Legendary architect-philosopher Christopher Alexander delivers a fascinating lecture at Berkeley, in which he criticizes "modular" design and offers a radical new vision of architecture's relation to nature. Alexander is best known for A Pattern Language, which aimed to make buildings and towns more "alive" through a series of pleasing and comfortable patterns (five sample patterns can be found here). His most recent work, the four-part The Nature of Order, theorizes that life, whether organic or inorganic, emerges from a single simple process, which can be found on page 4 of Amazon's preview of the third volume. In the first volume Alexander lists fifteen properties that make a structure whole. Also worth reading: Alexander's classic essay A City is not a Tree.
Over the course of three years, designer Christien Meindertsma tracked the products that had been made from the remains of a single pig. In doing so, she discovered that the skin, bones, meat, organs, blood, fat, brains, hoofs, hair and tail of a single pig might be used in more than 180 very diverse products, from shampoo, medicine, tattoo ink, munitions, cardiac valves, matches, desserts and bubblegum, beer and lemonade, car paint and brake discs to pills and bread. TED Talk. TED Bio. Vimeo video: Reading through the pages of Pig 05049. Exhibition (in Dutch). Design Observer: Pig 05049. Amazon: Pig 05049 [more inside]
Imagine nature's most elegant ideas organized by design and engineering function, so you can enter "filter salt from water" and see how mangroves, penguins, and shorebirds desalinate without fossil fuels. That's the idea behind AskNature, the online inspiration source for the biomimicry community. The featured pages are a good starting point. Cross-pollinating biology with design. [more inside]
'Race' graphically illustrated - "most Europeans" vs. Ashkenazim (previously; see also IQ & Gladwell, viz. ;) [more inside]
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P