[box]This post originally appeared on the planning blog.[/box]

In this post, let’s explore the link between the twin worlds of microbiology and creative thought, drawing inspiration from three brilliant scientific discoveries. Labcoats on, people!

1. Sponges

If a sea sponge (phylum porifera) is forced through a sieve to disintegrate it down to its cellular level, those cells, if left alone, will recombine into a sponge again:

Lesson: some ideas only make sense as a whole – passing them through a ‘sieve test’ can reveal whether they were ever meant to be, while others may naturally merge together.

2. Slime Molds

A single-celled slime mold (physarum polycephalum) can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu – and all this without a brain or nervous system:

Lesson: deploy resources efficiently – really smart solutions often arise naturally, yet knowing what’s best still requires lots of prior research. But hey, if a slime mold can do it…

3. Artificial Jellyfish

Scientists have created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart:

Lesson: even the most difficult concept can be somehow ‘brought to life’ – be it in a new context, through the addition of a couple of key ingredients, or sheer appliance of science!


[box]This post originally appeared on the planning blog.[/box]

Within the pages of Watchmen, Adrian Veidt, the so-called “smartest man in the world”, esteemed business leader and founding member of the Crimebusters is shown at a wall of televisions, each tuned to a different channel. He uses this clatter of imagery, sound and motion to make sense of the current geopolitical and social climate and to act upon it:

Watchmen 10 - 08

Reads a bit like Social Media Monitoring, doesn’t it? But Adrian Veidt, AKA Ozymandias, was multi-screening before it was even a thing. Nowadays, we do it by default, up to 60% of the time, and in the age of 4.6 connected devices per household it just comes naturally.

Multi-screening can be simultaneous (same journey across devices, as in the above case), sequential (different journeys across devices simultaneously), or separate (different journeys across devices simultaneously) – but it’s an emergent behaviour that needs much further inquiry. There are few real thought leaders, except for SecondSync perhaps, or Microsoft, who so succincinctly define the terms I’ve used here.

One other thought leader is Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired, whose view is that as screens proliferate further into each aspect of our lives, their role becomes not just to display but also to help filter information – we’re literally ‘screening out’ the stuff we don’t want to see.

Watch his talk on ‘screening’ and five other ‘Verbs for the New Web’ below – it’s great:

And finally, screens can also be mirrors, lenses or even windows. Clever, aren’t they?!


[box]This post originally appeared on the planning blog.[/box]

What does the word ‘digital’ mean to you?

dig·it·al /?d?d??tl/ adv

  1. of or pertaining to a digit or finger
  2. resembling a digit or finger
  3. manipulated with a finger or the fingertips: a digital switch
  4. displaying a readout in digital form: a digital speedometer
  5. having digits or digitlike parts
  6. of, pertaining to, or using data in the form of numerical digits
  7. Computers. involving or using numerical digits expressed in a scale of notation to represent discretely all variables occurring in a problem
  8. of, pertaining to, or using numerical calculations
  9. available in electronic form; readable and manipulable by computer

So digital means either ‘relating to  fingers’, or ‘relating to computers’, right?

My argument: fingers are, by definition, the most digital part of our body. We touch, type, gesture and manipulate our environment (real or virtual) through the interfaces that surround us: a shiny black screen, a keyboard, or even through thin air.

And that’s what digital means to me: the ability to effect a change in the world through the lightest of touch – powered by technology, thought, and action. More on these themes later in the week, but for now I’ll leave you with an illustration – unleash your fingers:

Towards a Cyberpunk Sky

When plans for The Shard were unveiled my first thoughts were that its piercing aesthetic would be too harsh for the London skyline. But now it’s been ‘topped out’ and soon to open to the public, it’s time to get used to it.

I heard somewhere that Irvine Sellar, the property magnate behind the tower, intends for his creation to stand for more than 200 years. Well, of course it does, but this concept did the most to shift my perspective.

Imagine how this city will feel in two centuries: totally transformed, utterly modern and yet (hopefully) still uniquely London. The Shard is another step towards an exciting Future London.

To illustrate my point, here’s a video flyover showing the tower in context. Watch closely and you’ll see  London’s slow climb towards a cyberpunk sky:

Matthias Müller’s Particle Art

There’s this guy called Matthias Müller, and he makes beautiful abstractions out of virtual dust on his supercomputer. He’s some kind of motion-art superhero, probably sent to us from the exploding Planet 3DS Max by his scientist parents.

In this post I’ve picked out a few examples of his work, because as well as being simply gorgeous viewing material, they’re great examples of what’s possible with a few gigs of RAM, a graphics card and some imagination.

Probably my favourite due to it’s relative simplicity, this tech demo plays with texture in surprising ways:

This next one is so epic! Like an underwater fireworks show of electric choreographed jellyfish, or something…

Watch as millions of particles merge and blend with infinite complexity in this piece of seemingly generative fludity:

This final clip is almost a love story. Watch as two swirling masses collide, explode and dance in time with the music:

An undoubtedly talented guy, Matthias has done commercial work for Honda and Vodafone (as featured last year).  His YouTube channel is certainly worth a look, as are his lovely image renders on CGPortfolio.

I can barely get the most out of MSPaint, however…