of millions of degrees. By containing this reaction, they can release it in a controlled fashion to create usable energy.  The idea is not new, but it is the high efficiency of Skunk Works magnets that will allow them to build such a compact reactor, managing at the same time to confine the hot fusion fuel. Further details have not been unveiled yet and the reactor is somewhat shrouded in mistery; yet, although it is still early days, we might be on the verge of an epoch-making change.

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Have you ever built impossibly tall towers with Jenga, the game with wooden blocks? Well, if you know how it works, you’ll be amazed at the unique project that’s taking shape right in the heart of Hong Kong Developed by Ova Design, it is the result of a pretty unusual idea: building a state-of-the-art luxury skyscraper hotel with recycled shipping containers, thus partially solving the problem of their disposal. The name is going to be Hive-Inn Hotel and it will be extremely flexible: just like a Jenga tower, the building will grow or shrink as each room is housed inside a container and can be removed or inserted out of a core structure which will also act as a vertical lobby to connecting the container-rooms. Thanks to the grid structure, containers will be slotted in and taken out without disturbing the containers above or below. Each room will be equipped with all comforts and energy efficient: under and above each container a service “cassette” will provide electricity, air conditioning, fresh water and drainage. The concept would also allow lots of advertising opportunities: the container rooms could be customized and sponsored by major and luxury brands for a limited  time before they’re swapped out for a room designed by another company. Shipping containers have become an interesting resource for young and innovative architects: while they may be hard to dispose of, they are easy to find, versatile and extremely durable. Managing to reuse them in new and creative ways is a very intriguing challenge for sustainability-oriented design.

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Ok, those of you who ever tried to catch a bus in Rome might think the title is a joke, and yet it is not: from September 27 to October 5 the Italian capital is actually going to be an innovation capital on the occasion of the Innovation Week, where among robots and drones, 3D printers and bitcoins, gurus ans start-uppers a near, possible future will be discussed and celebrated. The one week-long event will feature conferences, meetings and seminars with hundreds of speakers from all over the world focusing on the latest frontiers of the digital revolution, and from October 3 to October 5 it will culminate in the Maker Faire, a fair entirely devoted to digital manufacturing and the maker culture, a bottom-up revolution that starts out as a hobby only to become an actual opportunity in terms of new jobs and enterpreneurship. 600 inventors will be presenting and sharing their unique ideas and prototypes - from the robotic butler to the device you can use to share your mood with no words, from the solar cooking machine to the alien musical instrument you will play with no direct contact. Maker Faire is a showcase for young talents who are following their paths, willing to share the result of their job with others. Some of them will become entrepreneurs, developing ideas and prototypes they have designed for Maker Faire Rome, while somebody else will find a job in a company that will grow thanks to their energy and skills. On top of that, there will be a hackathon at MaXXI on the week end before Innovation Week: it will be a marathon with 300 developers who will challenge the future of domotic. The event is open to everybody, even families with children, so even if you are not a nerdy/geeky type you are bound to bump into something interesting: the Innovation Week and Maker Faire innovation were born from the will of experimenting and sharing, and they are addressed to anyone willing to try and make something new, because a country that’s fighting the crisis needs to focus on innovation as a huge, shared effort to build a better future. The location is the amazing Auditorium Parco della Musica designed by Renzo Piano. 

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Theres a place from which hurricanes threatening the Phlippines appear like thin layers of cloud, the steaming Etna is just a little chimney in the distance, the Andes resemble a light wrinkling and the ocean coast a smudge of white foam on a blue background. Its a place called ISS, a.k.a. International Space Station, a habitable artificial satellite and one of the most most fascinating machines ever built by mankind. The ISS has been orbiting the Earth since 1998 at an height of 205 miles above the sea level, serving as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory and suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars. And it is also the place from which Alexander Gerst, a 38-year-old German astronaut who reached the station in May this year, sends his daily photo messages, his postacrds of the Earth taken from a unique and sometimes bewildering perspective. Among these powerful images are some surprisingly abstract natural and manmade patterns on the Earths surface and even dramatic views such as the Israel-Gaza conflict as seen from space, which Gerst himself called “the saddest photo yet”. Gerst also offers some very insightful reflections, and one of these is that in the future we will all look at our planet with different eyes. When we will all be able to get the big picture from this new perspective, not only will we understand the actual scale of our world, but we will also be able to appreciate the beauty of the Earth and hopefully to respect it. And then maybe, just like Gerst says, the ocean will finally be more than "just water" to us.

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A black box that can harness the sun’s UV light through a transparent layer while killing bacteria cells and heating the water in a few hours time. In case you are wondering why on earth you should need that, just take a second to reflect on the fact that, despite global efforts, more than 1,8 billion people (28% of the population worldwide) are still likely at risk for lack of safe water. The black box, aka Solvatten, was created to avoid that risk. Behind it is artist, enterpreneur and molecular biology expert Petra Wadström (born 1952 in Stockholm, Sweden) who after moving to sunny Australia with her husband in the late 1990s started pondering possible ideas to use all that sunshine in some way that would improve poor peoples lives. Petra’s vision was a device to help people who lacked access to safe and warm water, and that’s how Solvatten was born. Today this simple and yet extraordinary device is used in many countries around the world with very impressive results: a solid 10 liter water purifier/heater with the capacity to process 40 litres per day enables a family of 5 to have clean, safe and warm water for many years, with no spare parts or batteries. The benefits of Solvatten have been documented from the start in various pilot projects around the world; there are currently 44 different projects based in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries, with more than 100,000 users in the world. The exceptional thing with this ingenious invention is that it changes behavior and that is the only way to bring lasting change. Solvatten can be purchased from their website for 149 euros, and even donated to families in need for 109 euros. In the picture: Petra Wadström presents her invention to President Obama in 2013

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The Brompton Junction concept store has opened its doors in Milan. The sixth store to hold this title after the ones in Kobe, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Shanghai and London, is an embassy for cult Brompton brand, the original new generation folding bicycle from London, UK, conceived to be  practical and light enough to be genuinely portable and carried like a small suitcase on any means of transportation. After coming to Italy a few years ago through a small number of dealers and distributors, Brompton finally has its own home in Milan, a huge 4-window store in the alternative and vibrant Porta Venezia district, offering a personalised service, showing bikes which reflect the many colours and specification finishes possible and featuring an open workshop where mainteinance classes are held on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, the Junction aims at being much more than a store: customers are welcome to hang out in the free wi-fi coffee area, meet other Brompton fans and urban cycling enthusiasts and share their love for sustainable transport and the biking culture.

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Experts seem to be more and more persuaded of the fact that in order to face the growing need for food supply in the big and overpopulated cities of the future we will need to produce our own food within the urban areas, building urban hydroponic vertical farms - in other words, agricultural skyscrapers with wheat growing in fields up above the city using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. This idea has triggered the creativity of many young architects committed to sustainability, who designed some very interesting and futuristic projects that might soon go from virtual to real. Urban Skyfarm by Brooklyn-based Aprilli Design studio is definitely one of such projects, a unique tree-shaped vertical farm with a huge potential, designed for the city of Seoul in order to supply the population with sustainable, local food and to set an example for the future. With an height of 524 feet, 45 of which would be devoted to hydroponic agriculture, the farm would supply the city with around 39 acres of space to be used for agriculture, a farmers market, a botanical garden, a cafeteria and a panoramic rooftop. Thanks to wind turbines and a 34,000 square feet large surface covered in solar panels, the building would rely on 100% clean and self produced energy, and besides producing energy the Skyfarm would also purify and reuse rainwater and filter the air, thus cleaning it. Every single part of the urban farm, conceived as a ‘giant tree’, has its own specific function and has been designed for a different kind of activity: the roots are perfect for hosting the farmers market and other public activities such as workshops, exhibitions and conferences; the vertical section or trunk would host the community garden; the eight branches and the leaves would be the actual location of the farming activity, supported by heating and LED lighting systems to create optimal environmental conditions.

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Strong and hard-wearing sails that stood up to the Ocean winds, old horse reins and vintage kimono fabrics. These are the reclaimed materials recycled - or rather upcycled, because the materials acquire enhanced dignity – by Susan Hoff to create her unique totes. Each bag stands alone, distinctive in original design, character and craftsmanship, and each piece of sailcloth tells a story of its former life out on the water. But these materials tell Susan’s story as well – the story of her childhood on a Midwestern horse farm and of her time spent at sea manning the decks of sailboats. We couldn’t help being charmed by the thought of all the journeys that these sails must have taken before turning into amazing accessories, and by the Ocean feeling that these totes seem to exude – which makes them perfect for the beach or a sailing trip. Delicate colours, essential patterns, well-worn fabrics and perfectly crafted finishes make these handmade bags just stunning. A great and somewhat romantic concept that manages to match beauty, durability and sustainability. Susan is based in San Francisco but the totes can be purchased from her website.

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Folding bicycles are pretty popular lately, yet they usually fall into a weight and dimension bracket that hasnt improved in over thirty years: 12-15 kg and over 150 cubic decimeters (litres) - just like a huge suitcase. Well, with BikeIntermodal things are bound to change soon because this folding bike weighing 6 to 7.5 kg compresses to the size of a briefcase. And its almost here. The prototype has been developed by a pan-European team including Tecnologie Urbane Spa, the University of Florence, Trilix and Ataf (Florences public transportation company) with the collaboration of a group of foreign companies (Maxon Motors, Lpp, Ticona) and a €1.58m research grant from the EU. BikeIntermodal might actually and radically change the way we commute to work and move around town: just imagine how convenient it would be to reach your workplace or any other destination in the city with a bike that becomes an accessory you can bring with you anytime and everywhere in a bag. The crucial innovation of the project is a completely original, new way of making a hinged bicycle frame which combines light weight, strength, high compactness when folded down and automatic opening-closing. At the core of it is a pre-stressed frame that opens and closes like an aircraft landing gear made of die cast aluminium or magnesium and sailing-grade cables. Furthermore, BikeIntermodal has a unique and appealing design and each part is tested, traceable and recyclable, so its lifecycle is environmentally friendly and ethical. We just cant wait to have our own one.

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When MIT and the city of Copenhagen decide to carry out a project together, chances are we are going to love it madly. Which is exactly the case of the Copenhagen Wheel, a system which turns your ordinary bicycle into a smart electric hybrid by simply replacing your back wheel. Initially conceived at MITs SENSEable City Lab as a research project - and sponsored by the Mayor of Copenhagen, one of the worlds most innovative places for cycling - the project has been developed by Superpedestrian, a venture-backed company founded by Assaf Biderman, Associate Director at MITs SENSEable City Lab, producing lightweight electric vehicles with integrated online platforms to connect people with their environment.The Copenhagen Wheel learns how you pedal and integrates seamlessly with your motion: it captures your energy when you brake or go downhill and gives you a push when you need it with 3 to 10 times your reguar foot power. As you pedal, the motor automatically kicks in with no additional buttons - you basically ride it like a normal bike, and thats what makes it truly unique. So how does it work? All technology is contained within a beautiful red casing including motor, removable batteries, wireless connectivity, smart locking, multiple sensors and an embedded control system. You can even use your smartphone to customize your ride, monitor your physical activity and gather information from your environment to share with your friends and fellow cyclists. The Copenhagen Wheel is a true eco-friendly alternative to the car, taking you to work without leaving you covered in sweat. How cool is that?

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Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Travel... and Slow Money. Although applying the ethical principles of the Slow movements to economy might seem hard, apparently somebody managed to do it properly. Slow Money is an American movement aiming to organize investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small enterprises, Founded by Woody Tasch in 2008, Slow Money does not only take its name from the other Slow movements, but it also draws inspiration from the same general principles - quality, durability, sustainability and a social and ethical fairness. Tasch acknowledges right up front that the alliances goal is not rapidly maximizing investors’ profits, yet he firmly believes that local, sustainable food is a good investment - as a matter of fact, Slow Moneys deep connection with local food systems led it to supporting small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems to enhance food security, food safety and food access, to improve nutrition and health, and to promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity. Looking at philanthropy and investment through the lens of food, soil and place, Slow Money promotes an ethical way of  doing business, slowing just a little of our money down to invest in a business that will eventually turn into a patient capital: the nurture capital industry, that will be as important to the next generation as venture capital has been to this generation.The disruptiveness of this idea is pretty obvious: while our current production system, just like the financial system, aims at maximizing profits regardless of environmental and human costs, Slow Money heads down a different road, taking the opposite route and literally bringing money back down to earth.

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A playground inspired by bird nests. Sun Bird Park, in Vail, Colorado, is an amazing project by Denver-based Tres Birds Workshop revolving around the connection between humans and the environment, an idea that should be inculcated in our kids as soon as possible to make them learn to love and respect nature. And since playing is a great way to learn, this noble goal perfectly matches with the need to design  a space devoted to children fun, where the young ones can cross small bridges and slide from one nest to the other, embarking on a perfectly safe and yet exciting adventure. The designers actually drew inspiration from surrounding bird habitats to form the main concept of the parks three large nest structures. The nests were created using a variety of wood species that make up the rib components and mimic original ski design. Each rib was treated using a mixture of oil, wax and tree resin. Using non-toxic materials was a top priority in building the park. In addition to the wood material and process selected, a stainless steel mesh fabric was used to close off areas in between the ribs. Connecting the nests are rope and bridge features, as well as a climbing wall - a hommage to one of Colorados most popular sport disciplines. The park was also designed for access, so that children with disabilities and adaptive skills can enjoy the playground features as well.

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Have you ever heard of earth integrated architecture? Basically, the idea is to build an underground home – it’s a hard work and it takes a lot of research and design – but the advantages are countless, from natural insulation to the dramatic reduction of heating and cooling energy requirements, from inobtrusiveness to protection from severe weather conditions. And it is certainly possible, as shown by Bill Lishmans unique underground house in Blackstock, Ontario, whose concept first emerged in the 70s. Consisting of interconnected igloo-like domes, the house finally began to take shape in the summer of 1988,  when Bill hired family members to begin constructing the steel domes, and earth moving equipment to remove the top of the hill – and it’s been in use ever since.  Once moved into position, the domes were connected and covered in expanded metal lath, then Gunnite concrete was sprayed over the entire interior surface and trawled smooth. The inside layer was concrete mixed with marble powder to form a smooth white surface. The exterior of the house was covered in a waterproof tar, buried in dry sand and a membrane layer of rubber sheeting was placed over the entire area to act as an umbrella to keep the sand mass dry. The sand mass is crisscrossed with air ducts that circulate warm air from the solariums located at either end of the house. Topsoil was then replaced over top of the membrane, covered with grass seed and gardens. But  building an underground dwelling of this type poses a whole new set of challenges: everything from cable and power to furniture must be custom-made and designed from scratch with creativity and ingenuity. And while the costs are obviously higher than building conventionally, they will be recouped during the life of the house, and in the long run it will be cheaper and more rewarding. For anyone interested in building an underground house, William Lishman and his wife Paula are available for personalized consultancy in the house.

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“It is a form of mind reading”. The words of Marvin Chun, professor of psychology, cognitive science and neurobiology, and co-author of a paper reporting the results of a recent experiment from the University of Yale, leave no room for doubts: extracting faces from human brain activicty is now a possibility. This reminded us of a nice Katherine Bigelow movie called Strange Days which depicted a not-too-distant future world where machines could record experiences directly from the cerebral cortex of the participant, allowing the viewer to feel and experience everything the participant experienced as if they were there. When the movie was shot in 1995, nobody expected that barely 20 years later we would be able to actually do something pretty similar to that. Of course, the Yale experiments face reconstructions are still a bit rough - but still incredibly accurate as compared to a similar 2011 experiment by the UC Berkeley which consisted in showing some videos to a group of subjects to extract an approximate version of what they were watching in real time. In both cases, the researches scanned the brain activity through fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), which measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow. The Yale researches, though, focused on those parts of the brain which are specifically involved in subjective perception, thus managing to gather more specific information and to reconstruct truly recogizable faces. So what could be the future applications of this mind-blowing technology? Identifying criminals, killers and terrorists? Strengthening national security by reading the citizens minds? Anticipating our needs and desires to sell us customized products and services? Undermining our privacy to the point of depriving us of our deepest and most intimate thoughts? Well, lets hope that it will simply allow us to share our experiences, memories and thoughts with the ones we love. Picture: Ralph Fiennes in Strange Days by Katherine Bigelow, 1995

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Sometimes the weirdest mental links are the most ingenious ones. Take these two apparently disconnected considerations: the Japanese live in tiny spaces with no room at all for growing plants and Japan railways are a major means of passenger transport. Well, somebody added them up to conceive a series of rooftop gardens on train stations, where passengers and commuters can kill time tending to their own tiny garden while they wait for their train to arrive. That ‘somebody’ is the East Japan Railway Company, which collaborated with Ekipara  giving birth to the Soradofarm project. At the projects’ 5 locations, passengers will find everything they need – tools, water and even seeds – and the reason for such an efficient service is that renting a plot will cost you an annual fee of almost $1000. Time will tell how much the japanese are willing to spend to get the unique opportunity of growing their own food and do some relaxing gardening in the open air…

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Beer is not just one of the worlds most beloved drinks. According to a group of researchers from the Polytechnic Institute in Tomar, Portugal, it might even contribute in saving our planet, because by blending in the grains left over from making beer, the bricks that we use for building our houses could become more environmentally friendly and better insulators. At present, polystyrene pellets are used in some bricks to achieve the same effect, but synthetics are certainly not eco-friendly and EU restrictions on carbon emissions have made it expensive to incorporate polystyrene and other synthetic materials into bricks. The research engineers team, led by professor Eduardo Ferraz, managed show that brewery grains can be mixed into clay bricks to enhance their ability to trap heat, without compromising strength. Spent grain for the process should be easily available, because commercial breweries produce huge quantities of it as a pulpy mixture that is usually used in animal feed or ends up in landfill. The "beer bricks" contain 5 per cent spent grains and are just as strong as conventional bricks; yet, since the grains make the bricks more porous and allow them trap more air, they are able to reduce the heat loss by 28 per cent. Unfortunately, according to some manufacturers who experimented with beer bricks, the stench of the moist grains tends to be overpowering - but the smell will vanish once the bricks are dry.

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What do we see when we think of a watch? Round case, glass, hands, strap. Thats basically how we have known this everyday object for well over a century - a familiar accessory that might appear sophisticated and minimal like a design object or rich and opulent like a jewel. And this image is so deep-rooted in our culture and in our collective imagination that the bare idea of a "smartwatch" sounds almost threatening. What could this clever cloggs of a watch look like? Will measuring time be just an incidental feature to it? Will it be to a regular watch as an old handset is to a smartphone? Well, Moto360s main plus is that it actually looks like a watch. Motorolas smartwatch is a nice, recognizable, and even sophisticated object - but most of all its a state-of-the-art wearable device that wont make us feel too nerdy wearing it or using it in public. Needless to say, the technology behind it has nothing to do with your good old traditional watch: bound to be on the US market by next summer, Moto 360 is based on Android Wear, Googles wearable technology, developed and designed to extend the Android platform to a new generation of wearable devices. Moto 360 supports all of Android Wears features including custom notifications and voice commands. You’ll be able to use swipe gestures to navigate the UI as well as “OK Google” spoken prompts, but you’ll need a smartphone connected to it. It will be compatible with any Android device running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or up. 

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Jord is the Swedish word for “soil”, a basic, essential material, just like natural wood - the material thats been chosen to replace todays metal & rubber for these beautiful handmade mechanical limited edition watches . Talking about wooden watches in the time of smart watches (of which we will be writing very soon, by the way) might sound strange, and yet it is precisely since it has become a rarity to see somebody wear a watch  around the wrist that regular watches, almost minimalistic in their being made for the sole purpose of measuring time, have acquired a fresh, dinstinctive charm. The idea of going back to nature and craftmanship, a choice that contributes in making these pieces inevitably unique through the combination of various grains and natural colors, is something that truly strikes us as a positive, creative challenge. Jords headquarters are in St Louis Missouri, and they currently produce a collection of 22 different watches.

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Carpets can be tricky – they sure can make a room look and feel warm and inviting, yet sometimes their presence ends up being slightly awkward or flashy. Opting for an eco-friendly rag made from reclaimed materials is quite an interesting way of dealing with the problem, especially if the alteration is somehow still visible. That is certainly the case of Jeans Label, a brilliant carpet made from leather patches belonging to old pairs of jeans. Of course, each carpet is unique and the result is a retro rug with a well-worn out look. Sophie Aschauer’s Serpentsea mats have a very different style – made out of recycled marine rope and woven by hand with four different traditional knots, they are all different and can be used both indoors and out to add a nautical flair. Second Life Rugs is a brand of eco-friendly upcycled rugs handmade with wool production residues. Instead of being spun and dyed, the wool scraps are boiled, shredded and knotted to become beautiful, thick, shag-pile carpets. Finally, carpets lend themselves to become something highly abstract, like a work of art. That’s the idea behind the “temporary contemporary” carpets by We Make Carpets, a trio of Dutch artists/designers offering a contemporary interpretation of the carpet as a “centuries-old medium”. By sampling analog everyday items of use into carpets with impressive sizes, WMC shows how products that normally have no value once they have been used, such as plastic forks, plasters, paving tiles, pasta, cotton balls and pegs, can be arranged in an inventive way to form a graphic pattern. Picture: Jeans Label Teppich by Polytuft

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“We are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boudaries of the screen”. That’s basically the new challenge that Google and its researchers, particularly Johnny Lee and his small team based in California, have been facing lately. Giving mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion is the goal of Google’s Project Tango, an android-based phone containing customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment. These sensors allow the phone to make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second, updating its position and orientation in real-time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space around you. So what new perspectives does this advanced vision technology open? The most obvious ones concern indoor navigation, mapping, immersive gaming and support for visually impaired users. Imagine capturing the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping, playing hide-and-seek in your house with your favorite game character, or offering the visually-impaired the chance to navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places. These are Google’s ideas, yet it is now up to professional developers to dream up new, creative and innovative applications for this technology; to this purpose, Google allowed developers to sign up for access to 200 prototype Project Tango phones. Developers will have to provide Google with a clear idea of what they want to build with the device to push the technology forward and make maximum use of this human-like understanding of space. We just can’t wait to see what’s coming next…

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In spite of the obstacles, the traffic and the major risks they run on a daily basis, urban cyclists are a growing breed. To be a part of it you need an appropriate vehicle, some tenacity, a Zen-like indifference towards all kinds of weather and, above all, strong lungs and legs - because cycling from home to work and vice versa can be quite a long and complicated story in a big city. Or you can turn to a little help in the form of a pedal assist - in other words, you might opt for an electric bicycle, which would allow you to cover long distances without giving up your green attitude. And since urban bikers usually care for the appearance and the design of their vehicle, the good old electric bicycle - once the choice of a somewhat elderly slice of customers - has kind of revamped itself to attract a new target, often mixing state-of-the-art technology and a pleasantly retro spirit. Oto Cycles (see picture above) is a Spanish brand of unique electric bicycles inspired by 1950s motorcycles. Behind their vintage appearance hides modern technology allowing users to accelerate to 30 miles per hour without breaking a sweat. Both models, Otok and Otor, are made from lightweight steel and weigh around fifty pounds. They come with an NCM battery and rear hub motor,  a pedal-powered LCD display keeping tabs on the speed and functionalities, and a front LED headlight. Oto Cycles are customizable in terms of colors, tire styles and seats. And they dont come cheap - they start at $3,700, which is pretty expensive for a bike, but ten again certainly much more affordable than buying a car.Faraday, in San Francisco, has set another great example of contemporary electric bicycle. A start-up company founded by a team of engineers, designers, and industry veterans who passionately believe that better bikes make a better world, Faraday has designed a prototype called the Faraday Porteur and inspired by the classic European delivery bikes of the 1940’s and 50’s, updated with state-of-the-art components and construction techniques. The motor and battery are almost entirely invisible at first glance, hidden away inside the frame. And actually, the electric power boost is a secondary feature - the Porteur looks just like a retro and comfortable cruiser with a secret component that you can rely on in case of emergency, but which is nevertheless super efficient. It weighs only 39 pounds (without the rack), and the current price is $3,500 - the pilot production is already sold out but you can pre-order your Porteur from their second production run, beginning to ship by late summer, 2014.

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The topic of nuclear fusion never fails to astonish us and give us new hope for a better future - after all, who wouldnt wish for a world with a clean, unlimited energy source? Weve been following this interesting field of research for some time, yet recently something truly new and thrilling has come up: unlike E-Cat or Defkalion, the latest - and successful - experiment does not concern cold fusion, but a kind of fusion replicating the power source of the sun and stars, the equivalent of a chain reaction, a self-sustaining “burn” capable of producing more energy than is needed to get the process started in the first place. This process requires very intense pressures and extremely high temperatures, needed to get atoms of hydrogen to fuse. Of course, we need to generate fusion at considerably lower temperatures, here on Earth. The ultimate goal is to obtain the so-called ignition, the process of releasing fusion energy equal to or greater than the amount of energy used to confine the fuel, an aim that has long been considered the "holy grail" of inertial confinement fusion science. The good news is that, as reported by Nature magazine, after several failed tries and a mediatic misunderstanding, the team of researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, have, for the first time, extracted more energy from controlled nuclear fusion than was absorbed by the fuel to trigger it. Technically, this is the result of repeated tests and calibrations involving 192 ultra-powerful laser beams focused on a tiny deuterium-tritium filled capsule. The laser energy is absorbed by the hohlraum, which re-radiates it as X-rays, some of which are absorbed by the fuel capsule. The reaction is thus triggered and, at the same time,  confined - which is the essential condition for generating more energy than was consumed. Another thing worth considering is the fact that unlike nuclear fission, which requires the enrichment of rare elements such as uranium isotopes, the fuel triggering nuclear fusion - namely tritium and deuterium - is naturally abundant, at least as far as deuterium is concerned. Furthermore, fusion does not produce a long-term and dangerous legacy of radioactive waste. Although the experiment has not achieved proper ignition, this is most certainly a major step towards clean and commercially exploitable fusion-generated energy.

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The warm, rough look and feel of the textile against the smooth, matte polished aluminum frame. These are the elements that make Copenhagen, the new loudspeaker unit by Vifa, a unique and desirable object of Nordic design. Vifa is a Danish brand with over 80 years of experience and heritage as a supplier of loudspeaker units for many well-known high-end brands, and Copenhagen is their first own series of wireless and portable loudspeakers, so this is not just a matter of high end design: the sound is also great and true to the original pieces of music. But then of course, Copenhagen is also beautiful object; designed by Danish Design People studio, it comes with a special-woven textile cover by Kvadrat in six selected colors, each one with its own character. The discretely embossed logo and embroidered volume buttons complement the understated look of this loudspeaker that plays elegantly together with the surroundings. Simplicity and charm in a perfect orchestration.

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A former air raid bunker dating back to 1943 whose super-thick concrete walls allowed it to withstand attacks from the ground or the air during World War 2 and even to survive a controlled demolition by the British army in 1947. Located in Hamburg, Germany, in the heart of the Wilhelmsburg disctrict, the bunker has recently undergone a huge and innovative restoration project that managed not only to reconvert it into something completely new, but even to preserve it as a monument and a memorial by mounting a permanent exhibition in and around the building (plus a café with a view and a panoramic terrace on the top of one of the bunker’s flak towers). As for the reconversion, the old bunker promises to become a symbol of the “Renewable Wilhelmsburg” Climate Protection Concept, by offering the surrounding area a veritable power plant based on a careful combination of solar energy, biogas, wood chips, and waste heat from a nearby industrial plant. At the heart of the project is the large heat reservoir built inside the former air raid bunker, capable of supplying a district covering an area of more than 1.2 square kilometres with heat while also feeding renewable power into the electricity grid, thus meeting the heating requirements of around 3,000 households and the electricity needs of around 1,000 homes (equalling a carbon saving of 95 per cent). The concept is the first of its kind in the world, and an extension of the project focused on the use of excess wind power from northern Germany to be transformed into heat in the reservoir is currently being researched Photo: © IBA Hamburg

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Sometimes even the tiniest and apparently useless spaces can turn into small architectural miracles, especially in a city like Tokyo, where a staggering growth has made space a rare and precious resource which needs to be extremely rational and optimized. Yet rationalizing and optimizing does not necessarily mean giving up a green lifestyle or abandoning the idea of living in a design oriented house. And thats what architect Ryue Rishizawa, the talented and visionary winner of the 2010 Pritzker Prize, has amazingly proved with his garden house project in one of Tokyos most densely populated areas. Faced with the need to somehow invent space, Ryue made great use of a site that was just four metres wide between two tall buildings and invisible from the main road. He designed a beautiful forur-storey building with glass walls and lots of plants which looks like some mysterious vertical garden; as it turs out, it is a proper home (and office) and the array of plants and flower vases is aimed at maintaining confidentiality by screening the rooms from the gaze of passers-by. This unique house with no facade is a bright, green and alive space where there are no interior walls dividing the surface area into rooms. Only full-height windows and curtains form the separation between the interior and the amenities placed in the exterior. The feeling of living in a hanging garden is emphasised by a thin layer of soil spread out on the floor of the upper room and by the continuous transition between inside and out. Staircases spiral up through the building, passing through circular openings in the thick concrete floor plates. A similar opening cuts through the roof, allowing taller plants to stretch through to the upper terrace. As for the interiors, they are definitely minimal in terms of furnishings and decor, but each room has its own garden so that the residents may go outside to feel the breeze, read a book or cool off in the evening and enjoy an open environment in their daily life. The result is a pure, quiet space where you can find shelter from the citys chaos. Photo: Iwan Baan

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In a not-so-distant future, we will be able to travel on driver-free cars and planes without pilots, build skyscrapers whose height exceeds 10 kilometers, and probably even to clone humans. We will live to older than 150 years, select elements of our offsprings genetic makeup and use computers with a sense of smell and touch. We are not talking science fiction - these are actually the predictions from thinkers, scientists and pundits who were consulted by BBC at the beginning of last year to draw a scenario of the next 150 years to come. The conjectures range from the serious to the fanciful, from the exciting - the first base on Mars around 2060 and the opportunty to buy high resolution bionic eyes in only 6 years  - to the petrifying - a world governement in 2030 and the beginning of a new glacial era in 2090. And to get a gauge on how likely they are to happen, they asked the special bets department at British betting firm Ladbrokes to give their odds on each prediction coming true. About last year, the experts seem to have been a bit too daring, although they certainly pointed out some growing trends such as Chinas scientific progress, the evolution of virtual reality and the development of medical apps.So what should we be expecting in the next few years? An attractive prospect might become a reality already in 2014: the opportunity to have our entire genome sequenced for under 100 dollars (but thats very optimistic, dont you think?). In 2015, a digital currency might be universally accepted in the USA (1/5), and there is a remote possibility that the first immortal mouse will be created (1/6). Quite surprisingly, there is no mention of the impending climate change that might threaten cities Venice and  New York in as soon as 30 years. But then probably thats far too predictable to bet on.

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The 3D printer really is one of those inventions that might thoroughly change our everyday life in the next future. Being able to actually make models, objects and furniture skipping the whole craft/industrial production process is already startling, not to mention the idea of 3D printing food in space. But the latest 3D printing revolution is even more astounding: the University of Southern California is testing a giant 3D printer that could be used to build a whole house in under 24 hours. The name for this this technology which promises to disrupt the whole building industry is Contour Crafting. Created by professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, the 3D house printer is basically a giant robot that replaces construction workers with a nozzle on a gantry, this squirts out concrete and can quickly build a home according to a computer pattern. So what are the possible scenarios of 3D printing houses as a common practice? First of all, the cost of home-owning might drop dramatically, theoretically allowing  millions of  needy families and single people to buy a house - yet this issue should be considered in relation with the building regulations of every single country. A more interesting and practicable use of this technology might be building emergency and replacement housing in disaster relief areas. When will Contour Crafting be ready to become reality? For the time being, its use for the construction of civil structures is still in the testing phase, alongside the construction of structures on the moon for research purposes.

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Urban farming has come to Tokyo, one of the most high tech and tentacular cities of the Far East, a tangle of skyscrapers, futuristic buildings and elevated super fast trains. Hosted in the neighborhood of the same name, Roppongi Urban Farm is a small agricultural complex designed by ON Design studio set in a showcase structure consisting of eight glass containers allowing passersby to observe the vegetables growing. Conceived to fit into the tiny spaces offered by the city, these vegetable gardens are exceptionally small - a sort of thought-provoking suggestion to induce reflection on the close relationship between man and nature rather than an actual food source. Every garden is entrusted to the care of a farmer whos in charge of growing fruits and vegetables that will then either be sold or becaome an ingredient in the kitchen of nearby Roppongi Nouen restaurant. The project aims at making people in the city aware of the importance of eating fresh, seasonal vegetables, as well as at spreading organic farming methods and creating a urban farming community, thus responding to an authentic social phenomenon. Although the fruits and vegetables that grow inside the glass containers of  Roppongi are not exactly the result of a natural process - the plants are grown under artificial lighting and the temperature is controlled by a computer - technology seems like an accettable compromise for having your own fresh local salad...

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Refueling: thats the main issue when it comes to electric cars. Recharging stations in the city can be extremely bulky and expensive, hence becoming an obstacle. Ideally, what it takes is a simple, quick, highly usable and affordable system. Which is what a German startup called Ubitricity has recently launched in Berlin. Ubitricity is an intelligent and cost-efficient recharging solution relying on a transportable mobile meter that cam be carried in the boot of an electric car, allowing the user to fill up at any time by connecting to one of the public street lights in the city equipped with a Ubitricity socket. And there is yet another asset: the billing system. Thanks to a special app, users can check their bills and energy use and view a map of the recharging points. Altogether, the concept seems to be a potentially successful one, matching minimal technology requirements and low operating costs. Following tests in 2012 and 2013 and an investment of half a million euros, the first 100 recharging points installed on street lights in Berlin should be accessible from the beginning of this year. Photo: Robert Lehmann

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An astonishing project that aims at facing present and future challenges such as population density and air pollution in one of the most futuristic, technological - and somewhat scary - cities on earth, Shenzen, a Chinese metropolis of over 13 million inhabitants which grew impressively over the last thirty years and is now considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Asian Cairns is an efficient and cutting edge urban space whose concept has been developed by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut. The piles of giant pebbles from which it drew its name are actually six sustainable tall buildings - or farmscrapers - with a unique design style, featuring suspended orchards and vegetable gardens. The towers would also be self sustaining: all energy would be sourced from the sun and wind, all food and commodities would be produced within the building (in the above-mentioned gardens and orchards), anything produced would be recyclable and local expertise would be capitalised wherever possible. The idea is to create a new and much needed concept of urbanisation - a fertile urbanisation with zero carbon emissions and with positive energy - meaning that Asian Cairns would produce more energy than it consumes.

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Whatever might be written in the millions of letters Santa receives every year does not account for the huge Christmas parcels containing bulky plastic toys he (or whoever in his behalf) constantly delivers. As if the planet was not already brimming with indecomposable materials - as are childrens bedrooms. What if we tried to buy our kids ethical gifts for a change? Opting for objects made with natural or recycled materials, artisan toys and products made with responsible labour practices means giving them a better future, as well as some well deserved fun. Artisan ToysDiotoys is a Hungarian family business producing amazing handmade wooden toys with complex mechanics since 1987. Everything began with creative parents who decided to create toys as Christmas gifts  for their kids by themselves. Every piece of wood chosen for their miniature vehicles, animals and objects is hand-picked and individually checked. DIY ToysHeres another woodworker dad who invented the cutest toy for his kids. Weerol is a clever wooden kit that you can build in several configurations - a ride-on, a push toy, and a wheelbarrow - to grow with your childrens stages of development and changing interests. Ethical ToysEthicalkidz is yet another family business from Derbyshire, UK, which creates, promotes and sells handmade toys produced locally and with sustainable materials. To be coherent with their values, though, you should probably buy them only if you are in Britain. Eco-friendly ToysUnlike the other three, Hape is an industrial business, the world’s largest producers of toys made from sustainable materials, with special attention to energy consumption, waste  management and responsible handling of resources. In other words, a corporation with eco and social responsibility. Picture: Diotoys

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With rents constantly increasing, mainteinance costs rising and energy consumption fastly becoming a unsustainable, living in a large apartment doesnt really seem to be the smartest of choices, especially in a big town. Oddly, an alternative comes from the United States, where everything is big: its the tiny house concept, a small but functional dwelling with just everything you might need. Nice, affordable, and often design-oriented, the tiny house could be a very practical solution for densely populated urban areas. The very first tiny house district was born last year in Washington DC, a stone’s throw from the nation’s Capitol. Its called Boneyard Studios and it is actually a showcase of tiny houses on wheels, some of which look very contemporary (see picture). Their common feature is the size: 200 square feet is the maximun size for a comfortable, complete, and attractive tiny house, featuring an external vegetable garden and a shared garden as well. Boneyard Studios is the brainchild of a group of young people sharing the tiny house philosophy and willing to demonstrate creative urban infill on one of many vacant city lots by modelling what a tiny house community could look like. Besides promoting the benefits of tiny houses, the guys at Bonyard Studios are also advocating for DC zoning/code changes to allow construction and habitation of accessory dwelling units and tiny houses (in Washington D.C., an alley home must be at least 400 square foot before it is considered habitable, and the lots have to be at least 30 feet wide).The tiny house movement even inspired some famous achitects such as Renzo Piano, who designed his own versionof a tiny house, Diogene.

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What does a city smell like? Portland, Oregon, smells like Port Orford cedar, a rare tree growing along the Pacific coastline and giving off a sweet, ourdoorsy scent enhanced by abundant rains. Taylor Ahlmark and Anoria Gilbert have created a very charming world of scents; their Portland-based artisan soap workshop, Maak Lab, relies upon all-natural vegan ingredients from local farms to experiment and patiently reconstruct the smell of the city and of the surrounding area. The result is a range of 75 individual scents created by playing with nature from the streets, plant-based scents, and the Pacific Northwest environment - familiar scents that smell like home, at least for those who live around here. Now isnt t that an gloriously slow idea?

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Sunny Italys luxuriant balconies, brimming with flowers and pots of citruses and other plants, are famous all over the world. Yet it is very rare to see potted vegetables. Which is too bad, considering that many vegetable varieties can grow perfectly well in pots on your balcony, thus providing you with a small (and rewarding) self-production. Thats basically the idea behind Piccolo Vegs for Pots, a young and small seed company from Venice selecting and selling heirloom, bizarre, rare and partly organic seeds of vegetables varieties recommended for container growing - dwarf tomatoes, peppers, miniature aubergines and everything that can be adapted to out-of-soil cultivation. As well as for their content, Piccolos seed boxes and envelopes stand out for their beauty and sustainability. Handmade from envelope assemblage to actual packing, stamping and sealing, they are made from FSC cardboard and recycled paper and stamped with water based inks.

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What if the house we live in could help us be healthier? This is basically the idea behind the new house design project recently completed at 66 East 11th Street in New York Citys Greenwich Village: five gorgeous lofts in an 1897 Italianate building with a terra-cotta facade, acanthus carvings, and a history as a dress factory and most recently a parking garage. In case you are wondering who thought of such a sumptuous living environment, heres the answer: the Scialla twins, former partners at Goldman Sachs, and their real estate firm Delos. So yes, there is big money behind it. "A 24-hour carwash that works on the human body” is the definition of the project as provided by Paul D. Scialla himself - a very practical metaphore that states clearly the aim of the whole project: building a house where everything is designed to make you feel healthier and happier, mixing state-of-the-art green technologies and wellness amenities. The model for the East 11th Street apartments is the West 13th Street prototype-loft where the twins themselves live, where the air is continually cleansed and infused by aromatherapy, the showers cascade is supplemented by a spritz of vitamin C and aloe, and the heated stone path to the shower provides instant foot reflexology, just to make a few examples. The amenities include a circadian lighting system that provides energizing light in the morning and melatonin-enhancing light in the evening, a water purification system, filters screening out air pollutants, allergens and toxins, and a coating destroying bacteria in the kitchen and bathrooms. As for the prices, they range from $15.5 million to $50 million for the duplex penthouse... Sometimes wellness is rather exclusive.

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Nairobi, which sadly hit the headlines these last days for a tragic event, is not just a transit hub for safaris and white, pristine beaches. Over the last years, the Kenyan city has seen the birth of the so-called Silicon Savannah, the African version of the American Silicon Valley, the first regional center for the development and the promotion of innovation, mainly in the fields of technology and information technology. Its core is iHub, a global point of reference - the first of its kind in Africa - which inspired a movement of young people to conceive and develop new technologies for the global market. The results are already clear - think of the mPesa mobile money transfer service, which allowed millions of Africans worldwide to make digital payments with no need for banks, ATMs or credit cards. Or of M-Farm, a transparency tool for Kenyan farmers where they simply SMS a number to get information about the retail price of their products, buy their farm inputs directly from manufacturers at favorable prices, and find buyers for their produce. These successful cases even attracted the attention of some IT giants such as Google or Microsoft, to the point that their business travels often include a visit to the Silicon Savannah. The secret behind such quick and positive outcome is what we could call "the three Cs": Community, Connectivity, and... Caffeine. Building an innovative community requests hiring or offering a partnership to skilled, talented young people. But these talents also need a working environment which can support and guide them - and the guidance often comes from Kenyan people who returned to Africa after working in the United States  - maybe in the Silicon Valley - for a period of time and can offer success examples to follow and possibly improve. Connectivity is based on a sound and reliable network - a well-established mobile technology market - as well as on good commercial relationships with neighbouring Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and emerging South Sudan, but also with India and the US. Finally, caffeine, and more specifically Pete’s Coffee, a place were new ideas are constantly born, the café which provides the caffeine that is needed to fuel the designers and developers that call the iHub their work-space. Picture: a rendering of  the Konza City BPO project

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Are you unhappy with the streets of your neighborhood? Do you wish there were more bike lanes, more sidewalks, less space for vehicle traffic? It’s time to try and re-imagine the whole system, designing your ideal streets with just the perfect balance of elements. There’s tool called Streetmix that can help you do that easily and quickly – a web app allowing you to design, remix and share your ideal street by dragging and dropping design segments and adjusting their parameters. With Streetmix - a product of a Code for America hackathon now in public beta - you can add bike paths, widen sidewalks or traffic lanes, learn how all of this can impact your community. The app uses real-life design constraints, so that the user can understand what urban planners need to incorporate in their designs – as a matter of fact, people are already tackling actual projects, sharing them online or printing them out to get feedback, and urbanists and community groups are using Streetmix to give voice to the community in public design meetings. Could this democratize the street design process and bridge the gap between street designers and users? Guess we’ll see it in the next few months. In the meantime, take a look at the Streetmix blog to check out what’s new.

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Making things - creating them with your own hands, understanding how they work, being able to fix them... Who can do that nowadays? Manual dexterity, quite an ordinary skill until a few decades ago, has become some sort of magic, a gift restricted to a small group of keen and ingenious individuals. Some of them belong to a British institution called The Society of Model and Experimental Engineers, founded back in 1898 by Percival Marshall. The society gathers artisans, model makers and amateur enigineers; it has survived two world wars as well as the introduction of technology barely dreamed about at the beginning of the 20th century. It now has hundreds of members from across the world, all united by their passion for making and creating. Intrigued by the beauty of the objects created by the Society, London-based director Anne Holiday documented its work and workshops; the result is an amazing project called The Makers of Things - four documentaries telling the stories of these industrious men busy with the tools of the trade, fixing old engines, screwing, hammering, soldering, and making electric circuits. In other words, creating objects.

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Fairphone is different - it is a smartphone with high performances and yet produced with minimal harm to people and the environment. It is  the icon of a new way of making products, a fairer, more transparent and more sustainable way. Everything began three years ago in Amsterdam with a non-profit organisation whose mission was to raise awareness on the relationship between conflict minerals and their electronic goods. The organisation later turned into a social enterprise of nine people led by founder Bas Van Abel, an enthusiast of open design and social innovation. Through the Waag Society, a foundation that aims to foster experimentation with new technologies, Bas managed to receive funding to produce the first batch of 20,000 fairphones that can be ordered online and should be ready by the end of October. The team has been researching and travelling for several months to open up the supply chain and avoid conflict minerals from the Eastern DR Congo, mined in the context of armed conflict and human rights abuses. Definitely not an easy task, and yet Fairphone is slowly opening the way to conflict-free resources: any profit coming from the first batch of the phones will be invested in supply chain improvements. Fairphones business case is pretty unique; as a social enterprise, it has no interest in competing with the electronics giants and with their improvements focused on technology. Its customers cannot be captured in marketing terms, but through the values that contribute to creating a human feeling of fair: sharing, opening, positivity, creativity, and access.

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Have you ever seen one of those bizarre high bicycles with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear, maybe in a silent movie? They used to be called penny-farthing and - although it seems incredible that anyone could ever have considered them to be an efficient means of transportation - they were pretty popular until the 1880s, before the development of the safety bicycle. Many years later, in the 1980s, an engineer from Kyjov - in the then Communist  Czechoslovakia - found a battered but original high bicycle and had an idea that would change his life. There was a local cycling club in the village, and Mesicek decided to take apart and rebuild the penny-farthing for its members. But one bike did not go very far among 64 members, so Josef decided to produce another. And another... Making high bicycles quickly became a hobby, then a passion, and before long a family business. Josef and his son Zdenek started constructing their own high-wheelers by combining various design elements of the original high bicycle, and thus became famous worldwide, attracting more custoners than you would expect. Today, a team of four works in their workshop, handfashioning every component to their very exacting standards with no rush. Mesiceks bicycle reflects the design principles of the early high bicycle, but is not a copy. Their craftsmanship is a homage to the brave pioneers of cycling and to those who made the early high bicycles. The Mesiceks have also started manufacturing a limited series of their version of an early tricycle design.

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Using the bicycle not only for commuting to work, but even as a means of transportation for carrying goods and people. This new wave comes from Northern Europe, where the bicycle culture is so strong that it doesnt care about fleeting trends, bad weather or  low temperatures. In Belgium, cargo bikes are so popular that a small cargo bike sharing has already been established. In the framework of the project “Wijk aan Zet” (“your neighbourhood’s move”) residents of Ghent got the chance to apply for financial support from the city for initiatives that enhance the quality of life. Residents of the Rabot neighbourhood decided to purchase and share a cargo bike - they can now make reservations on the website and rent it for 2 Euros per shift, plus a one-off 30 Euros fee. Similarly, residents from the Toekomststraat used the funds to purchase and share a bicycle trailer; residents can register by e-mail and with a password the trailer can be reserved. The trailer can hold two to four crates with a maximum load of 60 kg. Residents who wish to purchase their own electric cargo-bike can also get financial support from the city council - which they did, considering that in the first 4 months the city granted a subsidy of 9.600 Euros for the purchase of 24 electric cargo-bikes. Those unsure if a cargo-bike would be a good solution for them can try one from Max Mobiel, the initiative for sustainable commuting in Ghent. Photo: Richard Masoner

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When the Wright brothers achieved the first successful airplane flight in 1903, the crucial fact about the flight was not how many feet it flew, but the fact that flying was really possible. The same goes for research on cold fusion, an incredible technology that promises to subvert the global energy industry by allowing us to produce low cost clean energy. Weve been following this intriguing field of research for some time and the latest news are from a few days ago, when Defkalion, the Greek-canadian company which produced Hyperion, concurrent reactor prototype of Andrea Rossis E-Cat, held a public presentation and later an eight-hour live stream demo to test the reactor based in Milan, with the aim of proving that LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reaction) is possible. Although the researchers had hoped for a higher energy output, the demo was moderately successful and the test was a big step on the road to a brand new concept of energy. In spite of the skepticism and of the conspiracy theories that keep surrounding it, cold fusion seems more and more on the verge of becoming a reality.

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A ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below. Crazy as the idea might sound - that’s part of the reason they’re calling it Project Loon — this is Googles latest project, aiming at overcoming the digital divide by beaming Internet access to the ground  in rural, remote, and underserved areas, also helping with communications after natural disasters. As a matter of fact, although the Internet is one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetimes, for 2 out of every 3 people on earth it is still out of reach, due to terrestrial challenges and costs - in most of the countries in the southern hemisphere, the cost of an Internet connection is more than a month’s income. Googles project is not the first one whose goal is to bypass these obstacles; many projects have looked at high-altitude platforms to provide Internet access to fixed areas on the ground, but trying to stay in one place like this requires a system with major cost and complexity. Balloons are a creative solution which could really work. Carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, they will sail freely on the winds. Googles team has already come up with how to to control their path through the sky using just wind and solar power: balloons can be moved up or down to catch the winds they want them to travel in. Of course, this is still highly experimental technology; yet, Google has already launched quite a few balloons and the first tests are under way. To learn more about the next steps, follow their Google+ page. Photo: Tray Ratcliff

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One of the most frequent objections raised by electric car skeptics concerns the recharging, often deemed too complicated and slow. But of course manufacturers are already working hard on it, and good news have recently come from Tesla Motors regarding their core product, Model S. This amazing electric sportscar with a 265-mile range has been designed to be capable of fast battery swapping, which can ultimately prove to be a better solution than charging the car battery. With a demonstration presented by founder Elon Musk, the company has shown that swapping a battery in the Model S takes about 90 seconds - less than half of the time needed for refuelling an Audi A8 - and the driver doesnt even have to get out of the car. The battery swap should cost $60 to $80 (the same as about 15 gallons of gas) and an annual subscription might become available in the future. Of course, even battery swapping needs special stations; the first battery swapping stations will be coming to the busiest corridors between New York and Los Angeles, making it possible to drive coast to coast strictly relying on electricity.

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Leaving home and reaching your destination in Milan smoothly thanks to an app that alerts you to delays, slowdowns and bad service in public transportation. Can it be true? The application in question is called SA(S) – which stands for Sto Arrivando, Spero (Ill be there soon, I hope) – a free  iPhone app (soon to be released for Android as well) which collects the official -and thus absolutely reliable - tweets on the state of the service posted by Milans Public Transport Authority (ATM) and analyzes them to extract the content of the message, the involved metro/bus line and the extent of the delay. We gave it a try and it seems to work properly. The graphics is simple and cool, based on a color code that allows you to view the information readily: red stands for no service, yellow for slowdown or detour, green for good service and grey for a previous alert without delays. To learn more you just have to click on the line youre interested in. Yet, SA(S) is not the only application in its own genre. Moovit (free and available in three Italian cities - Milan, Rome , and Turin) is a crowd sourced application relying on local user communities sharing real-time information on the state on the service to calculate the fastest route. Those travelling on the London tube - which is notoriously the object of perpetual and inscrutable building works - can rely on Lines (£0.69), London Undergrounds beautiful official app, to keep informed on the status of the London Underground and look at a full offline tube map to find their bearings in the labyrinth. The New Yorkers favourite free subway application is called Embark and it plans tailored trips notifying delays and bad service to avoid bad surprises; it is available in several cities within the US and in London as well. Finally, The Transit App is a free app calculating the fastest route on public transportation from a given starting point relying on real-time data on the train/bus location. Available in many cities in the US and Canada, it integrates nicely with the new Maps in iOS 6.

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The third edition of the Two Degrees festival opened yesterday in London and it will continue with a whole week of events, performances and shows sitting somewhere between art and action to explore what is broken in the world and what can be done to mend it. According to the scientific community, over the next century the Earths average temperature will rise at a 25 times faster pace than it has risen over the 5,000 last years. Climate models predict that by 2100 the global temperature could rise by another 1C - 6C, yet the rise should not exceed 2 degrees - that is the threshold we must not cross for fear of triggering climate feedbacks which, once started, will be almost impossible to stop. Hence the name of  ArtsAdmin’s biennial festival of art and climate change supported by the European Commission Culture Programme as part of Imagine 2020, a wider network of eleven European Theatres aproducing programmes making explicit connection between artists’ works and climate change. Among the festivals events, OilCity is a piece of site-specific immersive theatre that asks audiences to participate, not just to sit in a theatre and watch; in this spy thriller for the post Occupy era, which takes place in various locations around the City, the audience eavesdrops on business people and seeks out secret documents hidden in dead drops, helping expose the government’s hidden involvement with an industry that is amongst other tragedies taking northern Canada to the brink of ecological disaster.At Tonybee Studios, ArtsAdmins headquarters, performance artist Kate McIntosh asks the public to use their ingenuity, creativity and skills to dissemble and reassemble everyday objects in Worktable. Tonight, the same location will be hosting comedians Davis Freeman and Jerry Killick with their 7 Promises show: we know we’re up against an impending ecological disaster but then why aren’t we doing more about it? It is time to change our habits, and if the only way to convince people is to pass out free alcohol... then why not?Until June 22

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Have you ever thought of building your own custom bicycle? Well, it may be easier than you think - you do not necessarily need to be an expert, and besides it could be fun. As easy as assembling Ikea furniture. Behind the idea is a Dutch architecture firm – based in Amsterdam, the city of bicycles pae excellence - which just launched Sandwichbike, a DIY bicycle fitting in a small, flat package that can be sent to you by post. Everything you need is in the box including the tools, so you can start assembling right away. In total, there are less than 50 parts - if you can make a sandwich, you can surely build a Sandwichbike. To enable you to build it yourself, Basten Leijh had to rethink every aspect of the classic velocipede. Instead of a welded frame, it is engineered as a ‘sandwich’ of two weather coated frames of layered plywood. Bonded together by ‘smart cylinders’, the frames and components become a rock-solid piece of technology that is both durable and extremely attractive. The absence of welding joints makes the frame very easy to assemble. The first Sandwichbikes concept was presented in 2006;  after a long time of looking for the right partners with the same vision, in 2011 the right people were found. Since then the preparation and engineering was started to bring Sandwichbikes to production. To launch Sandwichbikes, that will be available through their website within the next few weeks, a new company has been established. The Sandwichbikes product will be the first concept which will be launched by the Pedalfactory. The price of a Sandwichbike starts at € 799.

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Longing for a small private garden? There’s no need to have a huge outdoor space, a small balcony and even your living room will do – along with a nice pot and a touch of creativity. Strange as it might seem, one of the most useful and yet disregarded spaces for a garden is the ceiling: just think of airplants – they need neither water nor soil. The clavel del aire, a.k.a. tillandsia, has large red and pink buds and can be grown inside hanging pots to create your own indoor hanging garden. In case you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you might opt for a biodegradable pot: Vipot is made out of rice chaff, a waste material which is otherwise considered quite difficult to dispose of; it comes in various shapes and colors and it lasts up to two years before starting its natural decomposition process. The perfect item for a sustainable balcony garden. Finally, if you love plants to the point that you can’t part from them even at work, here’s an innovative idea for growing nts on your office desk: Smart Herb Garden, a project funded by Kickstarter, is a minimal design box hiding a natural micro habitat to help plants grow indoor. You just have to plug it into the wall and add water, the smart device takes care of everything else, including a natural-looking light system that gives plants enough light to grow while only requiring 6 watts of energy. You can grow basil, thyme or other herbs without worrying whether the plants have enough water, nutrients or light.

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On April 18 2011, we announced the validity of a new test on cold fusion conducted in Bologna by engineer Andrea Rossi. A little more than three years later, a new confimation comes from a comment that Mr Rossi himself posted on the Journal of Nuclear Physics, stating that a series of independent tests conducted by eleven people – experts and professors coming from different Universities around the world – resulted in a positive evaluation of his e-cat device. Although pretty satisfied with the results, Mr Rossi has not announced them yet, but they are bound to be published very soon. We truly hope this will mark the beginning of a huge energy revolution worldwide.

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On the election night back in 2008, right before the first victory of Barack Obama, for the first time in history the American audience believed they had seen a hologram - the hologram of journalist Jessica Yellin beamed into the studio. It soon turned out that it was no hologram at all, and yet the public had been fooled by that unexpected and (apparently) tridimensional projection. The trick was eventually unveiled: the hologram was the result of a simple superimposing of images obtained with the help of a green screen (like many Hollywood CGI special effects). Quite on the contrary, Displair, the new technology which recently debuted at CES in Las Vegas, is no trick; although it wont probably allow us to move like ghosts in faraway spaces, it certainly has a great potential. Whats it all about? Displair is an interactive fog display (the vapour is created with a haze machine) putting in the air 3D images. As admitted by its inventors, it is still a fresh technology, not yet suitable for private use - both because of the price (around 10,000 dollars) and because its most probable short-term applications seem to be more related to business (think of Displair serving as a futuristic noticeboard at meetings or in a hotel lobby) and medical environments (where it might help bedridden patients to do some excercise). So, apparently it will take some time before we can send our own hologram around the universe like Yoda used to do in Star Wars.

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Have you ever wondered how your mascara was made? Do you know whats in the cosmetics you use every day?  Urtegaarden has an answer to that. Their mission is to make DIY cosmetics a better experience, both in making the ingredients easily accessible and in educating the costumer to create perfect blendings. There are over 100 points of resales all over Denmark where product specific workshops are hosted every now and then – like do your lipgloss, invent your eyeshadows, how to make a foundation, etc. Besides make-up, Urtegaarden has also an extended section on the website listing recipes for creams, soaps and candles. Stepping away from some DIY bloggers rough approach, their recipes are fine calibrated and tested carefully by experts in the lab before publishing. All the ingredients are selected to guarantee a high quality-price performance. Except from preservatives (which are necessary in every cream), they are usually whole natural or semi-processed, most of them organic as well.  For instance, there is naturally harvested bee wax for lipsticks, organic shea butter, lanolin and hemp oil... Finally, in Urtegaardens shops – also online – you will find everything: raw ingredients, containers of all shapes, various essential tools - like the high temperatures thermometer – and a few starter-kits for beginners.

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Ever since the presidency of George W. Bush, the use of drones (i.e. an aircraft without a human pilot onboard) by the United States in order to hit enemy targets has been a controversial issue. The US Governement has rarely been open about the way drones work and their targets, not to mention the number of deaths - a high figure which increased considerably during Obamas presidency:  over 3,000 victims, 400 of which might be civilians. And  that accounts only for the years 2004-2013 in Pakistan (data are being continuously updated here). The advantages deriving from the use of drones are obvious: they are efficient at cutting costs and casualties on the American side. But what are the consequences? Thats what the United Nations have been investigating at the end of 2012. The UN has set up a dedicated investigations unit to examine the legality of drone attacks in cases where civilians are killed in so-called "targeted" counter-terrorism operations, including the activity of the British and Israeli military inteligence agencies in the so-called occupied territories. Yet, the use of drones is not limited to war zones; drones are currently used in surveillance and police operations in the US. Just a few days ago, the media reported the first manhunt operated with drone targeting within the American borders, although the piece of news was soon disclaimed by the relevant authorities. Yet, some 327 permits are still listed as active for the use of drones within the borders of the United States. Drones in the service of  “police, universities, state transportation departments and at least seven federal agencies”, and even of private citizens. Not surprisingly, the American Congress has recently started introducing legislation to limit the domestic use of drones.