Things I’m liking…

stationI’m liking these thin skinned vaults.  People used to do amazing things with bricks and tiles, and  folks at MIT are working to bring it back.  In the US we have a lot of amazing tile/masonry buildings via the work of Guastavino.  And, have look at these mostly abandoned  buildings in Cuba, also  via satellite.  One contributor to these techniques falling out of favor was rising labor costs, but also a lack of tools for doing the structural analysis on them and, in turn, a lack of building codes.  There are thrust lines that flow thru these arches, and they had better stay inside the masonry, otherwise it’s going to crack.  A single layer of tiles might be only an inch think; so best to know what your doing.  The folks at MIT think they have that problem solvedThese building suggest their right.  Try it yourself.

From Aspen Aerogel, click to enlarge.

From Aspen Aerogel, click to enlarge.

I’m also liking Aerogel insulation.  When I was a kid it was well know that the down of goslings, preferably from a Scandinavian goose, provided the worlds best insulator.  Man had yet to create a better tangle for capturing air and frustrating heat.  Nature is still  doing well in that race and  I still own a down winter coat.  But, it was lie.  In the 1930s chemists invent this stuff Aerogel.  It’s a solid consisting of nothing but fibers of silica.  It’s rigid, almost transparent, quite brittle, and extremely expensive.  But it’s practically opaque to heat, so NASA wanted to use it and they funded a mess-o-research.  These days you can buy small insulating panels of it so when you ship whatever in dry ice you only need to put but a tiny bit of ice in the box and it will stay cold for days.  You can get insulating batts of this stuff in various forms for around 3-4$ a square foot from Aspen Aerogel.  But  those aren’t as perfect an insulator as the solid blocks.  You can also buy it in granular form for poring into spaces (Cabot).  Not  as fine an insulator as the insulating batts this stuff can be nearly transparent so it gets used in skylights, exterior wall panels, and inflated or tension roofing.  You can also buy a slice of it wrapped up into liners for your shoes, a pad for sitting on the cold bench at the game, or for keeping your hot laptop from scalding your legs.  My favorite application is in these personal air heat exchangers.

There is a nice overview of various kinds of insulation here, which shows that the aerogel products have some near competitors; not mentioned though are these delightful batts of wool insulation, I like ’em.

I like this video demonstrating the hyperbolic discounting problem.  But the popular articles about this experiment are horrible.  They don’t actually explain how universal the problem is nor do they bother to give any hints on how to deal.  In this video the only means left to these kids is manipulation of attention, and even that was incredibly limited.  I assure you, this experiment would work just as well on adults.

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

And, I’m liking my name sake, I need to make a visit.

7 thoughts on “Things I’m liking…

  1. nzc

    Aren’t there ceilings like this in Baker/Porter Hall at CMU? I *loved* those ceilings. The stairwell leading down to the campus book store was this type of construction as well.

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