In Barcelona, the remains of the old city enters the Mediterranean like a wedge between the urban beach and the new harbour, resisting in its own way the attacks of real estate development. The sailor-spirited streets of La Barceloneta lie beneath the shadow cast by apartments where you can still see clothes hanging in the balconies and recognize new neighbours because they “don’t know how to hang it properly”. The defending neighbours of La Barceloneta tell their life stories and prepare the annual festivity in their street, which depends less of the City’s bureaucracy than of the good will of those who live there. These retired women can still make you smile, plus they know every nook of the neighbourhood. This film makes the difficult seem easy: capturing the essence of something that is vanishing, between the memories of sailor legends and the premonition of an advancing modernity.
Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows—ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity—for their civilized existence. In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today’s fossil fuel–driven civilization.
Humans are the only species that can systematically harness energies outside their bodies, using the power of their intellect and an enormous variety of artifacts—from the simplest tools to internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors. The epochal transition to fossil fuels affected everything: agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, economics, urbanization, quality of life, politics, and the environment. Smil describes humanity’s energy eras in panoramic and interdisciplinary fashion, offering readers a magisterial overview. This book is an extensively updated and expanded version of Smil’s Energy in World History (1994). Smil has incorporated an enormous amount of new material, reflecting the dramatic developments in energy studies over the last two decades and his own research over that time.
I have recently been walking around “Falowiec” (form the Polish word fala, wave; plural: falowce) in Gdansk, the longest building in Europe. It is a block of flats characterised by its length and wavy shape. This type of building was built in Poland in the late 1960s and 1970s in the Polish city of Gdańsk, where there are eight buildings of this type. Some buildings of this kind are also present in Italy.
The best-known falowiec in Gdańsk, located at the Obrońców Wybrzeża street, has:
11 stories (10 plus the ground floor)
nearly 6,000 occupants
4 segments (4 staircases in each segment of 110 apartments).
a length of around 850 m (2788 ft)
Soviet mass housing is a contradictory but unique phenomenon. It is usually blamed for creating the most monotonous built environment in the history of mankind, thus constituting a symbol of individual suppression and dejection. The construction programme launched in the post-Stalinist era was the largest undertaken in modern architectural history worldwide. At the same time, Soviet mass housing fulfilled a colossal social role, providing tens of millions of families with their own apartments. It shaped the culture and everyday life of nearly all Soviet citizens. Yet, due to the very scale of construction, it managed to evolve into a complex world denoting an abundance of myths and secrets, achievements and failures. Soviet mass housing is indisputably intriguing, but nevertheless it is still neglected as a theme of research. Therefore, the time is ripe for a critical appraisal of this ambitious project. The authors aim to identify the most significant mass housing series designed and engineered from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.
Tim Harford, economist and author of the book ‘Messy: How To be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World’ believes that ugly fonts like Comic Sans or Monotype Corsiva help you concentrate on what you are reading.
“When you get something in these fonts – it’s ugly, difficult to read, and it attracts your attention. When you have your attention, then you actually start trying to understand what it says,” he told Business Insider.
Harford referred to a study run by psychologists at Princeton University where school teacher’s handouts were reformatted in either easy to read or harder fonts.
“Those who got their handouts formatted in difficult, ugly fonts did better in their end of term exams across a variety of subjects.”
Produced and filmed by Claudia Romeo. Special thanks to Joe Daunt.