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life…  life…  LIFE!!!


Astronomers on Monday announced the discovery of 50 new planets circling stars beyond the sun, including one “super-Earth” that is the right distance from its star to possibly have water.

“If we are really, really lucky, this planet could be a habitat” like Earth, said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

Construction on the first space-bound Orion space capsule started Sept. 9, 2011, after pressure from Congress to complete construction.

The planet, dubbed HD85512b, circles an orange star somewhat smaller and cooler than our sun about 36 light-years away. The star, HD85512, is visible in the southern sky in the constellation Vela.

The newly found planet circles this star every 59 days, putting it at the edge of the “habitable zone” where water could exist if atmospheric conditions were right.

In a teleconference, Kaltenegger said that the planet is at the warm edge of its star’s habitable zone, as if “standing next to a bonfire.” That means the planet would require a lot of cloud cover — which reflects starlight — to keep the surface cool enough to prevent any water from boiling, she said.

Astronomers have not determined whether the new super-Earth is rocky like the Earth or gassy like Jupiter, let alone whether it has an atmosphere. The new super-Earth is 3.5 times the mass of Earth.

Astronomers inferred the existence of the planet by watching its star wobble ever so slightly. The speed of the wobble indicated the existence of a planet tugging at the star.

This “radial velocity” technique has been productive, offering astronomers working at La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile evidence of the 50 new “exoplanets” announced Monday. The planet-hunting instrument, called HARPS, are operated by the European Southern Observatory.

Sixteen of the new planets announced Monday, including the new super-Earth, are of the right mass to be made of rock instead of gas.

“We are building up a target list of super-Earths in the habitable zone,” Kaltenegger said.

To determine whether the planet has an atmosphere, astronomers need to capture an image of the planet — which they have not done — and analyze the light for signs of water, carbon dioxide and other gases. No existing telescope is sensitive enough for that task.

But a new telescope to begin construction next year, the European Extremely Large Telescope, will be up to the task, said Markus Kissler-Patig of the European Southern Observatory. It will be “technically capable of finding life around the nearest stars,” he said, by analyzing the atmosphere of exoplanets. The new super-Earth is a “prime target” for the new telescope.

Since 1995, astronomers have found more than 600 planets beyond Earth, according to a catalog.

In the accelerating race to bag and tag planets outside our solar system, HD85512b marks the second super-Earth found at the right distance from its star to possibly hold water, considered a vital ingredient for life. The first, called Gliese 581d, was discovered by the same telescope in Chile in 2007.



winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize

Ceramic House © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio


, Chinese architect and founder of Amateur Architecture Studio, has been just announced as the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Prize.

The ’s purpose is “to honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture”.

In my opinion Wang Shu’s architecture presents a contemporary and progressive approach that acknowledges the rich tradition of Chinese architecture. As the future generations of Chinese architects are influenced by his architecture, a generation that will be an active part of China’s growth, he will indirectly improve how millions will live in the next few years.

He calls his office Amateur Architecture Studio, but the work is that of a virtuoso in full command of the instruments of architecture — form, scale, material, space and light 

– Karen Stein, Pritzker Prize jury.

Wang Shu, a 48 year old architect whose architectural practice is based in Hangzhou, The People’s Republic of China, will be the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize, it was announced today by Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honor will be in Beijing on May 25.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Pritzker elaborated, “The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury, represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals. In addition, over the coming decades China’s success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China’s unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development.”

Ningbo History Museum © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, spoke from his home in the United Kingdom, quoting from the jury citation that focuses on the reasons for this year’s choice: “The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu ́s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”

Wang earned his first degree in architecture at the Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture in 1985. Three years later, he received his Masters Degree at the same institute. When he first graduated from school, he went to work for the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou doing research on the environment and architecture in relation to the renovation of old buildings. Nearly a year later, he was at work on his first architectural project – the design of a 3600 square meter Youth Center for the small town of Haining (near Hangzhou). It was completed in 1990.

For nearly all of the next ten years, he worked with craftsmen to gain experience at actual building and have no responsibility for design. In 1997, Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their professional practice in Hangzhou, naming it “Amateur Architecture Studio.” He explains the name, “For myself, being an artisan or a craftsman, is an amateur or almost the same thing.” His interpretation of the word is relatively close to one of the unabridged dictionary’s definitions: “a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons”. In Wang Shu’s interpretaion, the word “pleasure” might well be replaced by “love of the work”.

© Iwan Baan

By the year 2000, he had completed his first major project, the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University. In keeping with his philosophy of paying scrupulous attention to the environment, and with careful consideration of traditions of Suzhou gardening which suggests that buildings located between water and mountains should not be prominent, he designed the library with nearly half of the building underground. Also, four additional buildings are much smaller than the main body. In 2004, the library received the Architecture Art Award of China.

His other major projects completed, all in China, include in 2005, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum and five scattered houses in Ningbo which received acknowledgment from the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in the Asia Pacific. In that same city, he completed the Ningbo History Museum in 2008. In his native city of Hangzhou, he did the first phase of the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in 2004, and then completed phase two of the same campus in 2007.

True to his methods of the economy of materials, he salvaged over two million tiles from demolished traditional houses to cover the roofs of the campus buildings. That same year in Hangzhou, he built the Vertical Courtyard Apartments, consisting of six 26-storey towers, which was nominated in 2008 for the German based International High-Rise Award. Also finished in 2009 in Hangzhou, was the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial Street of Southern Song Dynasty. In 2006, he completed the Ceramic House in Jinhua.

Other international recognition includes the French Gold Medal from the Academy of Architecture in 2011. The year before, both he and his wife, Lu Wenyu, were awarded the German Schelling Architecture Prize.

Since 2000, Wang Shu has been the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, the institution where he did research on the environment and architecture when he first graduated from school. Last year, he became the first Chinese architect to hold the position of “Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor” at Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also a frequent visiting lecturer at many universities around the world, including in the United States: UCLA, Harvard, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, He has participated in a number of major international exhibitions in Venice, Hong Kong, Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

Upon learning that he was being honored, Wang Shu had this reaction: “This is really a big surprise. I am tremendously honored to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. I suddenly realized that I’ve done many things over the last decade. It proves that earnest hard work and persistence lead to positive outcomes.”

The distinguished jury that selected the 2012 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, chairman of the trustees, Serpentine Gallery, former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, former chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation, and former trustee of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and alphabetically: Alejandro Aravena, architect and executive director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing, The People’s Republic of China; Zaha Hadid, architect and 2004 Pritzker Laureate; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate of Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author of Helsinki, Finland; and Karen Stein, writer, editor and architectural consultant in New York. Martha Thorne, associate dean for external relations, IE School of Architecture, Madrid, Spain, is the executive director of the prize.

(ARCH DAILY  2.27.12)

more projects by Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio here

2010 in photos…

some big pictures…

Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from an Icelandic volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010. The volcano spewed ash into the air for weeks, wreaking havoc on flights across Europe. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)


As the year 2010 approaches its last few days, it’s time to look back on the previous 12 months. In the first third of 2010, Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, several massive earthquakes wreaked havoc worldwide, Vancouver hosted a successful Winter Olympics, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010.

A US army soldier with the 101st Airborne Division Alpha Battery 1-320th fires an AT-4 as Combat Outpost Nolen on the outskirts of the village of Jellawar in the Arghandab Valley came under Taliban attack on September 11, 2010. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

A tremendous sinkhole caused by the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Agatha in Guatemala City was estimated to be 30 meters wide and over 60 meters deep. As the sinkhole formed, it swallowed a clothing factory about three miles from the site of a similar sinkhole three years earlier. The clothing factory had closed only an hour before it plunged into the Earth. (REUTERS/Casa Presidencial)

After a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Yushu, Qinghai, China on April 14, 2010, killing over 2,500 residents, praying Tibetan monks are seen through flames, distorted by the heat shimmer above the mass cremation of victims of the earthquake on April 17, 2010. (AP Photo)

The collapsed Borde Rio apartment building is seen in Concepcion, Chile, Thursday, March 4, 2010. On February 27th, a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)

The Guizer Jarl or Chief of the Jarl viking squad stands before the burning viking longship during Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Scotland on January 26, 2010. (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korean Marine Corps’ amphibious vehicles and the Navy’s Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) ship “Dokdo” (background) take part in a mock landing operation in the sea off Incheon, west of Seoul, September 15, 2010. The operation marked the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-led United Nations troops’ Incheon Landing Operations during the 1950-1953 Korean War. (REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)

(BOSTON.COM  12.14.10)

find all 120 photos in 3 parts — part 1, part 2, part 3


the dark secrets the Atacama desert


Nostalgia for the Light is concerned with bodies both celestial and physical; it’s a film whose subjects couldn’t be grander, yet which couldn’t feel more personal. A metaphysical, ethnographic, and, of course, political cine-essay, Patricio Guzmán’s film is a work of immense power—of profound ugliness and beauty, of the unthinkable occurring somewhere deep within a universe unknowable. It feels different from several of Guzmán’s other films in the way that it locates something nearly mystical surrounding the harsh truths of recent Chilean history. It’s a film that Guzmán spent many years preparing and then making—a dream project, then, but also in that it takes the form of a dream, one filled with scattered memories, musings, and philosophies. But finally, as always, we wake up to hard, cold facts. It’s a circular film, both in the way it constantly loops back on its own ideas, deepening them with each new added ring, and also in its visuals: it begins with images of the enormous spinning wheels of the German Hayde telescope located in an observatory in Santiago. It is a film of close inspection, but also of introspection.

At times early on, Nostalgia for the Light seems a fairly straightforward memoir, narrated commandingly by the director himself, who, after waxing mysteriously about space and time, takes us back to the pre-revolution Chile of his childhood, when Patricio was simply a kid who loved science-fiction stories and astronomy, and when his world was “a haven of peace, isolated from the rest of the world.” But instead of relying on old photographs or home movie footage to take us back, Guzmán lays his voiceover on a series of elegant, Malickian images, close-ups of napkins and tablecloths, stained glass windows and dishes, in rooms drained of people yet filled with floating stardust, glistening like jewels. This is the unattainable past, a lost paradise, a place Guzmán has rarely attempted to show before. As the title implies, this film looks backwards as much as it points ahead, watches the skies as much as it burrows through the ground—the calcium in the stars is the same as that found in our bones.

Despite the moral devastation wreaked by Pinochet’s ascension, Guzmán tells us, Chilean astronomers kept working in their outposts, searching for life’s origins. Not far into the film, the director introduces the first of many supporting characters, a young astronomer named Gaspar, born after the coup. (There is a talking-heads doc aspect to the film, but they’re such disparate people and so ingeniously woven into the whole that the guests seem more like voices from the ether than authorities trotted out to provide theses or evidence.) Gaspar, who under Pinochet’s regime studied diffuse galaxies (which often appear as though gas and dust), reminds us, powerfully, that “science is never resolved.” One might say the same of history, of course, and also of Guzmán’s career-long endeavor to force his country to confront its past through the cinema. Gaspar further provides Nostalgia for the Light with a central theme, that of the past intruding upon an impossible present: if physics tells us that there is no now, and that, thus, we don’t actually see things the instant we look at them, then how can a nation, or a person, be freed from the shackles of history?

Guzmán proceeds to dig further back into that history, and he has fertile ground in which to do it. Chile’s still thriving mining industry (very much in the news, as recent happier events proved) was in the nineteenth-century an excuse to use the nation’s Indian population as slaves. The countless bodies of men, women, and children, buried somewhere in the desert, and the abandoned, rusted machinery of the mines in Atacama, mark the land as a graveyard of sorts. The tortured history of this place extended to the 1970s at least, when Pinochet established a concentration camp for dissidents at the Atacama nitrate town of Chacabuco. Here, despite the starvation and desperation, some prisoners continued to stargaze, fashioning makeshift telescopes in the hopes of witnessing something sublime—anything to transcend the suffocating space of their cells, the measurements of which are recounted by Miguel, who Guzmán calls the “Architect of Memory” for his lasting commitment to never forgetting the conditions under which he, and other prisoners, lived, through drawings and memorization. This man is clearly some form of hero to Guzmán, who was recently quoted as saying, “The absence of memory produces a global suffering.”

One subject leads to another, in a teeming free associative structure that nevertheless always philosophically and historically coheres; Guzmán also often uses repetition of images (of moon craters, of floating stardust, of the Solar System, of Atacama, of telescopes) to create a forceful sense of eternal return. The director’s accumulation of images and thoughts is powerful; history repeats itself (for instance, the fact that the names of political prisoners were etched on the concentration camp walls may recall an earlier rumination on the mysterious ancient carvings high in the desert rocks, keys to unlocking the secrets of lost civilizations). With its parallels and recollections, Nostalgia becomes an increasingly dialectical work. Late in the film, when Guzmán introduces us to Chilean exile Victor’s mother, a masseuse, he overlays shots of her putting healing hands on a patient with voiceover explaining the 30,000 recorded instances of torture during the regime. The disjunction between sound and image here creates a poignant moment—there is occasional solace in physical connection, but it perhaps requires a spiritual disassociation between body and spirit.

This expedition to outer space and inner Chile may take as its subject nothing less than the universe, but it’s really about the smallest creatures swarming within its incomprehensible boundaries. The most essential here might finally be the women of Calama, Victoria and Valeta, tireless in their quest to find the remains of their lost loved ones, resolute in never giving up the ghost. As one of them says, finding him is all that would give her a sense of finality before death. As with every other being on this planet, the present moment, if it exists at all, is fragile—a mass of contradictions, of particles bouncing off of each other with disregard. The choking knot of the past is what gives Guzmán, and all of us, the irreparable curse of nostalgia.

(REVERSE SHOT  issue 28)

the entire article here

“NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT” 2010 directed by Patricio Guzmán

an interview with Patricio Guzmán


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