This mesmerizing lamp reacts to earthquakes across the globe in real time

January 19, 2018 by  
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This minimalist lamp responds in real time to earthquakes around the world. French artist Fabien Bouchard , who works under the name Parse/Error , linked the lamp to the data from IRIS ( Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology ) to which it reacts by emitting light pulses and rumble-like sounds when an earthquake occurs. The clean, simple design makes the Earthquake Lamp a beautiful object for any home, but its purpose makes it more than a beautiful light source . The artist, who lived through the great 2011 T?hoku earthquake in Japan , drew inspiration from this devastating event and created an object that would offer a tangible connection to the Earth and the power of nature. Related: 14 brilliant new lighting designs that will inspire you Its shape– a flattened planisphere that represents the axis of the longitudes– gives off light and sound pulses that change according to the location, magnitude and duration of earthquake across the globe. Linked to a sub-woofer, the Earthquake Lamp produces an impressive rumble that will stop you in your tracks and induce a sense of both fascination and anxiety. + ParseError

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This mesmerizing lamp reacts to earthquakes across the globe in real time

Clever switches use your OCD tendencies to save electricity

December 21, 2017 by  
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Do you have a habit of forgetting to turn off the lights? Thai designer Pakaporn Teadtulkitikul has a smart solution for those of us with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Meet the OCD Switch, a clever light switch that takes advantage of our preference for pattern and symmetry to encourage users to turn the lights off and save electricity . When turned on, the switch is visually misaligned with its background, only to be set back in its proper place once turned off. Winner of a 2017 Red Dot Design concept Award , the OCD Switch is a simple and beautiful solution to a common problem. Pakaporn looked to basic human psychology to develop her concept and explored basic shapes and patterns familiar to the human brain for the design. Her final concept shows a white circular light switch with a ribbed pattern that is disrupted when turned on. Related: Obsession with material possessions makes you anxious and depressed The Red Dot design statement explains: “Observations about human behaviour and the subconscious tells us that human beings are naturally attracted to order, pattern and symmetry ; they feel uncomfortable when those are interrupted or when things seem off-balance. That is how we can trick the brain and manipulate the user’s routine behaviour to trigger a response.” + OCD Switch Via Yanko Design

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Clever switches use your OCD tendencies to save electricity

These dazzling zodiac lamps let you bring the heavens indoors

November 30, 2017 by  
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Brooklyn-based design laboratory Richard Clarkston Studio created the perfect lamp for star gazers. The firm’s new Constellation lamp series is made up of thin gold rods with LED-lit star nodes arranged into the various zodiac constellations. Thanks to the barely-there cords, the twinkling constellations hang delicately from the ceiling, creating a beautiful starry night scene. The Constellation system is flat packed with all of its components designed for easy assembly. Each light fixture has a specific design according to the zodiac sign ordered. To assemble, the thin rods equipped with the LED-powered star nodes just snap into place. Once assembled, the supports are threaded through a canopy and crimped in place using adjustable crimps. Related: Frederike Top’s geometric LED lamps cast colorful rays of ever-changing light Like most lamps , the system has to be positioned and hardwired into the ceiling. However, the constellation series can operate on batteries with the appropriate hardware. The LED bulbs used in the lamps are estimated to last over 50,000 hours and each star node can be independently replaced. + Richard Clarkston Studio

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These dazzling zodiac lamps let you bring the heavens indoors

Switching to outdoor LEDs has made light pollution worse without saving energy

November 24, 2017 by  
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LED lighting was supposed to help save the environment with its lower energy requirements and more specific light direction. But new research published in Scientific Advances reveals we are now being smothered in worse light pollution than ever before — without the energy savings we expected. As a result, we are not only failing to reduce our carbon footprint, but our health could be suffering as well. Scientists examined satellite imaging to determine if the planet’s surface appears to be brighter than it used to be. If LED lights were working as we’d expected, the skies in wealthy countries would be remaining the same or getting darker at night. But the opposite seems to be taking place. “[W]e observed wealthy countries staying constant, or in many cases increasing,” said Christopher Kyba, lead author of the study in an interview with Gizmodo . Related: This village in Arizona has a simple solution to light pollution Part of the reason for the increase is because many cities have added more lighting because of the energy savings from LED bulbs, a phenomenon known as the “rebound” effect. Not only has this increased light pollution, but it has negated the energy savings that would be seen by simply switching an incandescent bulb for an LED one. Light pollution is considered to be a serious health threat , akin to air pollution, not only for humans but for wildlife as well, because it disrupts biological circadian rhythms. Half of Europe and a fourth of North America have compromised night skies that can impact health. + Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent Via Gizmodo Lead image via Arturo Castaneyra

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Switching to outdoor LEDs has made light pollution worse without saving energy

These clever curtains transform your window into a dazzling nighttime cityscape

November 24, 2017 by  
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Do you dream of a new view from your city apartment? Now you can create your own with these snazzy curtains featuring cityscapes from New York and London. Designed by HoleRoll , the thick curtains – which block out heat and cold – are carefully punctured with thousands of tiny holes to let light shine through, resulting in sparkling urban skylines that will transform any room. The unique window coverings use a typical curtain system of roller blinds. Made out of thick German fabric, they block out 99 percent of light and UV rays from the interior. To create the dazzling cityscape images , the dark fabric is carefully punctured following a detailed design for each city. The tiny holes let in just a little bit of light, emulating those found in any nighttime skyline. Related: Light Activated Smart Curtains Could Cut Energy Bills by Half While the dreamy images are perfect for blocking out light and giving your home a bit of extra character, the curtain’s thick, light-blocking material may also help cut costs by keeping the cold out during winter and protecting the interior space from excessive heat during hot summer months. + HoleRoll Via Archdaily

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These clever curtains transform your window into a dazzling nighttime cityscape

This Living Light is powered by a houseplant

November 17, 2017 by  
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Imagine a lamp that doesn’t need to be plugged in – and that you have to water once a week. Ermi van Oers is making it happen with this incredible plant-turned-lamp. The Living Light is an off-grid light that’s powered by a houseplant instead of an electrical socket. As organic compounds are released into the soil from photosynthesis, bacteria generates electrons and protons. These particles are tapped as an energy source to power the light. The healthier the plant is, the more photosynthesis takes place – and the more energy the system generates. It’s a pretty cool way to gauge how happy your plant lamp is. Related: Extraordinary living chandelier with algae-filled leaves purifies the air The Living Light produces up to 0.1mW of energy, which isn’t enough to light an entire room, but it’s plenty to act as your evening reading lamp. Van Oers and team aren’t done yet – they’re working on increasing the energy output, and they imagine that entire towns could be powered by forests one day. + Ermi van Oers Via Dezeen

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This Living Light is powered by a houseplant

INTERVIEW: Inhabitat’s own Greg Beach on telling global stories through the lens of a small town

November 17, 2017 by  
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How much do you know about your hometown? Author and Inhabitat writer Greg Beach , who moved to Watertown, Massachusetts at age nine, was inspired to dig more into his town’s history after the Boston Marathon Bombing. You may only be familiar with the name Watertown because of the attack, but Beach shows there’s a lot more to this place in his new book The World and Watertown: Tales of an American Hometown . Not only was Watertown once the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s largest town, today it’s home to a garden cemetery, permaculture farmers, a project to preserve the stories of Armenians far from home, and the artist of an Afghan-American wheelchair superhero comic . But this isn’t just the story of one city. Beach’s book explores issues relevant to the entire world through stories set in this small New England town. Read on for our interview after the jump. INHABITAT: What was your initial inspiration for The World and Watertown? BEACH: The original spark was what happened after the Boston Marathon Bombing. The whole greater Boston area shut down, but 20 blocks in Watertown had a particular experience other parts of the city didn’t. There were a lot of questions I was curious about after it was all over. Stories started coming out of things people were concerned about and wanted to talk about, and there wasn’t really a space to do that immediately after because people were relieved it was over and feeling patriotic about the whole thing. So they didn’t really want to ask some of those tough questions. Once I got into that I realized it was a lot bigger than what I was capable of doing as a part-time writer. It was both too big and too small because the town is a lot more than this event that happened. I’d been thinking about writing a book for a long time, and it was a way for me to dig into issues I’ve always really cared about and tell those big stories, whether it’s the war on terror, or ecology , or native people, through that localized lens. That’s why the ‘world’ comes before ‘Watertown,’ because it is the story of a town, but it was mainly to be a story of how the world finds it its way through this little town. INHABITAT: Watertown is very much a focus in the book, but you also wanted to tell stories that have a global relevance. How did you balance the local with the global? BEACH: It depended on the particular topic. For example, one thing that really energized me about talking about the Armenian community in Watertown – a community of friends and family I grew up with – was that it was only as an adult, with the onset of the Syrian civil war, that I started to understand the Armenian presence in Syria and around the world. It’s important to do what we can to support Syrian refugees because they’re our neighbors in the global fence, but also they’re our literal neighbors. Some of our neighbors were born in Syria, and their family members are still over there, and I wanted to think about how we can tie that together. There were other issues that guided my thinking; for example, I talk about this rise of luxury apartments in these big cities, trying to figure out what exactly is going on because to me, it just doesn’t seem right. Something about it doesn’t make sense in terms of the supply and demand. I started reading Inhabitat when I was in college, years before I started writing for the publication, and I remember reading stories about ghost cities in China. I didn’t put that in the book, but things like that were in the back of my mind, thinking something’s not right here, and there’s a lot of clues, but I don’t know how to put them together. And I was trying to tell universal stories of people trying to do good in their community , and finding ways to build connections and support each other. These big issues are really complex. For example, in the United States right now, there’s this big public debate over police brutality and racism, so I had to talk about that because it’s important, but at the same time I had to acknowledge the police officers who are really doing their best to do well, and not just individual officers, but police departments who recognize flaws, and they’re trying to do better – without excusing anything, but just saying, we want to bring the good up, even as we’re trying to push back on the bad. INHABITAT: When did you personally start becoming interested in ecology and sustainability? How did growing up in Watertown play a role in shaping that passion for you? BEACH: One of my favorite chapters in the book is the first chapter, digging into local ecology. Before I was born, the Charles River was very polluted, and I heard stories of how awful it was when my parents were children, and now, the ecosystem is really revitalized, and it’s a beautiful community resource. Boston didn’t clean up the Charles River and the Boston Harbor until there was a court order to clean up these waterways . Boston has this reputation now as this progressive global city, but for a long time, it had the same challenges that a lot of other parts of the United States are facing. It was forced to do it, but eventually, it did something about it. There are many ways society and the public can make positive changes to protect our ecosystems. And I just love being outside, and the green spaces in Watertown, and being by the ocean – there’s just a lot packed into a really small place, and of course, that small place is connected to the larger eastern Massachusetts region. As I got older, I got into growing food and permaculture and incorporated that into my work as an educator. INHABITAT: In the book, you brought out the stories of people that went outside their comfort zones to help make Watertown a better place. One of the people I’m thinking of is Harry Friedman, who you affectionately dubbed the Weird Guy Pulling Carts From The River. What did you take away from those stories? BEACH: I walked the river path often, and I would see this guy standing there every season, and eventually I got over my New England awkwardness where people don’t say hello and thought, this guy seems like someone worth knowing, so just started talking to him. Harry showed me it’s okay to be yourself and be yourself in a very friendly, open way. Also, I remember talking to Ruth Tomasian, who started this organization called Project SAVE , which has archived 45,000 photographs of Armenian history. She was also very inspiring. I’d said about the book, ‘Oh, this is kind of an amateur effort I’m doing,’ and she said, ‘You’re working this into something, you’re getting out there,’ and shared with me some of the mistakes she made in starting this big project and being open to putting yourself out there. You might fail, but you also might open up some doors and encourage other people to open up. I saw the book working in three different layers. One layer was the big issues like the war on terror, the war on drugs, or ecology. The next layer was how all these topics fit in the local history. And then for me, the most important layer – the book wouldn’t have a heart if it didn’t have these people who bring these stories to life. It makes people care. I wanted it to write the book to serve my town and Massachusetts, but I did want people, no matter where they’re from, to get something out of it. Those universal stories of people in the community, participating in their own way to make it a better place, that happens everywhere around the world. INHABITAT: You mention wins for Watertown, like a garden cemetery providing a habitat for wildlife, and also losses, like the empty luxury apartments most locals couldn’t afford. With the knowledge that no city is perfect, how, in your opinion, could cities approach ecology more holistically? BEACH: There are a lot of hidden costs of exploiting the world’s resources. The cost of cleaning up pollution is socialized, everyone has to pay for it in one way or another, but the profits are privatized. Whether it’s a municipal government or a national government, they should find a way to put those costs in at the beginning of the calculation instead of waiting; 20 years down the line you’re going to be paying more, you’re going to have more damage. I think of Flint , and I know there are big structural issues at play like racism and poverty. But I think about small things, like investing in public spaces, investing in bike trails , and taking land that was previously vacant and turning it into something open to the public. That’s what’s happened in Watertown for the past several decades. The river path I talked about wasn’t there when my dad grew up in Watertown; it was an overgrown place. They could have taken that and developed it into waterfront property, and maybe today they would, but they didn’t and now that’s preserved for future generations. It’s the same thing with building bike trails along old rail lines; finding the low hanging fruit that really does provide so much of a benefit for the community, in terms of fitness, bringing people together, mental health; it’s something to be proud of in the community, it’s a place to put up art. Those big structural issues will be there, and we have to deal with those too, but there are some small ways to bring the community together and serve them. INHABITAT: You don’t shy away from Watertown’s historical failures even as you celebrate its successes. How did your view of your hometown change and evolve the more research you did about its past and the more people you talked to while writing the book? BEACH: A lot of people I spoke to I met from doing the book, so that was really encouraging because it made me feel closer to the town. It made me feel like I really understood its character today and in the past. I’ve been a student of history for a long time, so I know the broad strokes and the mistakes that have been made in New England and the United States and how they continue today, but something that’s really important that I try and get across in the book – and in my work with middle school students as a teacher – is this idea that there can be multiple truths that exist at the same time: that you can hold different, seemingly conflicting things to be true at the same time. You can say yes, the United States has this history of colonialism and racism, but at the same time, this is a place that so many people have come to call home, and however it was formed and however it’s continued, in that place there’s a lot of good, and a lot of people trying to do good and make it a better place for everyone. Those two things have been true about the United States since the beginning. You want to make your home a better place, you want to make sure your town or your country is a good place to live. It’s not easy; you have to keep working at it. It’s clear that the United States is very divided right now, but I think generally people around the world all want the same things. We all want to feel like we belong, we want to feel like we have meaning in our lives. So I try and bring those things up as much as I can. INHABITAT: How would you encourage people to get more involved in their own hometowns? BEACH: It depends on who you are and what you enjoy, because not everyone is going to feel comfortable getting involved in a civic organization or a town committee. Every person can find a way of contributing. It could be spending more time on green spaces and meeting people that way. It could be trying to start a community garden, or it could just be sharing vegetables you grew with someone in your community. It also goes back to that idea of being willing to be yourself and say hello and engage with people. Just learning is also a way to get involved. I knew a lot about my town and the country, but I learned so much about so many different things in writing this book. That has to affect how I think about issues, or how I try and engage with people. I’ve met so many people through this and learned from them and been inspired by them. And I’m an introvert too. I need to get away from people to recharge, but I love getting to know people and connecting with them. INHABITAT: What do you hope readers will take away from the book? What do you hope they walk away thinking about? BEACH: I hope they walk away with more information, maybe a better understanding of some of these big issues, but at the same time feel encouraged to ask questions and then pursue them. That was driving me the whole time: I just had these questions that I needed answered, and I want readers to feel similarly excited to trace questions and see where they lead, and they might not have an answer. I think also it goes back to the theme of holding multiple ideas to be true at the same time, recognizing that the world is a huge place, and there are these huge systems it’s so hard to really get ahold of them, but then, it’s also a very small world, because there are individuals and groups out there trying to build a better world in small places. I realized the other day that I applied for a job at Inhabitat right around the same time I was starting to really write the book. It actually happened on Christmas Eve. I was sick so I didn’t go out with my family and I was at home, and I saw this opening for Inhabitat, which I had been reading for years. I’d given articles from Inhabitat to students. I got a response and started writing. Those two things running parallel to each other really supported and reinforced each other. Being concise and clear on Inhabitat is really important because there’s a lot of content out there, and you want your readers to get to the meat of it, but you also make sure there’s an appealing style to the writing. Some of the topics I cover in the book actually started off as Inhabitat articles, like one I wrote about Japanese knotweed . I just wanted to add some context to the connections. You can buy The World and Watertown here . + Greg Beach + Greg Beach Facebook Images courtesy of Greg Beach and Harry Friedman, lead image via Wikimedia

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INTERVIEW: Inhabitat’s own Greg Beach on telling global stories through the lens of a small town

Cloud lamp erupts into a frenzied lightning storm every time Donald Trump tweets

November 15, 2017 by  
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French artist Parse/Error has created an ingenious lamp that erupts into a miniature lightning storm whenever Donald Trump tweets. The lamp is connected to Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and it reacts in real time to his infamous “tweet storms” with flashes of light and rolling clouds. In its normal state, La Political Lamp is a simple light fixture filled with calming clouds . However, once connected to Trump’s account – or any account for that matter – each tweet precipitates a series of flashing lightning bolts, converting the lamp into a raging mini storm. Related: Dazzling Storm Cloud of Light Born from Ordinary Pot Scrubbers According to the artist, the lamp symbolizes the current rise of intolerance throughout the world when it comes to political leaders : “The choice of setting the Political Lamp to follow the tweets of Donald Trump is explained by the fact that he perfectly embodies a dangerous era. A world where the words of one man, released without reflection and with spontaneity on a global social network, can endanger the fate of millions by spreading the ghost of nuclear war on the planet.” + Political Lamp Via Notcot

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Cloud lamp erupts into a frenzied lightning storm every time Donald Trump tweets

The brilliant folding M.A.Di Home can be assembled in hours

November 15, 2017 by  
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The M.A.Di Home is an ingenious a-frame home that can be easily assembled in just a few hours. The foldable design, created by Italian architect, Renato Vidal, , is earthquake-resilient and can be equipped with rooftop solar panels LED lighting, and grey water systems to take it totally off-grid. The modular, flat-pack design of the M.A.Di Home is meant to create a streamlined, sustainable process between manufacturing and assembly. Thanks to their unique folding ability, the homes are prefabricated off site, flat-packed and easily transported via truck or container to virtually any location. Once onsite, the construction process includes unfolding each module before adding the roof pitches, interior flooring, and walls to the home. The company estimates that each structure takes a team of three just six or seven hours to assemble. Related: Affordable flat-pack Surf Shack shelter operates completely off the grid Made out of CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) with a galvanized steel frame, the foldable homes are designed to last, even through earthquakes. The walls are insulated with a high-density rockwool and a polyurethane foam is used to waterproof the home, increasing its thermal insulation as a result. The structures can be built to go completely off grid by adding solar panels , grey water systems, and LED lighting. Additionally, the homes don’t necessarily need to be built on a concrete foundation, allowing the structure to have zero impact on the environment. For living space, the modules come in a variety of layouts and sizes, starting at a 290-square-feet tiny home to a larger 904-square-feet family home. Each model is two stories and comes with a kitchen, dining area and bathroom on the first floor, with the bedrooms on the upper floor. The A-frame design allows for an all-glass facade that lets in optimal amounts of natural light. They can also be equipped with an upper floor balcony off the bedrooms and a deck space on the ground floor. + M.A.Di Home Via New Atlas Images via M.A.Di Home

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The brilliant folding M.A.Di Home can be assembled in hours

Nanoleaf’s new Rhythm module turns any Aurora array into a dazzling music visualizer

November 9, 2017 by  
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Last year Nanoleaf unveiled Aurora – a stunning lighting array made of modular, energy-efficient LED panels . They’re continuing to develop the system, and they just unveiled the Rhythm – a new module that transforms any Aurora array into a glimmering music visualizer. Simply plug the Rhythm into an Aurora panel and fire up your stereo – it’ll listen to your tunes and light up to the beat of your favorite songs. Inhabitat has followed Nanoleaf for years – and they’ve come a long way from making LED light bulbs . The Aurora is a sophisticated lighting system that can display over 16 million colors – and it’s getting smarter by the day. When they reached out to us with their latest innovation, we knew we had to try it out for ourselves. The Rhythm is a clever device that transforms music and ambient sounds into shimmering bursts of LED light. Setting it up is a snap – simply construct an Aurora array and then plug the Rhythm module into one of the triangular panels. The device uses a built-in microphone to listen to sound – so you don’t need to plug it into your stereo – and all of the processing is conducted on-board in real-time. Nanoleaf has created an impressive smartphone app that makes it easy to control your Aurora array. The app automatically senses the configuration of the panels and it provides options for different color palettes and Rhythm patterns – with the option to download many more. We generally found that the patterns respond quite well to a wide range of music – although your mileage will vary based on how many panels you own and how your array is set up. Songs with strong beats and well-isolated elements tend to produce better results than music with complex rhythms and overlapping textures. Certain patterns like “Meteor Shower” and “Streaking Notes” tend to benefit from large, densely packed arrays, while the “Sound Bar” pattern works best with more linear arrays. The obvious application for Aurora panels is adding colorful mood lighting to a room – but the Rhythm module expands their appeal to DJs and musicians, audiovisual artists, and anyone who wants to bring home a bit of ‘Blade Runner’ futurism. We’re also excited to see the applications that makers come up with – the panels support Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Amazon Alexa, so your Aurora array can interface with other smart devices in your house. Our only gripe is that an Aurora array can be a bit tricky to install – it takes some planning and a lot of adhesive strips, and the chips connecting the panels don’t lock in place. If I were to install an array in my home, I’d consider mounting it to a board, trimming the excess material, and then hanging it as a single unit. Overall, we’re very impressed by the vibrancy and brightness of Nanoleaf’s Aurora panels, and the Rhythm module brings a fun new dimension to the system. A single array is enough to wash an an entire room in color, and the panels are capable of subtle, pulsing hue changes as well as dazzling firework-style effects. The Nanoleaf Rhythm is currently available as a module for $49.99 or bundled along with an Aurora kit for $229.99. + Nanoleaf

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Nanoleaf’s new Rhythm module turns any Aurora array into a dazzling music visualizer

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