Sunday, 9 December 2018


Top 10 most innovative cycling products of 2018
By Ben Coxworth,
New Atlas, 5 December 2018.

We've been doing these annual lists of standout cycling products for a while now, and as we always state up front…these aren't necessarily the best things from the past year, so much as they're simply some of the most unique. With that disclaimer in mind, read on to see what made our list for 2018.

1. A shaft-drive alternative to chains and belts


Claimed by its makers to be the "world's most efficient" bicycle drivetrain, CeramicSpeed's DrivEn system is centered around a cylindrical carbon fiber shaft that reaches from the single chainring in front to a flat 13-speed cassette on the rear wheel. Mounted on either end of that shaft are sets of very-low-friction ceramic bearings, which engage the teeth on the chainring and the cassette cogs. As the rider pedals, the bearings transfer torque from the chainring through the shaft and into the rear wheel, turning it.

According to CeramicSpeed, it creates 49 percent less friction than the high-end Shimano Dura Ace chain-and-derailleur setup. The prototype is currently unable to shift between gears, although that could be remedied via a wireless servo that moves the rear bearing mechanism fore and aft relative to the cassette.

2. More magnetic pedals, but simpler and lighter


Maglock pedals made our Top 10 list for 2016, as they cleverly use a series of magnets to keep the rider's feet on the pedals. The things are kind of big and heavy, though, which is where this year's magpeds come in. The magped pedal utilize just a single neodymium magnet per pedal, which is drawn to an SPD-compatible steel plate attached to the underside of the rider's shoe.

Each magnet provides about 15 kg (33 lb) of attractive force, and is mounted on a flexible rubber damper, allowing it to stay in contact with the steel plate as the foot moves around. When riders do want to get their feet off the pedals, it's simply a matter of twisting the foot to one side.

3. Taking that "folding" thing to the wheels


Although there are now all sorts of ways of folding down bicycles' frames, the darn wheels still present a problem - they either have to be tiny, or they end up getting in the way when carrying the folded frame. German designer Andrea Mocellin, however, has a possible solution to that problem.

His prototype Revolve is a full-size 26-inch spoked wheel that can be folded to a third its diameter and back again in an instant. And no, the tires aren't inflatable. He's currently looking for an industry partner to help commercialize the technology, which he believes could also be applied to other products that need to transported in compact form - products such as wheelchairs or even wheeled drones.

4. Foot pumps aren't just for camping mattresses


If you've ever tried pumping up a flat tire with a compact hand pump, you'll know that it takes a lot of time and effort. Floor pumps, however, are just too big to take with you on rides. Well, that's why the Stompump was created.

Small enough to be carried on the frame, it gets placed on the ground and attached to the tire's Presta or Schrader valve stem via an included hose, after which the rider…well, they stomp on it. According to its creators, it can fill a 29-inch mountain bike tire or a fatbike tire three times faster than a hand pump. A version for high-pressure road bike tires is in the works.

5. A stow-and-go trailer


Bike trailers are great for towing cargo to and fro, but they simply bang around and get in the way once that cargo has been delivered. It was with this in mind that the Trenux trailer was invented. In a process that takes less than 10 seconds, it simply folds up and sits over the rear wheel when not in use.

The current 11-lb (5-kg) prototype is capable of carrying a payload of up to 88 lb (40 kg). Its German designers say it'll haul the likes of two beverage crates, a suitcase or four boxes of flowers on its 24 by 16.5-in (62 by 42-cm) cargo area. The design includes a removable fabric basket. Plans call for a crowdfunding campaign to take place next spring (Northern Hemisphere).

6. Putting a wind tunnel on your handlebars


Ordinarily, if seriously-competitive cyclists want to get their aerodynamic drag measured, they have to head for a wind tunnel or a velodrome. VeloComp's new bar-mounted AeroPod, however, is claimed to give them the figure they seek - their coefficient of drag times frontal surface area, or CdA.

While the exact process by which the device works is pretty complex to go into here, it basically involves measuring forces opposing the cyclist (acceleration, hill slope, friction) and comparing those values to the rider's applied force, which is obtained from a third-party direct force power meter. The resulting Cda figure is displayed either on a compatible cycling computer, or on the company's PowerHouse Bike smartphone app.

7. Tires that dress to impress


Suppose you commute during the week, but enjoy heading out on the trails on the weekends. Are you going to swap back and forth between smooth and knobby tires, or go with one set of tires that's a compromise between the two? With the reTyre system, you don't have to do either.

It consists of a slick commuter tire that stays on the rim full-time, along with different types of treaded rubber casings (known as skins) that can be mounted over top of that tire utilizing integrated zippers along both sidewalls. The company currently offers two types of off-road skins, plus a studded model for winter riding.

8. A headlight that knows where you're going


Along with a bar-mounted headlight, mountain bikers typically also wear a light on their helmet to illuminate whatever they're looking at, such as the part of the trail that's around the next curve. Mystic Devices' Hydra 3 Bike Light, however, is claimed to make the helmet light unnecessary.

The headlight contains three separate 600-lumen LED bulbs - a central one that points straight ahead, and ones on either side that point trail-left and trail-right. While the central LED stays constantly lit, the outer two selectively come on and off as sensors within the headlight detect that the bike is turning. This means that when the cyclist is turning right, the LED which illuminates the area to their right will temporarily come on, with the same thing applying to the trail-left light for left turns.

9. If it works for cars…


There are already automobiles that provide real-time tire-pressure readouts, and now there's a system for bikes. Quarq's TyreWiz initially gets threaded onto a tire's Presta valve stem, after which an integrated sensor constantly measures the tire's air pressure up to a maximum of 150 psi (10 bar). Readings are subsequently transmitted by either ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy to a cycling computer or an iOS/Android app on a paired smartphone.

Users will receive alerts of particularly low or high pressure, plus they'll be advised of how much they should adjust the pressure based on their weight and tire dimensions. Additionally, LEDs on the TyreWiz will illuminate when the air pressure is too far out of whack.

10. This bike longs to carry things


Featured just last week, the Convercycle e-bike transforms between regular and cargo configurations. In regular-bike mode, its rear swing arm folds down/forward and locks in place, tucking the back wheel up inside of the built-in cargo rack. Once it's time to load up on groceries, baby seats or whatnot, that swing arm is folded back, extending the wheelbase and opening the rack up.

The folding process reportedly takes just three seconds, and can be done with one hand. Once in cargo mode, the bike can carry up to 60 kg (132 lb) in its rack, along with a rider weighing up to 120 kg (265 lb) on the seat. The bike itself tips the scales at 28 kg (62 lb), with its rack sitting at a width of 43 cm (17 inches) - that's no wider than the handlebars.

Honorable mentions

What else did we like, that didn't quite make it into our Top 10? Well…there was Refactor Fitness' RF-1, which combines a cycling computer, camera and headlight in one device; Speedcraft's AIR cycling glasses, that use magnets to open up the rider's nose; Cyclevision's Edge helmet, with its front and rear cameras; the Flare headlight, which lets riders post online alerts about road hazards; and the Alpaca Bike, a titanium folding bicycle with a removable front hub which allows the wheels to be stacked flat against one another.

Top image: CeramicSpeed's DrivEn pinion-style shaft-drive system. Credit: CeramicSpeed/Facebook.

[Source: New Atlas.]

Friday, 7 December 2018


10 Astounding Facts You Didn’t Know About Skyscrapers
By Brian Molinar,
Listverse, 7 December 2018.

Skyscrapers are icons of architectural engineering. Also known as “supertall buildings” or “vertical cities,”[1] skyscrapers represent a great example of human audacity by challenging the limits of nature. As the world population grows, humans have developed the need to start living among the clouds. And with this idea, there are great problems to be solved in order to build ever taller buildings.

However, there are many details about skyscrapers that remain hidden for most people. It happens that when we began to build structures in the middle of the sky, not only were our lives affected, but also the rest of the world around us. In this list, let’s take a look at some of those effects and what skyscrapers could mean to us in the future.

10. How Tall Can A Building Get?

Photo credit: CityLab

To date, the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, a skyscraper 830 meters (2,723 ft) tall. However, another building more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) tall called Jeddah Tower is being built in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, there are plans to build a skyscraper in Tokyo measuring 1,700 meters (5,577 ft) tall in the not-so-distant future. So we can ask ourselves, is there a height limit for the skyscrapers we can build?

A simple answer is that at some point, skyscrapers cannot become taller. A building can have any height if its base is wide enough to support the structure. But due to the curvature of the Earth, both the base and the height of the building will have a limit. However, we are still far from reaching that limit. According to an engineer of the Burj Khalifa, we can build “higher than the highest mountain” in the world. This means that architectural engineering has no limitations when it comes to creating tall buildings. If problems such as the types of materials used, the shape of the structure, and climatic factors are solved, surely we can build them.

We can define the so-called “X-Seed 4000” (concept pictured above) as the tallest skyscraper we could build with our current technology. The X-Seed 4000 is a hypothetical skyscraper 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) tall and with a base 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) in diameter. Its mountain-shaped structure would have the capacity to house up to one million people inside. The blueprints for this building are complete, although it does not seem that the X-Seed 4000 is going to be built soon. The problem with this skyscraper is not the technology but its construction cost of $1.4 trillion, a sum that hardly any nation would be willing to pay.[2]

9. We Have Built Them For Centuries

Photo credit: Emad Victor SHENOUDA

The term “skyscraper” was first used nearly a century and a half ago. However, claiming that there were no other skyscrapers before that date may denote a certain lack of knowledge about the architectural marvels that our ancestors achieved. For millennia, humans have been creating buildings capable of reaching the sky.

A skyscraper is officially defined as a very tall building, capable of being continuously inhabited. The general rule around the world is that a skyscraper, regardless of its measurements, must stand out above the rest of the constructions of a city to be considered as such. Moreover, when the term started to be used in the late 19th century, buildings with more than ten floors were already skyscrapers.

Later, other conditions were added to the concept: for example, that more than half the volume of a skyscraper must be habitable. So constructions like the pyramids do not have the title because they were tombs, both solid and uninhabitable. Our current communication and observation towers do not count, either.

However, during the third century BC, the Ptolemaic dynasty built the so-called Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt. This building had a height of 135 meters (443 ft), and as its name indicates, it served as a guide for ships in the area. But beyond that, the lighthouse had 364 rooms inside and several galleries for tourists. So, obviously, this was an urban building and not just a tall tower.[3]

In AD 516, the Chinese built the Yongning Pagoda, a temple 137 meters (450 ft) tall. Although this building no longer exists today, some ancient descriptions showed it more like a palace, with around 1,000 rooms inside. So maybe we invented the term “skyscraper” recently, but scraping the sky with a building is not a new thing.

8. Skyscrapers Have An Antagonist

Photo credit: BNKR Arquitectura

Large buildings do not have to be built only on the Earth’s surface. They can also be built under the ground and therefore be called “Earthscrapers.” This type of building is exactly the opposite of conventional skyscrapers, since it is a structure that extends into the depths of the Earth.[4] Its large size can house entire communities.

Since Mexico City limits the height of the new buildings to a maximum of eight floors, the firm BNKR Arquitectura designed plans for an Earthscraper directly under the central square of the city. The underground building would be 65 stories deep, and its structure would resemble an inverted pyramid. The center of the building would be hollow to allow ventilation of the floors and parks beneath the surface. The highest part would be covered by a layer of glass, where the floor of the square used to be. In this way, the Earthscraper could interact with the rest of the city on the surface.

Meanwhile, experts from Washington University in St. Louis have an idea to build an Earthscraper in Arizona’s abandoned Lavender Pit Mine. This underground skyscraper would extend through the 274-meter (900 ft) depth of the mine and would have everything from houses to work zones. The upper part of the Earthscraper would be sealed by a dome with skylights, which would blend in with the rest of the environment.

7. Supertall Buildings Affect Weather


It is well-known that urban populations modify the natural balance, erasing the fauna and flora that once inhabited the place to make way for modern artificial constructions. As humans, we do not usually adapt to the environment in which we live, but we adapt the environment to us. However, not only are the life-forms of the area affected by the emergence of large cities, but we also know that large buildings leave a big mark on the climate of the region.

Skyscrapers modify the patterns of wind currents in the area. The effects will depend on the height where the wind current is located - at the base of the building, around it, or above it. Skyscrapers close to each other create “wind tunnels” that blow hard at ground level. Meanwhile, as the building acts as a wall, another part of the wind loaded with chemical pollutants rises into the atmosphere. These pollutants then travel to other regions or settle in areas around the building. In the latter case, the accumulation of pollutants due to skyscrapers can be highly harmful to the residents of a city.

But the most interesting effect is the so-called “thermal effect.” Materials such as concrete or brick, used in buildings, are good at absorbing solar radiation. So during the day, the huge skyscraper absorbs the heat of the sunlight. Later, during the night, the skyscraper’s heat dissipates into the surrounding air, causing the temperature of the city to remain high. Then the Sun comes out again, and the effect is repeated, keeping the city always warmer than surrounding regions.[5]

6. Future Oceanscrapers

Photo credit: Vincent Callebaut

Skyscrapers, earthscrapers - all of these are constructions made on dry land. But the ground is not the only place where a building can rest. In fact, we also have the idea of building skyscrapers on the water, the oceanscrapers. Although no oceanscraper has been built to date, the sea level is expected to rise considerably in the near future, so these buildings could become very useful. Many architectural projects involving oceanscrapers have been presented over time, but there is a recent one that stands out above the rest: the Aequorea.

The Aequorea oceanscraper is a project created by architect Vincent Callebaut, who designed it to solve the problem of the trash accumulated in the oceans.[6] According to the story he created about this structure, the existence of the Aequorea takes place in the year 2065. By then, humans collect plastics and other waste scattered in the sea and mix them with an algae emulsion, thus creating a malleable material in the form of filaments. Then, thanks to giant 3-D printers, oceanscrapers like the Aequorea are built with this material. Yes, the oceanscrapers of the future will be made of ocean trash.

The futuristic building would be 500 meters (1,640 ft) in diameter and stretch 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) deep, with a capacity for 20,000 people. Most of the structure would be underwater, like an iceberg, and would have giant tentacles that would keep it stable even in high-wind conditions. Hydroponic gardens cover the building, while food and other resources are obtained directly from the surroundings of the structure, making the Aequorea self-sufficient.

5. Skyscrapers Can Also Cause Earthquakes


It is a proven fact that tremors aren’t caused only by geological events, such as tectonic shifts. They can also be caused by large-scale human actions, such as mining or nuclear explosions. But what isn’t that common is an earthquake caused by a skyscraper, let alone two of them.

Taipei 101 is a 508-meter-tall (1,667 ft) skyscraper located in Taiwan. Before the completion of Taipei 101 in 2003, the area where the skyscraper was built was geologically quiet and free of noticeable earthquakes. But even during its construction, the amount of small tremors (called micro-earthquakes) tripled. Then, in 2004, an earthquake of magnitude 3.8 occurred just below Taipei 101. A few months later, another earthquake of magnitude 3.2 occurred at the same point under the building.

It happens that to make Taipei 101 earthquake-proof, heavier materials were used. Therefore, the 700,000-ton mass of the building generates enormous pressure on the Earth’s crust below.[7] Once the skyscraper was completed, this pressure spread across the area and triggered the earthquake. After these events, experts believe this should be a serious aspect to consider when designing taller buildings.

4. A Vertical City In The Sky


After the previous points, we already know well that skyscrapers are not limited to ground level. Ironically, another type of “unconventional” skyscraper could be built directly in the sky, above the clouds. Although the idea may seem unlikely, the possibility of a floating skyscraper being built in the future is high. The Clouds Architecture Office, which has also worked on space transportation projects, has formulated a plan to create a floating building suspended from an asteroid in orbit.

Relocating asteroids to make them orbit the Earth is not impossible. In fact, NASA once had plans for redirecting an asteroid (or at least a large chunk of one) in the 2020s. From that concept, the floating building would be tied to the asteroid, located 50,000 kilometers (31,068 mi) high, through high-resistance cables. The skyscraper, called Analemma Tower, would be formed by modules that could be gradually added to the structure. The tower would be powered by solar panels at the top, while it would get water directly from the clouds. If built, the lowest part of the building would be used for entertainment areas. Above would be the offices and residential areas, while the highest parts would even have a temple and a funerary section.

At a maximum height of 32 kilometers (20 mi), the upper floors would have smaller windows, due to the pressure difference with the exterior. The finished building would be so large that the floors at the top would have 40 more minutes of sunlight than the lowest floors, due to the curvature of the Earth. Although the floating building would move over many countries, there is a possibility that the initial version of the skyscraper would be built in Dubai, due to lower construction costs than in other regions.[8]

3. Some Tall Buildings Can Burn You Alive


Can a skyscraper become a destructive weapon? Unfortunately, yes, the design of a building can accidentally transform it into a microwave oven capable of inflicting serious damage to people.

The “Walkie-Talkie” skyscraper in Central London has a curved, concave surface on one side. This means that when the sunlight reflects on that side, its windows concentrate the light into a narrow beam. To make it simple, it is like concentrating sunlight with a magnifying glass to burn ants. And the result is also equal to that of a magnifying glass, since anything in the path of the skyscraper’s beam is heated to temperatures as high as 117 degrees Celsius (243 °F).

Indeed, in 2013, a car ended up with some of its parts completely melted by parking next to the Walkie-Talkie. Even a journalist was able to fry an egg under the “heat ray” of the building. A person standing in the light beam for a short time could end up with scorched hair. The skyscraper began to be referred to as the “Walkie Scorchie” or the “Fryscraper.” Fortunately, in 2014, the building was equipped with structures to dissipate the reflected light.[9] So now pedestrians can be calmer when walking under the Walkie-Talkie.

But this is not a unique case. The Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, built by the same architects as the Walkie-Talkie, has the same design flaw, with windows that concentrate sunlight. In this case, the “death ray” was aimed directly at the pool area, so many tourists at the hotel suffered serious skin burns while in the water. In the end, the hotel company solved the problem by placing giant umbrellas above the pools.

2. The Skyscrapers Built In A Few Days

It took five years to build the Burj Khalifa. The construction of the Empire State Building took 20 months. For such vertical structures, these buildings were erected in a very short time. But that is not the best we can do. In China, a 57-story skyscraper was built in less than three weeks.

The Chinese company Broad Sustainable Building built a skyscraper called Mini Sky City in just 19 days.[10] The building, about 200 meters (656 ft) tall, used a revolutionary technique called modular construction. Since 90 percent of the skyscraper was prefabricated in a factory before proceeding with the construction, workers were able to assemble the building at a rate of three floors per day.

But this is not the first time the company has managed to establish a construction record. In 2011, it built a 30-story building in 15 days, using the same technique. If you wonder about the quality of this building, given the brevity of its construction, the structure is designed to withstand earthquakes of magnitude 9.0.

The founder of the Chinese company also plans to build a giant skyscraper called Sky City, with a height of 220 stories, which would end up being taller than the Burj Khalifa. Its construction time, he says, would be only seven months. To build skyscrapers, the modular construction technique is gradually being accepted in the rest of the world, which means that in a few years, we could see LEGO-like buildings anywhere.

1. Living In These Buildings Makes You Age Faster


So skyscrapers affect the weather and the environment, but what about us? Does a person living in a skyscraper suffer any effect? As a matter of fact, yes, a person ages faster by living on top of a building. This happens due to an extraordinary physical phenomenon called gravitational time dilation. Because of this phenomenon, when we move away from an object with great mass, like the Earth, time goes faster for us. But how fast would we age up there?

In the second half of the 20th century, a project called Temps Atomique International was launched. Atomic clocks were placed in different regions of the world, at different heights, to measure global time accurately. In the 1970s, it was concluded that at a height of 30 meters (100 ft), time goes one picosecond (one trillionth of a second) faster than at sea level. Now let’s suppose that the average life expectancy of a person is 70 years. If we do the math, at 30 meters (100 ft) high, a person will have aged two milliseconds faster by the end of his life.

In 1976, the SAO Institute in Cambridge launched a rocket carrying a clock to a height of 9,656 kilometers (6,000 mi). When the clock returned to Earth and was analyzed, it was observed that time at that height moves one second faster every 70 years.[11] Evidently, the same would apply to a person.

So what does this mean in simple words? Well, a person who lives all his life in a skyscraper would age a few seconds faster than a person at ground level. Of course, this age difference between both people will not be noticeable. But we have already seen that skyscrapers have almost no height limit, and as they will be built taller in the future, the age gap will become larger. So be careful: Now you know that spending a lot of time in a building is bad for your health.

Top image: Dubai skyline with Burj Khalifa. Credit: Vikramjit Kakati/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Thursday, 6 December 2018


From a holey hotel to a mountain museum: The best buildings of 2018
By Adam Williams,
New Atlas, 5 December 2018.

2018 has been a strong year for architecture worldwide and our coverage has been correspondingly varied. From a starchitect-designed hotel with holes in it, to a James Bond-themed museum high up in the mountains, here's our pick of the best buildings of the year.

We won't lie to you. Selecting 2018's top buildings was not an easy task, but we've managed to choose 10 of the very best - listed below in no particular order. More info and photos for each of them can be found in the gallery.

1. Children Village


Children Village, designed by Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum, was recently named the 2018 International Prize winner by RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects). It serves as a home away from home to over 500 schoolchildren in Brazil.

The 25,000 sq m (270,000 sq ft) boarding school is split into two matching buildings, one for boys and another for girls. Residences are arranged around central courtyards at ground level and upper areas host communal spaces. Despite the tropical climate in that part of the world, Children Village stays cool without air-conditioning thanks to its focus on passive ventilation and shading.

2. Macallan Distillery


Described by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners as one of the most complex timber structures in the world, the Macallan New Distillery and Visitor Experience is a remarkable building topped by a large undulating green roof that helps it blend in with the Scottish landscape.

The distillery's design is inspired by ancient Scottish earthworks and the building is part-buried into a slope. Its eye-catching roof consists of 1,800 timber beams and 380,000 individual components, and is enclosed by a glazed façade.

3. Calgary Central Library


Snøhetta worked with local firm Dialog to design a new library for Calgary, Canada. The Calgary Central Library is situated in a very challenging site that has a train running through it.

The library's exterior consists of an energy-efficient glazed façade made up of a hexagonal pattern of glass and aluminum that looks a little like snowflakes. Inside, visitors enter through a large wood archway inspired by Chinook cloud arch formations into a stunning wooden atrium topped by a decorative oculus. The team used considerable soundproofing to ensure that people studying in the upper reading rooms would not be disturbed by the trains passing below.

4. 007 Elements


The James Bond-themed 007 Elements museum is situated at 3,040 m (9,973 ft) on the summit of the Gaislachkogl Mountain in Austria and represents a significant engineering achievement for architects Obermoser Arch-Omo, who had to carry out the project in difficult conditions, including unexpected early snowfall.

The concrete museum hosts interior spaces inspired by the long-running spy movies. Interestingly, the firm chose to not install any heating in the museum, despite the extreme environment. This was done both so that visitors experienced the mountainous conditions in full, and to ensure that no heat is transferred to the permafrost on the site.

5. Coal Drops Yard


High-profile designer Thomas Heatherwick's firm Heatherwick Studio did a masterful job mixing old and new while turning two dilapidated Victorian-era coal storage buildings in London into a large new shopping center crowned by a stunning roof.

Coal Drops Yard sees the original buildings extended and renovated, as well as two viaducts on the site. The curved roof sections are covered in 80,000 slate tiles drawn from the same slate quarry in North Wales used when constructing the original buildings over 150 years ago.

6. Bloomberg HQ London


Recently named Britain's best new building by RIBA, Bloomberg Headquarters, by Foster + Partners, takes up an entire block in the City of London. It is widely reported to have cost £1 billion (US$1.3 billion).

It consists of two large buildings joined by a bridge and situated either side of a new public arcade that re-establishes an ancient Roman road. They're finished in 9,600 tonnes (10,752 US tons) of sandstone and enlivened by decorative bronze window ventilation fins. A significant amount of sustainable technology went into the project too, most notably rainwater capture, greywater recycling, natural lighting, and smart ventilation systems.

7. Shenzhen Energy Mansion


Denmark's BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) offers an interesting twist on skyscraper design with its Shenzhen Energy Mansion. The project consists of two towers rising to 120 m (393 ft)-tall and 220 m (721 ft), respectively, that are joined by a podium.

The towers' facades mix glazing and an aluminum skin that's carefully patterned to reduce the amount of daylight that permeates within. Additionally, eye-catching folds in the exterior help mitigate the sun's glare and solar heat gain. It has been awarded LEED Gold (a green building standard) for its efficiency, and other notable features include rainwater collection, greywater recycling, and green roofs.

8. The Mactan Cebu International Terminal 2


International airports are often rather dull places to spend some time but the Philippines' Mactan Cebu International Terminal 2 is one notable exception.

The airport is primarily constructed from glulam (glue-laminated timber) and has a striking overall shape inspired by rolling ocean waves. Inside, the arched skeleton of the structure has been left exposed and the floor is finished in decorative terrazzo inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl. A large team realized this project, including Kenneth Cobonpue, interior designer Budji Layug, architect Royal Pineda, and Hong Kong-based Integrated Design Associates.

9. Eysturkommuna Town Hall


Designed by Henning Larsen Architects, the Eysturkommuna Town Hall in the Faroe Islands serves as both town hall for the village of Norðragøta, and a bridge for locals to cross a river.

The 700 sq m (7,500 sq ft) building is covered by a green roof and its interior centers around a glass floor opening with views of the water running beneath. A circular table ensures no one person sits at the end so that all are deemed equal, a layout inspired by the kivas, the ceremonial chambers of the Pueblo Native Americans.

10. Morpheus Hotel


Morpheus Hotel, by Zaha Hadid Architects, is built atop the foundations of a rectangular condo that was never completed, it rises to a height of 160 m (524 ft) and, structurally, takes the form of two towers connected at multiple points.

Its exterior features an impressive exoskeleton comprising 2,500 steelwork connections and 1,200 junctions, all clad in aluminum. The hotel's 42 m (137 ft)-tall atrium is filled with complex geometric shapes and a dozen glass elevators move people around. The 147,860 sq m (1,591,550 sq ft) building includes 770 guest rooms, suites and sky villas, and is topped by a rooftop pool.

Top image: The extraordinary Morpheus Hotel by Zaha Hadid Architects. Credit: Virgile Simon Bertrand/Zaha Hadid Architects.

[Source: New Atlas. Some links added.]


10 wonders of the solar system
By Michael d'Estries,
Mother Nature Network, 4 December 2018.

Our solar system is big. Way big. In fact, if Earth were the size of a marble, the solar system out to Neptune would cover an area the size of San Francisco.

Within this vastness lies an array of celestial wonders: the sun with its surface of plasma, the Earth with its abundance of life and massive oceans, the mesmerizing clouds of Jupiter, to name a few.

For this particular list, we've decided to highlight some well-known celestial wonders, as well as a few you might not know about. With new discoveries happening all the time, and so much left to explore, the cosmos is never short on beauty and astonishment.

Below are just a few of the scattered jewels of our solar system.

1. The impact crater of Utopia Planitia, Mars

Photo: Kevin Gill/Flickr

The largest recognized impact basin in the solar system, Utopia Planitia features a crater that stretches more than 2,000 miles (about 3,300 kilometers) across Mars' northern plains. Because the impact is believed to have occurred early in Mars' history, it's likely that Utopia may have at one time hosted an ancient ocean.

In 2016, an instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter added weight to this theory after detecting large deposits of subsurface water ice beneath the impact basin. It's estimated as much water as the volume of Lake Superior may lie in deposits located 3 to 33 feet (1 to 10 meters) below the surface. Such an easily accessible resource could prove enormously beneficial for future human-based missions to the red planet.

"This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice," Jack Holt of the University of Texas said in a 2016 statement.

2. The solar system's tallest mountain on Vesta


Despite its diameter of about 330 miles (530 km), the asteroid Vesta is home to our solar system's tallest mountain. Centered within an impact crater called Rheasilvia, this 14-mile-high (23 km) unnamed peak could easily fit two stacked Mount Everests.

This mega-mountain is believed to have formed 1 billion years ago after an impact with an object at least 30 miles (48 km) across. The resulting force carved out a huge amount of material, some 1 percent of Vesta, that was ejected into space and scattered across the solar system. In fact, it's estimated that some 5 percent of all space rocks on Earth originated from Vesta, which thus joins only a handful of solar-system objects beyond Earth (including Mars and the moon) from which scientists have a sample.

3. The vast canyon of Valles Marineris, Mars

Photo: Kevin Gill/Flickr

To put the scale of Mars' immense Valles Marineris into perspective, just imagine the Grand Canyon four times deeper and stretching from New York City to Los Angeles. As you might expect, this vast canyon is the largest in the solar system, spanning more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) and diving up to 23,000 feet (7,000 meters) into the red planet's surface.

According to NASA, Valles Marineris is likely a tectonic crack in Mars' crust that formed as the planet cooled. Another theory suggests it was a channel created by lava flowing from a nearby shield volcano. Regardless, its varied geography and likely role in channeling water during Mars' wet years will make it an attractive target for human-based missions to the red planet. We imagine the view from the rim of one of the canyon cliffs will be pretty spectacular as well.

4. The icy geysers of Enceladus


Enceladus, Saturn's second-largest moon, is a geologically active world covered in thick ice, and home to a large subsurface ocean of liquid water estimated to be about 6 miles (10 km) deep. Some of its most distinctive features, however, are its spectacular geysers  -  more than 100 discovered so far - that erupt from cracks in its surface and send dramatic plumes into space.

In 2015, NASA sent its Cassini spacecraft cruising through one of these plumes, revealing saltwater rich in organic molecules. In particular, Cassini detected the presence of molecular hydrogen, a chemical characteristic of hydrothermal activity.

"For a microbiologist thinking about energy for microbes, hydrogen is like the gold coin of energy currency," Peter Girguis, a deep-sea biologist at Harvard University, told the Washington Post in 2017. "If you had to have one thing, one chemical compound, coming out of a vent that would lead you to think there’s energy to support microbial life, hydrogen is at the top of that list."

As such, Enceladus' beautiful geysers may point the way to the most habitable spot for life in our solar system beyond Earth.

5. The 'Peaks of Eternal Light' on Earth's moon

Photo: NASA

While the so-called "Peaks of Eternal Light" on Earth's moon are a misnomer, they're nonetheless impressive. First postulated by a pair of astronomers in the late 19th century, the term applies to specific points on a celestial body almost perpetually bathed in sunlight. While detailed lunar topography collected by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter did not discover any points on the moon where light shines unabated, it did find four peaks where it occurs more than 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Should humans one day colonize the moon, it's likely the first bases will be founded on one of these peaks to take advantage of the abundant solar energy.

Because this phenomenon only occurs on bodies in the solar system with a slight axial tilt and regions of high altitude, it is thought that only the planet Mercury shares this characteristic with our moon.

6. Jupiter's Red Spot

Believed to be several hundred years old, the Great Red Spot of Jupiter is an anticyclonic storm (rotating counter-clockwise) roughly 1.3 times as wide as Earth.

While there's no definitive answer as to what caused the Great Red Spot, we do know one thing: It's shrinking. Recorded observations taken in the 1800s measured the storm at about 35,000 miles (56,000 km), or about four times the diameter of Earth. When Voyager 2 flew by Jupiter in 1979, it had reduced to a little over twice the size of our planet.

In fact, it's possible that perhaps over the next 20 to 30 years, the Great Red Spot (or GRS) will disappear completely.

"The GRS will in a decade or two become the GRC (Great Red Circle)," Glenn Orton, a planetary scientist at NASA JPL, recently told Business Insider. "Maybe sometime after that the GRM - the Great Red Memory."

7. Total solar eclipse from Earth

Photo: Andrew Kroh/Flickr

Nowhere in our solar system are total solar eclipses so perfectly experienced as from our own Earth. As witnessed across North America in August 2017, this phenomenon occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. During totality, the lunar disk appears to perfectly shield the sun's entire surface, leaving only its fiery atmosphere exposed.

The fact that these two different celestial objects appear to line up perfectly at all boils down to both math and a bit of luck. While the moon’s diameter is about 400 times smaller than the sun’s, it also is about 400 times closer. This creates the illusion in the sky of both objects being the same size. The moon, however, is not static in its orbit around the Earth. A billion years ago, when it was about 10 percent closer, it would have blocked the entirety of the sun. But 600 million years from now, at a rate of 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) per year, the moon will have drifted far enough away so that it will no longer cover the sun's shell.

In other words, we're lucky to have evolved when we did to view this temporary wonder of the solar system. You can catch the next one from North America in April 2024.

8. The ice spires of Callisto


Callisto, the second-largest moon of Jupiter, features the oldest and most heavily cratered surface in the solar system. For a long time, astronomers also assumed the planet was geologically dead. In 2001, however, that all changed after NASA's Galileo spacecraft passed a mere 85 miles (137 km) above Callisto's surface and captured something strange: ice-covered spires, some as high as 330 feet (100 meters), jutting from the surface.

Researchers believe the spires were likely formed by material ejected from impacts by meteors, with their distinctive jagged shapes the result of "erosion" from sublimation.

Like Jupiter's Great Red Spot or Earth's total solar eclipses, this is one wonder that is temporary in nature. "They are continuing to erode and will eventually disappear," James E. Klemaszewski of NASA's Galileo mission said in a 2001 statement.

We'll get our next shot at studying these bizarre ice spires when the European Space Agency's JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft visits three of Jupiter's Galilean moons (Ganymede, Callisto and Europa) in 2033.

9. Saturn's rings


Saturn's rings, spanning an estimated 240,000 miles (386,000 km) wide, are composed of 99.9 percent pure water ice, dust and rock. Despite their size, they are extremely thin, with thickness ranging from only 30 to 300 feet (9 to 90 meters).

The rings are believed to be very old, dating back to the formation of the planet itself 4.5 billion years ago. While some believe they are leftover material from Saturn's birth, still others theorize they may be the remains of an ancient moon that was ripped apart by the immense planet's tidal forces.

While Saturn's rings are gorgeous, they're also something of a mystery. For instance, before NASA's Cassini spacecraft burned up in September 2017, it collected data showing the planet's closest D-ring was "raining" 10 tons of material into its upper atmosphere every second. Even stranger, the material was made of organic molecules, not the expected mix of ice, dust and rock.

"What was a surprise was the mass spectrometer saw methane - no one expected that," Thomas Cravens, a member of Cassini's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer team, said in a 2018 news release from the University of Kansas. "Also, it saw some carbon dioxide, which was unexpected. The rings were thought to be entirely water. But the innermost rings are fairly contaminated, as it turns out, with organic material caught up in ice."

10. The vertigo-inducing cliff face of Verona Rupes on the moon Miranda


On the moon of Miranda, the smallest of Uranus's satellites, there exists the largest known cliff in the solar system. Called Verona Rupes, the cliff face was captured during a flyby of Voyager 2 in 1986 and is believed to feature a vertical drop of as much as 12 miles (19 km), or 63,360 feet.

For comparison, the tallest cliff face on Earth, located on Mount Thor in Canada, has a relatively paltry vertical drop of about 4,100 feet (1,250 meters).

For those wondering, io9 crunched the numbers and discovered that, due to Miranda's low gravity, an astronaut jumping off the top of Verona Rupes would essentially free-fall for about 12 minutes. Even better? You might live to tell the tale.

"You wouldn't even need to worry about a parachute - even something as basic as an airbag would be enough to cushion the fall and let you live," io9 adds.

Top image: An illustration of our spectacular solar system. Credit: NASA/Jenny Mottar.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some links added.]