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Posts Tagged ‘underground’

Several things under the surface (including extravagant subterranean playplaces)

In Excerpts, Thoughts on May 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

I don’t know why I’m fascinated by the above rendering. It’s a plan for what Anna Rita Emili, Barbara Pellegrino, and Massimo Ilardi call Well House. It’s a new type of house, sunken and centered around a pool, with two levels below the living area used for collecting rainwater and serving a geothermal system.

It’s innovative, but it also feels sinister. Perhaps it’s because it too closely approximates the feeling of being trapped at the bottom of a real well. Or because it feels more like a prison than a home. Or because while the shape in the water is meant to be human, it’s vague enough to be a shark or something altogether more vicious.

Thinking about this reminded me of a part in The BLDGBLOG Book, which devotes 65 pages to “the underground,” in which Manaugh quotes a London Times writer reporting on the growing existence of extravagant complexes built beneath the homes of the super-rich. Manaugh writes:

This urge toward subterranean architectural eccentricity is transforming the very earth beneath London. We learn, for instance, that “billionaire Russian oligarchs, private-equity traders, and hedge-fund managers are engaged in a multimillion-pound game of one-upmanship as they vie with each other to dig ever bigger, wider, and deeper extensions.” Digging also helps London’s super-rich to avoid strict planning and conservation laws, as the houses they’ve been extending into the earth are usally listed structures and thus cant be visibly altered. Many of these houses thus now “have more space below ground than above it,” we read.

Later he quotes a whole passage about one man’s ridiculous set-up.

“One home in north London even has a bespoke chute covered in a special slippery paint, which enables the owner, who loves swimming first thing in the morning, but hates the fuss of dressing, to step out of bed and slide straight into the water a couple stories below.”

No doubt most of us dreamt of something like this as a kid. Rope ladders from third-story towers down into secret basement passageways. Firemen’s poles into underground playgrounds. Etc.

The theme of our downward direction brought to mind one of the funnier things I’ve seen in a while. My friend Donnie animated this short clip as part of his Bleep-Bloop comics series. Well done, Donnie.

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Super-K!

In Excerpts, Thoughts on April 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm

About 400 miles from where tsunami waves slowly consumed the town of Ishinomaki, a facility near Hida, Japan, buried 3,000 feet underground, continued its search for supernova, atmospheric, and solar neutrinos.

neu-tri-no noun

neutrino is an elementary particle that usually travels close to the speed of light, is electrically neutral, and is able to pass through ordinary matter almost unaffected. This makes neutrinos extremely difficult to detect. Neutrinos have a very small, but nonzero mass. They are denoted by the Greek letter ν (nu).

Origin: Italian, from neutro neutral, neuter, from Latin neutr-, neuter

First Known Use: 1934

Rhymes with: Aquino, Latino, merino

You can read more about them if you want, but I have little interest—and not nearly enough time—to understand precisely what Wikipedia is trying so desperately, in more than 25 sub-sections to tell me. I’m interested in this thing—it goes by Super-Kamiokande, Super-K for short—for the architectural and aesthetic onslaught it delivers.

I don’t need to mention the immediate sense of living in a science-fiction graphic novel or the absolute absence of determinable scale. I don’t need to explain the disorienting nature of a 100-foot tall, water-bottomed tank, lined with photomultiplier tubes.

What goes on inside, via W:

A neutrino interaction with the electrons or nuclei of water can produce a charged particle that moves faster than the speed of light in water. This creates a cone of light known as Cherenkov radiation, which is the optical equivalent to a sonic boom. The Cherenkov light is projected as a ring on the wall of the detector and recorded by the PMTs. Using the timing and charge information recorded by each PMT, the interaction vertex, ring direction and flavor of the incoming neutrino is determined. From the sharpness of the edge of the ring the type of particle can be inferred. The multiple scattering of electrons is large, so electromagnetic showers produce fuzzy rings. Highly relativistic muons, in contrast, travel almost straight through the detector and produce rings with sharp edges.

I’m following it a bit until “highly relativistic muons, in contrast, travel almost straight through the detector.” Muons? No idea. An event in 2001, however, I can imagine. And I imagine it would’ve been terrifying had anyone been inside at the time.

On November 12, 2001, about 6,600 of the photomultiplier tubes (costing about $3000 each [8]) in the Super-Kamiokande detector imploded, apparently in a chain reaction as the shock wave from the concussion of each imploding tube cracked its neighbours.

Perhaps the following image comes from the repair work that was done on the 6,000 damaged tubes.

Someone over at BionicBong—a much more learned blog than its name implies—made the observation that “it’s good to see that no matter how hi-tech it gets, things are still done with standard office chairs.” Despite the fact that Super-K was built in 1996, it’s incredible that some of these images, and even the whole aesthetic somehow feels like a 1970s made-for-television movie.

More incredible still is that apparently these neutrino detectors are not all the same. One in Sudbury, Ontario, just 12 hours from here, is perhaps even more other-worldly:

(In the second photo, I enjoy how the white material hangs like a wilting petunia, a long red stamen bursting from its center.)

A world I don’t understand. But one that requires incredible architectural skill. And one that will forever fascinate those of us who will never worry about photomultiplier implosion.

From an interview with a mild-mannered maniac

In Excerpts on February 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

“The idea that Manhattan might someday be compressed into a giant fossil, and that it will be buried in marine rock somewhere, is absolutely spine-tingling. What would it be like to be the person who then discovers it? And is that archaeology or paleontology? It’s like those fossilized forests that have been found deep inside coal mines—but imagine now that you instead find the black, sprawling fossils of Shanghai or Moscow, embedded in rocks nearly a mile below the surface of the earth, 99 million years from now.”

Interview. Photo.