Archive | August 2012

20: Blue Jacaranda – In pictures: 20 of the world’s most beautiful trees

The exquisite violet blossoms of the blue jacaranda smother its branches and make an eye-catching spectacle just before the leaves unfold. The Beauty of Trees by Michael Jordan (Quercus, RRP £20) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £18 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit

The tall, straight trunks of eastern hemlock blend into the mists of an early morning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The tall, straight trunks of eastern hemlock blend into the mists of an early morning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The tree’s bizarre appearance is brought about because the large globular fruits are borne in clusters directly on the trunk of the tree.

The tree’s bizarre appearance is brought about because the large globular fruits are borne in clusters directly on the trunk of the tree.

The prop roots of a massive and aged banyan provide their own own dramatic and unique imagery beside a forest track in the Ranthambore National Park in northern India.

The prop roots of a massive and aged banyan provide their own own dramatic and unique imagery beside a forest track in the Ranthambore National Park in northern India.

This majestic ponderosa pine has been growing towards the meagre sunlight for years in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park in the United States.

This majestic ponderosa pine has been growing towards the meagre sunlight for years in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park in the United States.

The exotic magnificence of the red blossoms decorating this tree growing on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania would be hard to miss.

The exotic magnificence of the red blossoms decorating this tree growing on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania would be hard to miss.

The trunks of densely packed white poplars create a pretty spectacle in spring sunlight.

The trunks of densely packed white poplars create a pretty spectacle in spring sunlight.

In early winter an English oak, its colours fast changing from green to russet, stands in solitary splendour among arable fields at Lamyatt in the west of England.

In early winter an English oak, its colours fast changing from green to russet, stands in solitary splendour among arable fields at Lamyatt in the west of England.

The incredible bald cypress, supported by aerial prop roots, grows seemingly from the bottom of this lake in the Everglades, Florida.

The incredible bald cypress, supported by aerial prop roots, grows seemingly from the bottom of this lake in the Everglades, Florida.

One of the few species of conifer that shed their needles in winter, bare European larches clothe a hillside in England’s Lake District National Park.

One of the few species of conifer that shed their needles in winter, bare European larches clothe a hillside in England’s Lake District National Park.

With a fresh layer of snow, these famous monkey puzzle trees in the Malalcahuello National Reserve in Chile give the area a mythical air.

With a fresh layer of snow, these famous monkey puzzle trees in the Malalcahuello National Reserve in Chile give the area a mythical air. The Beauty of Trees by Michael Jordan (Quercus, RRP £20) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £18 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit

Framed here by a New Zealand mountain backdrop, the southern cabbage tree is a lowland species believed to have once formed dense jungles along river banks.

Framed here by a New Zealand mountain backdrop, the southern cabbage tree is a lowland species believed to have once formed dense jungles along river banks.

A blaze of white ‘candles’ lights up horse chestnuts during spring.

A blaze of white ‘candles’ lights up horse chestnuts during spring.

Ancient gnarled olive trees emerge from the early morning mist in a grove on the Greek island of Thassos.

This parade of ‘upside-down trees’ lines the famous Avenue des Baobabs, in Menabe, Madagascar.

This parade of ‘upside-down trees’ lines the famous Avenue des Baobabs, in Menabe, Madagascar.

Like its African counterpart, the West Indian mahogany has been over-exploited for timber. Here, however, young trees are grown as a sustainable crop in a Hawaiian plantation.

Like its African counterpart, the West Indian mahogany has been over-exploited for timber. Here, however, young trees are grown as a sustainable crop in a Hawaiian plantation.

The imposing trunks of grand fir soar skywards in a forest in British Columbia, Canada.

The imposing trunks of grand fir soar skywards in a forest in British Columbia, Canada.

A Scots pine stands sentinel-like at the edge of Loch an Eilein deep in the Scottish Highlands.

A Scots pine stands sentinel-like at the edge of Loch an Eilein deep in the Scottish Highlands.

A red mangrove on the Queensland coast of Australia develops large numbers of thin, aerial prop roots that help support its main trunk in unstable shifting sands.

A red mangrove on the Queensland coast of Australia develops large numbers of thin, aerial prop roots that help support its main trunk in unstable shifting sands.

Evidence of the bygone industry of coppicing hazel to make poles for hurdles and fences is not hard to find in many old woodlands.

Evidence of the bygone industry of coppicing hazel to make poles for hurdles and fences is not hard to find in many old woodlands. The Beauty of Trees by Michael Jordan (Quercus, RRP £20) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £18 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit

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Nick Pederson’s Overgrown Post-Apocalyptic Environments

“My goal with this project is to create striking juxtapositions between the ruins of modern civilization and a futuristic ecological utopia.”

Brooklyn-based artist/illustrator Nick Pedersen -whom we featured in the 6th installment of our limited editionbook series– recently finished a new batch of work entitled Ultima. The loosely narrative series depicts a post-apocalyptic environment in which conflicts between modern and early cultures, and man and the natural world are given prominent attention. In the world that Pedersen has conjured, overgrown cities (though absent of their typical, busy inhabitants) are full of life. The lush, green environments project a vibrancy that’s really appealing. But the digital works have their quiet aspects too- deer slowly pick their way through the brush; and stoic, masked tribesmen explore their bizarre surroundings. Check out more images from Ultima after the jump.

Wuxi Grand Theatre By PES Architect

PES-Architects in the year 2008 took the first prize in the international invited architectural competition for the design of the Wuxi Grand Theatre. PES did not just win since it beat a number of famous practices that are also superbly established from across the world in such countries as Denmark, Japan, France and Germany.

The main thing observable when it comes to the Wuxi Grand Theatre is the location. There is an artificial peninsula lying on Taihu Lake northern shore and since there is a highway bridge, the location compares to the well-known Sydney Opera House. The building courtesy of the location has become an amazing landmark and runs 50 meters high with 8 huge roof wings stretching further across the façade.

The Dangerous Labor of Sulfur Miners in Indonesia

Kawah Ijen is a volcano rich with sulfur that lies in East Java, Indonesia. Sulfur miners hike up to the summit of the volcano, at 8,660 ft. high, to enter the mine in the crater that is brimming with a deep lake of molten sulfuric acid that is 650 ft. deep. French photographer Olivier Grunewald joined some of these miners on their journey to catch a firsthand glimpse of the laborious work put into harvesting the yellow mineral.

While it may seem wild to think that Grunewald willingly put himself in this hazardous atmosphere and through the putrid stench of sulfur in sweltering heat to capture a few pictures, the images he has surfaced with are absolutely astounding and really put the arduous task at hand into perspective. The photojournalist documents the dangers that these sulfur miners in Indonesia face daily for a mere $13 USD. Guided by torchlight, they enter the mines that can reach boiling temperatures, just enough to see sulfur in its red, molten state.

Once the sulfur cools and turns to its more commonly recognized yellow hue, the miners hack away at the walls of the crater and collect the hardened sulfur. Each miner packs as much as he can carry, loading each of his baskets that is often equipped to carry 100-200 lbs. Even more unbelievable is the lack of gas masks or protective gear on most of these miners who come so close in contact with dangerous, acidic elements.

The remarkable photos in this series known as Kawah Ijen by Night reveal so much about the labor-intensive duties of these miners while simultaneously documenting the natural landscape of the volcano and its activity. The opposing forces and colors of red and blue flames that are seen throughout the series also offer an interesting visual. The blue flames that naturally light the molten sulfuric acid clashing with the red flames of the miners’ torches amidst the foggy, acidic gas that fills the night air makes for some truly powerful imagery.

Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

The collaboration between the Institue for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and leading multinational company in the Spanish electricity sector Endesa resulted in the construction of an innovative solar structure that will adorn the Barcelona’s Marina Pier for one year. Part of the Smart City Expo, the Endesa Pavilion (also known as Solar House 2.0 ) is describes as ” a testbed for informational grid technologies“. Combining prefabricated technologies with perfectly adapted customization, this genius design built in just one month is software-designed, cut to dimensions and assembled into a place-specific design. Plywood wedges shape outside solar system supports and interior storage spaces, while their cantilevering features shade the interiors from gaining too much heat in the summer.

Endesa Pavilion 2 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Summarizing the project, IAAC explains the modularity, versatility and functional features of the pavilion: “The project is an exercise in which a building, under the guidance of the block type of Barcelona, is adapted by adding a series of modules on its facade. These modules, which are seen as triangular pieces section, make possible for the building to optimize energy and spatial intelligence. Its size and components vary depending on the orientation and inclination of the sun, the relationship with the environment and other technical needs.” Scroll down to see two videos – one presenting the pavilion from multiple angles and the second one explaining the ideas and technologies behind the exceptional project.

Endesa Pavilion 3 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 4 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 5 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 6 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 7 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 8 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 9 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 10 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 11 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 12 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 13 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 14 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 15 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 16 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

Endesa Pavilion 17 Genius Spanish Solar Pavilion Innovates Customized Prefabrication

10 Interesting STAR TREK Facts You May Not Know

Apparently there’s still a lot about Star Trek that I still don’t know. This latest infographic that’s been released points out a few things that I didn’t know until today. Like actor James Doohan who played Scotty on the original series was shot six times on D-Day in WWII, and it wasn’t by the enemy! Check all of the Star Trek facts out below and let us know if there are any listed that you didn’t know. Which of these surprised you the most?

A Hydrogen-Powered Plane That Could Go From Los Angeles To New York City In Under An Hour

But not any time soon. And only if you’re in the military. But still, that’s pretty fast.

Barring the sudden resurrection of the Concorde, humans won’t get to experience ultra-high speed air transportation anytime soon. If that ever changes, it may be thanks to theBoeing X-51–an experimental plane that can go up to 3,600 mph–three times faster than the Concorde. That’s fast enough to go from Los Angeles to New York City in under an hour. And this week, it will be tested in the real world.

The unmanned plane, which looks like it emerged from a vintage sci-fi novel, is “airbreathing”–meaning it operates using onboard hydrogen fuel and oxygen pulled from the atmosphere. The compression of the two gases gives the plane enough thrust to travel at hypersonic speeds.

Like many major technological innovations, the X-51 program is a military effort, created as a partnership between the United States Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Today’s test will see the plane attached to the wing of a B-52 bomber, flying from Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert to a point 50,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. There is no final land-based destination; the plane is supposed to fly at Mach 6 (hypersonic speeds) for 330 seconds before dropping into the ocean. If it works, it will be the longest that a plane has ever flown at that speed.

The X-51 is intended for use as a stealth military aircraft–one that can potentially travel with weapons at high speeds. But there are obvious civilian applications further down the line. “Once the military proves out the concept, hypersonic transport becomes a step closer to reality,” explained Dora Musielak, an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Texas at Arlington, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. And when hypersonic transport becomes a viable option, the world will get a whole lot smaller.

Microsoft Bing launches Facebook photo search tool

Microsoft’s Bing search engine today rolled out the latest in a series of Facebook-related features, launching a tool for quickly searching photos uploaded to the social network by your friends. It’s a simple but effective feature that might be Bing’s best Facebook integration yet.

The Friends’ Photos search feature requires logging into Facebook from Bing to be able to access data from the social network.

It can be accessed on this search page or by clicking on a friend’s photo in Bing’s “Social Sidebar,” the strip of related information from friends and experts in the right-hand column on Bing search results pages.

You can search by keyword, to find particular types of photos from all of your friends, or by a particular friend’s name.

Microsoft says the Friends’ Photos feature adheres to Facebook’s privacy guidelines and will only show photos that a particular friend has made viewable on Facebook to the searcher. The company says private photos won’t be shared with the public.

Wolfram Alpha offers Facebook personal analytics

Wolfram Alpha has found a way to let Facebook users use personal analytics to get a detailed picture of their social media data, including daily posting activity and friend statistics.

It’s fairly straightforward: type “Facebook report” into the standard Wolfram|Alpha Web site and the technology generates a report “with more than a dozen major chapters, broken into more than 60 sections, with all sorts of drill-downs, alternate views, etc.,” according to CEO Stephen Wolfram, who also explains:

If you’re doing this for the first time, you’ll be prompted to authenticate the Wolfram Connection app in Facebook, and then sign in to Wolfram|Alpha (yes, it’s free). And as soon as you’ve done that, Wolfram|Alpha will immediately get to work generating a personal analytics report from the data it can get about you through Facebook.

This is just the start. Wolfram said more features will be added in coming months.

Coincidentally, the news takes place on the same day that Microsoft Bing announced it has added a way for users to search their archives of Facebook photos.

Here’s what Stephen Wolfram’s daily Facebook report looked like.

(Credit: Wolfram Alpha)

Incredible Photos Show Saturn’s Changing Seasons

When the seasons change here on Earth, the weather gets cooler, leaves change color and in some areas, snow begins to fall. But what happens when seasons change on the distant planet Saturn?

Gorgeous new photos from NASA’s Cassini probe, released Wednesday, show exactly that.

Saturn takes approximately 30 years to orbit the sun, so its seasons are much longer than those on Earth. The northern part of Saturn was in winter when Cassini first arrived eight years ago and is now transitioning to spring. The southern hemisphere of Saturn is similarly entering autumn. And though there are no trees to change color and no children to prep for going back to school on the sixth planet from the sun, Saturn still changes with the seasons.

“The azure blue in the northern winter Saturnian hemisphere that greeted Cassini upon its arrival in 2004 is now fading; and it is now the southern hemisphere, in its approach to winter, that is taking on a bluish hue,” says Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco.

The changes are due to increases (and decreases) in ultraviolet light intensity and the presence of methane gas in the planet’s atmosphere.

A vortex of gas has been observed on the south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan, believed to be caused by the changing of the seasons (above). The below photo of Titan shows a glowing ring as sunlight scatters through the moon’s atmosphere.

NASA launched the Cassini probe in 1997 to collect data on the planet Saturn. Though Cassini’s initial mission was completed in 2008, NASA has since extended it to collect more images of the ringed planet and its largest moon, Titan as it goes through seasonal changes. The Cassini mission is slated to end in 2017, when the probe will be sent crashing into Saturn.