Musings of a former Rocket Scientist

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  • Urban Agriculture – Learning from Our Mistakes – Part 1

    Original conceptual design for Keyhole Garden

    Today I begin a series of posts dedicated to my own experiment in urban agriculture.  My wife and I have decided that we should ‘walk the walk’ on creating a permaculture-based lifestyle.  We cannot afford to add a graywater recycling system or a composting toilet.  Our house is not well oriented for solar panels either.  So our foray into practicing what I preach had to be in the garden. In posts over the next couple weeks, I will attempt to chronicle what we tried, what worked and what failed, in the hopes that others might benefit from our errors, and to lay the groundwork for our next round of experiments.







    Continue reading  Post ID 389

  • Saving the First Smithsonian Museum

    Exterior shot of Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building
    Exterior shot of Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building

    Anyone who has visited the National Mall in Washington DC has probably enjoyed one or more of the museums that line the perimeter.  There are museums of Art, American History, Natural History, Air and Space technology, Botanical Gardens and more.  The Smithsonian Institution plays a critical role here, and appropriately enough the Smithsonian Castle, a beautiful red sandstone Late-Victorian building sits in the middle of it all.  Right next door is another beautiful building of red and multicolor brick, the younger sister of the Castle which has, tragically, been almost forgotten by visitors – blocked off on all sides by construction fences.  This is the Arts & Industries Building, and it needs our help.

    Many people don’t realize that this was the very first Smithsonian museum, completed in 1881 and originally called the National Museum.  The Castle was built to house offices, provide a residence for the Director, and to host events.  A history of the building can be found at  Over the years, the Castle has been used as exhibition state, and ironically, the Arts and Industries Building was most recently (since the 1980s) used for office space.



    Continue reading  Post ID 272

  • Regenerating Our Cities

    There are many different visions for regeneratively designed communities of various sizes & densities.

    Soleri sketch of Arcology
    Valetta Springs Arcology by Paolo Soleri

    Arcologies, a fusion of Architecture and Ecology, were envisioned by Paolo Soleri in the 1960s and 70s as completely integrated megastructures, small cities in a single building of mammoth proportions.  Living, working, shopping, agriculture, power generation, water purification, waste management and transportation were all woven together in a fully three-dimensional marvel of engineering and architecture.   Everything was recycled, nothing went to waste.  Passive solar heating and natural cooling strategies were often intrinsic to the overall form of the arcologies (apses to capture the warmth of the sun & ventilation cores hundreds of feet high).


    Continue reading  Post ID 115