Posts Tagged ‘civil engineering’
In January, Chris Anderson wrote a cover story for Wired called “The New Industrial Revolution”: “The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop.”
The ease of making things in remote factories is the legacy of the first industrial revolution, and the end result has been landfills full of manufactured junk, and the pollution of air, land and waterways.
The Friends of the Pleistocene write: “Who knows what might result if more people knew they were in the midst of creating and leaving behind an unprecedented impact – one that can be measured geologically? … Maybe humans could learn something from this change – if not about our impact, then at least about ourselves within a much longer geologic story.”
Dan Hill, of Arup’s Sydney office, often talks and writes about the idea of a re-industrial city, where small scale manufacturing moves back into inner-city residential areas. It’s a new interpretation of a factory that’s more like an artisan’s workshop. It’s energy efficient, quiet, and doesn’t produce toxic waste.
“In an ironic twist, former warehouses and factories are being partially converted from apartments back into warehouses and factories. Yet the domestic scale of the technologies means they can coexist with living spaces, actually suggesting a return to the craftsman’s studio model of the Middle Ages. The ‘faber’ movement — faber, to make — spread through most Australian cities, with the ‘re-industrial city’ as the result, a genuinely mixed-use productive place — with an identity”.
Maybe the design revolution of the Anthropocene epoch will emerge from personal civil engineering. People worldwide are responding to failing transport infrastructure and environmental concerns with car and bicycle sharing programs and lobbying city governments to create bike tracks. The cool personal products might be individual alternative energy generators and urban farming implements.
“We need to rediscover the power of engineering, it’s impact and contribution,” wrote the inventor and manufacturer James Dyson in a column in The Guardian in 2009. “It can stimulate young minds and it can stimulate the economy. Let’s start with the makers, breakers and remakers – children. Children are mini-engineers and it’s their rite of passage to pull anything mechanical apart to get at the guts. As a child, I pored over Eagle magazine cut-aways that delved into the workings of everything from Bloodhound missiles to offshore oil rigs.”
He was inspired by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an early 19th century British civil engineer who created bridges and tunnels and steamships. “I have tried in my own way, to draw on Brunel’s dream of applying emerging technology in ways as yet unimagined,” he wrote in his autobiography. “He was never afraid to be different or shocking. He never shirked the battles with the money men, and he had to overcome the most incredible resistance to his his ideas: when he applied the system of the screw propeller to a transatlantic steam ship he actually filled a boat with people and sent them across the sea.”
Two new Dyson floor fans were released last week. Dyson products are initially inscrutable. Once you’ve grasped the story, that a fan without blades is a more efficient tool for smooth air flow, for example, they take on the quality of acutely plausible objects from the future, like Stanley Kubrick’s spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Syd Mead’s household appliances and vehicles in Blade Runner.
It even seems as if Arthur C Clarke is the Dyson company’s technical writer: “Dyson Air Multiplier technology. Using an airfoil shaped ramp (like a cross-section through an airplane wing), airflow is amplified from 15 to 18 times depending on the model. This creates a smooth, powerful airflow, with no need for fast-spinning blades.”
Science fiction writers and egghead TV detective shows pay homage to Dyson products. A couple of months ago William Gibson, as Great Dismal, tweeted: “The genius that is the Dyson Airblade I’ll wash my hands just to use one!”
The illustrations and videos on the Dyson website are like the animations of scientific principles on CSI Las Vegas and Numb3rs. On Numb3rs, Charlie, the mathematician who solves crimes using algorithms and statistical analyses, is trying to explain the workings of cyclone at the FBI office and a cleaner moves past with a Dyson dual cyclone vacuum cleaner.
“That vacuum works on cyclonic technology,”Charlie says. “Constant suction is maintained by mini tornadoes in a series of tubes that separate the dirt from air using centrifugal force.”
In CSI Las Vegas in a motel room where someone has been murdered the maid is using a Dyson vacuum cleaner.